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Building a Community: #4 Basic Principles That You Should Follow A community has to solve a real problem for a real audience

By Vedant Kankrecha

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Imagine: Working for months with your team to build a product. Finally, the launch day has arrived. What do you do now? Send emails to your network of friends and family?

Post and run ads on social media? List on Amazon? Every entrepreneur who has launched a product would vouch - product launches are challenging.

So what is the better way?

What if you already have a group of people who trust you? Many savvy entrepreneurs have built highly engaged communities before they launch their products. Communities are trending these days. They're built around the ideology that if you can build a community, establish trust, thought leadership and help them by providing value, you have a guaranteed customer base when the product is launched.

Further, this community helps you find clients, provides a test market and a feedback loop and expands your impact. To know more about the basic principles and best practices to build a community, I reached out to the experts. Let's learn from experts the four basic principles and best practices to build a community which engages thousands of members.

#1. Build Trust Among the Members - Tamanna Dhamija, the co-founder of Baby Destinations, a community for moms, attributes the foundation of their communities and platforms to building trust. Their early days consisted of talking to hundreds of moms online and offline to understand their biggest needs - and then provide solutions through highly relevant information. This led to exponential growth within 11 months across multiple channels without spending a single dime on marketing.

Her learnings on building Facebook and WhatsApp communities of over thousands of moms are:

  • Defining Purpose and Audience - A community has to solve a real problem for a real audience. Create a user persona which outlines their demographics, likes, dislikes and pain points.
  • Delivering Value - In our case, the initial trust was established through highly resourceful content. This then multiplied though useful category and location-based communities on multiple channels leading to a two-fold interaction - Baby Destination to User; User to user personalized interactions.
  • Expert Members - Each of our community has expert moms such nutritionists and doctors. This leads to a high level of trust as a lot of information is validated.
  • Time - Trust comes with time and cannot be created overnight. We have consistently worked over the last year to consistently deliver value to our platform and communities.

#2. Choose Your Platform - Choosing the right platform is one of the most important steps to building a strong community of users, says Rashi Mittal Nair, the Founder of WOOP (Women of Opinion). It plays a major role in the direct impact your community has on your business.

With numerous platforms available for a brand to build and engage communities, here are a few key features you should look for:

  • Don't just settle for passive engagement like driving clicks, likes and comments. Search for platforms that help drive high-ROI actions such as social media recommendations, reviews and user-generated content.
  • Choose a platform that engages the consumer in a fun and easy way.The more interactive the platform is, the more likely your community will stay engaged. Its important for the platform to have strong content that holds the foundation to all engagement.
  • Ask yourself, does your platform nudge and motivate users to take action? Platforms powered by Gamification do this really well. This helps people (who are otherwise lazy) to actually engage deeper and engage more often. It also makes the entire experience more rewarding and consumers feel like their time is really valued.
  • Last but not least, does the platform have a social cause attached to it? Research shows consumers love to engage with communities that are a part of a larger and more meaningful purpose.

Brands Should Try WOOP - a gamified platform that uses a "ready-to-leverage" community to connect brands to thousands of consumers who are waiting to be brand advocates. Our pay-for-performance modelensures brands get deeper engagement and authentic word-of-mouth in a scalable and measurable manner", concludes Nair.

#3. Constantly Add Value - "Simply put, networking is adding value: Adding value to conversations, people or organizations. The most effective networkers are those who continually enrich contexts and constructs by being present, listening and co-creating shared visions", says Utkarsh Amitabh the Founder of Network Capital.

Network Capital is based on the core idea that every single person on the planet has something to learn and something to teach. The diversity of origin, opinion, culture and conviction strengthens ideas. They have built a matching algorithm that connects people with complementary skills real-time. On top of that, their community has young leaders from 89 countries.

"Deep technology coupled with a vibrant community makes us the platform of choice for career development, learning and skill sharing. My role as the Founder and Chief Culture Officer is to ensure that our mission of democratizing inspiration is at the core of everything we do."

His two learnings from building Network Capital with more than 17,000 members are:

  • Be radically open and inclusive. Anyone is welcome in Network Capital as long as they have the willingness to learn and the hunger to share.
  • Partner with marquee public and private sector stakeholders to create innovative economic opportunities for members. To sum up, the philosophy of connection is co-creation, empathy and diversity. They are a community which believes that individual success comes from making others successful.

#4. Carry Out Two-way Conversations: Posting updates and sending out newsletters don't work in a community. You have to humanize your brand by giving it a personality and start a dialogue.

Sandeep Sridhar of Home Canvas says they spend as much time as possible to listen to what their users are talking about. Collecting this information has helped them personalize the customer experience.

Today, an Instagram community of 30,000 users was started two years ago to find the knowledge gaps they could fulfill. By understanding this community they could recognize what's relevant to the users. He adds, "Create channels that allow you to balance between delighting the members and promoting your business".

Further, they use incentives to encourage two-way conversations. These incentives convert the community members into brand ambassadors who further bring in new users. Sridhar concludes, "contests and user-generated content work has worked helped us achieve massive traction. Our audience loves to engage with our brand. The ideas are endless and limited by your imagination."

Parting Thoughts: Building a community requires patience and passion. There are no shortcuts. Listen to your community and show that you care. Your community will drive your business ahead.

Vedant Kankrecha

Email Marketing and Design Intern at Centre for Innovation, Incubation and Entrepreneurship, IIM - Ahmedabad

He  is  currently working as an email marketing and design intern at Centre for Innovative Incubation and entrepreneurship (IIM Ahemdabad).
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