Digital Communities done right
1 July 2019
Facebook's developers conference was held this last April. Facebook announced an overall facelift which will enhance communities. According to Zuckerberg, 400 million of 2.3 billion Facebook users are members of a community/group which they claim is very meaningful to them. Users will now be presented more content from these communities. Furthermore, the communities will now include features that will provide a more meaningful UX, such as sharing content from the community outwards or the ability to send posts to be published anonymously, for those who prefer not to be exposed (The Marker).
Let's take a step back: What is a community?
A community is a group of people that share at least one characteristic: geographical location, cultural and historical heritage, shared interests, shared opinions, etc. Despite the different definitions of a community, they all provide their members with a sense of shared identity which makes them feel part of something greater. This feeling leads to attempts at creating unique symbols of identity (slang or professional lingo, symbols, values, attire, norms, etc.)
Communities used to exist mainly physically. Nowadays, communities are mainly digital entities managed on social media, such as Facebook, YouTube, WhatsApp, etc.
What is a digital community?
A group of people that creates a network of relationships and meets virtually in a digital environment. Digital community members share an interest and motivation which they act together to attain. They initiate personal relationships. While some communities are founded virtually, some communities begin as physical communities and then operate mostly virtually.
Nearly all of us are members of digital communities on Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
Here are some tips for setting up and managing digital communities, including business conduct in these settings.
First, ask yourselves: do I need a digital community on Facebook? What do I want to attain? Can a digital community assist me in achieving this goal? What will be the agenda and values of such a community?
Consider the strategy behind your community, as it will assist you when later managing it.
After deciding that a digital Facebook community is indeed the solution for you, here are the four basic elements that must be considered: analysis, regulation, content, and target audience.
Before setting up a community, you must consider the following:
What are the subjects that will be discussed in the community? While the community will obviously revolve around a specific subject, you must analyze what subsidiary subjects will be discussed in the community. For example, a mothers' group may be able to contain dilemmas from various fields from the world of motherhood yet cannot provide its members with medical information.
Community secrecy- who has access to the community. Will it be open to everyone or only for those that were accepted after requesting to join it? Will it perhaps be secret, available only to those invited by community managers?
Post authorization- can any community member publish a post, or can the manager authorize posts before they are made visible to others.
Community regulations- once you've analyzed your digital community, you must back it up with regulations. They must refer to the following issues:
What is the required content? what subjects does the group discuss?
What is the procedure regarding deleting community members' posts by community managers?
Accepting members- what is the group's target audience, who can be accepted to it?
Marketing- will the community include any marketing activity or not?
The community's content
Now that you've analyzed your digital community's activity and enforced it with regulation, let's talk about content. Content is, after all, the reason this community exists.
Content is no longer just written words. Writing relevant, useful content of value to readers generates a connection that eventually leads to attaining business results. Content affects us readers in several manners: we feel towards it, we expand our knowledge, we formulate opinions on which we base the decisions we make.
So, how can you create quality content for your digital community?
Don't market the community, rather market community members' experience as part of it.
Provide content that adds value to its readers, not content uploaded for the sake of uploading content. Adapt the post to the community's objectives, agendas and values. Even if the content revolves around the community's theme- not every content is appropriate.
Develop a unique lingo for your community, complete with recurring phrases and columns. Make use of all types of content according to its theme: text, pictures, video. Don't just "drop" links or pictures without any accompanying text.
Apply correct writing principles: titles, paragraphs and punctuation are essential.
Don't write alone. Use your community members and ask them to share their experiences.
Identify leading figures and ask them to upload content.
Upload content frequently, so to attain continuity and generate expectations.
If you've decided to use the communal platform for marketing, do not market aggressively.
Run A/B tests constantly to determine between two options.
Respond to all posts and comments published by community members- an empty post is a sad post. Refrain from inappropriate language. Adapt your responses to the post, rather than using the same fixed response.
Check your posts' stats on a weekly basis- which posts gained the most exposure, what garnered more responses, what generated conversation and what did not.
How do you know you've succeeded?
Your content has led to community involvement (exposure, responses, sharing).
Your content has echoed for days later.
You know you've succeeded when readers screenshot the content and forward it.
Here are some examples of winning content in digital communities:
Chains, such as "get to know" chains, dilemmas, expectations, open answers
Consulting members regarding issues related to the community
The community's target audience
Last but not least is the community's target audience. Digital Communities' target audience is comprised of three types:
Lurkers- consume content yet do not respond. Lurkers learn and draw knowledge and usually fear exposure
Posters- take part in the community, upload content, respond and distribute the community's content throughout the web
Leaders- assist others, initiate interactions and promote involvement
There's also the community manager that is meant to lead the way. They are supposed to create an environment fit for your digital community- lingo, atmosphere, taking care of the community website's technical settings and instructing members how to use them.
Furthermore, managers must support the participants' various needs, including their needs for knowledge and inspiration, social recognition and exposure, and leadership. They also need to advance members from one phase to another: from Lurkers to Posters, from Posters to Leaders.
How can you recruit your target audience to the community?
Advertise the community in other platforms
Identify leading figures and recruit them as an active part of the community
Once you've completed the four stages of setting up a community, all that's left is to manage it. Try out as much as you can, test what's right for your community. This will allow you to adapt the content better in the future.
Community managers have communities of their own, too. If you have questions you can always use the following manager forums:
Facebook Community Managers consulting