How to Build an Online Community: Best Practices

Online community building should be one of your biggest objectives.


You can have an awesome product.

You can have a great service.

You could have exceptional customer service, too.


It’s hard for any of these to get notice if the community doesn’t have your back.

Building an online community takes time and dedication. It requires finesse and knowing how to appeal to your audience. If you can get people to return repeatedly and help share on social, then you’re pretty much set to see your online business grow. Here’s how to build that tribe.


Online Community Building 101: Finding Your First Followers

One of the most common questions you’ll find, in relation to blogging, online business, and any sort of online project, is the timeless “how do I find my community”?

Spending hours upon hours of your precious time writing great content, pairing it with offers, building links, and participating in social media can feel moot when you fail to gain recognition for your effort. You sit patiently, anxiously waiting for your first comment, your first retweet, and email – you need some kind of confirmation.

It All Starts with a Unique Angle and Great Content

There are two things that need to be in place before you put time and energy into finding your community and they include:

To start with these items will guarantee that you give visitors a reason to dig further into your website, keep them around longer, and get them coming back. The unique selling point is in play to help you stand out from the crowd and give a reason for readers to follow your information whereas great content, however you define it, is the vehicle for delivering value.

For the first month do nothing when it comes to community building; use this time to gain a firm understanding of your website, content creation, and SEO basics.

The reason for this stems from the inherent need to offer something of value to increase the odds visitors will share and interact with your information. Gain a firm understanding and workflow in these areas and the rest will be a walk in the breeze.

Then You Work the Social Angles

The next set of actions includes finding yourself on the social networks:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Google+
  • YouTube

There are dozens of other large social networks but these five will hold the most bang for their buck.

Facebook will be your base of operations to share regular updates and start discussions through the use of a Facebook page.

Twitter is there for the quick updates and in-the-moment discussions.

LinkedIn will be a major component to building business connections.

Google+ is for the ‘hip’ members of your community. YouTube will allow you to expand your reach through video content.

Create an account for each of these social networks and platforms, import your contacts based on the emails and names you notice active within your niche (by examining relevant websites and competitors in your niche), and begin interacting with these industry members.

Over time, by building your presence, you’ll have let individuals know what you have to share. People will begin to trickle to your website, interact, and slowly become integrated within the community.

Note: You may want to invest in an email marketing service to begin building your list once you begin receiving regular, repeat visitors as this will allow you to get in touch, whenever you want/need, directly to their inbox rather than through the social circuit.

Alternatively, you could consider creating guest post content for relevant blogs within your niche which will place you contact with website owners and their community; link back to your site and you’ll gain a few followers.

Follow Up with Direct Contact and Rapport

Once you’re comfortable with your website, its content, your USP, and using the social networks/platforms to get in touch with would-be community members it’s time to go the extra mile, get over your social anxiety, and get in direct contact with those you feel would make a great match.

There are a few ways of doing this:

  • Gather the email addresses displayed in the comment fields and begin manually contacting each individual that’s active in participation.
  • Use your email newsletter list to send out an update asking subscribers to get in touch, personally, so have a chat.
  • Digging into the social media channels to find personal (or professional) accounts of those individuals that participate in order to form a relationship.

Having the contact information or social accounts will now let you form a network with these individuals you deem perfect for your community.

Spend at least an hour, each day, catering to these individuals. Treat them like friends; ask how they’re doing, what they’re working on, and how you can help. Go beyond simply building a relationship to gain more comments and traffic – aim for the long-term where they come back time and time again, and want to help promote what you have to offer.

Rinse and Repeat Until the First 100

One final note: it’s quality of relationships, not quantity.

There will be an allure to show massive spikes in traffic, comments, and shares but none of this matters if people fail to come back to your site – you don’t want those that hit-and-run.

Instead, focus on the first 100 community members which are really all you need to be successful in your website and online projects.

This base tribe will give you enough reach, feedback, and support to expand into new and exciting opportunities.


Online Community Building 101: Creating a “Sticky” Website

People come and go for many different reasons:

  • They don’t like the look and feel of your website
  • They really love the videos you produce
  • They’re turned off by too many advertisements
  • They’re part of something bigger … a community

You can guarantee people will stick around forever because everyone moves on but we’re going to make the most of the time these people do spend with you and your site.

The following is a quick rundown of the major factors that come into play when retaining people on your site:

Get a Great Website Design

The site should be aesthetically pleasing to the eyes and easy to use.

Choose a theme that compliments your focus, and work diligently on choosing the right graphics and a proper navigational structure.

You want people to land on the site and immediately feel welcome, and then guide them forward with logical progression through the navigation, interlinks, and offers.

Create Superb Content

You can’t always win whenever you produce content but you can sure as hell create something that’s wildly engaging to your audience.

