Community building in the service sector: Learn from the pros
When it comes to online communities, three communities have successfully amassed thousands of loyal members and have been on the up and up. All the three of them are from different niches but the underlying formula for success is the same. Find out what differentiates them from hundreds of other communities that never took off?
We have seen many online communities rise and fall in the past few years. It is always an uphill battle to get people to spend their valuable time even if they are most passionate about subjects. The immediate question for users is ‘why?’
Why should they spend time on your community and not the other? What is the overall purpose of your community? What kind of people are going to be on it? Also there’s this question of brand-focused community.
It is very important to establish a community that resonates with the members and have a strong value for them. But it doesn’t end there. It is your responsibility to ensure that there is a sense of camaraderie, not just between your website and the members but among the members too.
These three communities have got it right. They are through and through pros when it comes to building online communities in the service sector.
Awarded by the Time, Mashable and Travel Channel, Gogobot allows its community members to make travel and leisure more personal, friendly and pleasurable. Gogobot’s community known as Tribes are neatly categorized so that everyone from ‘perpetually-broke’ students to art and history buff can ask and receive to-the-point answers from fellow tribe members. Members can also leave reviews and tag them with recommended users. Here are some highlights of the Gogobot tribe:
One of the most active tribe on Gogobot is Foodies with 282467 members and counting!
One of their top contributors, Eric Bink, has written over 5000 reviews and followed by over 2200 people.
Inbound.org has one of the smartest community when it comes to online marketing. People from all over the world come to inbound.org to do networking, promote their products, find good jobs and candidates, discuss and share latest happenings, but most importantly, ask burning questions related to marketing and get answers from real world experts. Here’s why the inbound.org community is so cool.
The community boasts of 156,930 members (when last checked).
The community has 172 niche groups such as a marketing blog for bloggers and Seth Godin fan club.
They have run some really successful AMAs featuring Larry Kim, Rand Fishkin and startup founders.
70 percent of inbound.org’s social followers are novices who are eager to learn (fact source: klear)
IGN has the largest online gaming community. You can track all the cult classic and trending PS, Xbox, PC and handheld device games. You can hear from passionate gamers about their favorite games and get real advice from them. Once in a while, you also run into intellectual discussions like Why Do Most Video Game Stories Still Suck? The community, other than being cool, is also hugely popular:
They have 40 million users with more than 2 million unique visitors per month.
They have over 3.5M followers on Facebook and 3.7M followers on Twitter.
They tweet an average 30 times a day!
How to go pro like these communities
Now comes the interesting part.
We all know how difficult it is to build a community. You need strong moderators, contributors and a friendly and non-threatening environment that inspires competition and contribution. However, these three not only managed to sustain but also grow. Let’s see how.
All the three communities boosted their engagement by branching out into various other interests. For instance, inbound.org started as primarily inbound marketing hub but branched out into social media, SEO, etc. The same goes for IGN which has its finger in many other pies other than gaming.
Another important common factor is all the three companies being super-active on social media. The average number of tweets / day ranges from 10-30. If you want to succeed in building a community, you cannot ignore social media. If you are too busy to do it yourself, hire people or an agency to do it on your behalf. If you aren’t that big, try a social media scheduling tool that allows you to send preformatted tweets at regular intervals.
Last but not the least, all these pros have superb content quality. Whether you are reviewing a roadside restaurant on Gogobot or just plugging your article on Inbound.org, you have some tough moderators and editors to please. If you want to ensure your community gains the same respect, make sure you have stringent content guidelines.
With these steps, you will be able to build a strong community, whether you want to build a community for crazed gamers or broke students.
Dipti Parmar is an experienced marketing and technology consultant, helping startups, ecommerce brands, and B2B SaaS companies establish thought leadership in their industry with innovative strategies through her agency 99stairs. She is a columnist for leading business and tech publications such as Entrepreneur Mag, Adobe's CMO.com, and Inc. Dipti has also been listed as a top startup marketer by TechCrunch.
When she's not drinking her team's blood (figuratively), she is busy telling vampire stories to little girls who like Disney princesses. Follow @dipTparmar on Twitter for her best insights.