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The Key Elements All Online Communities Should Have Here are some key elements that online communities should have and how to measure a community's success.

By Shubham Sethi Edited by Chelsea Brown

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Online communities are the bread and butter of consumer engagement today. Communities allow like-minded people to engage on topics that they both relate to. But most importantly, an online community brings life and authenticity to the conversation. It doesn't feel forced and has no pretense — communities are where real people say it like it is.

Reddit and Global Web Index did a recent study called "The Era of We – and the rise of online communities." They asked users of social media and community websites how each platform makes them feel. People feel they can have meaningful conversations and are respected by others within online communities. So, the interest in communities is there.

However, many organizations aren't sure if an online community is the right answer. It comes across as an intensive platform to manage. But truthfully, building communities aims to build loyalty and advocacy for your brand. In this post, I'll share some key elements that online communities should have and how to measure a community's success.

Related: The Key Benefits of Building an Online Community

A common purpose

"Community" is defined as "a group of people having a specific characteristic in common." This shows that your community should attract and retain people with similar interests and care about the same values that your business cares about.

For example, if you're a company that manufactures electric vehicles, you want to attract people who are passionate about keeping the environment clean and being eco-conscious. Once you have a common interest and purpose, conversations happen naturally, and your members start to build confidence in themselves and your brand.

A simplistic platform

Hosting a community doesn't have to occur on a website or social channel. You can invest in an online community platform that allows you to create, manage and market your community in one space.

This software can also host your on-demand content and any other merchandise you choose to sell. It's essentially an all-in-one platform, so your efforts are focused on building your community and engaging with members rather than managing the operations of the online community.

Recognition and reward programs

We went over how important advocacy is in communities. Part of creating advocates is rewarding them. Rewards and recognition can be done in many ways. A simple shout-out, a shopping or meal voucher, or access to an exclusive event all count here.

The key is to try and understand what is best for your members based on what stage of the customer lifecycle they're in at that moment in time. Even though rewards may cost your business, it's a small price to pay if the larger objective is to build advocates for your brand.

Related: A Business Owner's Guide to Building a Community

A team of content creators

Communities mean lots of conversation and discussions. This also means that you need to put solidified and instructional content out there for members to keep the interest sparked. Avoid having a community that is merely for customer support.

Instead, get a team of writers ready to create helpful and engaging content related to your business or industry. It allows members to find relevant information without searching for it on your blog or resources page.

Effective community management

But the more content you put out there, the more responses and comments need to be managed. Since the rise of social media, community management has become a popular and much-needed element for businesses.

Let's review the Nike Community Club case study. It's evident that the challenge of leveraging Nike's services and mobile apps to create a community of like-minded people was attainable. Nike created a platform that helped people engage with others in fun and innovative ways. Activities included things like quizzes, which individuals enjoyed. Nike also managed to maintain their brand throughout the process.

Related: How to Build an Online Community People Will Love

Measuring community success

While measuring your community's success is no ride in the park, it can be done with optimal tools and a strategic plan.

Communities have been around for years, and there are many facets that you can measure. There's no doubt that metrics like customer support, product feedback, user acquisition and customer retention tie into many measurable and valuable metrics for business owners. But before going ahead and measuring over a dozen metrics each month, take some time to define your business goals and the value of your community in relation to those business goals.

The next step is to have your team members track and analyze results from your community. Get them to ask questions about the results, and look for any patterns within the discussions between members. If you're new to building a community, here are three metrics you can track as a start:

  1. Membership consumption: Track the active participation that members have within your community. Also, track the number of new members you have gained in that period and any members who have become non-active.

  2. Resolution: Track how many customer support issues have been resolved throughout the period. A percentage of resolved versus escalated versus unresolved is a good way to compare the metric.

  3. Content: Track how much new user-generated content gets created in a period. It's also helpful to track how much business content is created and distributed in a timeframe.

Communities can give a business an astonishing competitive advantage, because it actively places the consumer front and center. This encourages community members to stay active and acquire new members, resulting in increased member retention and business interest. Members also tend to support one another, which assists your business with community management and resolves customer queries.

The result? A truly authentic network of members who are actively engaged in your niche. As community engagement grows, members become more learned and eventually become subject matter experts in your field. They become your advocates. It's the ultimate marketing goal for any business owner.

Shubham Sethi

Co-Founder at Mastera

Shubham Sethi is the co-founder of Gleantap and Mastera, an all-in-one platform for coaches, trainers and teachers to run and launch all aspects of their online knowledge business. Sethi has extensive experience launching and scaling startups and software products from the ground up.

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