The content is, perhaps, 50% of the reason why people will stick around your site (besides the personal connection) which is why you should go the extra mile to create content that caters to the demands of your audience.

Use your analytics and research to write great articles that answer questions held by your community; deliver exceptional value and they’ll have no reason not to come back for more.

Add Social Features

Integrate multiple layers of social media so visitors have an option to follow you on multiple platforms (of their choice).

Use each of these networks as an extension of your website where you share new and exciting information, updates, contests, and more.

Place your social media links right toward the top of your sidebar so there’s no confusion on how to begin following your brand and become part of the community.

Create, Test, and Refine the Engagement

If you’re trying to sell a product, service, or an offer then you should find ways to double its value, increase its reception, and boost its conversion.

Pair the right offers with your website based on the products & services you’ve personally tested so you’ll have no trouble recommending them to the community.

Likewise, offer advice and expertise for each of these products/services so readers feel comfortable exploring the options. Finally, test and improve on your call-to-action to boost your conversion rate and profits.

Be Part of the Community

Don’t sit behind the computer and go on your merry way the moment you hit publish on your post – come back to respond to comments, seek out feedback from your community members, and expand on the ideas through your external platforms. Keep the discussions going as long as you can to cover all the angles – doing this will spark the imagination and interaction within your community which will keep them on the site longer and coming back time and time again.

The end result of all this:

  • People will stay longer on your site.
  • They’ll have a greater incentive to share your content.
  • You’ll build a stronger community

…and you’ll increase your chances of converting on your offers and advertising.


Online Community Building 101: Growing the Tribe

The hardest part will be when you want to grow, as a brand.

Community building is just as much about the long-term potential as it is on the short-term gain.

You should go above-and-beyond with your efforts every time you set out to interact and build your community.

A. VIP Email List

Everyone has been on an email list at some point. They usually start off enjoyable but then start to go downhill because you lose interest (or it’s just that not everything is relevant for your needs).

A general email list is great for keeping community members up-to-date with new information and offers. You can go one step further and segment the list based on those that have taken action.

But … What about going the ultimate step and creating a VIP list of a select few?

You could use this selective list to release premium information that may not have been well received by your general community. A continuous supply of great value on this list, along with giving the sense that they’re in the inner-circle, boost the interaction and will lead on to higher conversions.

You could get a start with this by manually preening through your community to find possible applicants, getting in touch, and setting it all in motion.

Services to consider:

  • Aweber
  • MailChimp
  • ConstantContact

… or any other email marketing tools to fit your efforts.

B. Forums

Forums can be a wonderful addition to your website because it gives community members a hub to discuss topics, share their expertise, make friends with fellow members, and all-around build a presence within your community.

Your forums don’t need to be massive in scale to be effective for their purpose. All that’s truly required on your part, besides the setup, is keeping active. You will want to keep conversations running and moderate the forum so things don’t get too out of hand; doing this dedication will certainly keep people coming back on a regular basis.

Here are a forum software and plugins to get you started:

  • BBPress
  • vBulletin
  • phpBB

C. Members Area

Similar to forums – you could consider using a members area on your website which grants exclusive access to premium information, discussions, and freebies.

You’ll often see this rolled-out on product and service-related domains.


You could certainly integrate them on your site if you take the time to plan and structure something of value on the backend.

You could charge for it but a smart move may be to leave it open and take applications – you won’t get all your community in the member’s area…

…but it will certainly weed out those that aren’t as dedicated.

Software and tools for this:

  • aMember
  • MagicMembers
  • PaidMembershipPro

All these social media tools you’re probably already using are great and all but there’s a lot of noise and chatter associated with the platforms.

The items listed in this post cut down on all these distractions and creates an ecosystem for your community that builds on itself.

Yes, these options will come at a premium.

But… keeping community members active and involved will be well worth the price.


Online Community Building 101: Converting Followers into Buyers

There needs to be some kind of end goal for your website.

You can choose whatever purpose this may be but if you’re reading this then chances are you wish to make money from your efforts.

Here’s the thing … just because you have a product (or service) doesn’t mean someone will buy it.

Think about all the competition out there.

Every market has a fair share of products trying to take the top spot on the list.

You could slap together something but if you can’t sell the benefits and convert your visitors than not much is happening.

Now think of the chances you have of converting a first-time visitor and suddenly your potential hits rock bottom.

The best way to generate consistent sales is by turning regular visitors into regular buyers.

Doing so adds to your credibility, outreach, and brand authority (ultimately helping to build an online community)

Start with the U.S.P.

You should have a unique selling point if you wish to differentiate within your market and from the competition.

This USP should also be applied to the products/services/offers you have on your site.

Find what makes what you have to offer different than the rest.

