Wondering why you should build your own community website? These days it’s not enough to rely on marketing ads to sell your product or service. The reality is, building a community around your brand has become one of the most important ways to market your products and services.
According to CMX research, 85% of marketers believe that building a branded community increases loyalty and improves your customers’ journey.
It’s human nature to search for a sense of belonging. The internet hasn’t removed that need, if anything – it’s magnified it. Social media giants such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are testament to this. But, we recommend that you don’t build your communities on their platforms.
Why not? you may ask.
Well, what if you could bring people together to unite and make deep and meaningful connections away from the noise of social media? If you could reclaim control of your data and reach? If you could wave goodbye to trying to figure out the constant algorithm changes or throwing money at boosting posts just so your message lands in front of your audience?
Imagine having your own exclusive community website that acts as a central hub for personal and direct communication with your tribe.
That’s what Disciple can provide you with. All the tools you need to create an impactful community.
More on that later…
But first consider this: If you successfully generate a loyal following and share lots of valuable content with them, your community can also become your main source of income. And the best thing? It’s mostly passive income.
Why build a community website?
If the above hasn’t convinced you enough, here are some pretty big rewards that building your own community website can bring:
- Reclaim complete control over your data – don’t let the social media giants get all the insights and make all the decisions.
- Design your site the way you want it – fully-branded and customisable appearance.
- Zero drop in “reach” – i.e. content not reaching your followers.
- Talk directly to your tribe – increase engagement with your community
- Provide exclusive content – create a wow-factor and feeling of exclusivity with behind-the-scenes content
- Zero trolling – your community website means you choose who you let in – no random people trolling your site.
So, what are community website builders and how do you use them?
Community website builders provide brands, companies and individuals with a powerful opportunity to create their own, private social networks and share content with their audiences. These communities can be free or subscription memberships, depending on the nature of the community and the value of what’s on offer.
For example, a community website for a very niche, specialist industry or interest, such as a personal fitness coach, may charge a hefty subscription fee if they are providing exclusive tutorials and coaching to help people reach advanced fitness levels.
Even if you’re providing free membership, you can still make revenue from the “passion economy”. The passion economy is a term we use to describe the potential that exists to monetise people’s passions. For example, you can charge a small fee to unlock valuable content that helps people with their passion, whether it’s a work or personal-life related passion.
Community website builders like ourselves, help you do this by giving you a platform on which to create a home for your community. This can include videos, livestreaming, messaging, groups, feeds, etc. Basically, all the things you’d expect from a social media site, but customisable to your style and needs, and with full control over user data.
Laying the foundations of your community website
Want to know what the secret sauce of any community is? The people.
Sounds obvious, right? But, it’s all too tempting to get lost in the details of web design, font style, colour schemes and finding the perfect images.
Yes, all these things are important. But they come secondary to the people. Understanding your tribe, the people who follow you and your content, is the most important part of building a community. You can’t build a community if you don’t know what the members’ likes and passions are.
Understanding your community
This is more than just doing a bit of market research, drawing up a customer profile and being done with it. To really understand your community on a deeper level, you have to engage with them. The more you connect with your people, the more you’ll understand their driving forces and you’ll know how to create content, products and services that really speak to them.
There are a number of ways of doing this Here are just a few ideas:
- Encourage comments – Ask an interesting question that gets people thinking, or ask them to share their own experiences. Most people love to share stories, ideas and life events that are important to them.
- Start a forum – Forums are still a very popular way to engage and interact with people, especially when you have a common interest. You can run polls or ask probing questions on a forum, and you’re sure to get replies.
- Share a “behind-the-scenes” of your life – If they’ve joined your community, then your followers are interested in you and what you do. They’ll love it if you share content that gives them a glimpse into your everyday life. Just make sure it’s exciting and interesting, not a duvet-day! (Unless your community is about duvet covers, that is).
- Video content – Video is powerful. The written word is great for getting across ideas and concepts in detail, but nothing beats video for the engagement factor and communicating messages quickly. Livestreaming is a great way for keeping people engaged. If you schedule and deliver regular live streams, people will begin to look forward to them and will travel to your new community to get their fix!
The next step towards building your own community website is to choose a platform.
Choosing the right platform
First you need to decide whether you are creating a shared-interest community or an informational community.
- Shared-interest community – A community built around a common or niche interest, or passion. Examples may include yoga, charity initiatives, football, painting, music, gardening, etc.
- Informational community – Informational communities tend to be more about learning or mastering a certain skill or attribute. They are often related to a specific skill or self-development. Examples may include coding, public speaking, article writing, creative writing, specific software skills, etc.
There is obviously some overlap between the two, for example a music community built around a love of the piano may offer informational lessons. However, generally speaking, any online community will fall mainly into one category or the other. Understanding this will help you choose the right platform.
Other things to look for when selecting a community website builder are:
- Easy-to-use and set up
- Intuitive user interface
- Good customer support
- Full access to data and analytics
- Compatible with integrations
- Feels right for your type of community
You’ll know when you’ve found the right community website builder as it will tick all of the above boxes.
Set goals for your new community
Now you understand the type of people that make up your community and you’ve chosen the perfect platform, it’s time to plan the finer points and the inner workings.
First of all, set some goals. What do you want from your community? Are you looking to:
- improve the way people view your products and services?
- help and serve people?
- increase awareness of your brand?
- find a tribe of like-minded people that you enjoy connecting with?
- increase revenue by tapping into the passion economy?
All of these are valid reasons to start an online community and it may be a mixture of all of them. For now, decide on the one overriding reason that stands out to you, as it will help you to maintain focus.
Decide on the structure of your community
Next, you should decide the structure of your community. Are you going to rely on volunteer moderators for posts, do most of it yourself, or hire people to moderate posts and answer any questions?
The answer to this may depend on the size and engagement of your community. If you’re starting with a small community, you may be able to do most of it yourself, as it grows you may need to ask for volunteers or hire community managers to help.
You also need to decide how you want your community to look and feel. A good community website platform will help you to customise your community website and get things perfect.
Other things you should consider are:
- Layout of the “homepage” view – do you want a newsfeed, recent posts, trending topics? Or perhaps you want to share your most recent post. It’s up to you.
- Decide which features to enable – community website builders often come with lots of features. Decide which to use and which to ditch.
- How to engage members – you want to encourage people to jump into discussions right from the start. Set up your site to be highly interactive, with plenty of opportunities to engage with other members. Also, consider offering perks for engagement – the most active members get free stuff or a prize.
Creating your community website – the easy part
You’ve done all the hard work now!
Most community website builders make it easy to jump in and create the kind of website you want.
Here at Disciple, we walk you through the setup of your community step-by-step.
You can literally have a fully-branded community website up-and-running in less than an hour!
Once your community website is built, you can control everything through an easy-to-use console that gives you full control over everything from member profiles and content publishing to data analytics, integrations and APIs.