5 Community Strategy Decisions to Create Vibrancy
Across industries and around the world, organizations have recognized the power of online communities. What were once seen as simple social networks have evolved into dynamic spaces where like-minded professionals connect, learn, and grow together. A vibrant community can transform your ability to foster collaboration, drive engagement, and increase member retention.
But envisioning a vibrant community is one matter, and bringing it to life is another. Whether you're an experienced community manager or just embarking on the journey, you've probably been stumped by strategy. Building a thriving community can feel like entering uncharted territory.
Breaking down the decisions into a few key steps can help you demystify the process and map a path to success. Here, we're looking at five elements of your community strategy that will set you up for vibrancy from the start. From establishing structure to defining metrics, you'll learn how to create an online community that keeps members coming back.
Decision #1: Determine Your Group Structure
When you prioritize creating a space where members can easily connect, share, and grow together - with a clear purpose for each - you'll see your community thrive and your members stay.
The options for structuring groups are endless, but your choices should be thoughtful and driven by member needs. Consider whether it makes sense to establish groups by job title (i.e., content creators), career stage (i.e., young professionals), or demographic characteristic (i.e., women). Key attributes of your organization might also drive group structure. Think chapters or interest groups, topics or specialty areas, or even learning cohorts or event attendees. Whichever path you choose, make the hierarchy easy for members to understand and navigate.
Pro Tip: Start with fewer groups rather than more. This makes moderation easier and increases the chance of creating vibrancy in each group.
Decision #2: Establish Your Content Strategy
A proactive content strategy that meets the needs of your members drives community success. It ensures members continually have access to relevant, useful information, which inspires ongoing engagement.
Your content can come to life in many formats, from events and webinars to discussion posts and polls. Populating your community with a wide variety of resources will ensure members always find something of value. The most vibrant communities also share a sprinkling of fun, informal content that inspires participation (even from occasional lurkers!). Map out a monthly content calendar so that you have a structured plan that will ensure a consistent flow of engaging content.
Pro Tip: Think about content when designing your group structure. One place to start is with the Resource Library, the folder system in each group that will help members navigate and find information.
Decision #3: Create a New Member Onboarding Process
First impressions are lasting, and that's why crafting a robust new member onboarding process is critical in building a vibrant online community. Onboarding sets the stage for a member's journey, ensuring they feel included, informed and inspired from the start.
Successful onboarding begins with marketing and communication strategies designed to generate member awareness and interest. Each touchpoint should be warm and welcoming and contain valuable information and links that encourage them to take action. Send personalized welcome messages and offer guides that help new members navigate the community. Establish clear steps to follow to make their journey easy. Also, consider creating a feedback loop that allows them to share thoughts and questions—listening and responding will enhance the member experience.
Pro Tip: Step into members' shoes when crafting messages to carry them from first login to joining a group and beyond. Think: What would you want to know at each step?
Decision #4: Design Your Distributed Leadership Team
Vibrant communities are member-led, which means that members – not staff – drive the majority of community engagement. How do you create that momentum? The answer lies in distributed leadership.
Distributed leadership in an online community refers to a structure where roles and responsibilities are shared among staff and members. With a model like this, you not only spread the workload but also give members a chance to contribute to the success and management of the community.
Recognizing members for their roles and contributions can be a great way to motivate their ongoing commitment to lead and engage others in the community. The Forj community platform allows you to do this with Roles and Badges. Consider roles such as Ambassador for volunteers who are responsible for welcoming new members. Use badges to recognize achievements, such as earning a new credential. The platform allows a lot of flexibility to evolve and expand roles and recognition as your community grows.
Pro Tip: Community can only be accomplished together. Set up your Roles and Badges to emphasize collaboration, inclusivity, and empowerment.
Decision #5: Decide How to Measure Success
Unfortunately, there's no one-size-fits-all metric to determine if your online community is vibrant. Every community is different, so you need to consider which measures are most relevant and meaningful to monitor your specific goals.
Three of the most common quantitative measures of vibrancy are adoption, engagement, and leadership. Adoption tracks new members logging in, posting, and commenting. Engagement monitors how they contribute—sharing their expertise, responding to posts and comments, or replying to events. Leadership observes member versus admin activity. Dive deeper into the measures of community vibrancy in this article.
Pro Tip: Focus on quality over quantity. Instead of simply increasing the number of members in your community, create strategies to enhance the depth of their engagement.
Ready. Set. Strategize.
Whether you're launching a new online community or breathing life into an existing one, a thoughtful, practical strategy is key. Follow these five steps, and you'll be on track to designing a vibrant online community that fosters genuine connections, learning, and growth.
Ready to embark on your community journey? Request a demo and learn how Forj can deliver expert insights and help you build a strategic approach to achieve community success.