Could it be a better price point? Could it be the person behind the product? Is it the delivery time with your service?

Even the smallest element can make all the difference because it gives you something to use when selling your offers. Take the time to ask and gain feedback as to what others think of your offers and use those comments as bullet points in your sales pitch.

Over-Deliver in Value

The content you produce should be remarkable.

The goal, with your content, is to deliver such an amazing amount of value that the products you have to offer seem irresistible.

You want readers to think “hey, if this is what I get for free – this paid product must be on the next level!

Take a few extra minutes before you hit publish.

  • Did you fully explain the topic?
  • Did you include helpful graphics and media to complement the work?
  • Is it optimized for search engines?
  • Does it have a unique slant to spark a conversation?
  • Is it something I would share?

You’ll not only keep regular readers happy because they’re enjoying such powerful content.


They’ll trust your judgment when you recommend an offer because you’ve already shown that you know what you’re talking about.

Get Them Emotional

A story can be a very powerful way to explain your offers because it hooks the reader.

Exercise your ability to tell a story and get the follower feeling emotional.

You want to make them feel as if they were the one on the other side telling the tale.

By doing this you’ll create a bond with what you have to offer which puts the individual into an emotional state and it’s this state that they’re more willing to buy.

Try this:

  • Open one of the hottest selling products in your niche and find their sales page
  • Read through the entirety of the sales page and take notes each time they use a story
  • Examine the testimonials and their emotional reaction to the product

Turn around and apply these principles to your sales page. Talk about how you use the product and how you feel it would work for them. Word it in a way that plants them front-and-center of the story.

Add a Layer of Scarcity

Don’t let them fool you … you can’t “run out” of a digital product – it’s a simple tactic which marketers use to spur up sales spikes. Sure they may “close” the program but it almost always comes back for a “limited time” … this is an exercise in scarcity.

… and it works.

  • Consider only allowing a handful of spots for your membership site
  • Set a countdown as to when the sale will end on a product page
  • Limit and qualify those that you’ll work with when pitching services

In all, it’s a matter of creating a sense of urgency with your offers. You have to put them into that emotional state and use scarcity to make them take action at that very moment they finish through the sales pitch.

You may find you’ll increase your profits due to adding limiters to your promotions; equally so, regular readers won’t want to miss on the next opportunity which increases the odds of a sale the next time you’re doing a round of promotion.

Test, Track, and Optimize

Need we to expand on this point? Test everything, track the results, and optimize to improve conversions.

You’d be surprised but many bloggers never fail to go beyond simply publishing content for their readers.

There MUST be a product or service (or even just affiliate offers) in place if you want to maximize your efforts.


Online Community Building 101: Tools and Resources to Grow

You should know that it’s completely possible to build a community with very simple tools.


This can be a tedious and time-consuming process which is why we recommend investing in premium tools if you want to supercharge your community building efforts.

In all, it will come down to your ability to access your community on the regular.

You’ll also want ways to handle reputation management for when things get out of control (or spike in your favor).


Working the Social Angle

Social will become one of your best tools for building and managing a community.

That’s where they are and that’s where they’re active.

Relying just on RSS, like the old days, isn’t going to cut it.

Either way, it’s on these social platforms.

There, you should:

  • Kick up discussions
  • Get them to share your content
  • Keep in contact so you don’t let them slip to the competition

We recommend going through our Facebook content ideas post since it’ll prime you for social media engagement.

Start That Email List

By offering great content through your email you’ll retain your community, that’s subscribed and bring them back to the site to find more information (and, of course, share it).

The list, if you treat it much like a membership section of your brand, can be immensely powerful for building relationships with your community members.

It really is one of the best options you have when building a community.

Robust Comment and Feedback System

The pre-installed comments section of your blog may be great and all for basic purposes.

There are new and exciting commenting platforms that allow individuals to link their social accounts, keep track of their interaction, and even build a reputation within the systems.

You may want to consider revising your comment system with one of the following:

  • LiveFyre
  • Facebook Comments
  • Triberr

Keeping It Simple (But Streamlined)

Personally, you can streamline this process of community building, using tools, if you simply make a routine for your efforts.

You don’t have to go overboard buying every program and subscribing to every service just to gain an extra follower here and there.

What really matters is that you take the time to befriend and interact with your core community.

Build a solid base of 100 true followers and you’ll have more than enough momentum to grow from there.

Use the tools available to you to make the process as simple as possible and use the time you’ve saved to spend more of it on the people.

A Quick Online Community Building Wrap Up

Community building is a long-term effort…

…one that pays off big!

That excitement is special when you have your first followers.

Before long, you amass a tribe.

These are the people behind your efforts. These are the people that’ll help you get on the map.

Treat them well.

What more is there to say?

Start building your online community, asap.