Things All Great Communities Have In Common

Marketing Tools & Tips Things we notice

Truth be told, a significant portion of my world happens online. I work on Google and Slack, get updates about my neighborhood on Nextdoor, stay in touch with friends and family on Instagram and Snapchat, and get motivated to work out and eat right with a health-focused Facebook Group. My guess is that I’m not alone here. If there is a corner of the Internet where you go to read updates from strangers because the subject matter is of interest, you too understand the perks of online communities.

While ideal for individuals, online communities are even more beneficial for brands and companies. There is power in numbers, and that power grows when you form the group, oversee content and community management, and discover supporters and advocates for your brand. If you’re currently managing a community or thinking about starting one, keep in mind these three key behaviors that all successful online communities share.

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1. Community members meet IRL

Many popular groups enjoy meeting both online and “IRL” (in real life). Often, the entire purpose of a group is to encourage in-person gatherings, like MeetUp.com. Even on sites with a less obvious mission, when people regularly contribute and look forward to engaging dialogues online, genuine connections are established between members. It’s only natural that members will want to transition from chatting online to meeting in the real world.

One excellent example of this dynamic is BASHH, a group founded in Austin, Texas. Several years ago, a few Austinites had never met before but started talking on Twitter. These one-off conversations organically turned into a group of folks chatting on a regular basis. One of the participants decided to create an offline happy hour for these online friends to meet in the city. It was a great success and eventually turned into an official monthly networking event called BASHH (or “Bad Ass Social Happy Hour”).

Many years later, BASHH has hosted thousands of social media enthusiasts at their recurring monthly meetings and even expanded to include separate get-togethers known as BizBASHH (its professional networking counterpart). Now, this group is the birthplace of countless start-ups, partnerships and business opportunities. Part of BASHH’s incredible success is attributed to their ability to keep the integrity of the group alive. From online to offline, the culture has remained no-pressure and casual, keeping people coming back for more.

Community of people watching the sunset

2. Connect people who may have not otherwise met.

When Marcellus Wiesen moved to Atlanta, Georgia and became a mom for the first time, she realized she wanted to grow in her faith and meet other women like her. After speaking with a friend with similar ambitions, the two became founding members and moderators for the Jewish Moms of Atlanta (JMOA). Today, JMOA is one of the world’s largest and most active communities of Jewish moms with nearly 3,000 Facebook Group members.

The group originally started on MeetUp.com, and ultimately transitioned to Facebook in response to member requests. The evolution of the group continues to inspire Marcellus, who says, “I’m always amazed. JMOA is a judgment-free space where moms ask all kinds of questions, get help, get advice, share and connect. It does not matter if you are ultra-Orthodox or secular or just married to a Jew. If you are in a Jewish family, you are welcome. People who would never meet in real life because they have different life experiences or live in very different geographic locations connect and help each other.”

It goes to show that if just a couple of people think a community would be helpful, chances are many others would as well. By starting and fostering a community, perfect strangers can transform into a reliable support system.

Snorkling community

3. The back end roles and responsibilities are clearly defined and organized

Anyone can create an online space for people to gather and open the doors. However, maintaining and growing a community takes a dedicated person or team to execute. Most successful groups have the following roles established behind the scenes.

My favorite part about online communities is they provide an opportunity for people to come together, unite, and show support for a topic or cause. What is your core customer base passionate about? If you haven’t already, try creating an online space for interaction, and promote it to your clients. Why not? After all, “if you build it, they will come.” We’d love to hear about your journey along the way.

Katie McCall

Katie McCall is a strategic communications consultant, working with clients to establish trustworthy and engaging reputations, driving authentic communication with fans and influencers. She specializes in branding and positioning, storytelling and online advocacy networking. In addition, Katie is a lifestyle portrait photographer, serving clients in the greater Seattle community and beyond.

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