Useful tools for building an online community

An online community is one of the most valuable online commodities a business can have, as it is a place where your brand can both have a voice and give a voice to its customers. Typically online communities are developed using social media channels, and can be combined and integrated using various useful tools. This article will introduce just some of the most popular and useful free and paid tools for building an online community for your brand. For more information on the what, why and how of creating an online community, click here.

Platforms For Your Community

If you haven’t already, then the first step is to create a community of some form, be it via a social media channel, forum, or other means. The most popular community platforms lie in social media channels and blogs, so in this article we will focus on these.

LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a social networking site designed to enable professionals to connect and communicate online, so for a B2B company this would be the ideal platform to build your community. This can be done using a company page, personal account (of a director or someone high up within the company) or the most popular way, using a group. Groups are the most popular way due to their customisable moderation options, meaning you can allow as much or as little freedom to group members and people outside the group as you wish. This also makes them an ideal place to create two way conversations, as the audience feel like they have somewhere to speak their mind, be listened to and be seen as equal with the brand.

Blogs: Wordpress, Blogger and Tumblr are among the top blogging platforms favoured by companies, and they are the ideal way to build communities for both B2B and B2C brands. Blogs are becoming an ever more popular way to communicate useful information about brands and industries as it has been realised that this is what consumers and clients want. They don’t want to be advertised to constantly and consistently both on and offline. They want to be given something interesting and engaging to work with. It is also a great place to encourage engagement from your audience by encouraging them to comment and share their own advice, experiences, and more with the brand and rest of the audience on the given topic. People love to share blog posts they find interesting, which equals happy customers AND promotion of the brand’s name/community.

There are other platforms on which online communities can be created, such as Facebook, Twitter, forums and more, but LinkedIn and blogs have been found to be the most popular due to the level of engagement on these particular platforms.

Building Up Your Community

Once you have created your community, the best way to build it up is to share it. Post about it on your social media channels, blog and website to let people know what it’s about and encourage them to get involved. The best way to do this is to start a new topic of discussion in your group or post a new article for discussion on your blog, and then use to promote the community and encourage engagement by asking people to interact with the topic.
A great tool for building your community is Disqus. It is an online discussion and commenting service which is commonly integrated with company websites and blogs to encompass all their communities in one place. It can be used to build a larger community by bringing together audiences from all your separate social media channels to create one big engaged community. Well known websites using Disqus include CNN, The Telegraph, IGN, PC Magazine, For Dummies and many more.  

Do you know of some other useful tips and tools for building an online community? We would love to hear them!

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