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Introduction — What is an Online Community?

Social networks are booming — and not just Facebook! Thousands of niche communities have been created over the past few years, filling up the holes that Mark Zuckerberg's all-encompassing giant has created. While over a billion people are speaking to everyone they've met about everything they do, many are looking for focus. They want to connect with other like-minded individuals around the particular passions that inspire them, without all the extra “noise” that Facebook generates.

online community

Affordable social networking applications, allow users to create that niche social network easily, and thousands of people are doing it right now.

Online communities are being built by artists and schools, by thought leaders and by local communities. They're being set up by individuals and by groups and by anyone who wants to bring together people who share an interest and a passion.

Businesses, too, are building brands, creating loyalty and discovering valuable intelligence on what customers want and expect. And they're earning from it. When a company gives space to its customers to gather and talk, it stops being a place where people go when they need to make a purchase. It becomes a pillar of the community, the only place where people go when they want to buy something related to their interests.

And today, building those online communities is easier than ever.

The Internet means that anyone can now create their own community.

They can build a website that gives their customers all the tools they need to easily hold discussions, meet like-minded people and form strong bonds.

They keep people coming back day after day, month after month, providing a virtual and valuable forum for people who share an interest.

Built right and maintained properly, a community website hugs customers close, strengthens a business and advances an activity.

But having the right kind of software to create that community isn't enough.

You also need the right strategy to make your community grow steadily and organically, without spending millions.

This book will cover everything you need to know to create a successful online community, from the essential first steps to proven strategies for growth and engagement. Once you finish reading, you will have a clear understanding of what you should — and shouldn't — be doing to get your social network moving in the right direction.

We'll look at the right way to build an online community, but not just any community; a community that remains active and thriving. A community whose members don't register, look and leave but one whose members come back again and again, post comments and contribute to discussions.

A community that people don't just want to join but want to be a part of.

Building that kind of community may mean taking steps that can feel counterintuitive. We'll explain why you should be taking those steps anyway.

We'll start by talking you through the process of launching a community.

This can feel like the worst time for a new social site. There are few members, few discussions and little reaction to the content that’s being posted — not that there’s much content either. We'll explain how to find those all-important first members and discuss why it's better to engage a small number of highly dedicated early users than attract a large number of users who don’t return.

We’ll then talk about building on that foundation. We’ll discuss the importance of forming a group identity and show you how you to do it. We'll talk you through the role of the community manager; and describe the best strategies you should be using to increase participation.

Finally, we'll talk metrics and money.

Although communities don't have the same monetizing process as other forms of online marketing it is possible to turn a community into cash and online communities do generate figures.

You should know how to find those figures, how to read them and what to do with them.

While so many businesses and community leaders focus on building their Facebook pages or fret about their Twitter content, others are having a ball discussing their favorite topics with people who genuinely care about them and who return day after day to their website to see what’s new.

Building that website is easy. Building that community is a little harder but with a little effort, it's an option available to any business owner and any community leader.

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they show on this page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


Alan Zibluk Markethive Founding Member