How to build a digital community Part 1: Setting the strategy for success right

Written by Julia T. on 2019.10.02.

When selling a product or service, a digital community has become the predominant way for people to come together and interact with organisations, teams, products, technologies or interest. In today's digital world you don’t have time to build customers, clients or prospects after you launch or already developed a product. You need to build them before and engage them throughout your company lifetime. 

Building a digital community, requires a framework and crucial other steps to be in place first. The fundamental points are: Building a digital footprint, knowing your target group, finding the right channels, building the skills, fostering a digital mindset and enabling digital capabilities. 

If you feel like you have at least some of these fundamentals in place, a clear and realistic strategy needs to come next: 

  1. Define what your customers or prospects need. After you have established who your customers are, you need to think about what they love, what they want and what they need. The focus of your community needs to be, what your target audience have in common. What kind of interests do they share? What are they longing for? What makes them tick? What makes them come back, every single day to check into your community? A digital community is all about bringing value, you need to think about what value you can give to your customers, what the community focus/aims are. 
  2. Link to your company goals and aims. Unless you are NOT driven by business or monetary reasons, you will have to, at some point show what the ROI of your community will be. What kind of business model will you derive out of it? How will you start making money? How will you use the insights created there for the benefits of your organisation? The aim of your community will either be to increase revenue, build a new marketing, open new target groups or to help innovation. You need to think about your aims and goals as a company and link this to the aims of your community. Because, ultimately it exists to serve your team, organisation or company mission. 
  3. Find an attractive hook. The hook is the idea or product that you are offering and an incentive for people to join your community. This is very crucial for most business platforms and communities in Europe. Because you won't have time to first build a community solely on fun, trends and interests until you seek out a member base, where you than can initiate the right product/service on top (see Facebook, see Airbnb, Instagram etc. ). If you only have a lifespan of a few months, potentially a max of two years until you become profitable, you need to gather members fast, which also means faster than most VC-backed startups out there (who are in the Community business). Offering a relevant product or service as a hook first is a common strategy among community builders to seek members to come back regularly and embrace the engagement. This could be a free product, a matching service, a rating service, a ranking service, simple knowledge or even advice. But whatever it is, it needs to be something that your prospects and customers would want. Members need an incentive to come back to your community, and to invest time into it. The product needs to be created first, and then adapted based on your members needs.

Whats next? 

As a method and guide for building and operating an external community, we developed the Agile Loop model. Find out more next week - Part 2: Agile Loop model