How-to Guide

How to Build an Online Community Your Customers Will Love

Communities fulfill our desire to connect with others. Online communities are no different; they unite people with similar interests—everything from beauty products to tax tips. Companies that know how to harness customer passion and expertise understand that owning your brand’s social community builds trusted relationships, which in turn drives more shoppers and sales.

72% of respondents said they enjoy knowing that a brand provides a community for engaging with those who have similar interests.
Millward Brown Study

If you’re wondering how to build an online community your customers will love, we recommend looking at what has worked for industry leaders. There’s one thing their strategies have in common: they all aid in building strong relationships within communities. While what works for one community may not work for the next, here are three strategies that have proved successful:

1. Surefire Superusers

If you’re looking for a guaranteed way to build an online community your customers will love, empowering superusers is as close as you’ll get. When you empower your most active users, they will organically become brand advocates, actively assist other customers, and develop valuable suggestions on how to improve your community and products. Here are proven tactics industry leaders have used to galvanize this critical group:


2. Let’s Play

Even if you’ve never heard the term “gamification,” you’ve probably been a player without even realizing it. Gamification is everywhere, both online and offline—from Starbucks mobile rewards to merit badges for Girl Scouts to catching Pokemon.1 For good reason, Gamification is one of the most proven ways to engage and motivate community members. It’s also a critical step in how to build an online community that keeps your customers coming back.

Pokemon Go shows how powerful algorithms can be in modifying people’s behavior on a global scale quickly using gamification.2

Here are four steps to help you realize the power of gamification:

  1. Identify what you are trying to gamify. Examples might include: visiting the community, reading posts, giving kudos, sharing content, asking questions, or answering questions.
  2. Determine if you have analytics to measure all the behaviors you want to gamify—you can’t gamify an action that you can’t accurately measure.
  3. Understand your users and what motivates them.
  4. Design your program around your users to drive their behavior.

To learn more about how to get the most out of gamification, check out the report: Drive the Right Customer Behaviors with Gamification. Or read how Deutsche Telekom uses awards to motivate community members to participate actively.


3. Get Personal

Another feature successful online communities have in common is that they give fans an opportunity to share their opinions. Here are two ways beauty leader Sephora inspires clients and cultivates community.

  • To drive interaction, Sephora asks a new question every month, such as "What miracle beauty product would you invent?" and "What technology would you like to see in our stores?"
  • Adding client’s favorite products to profile pages allows users to tell others in the community a little more about themselves through the products they love.

Branded, on-domain communities are a powerful, untapped consumer touch point that influence consumer behavior and generate improved revenue. Millward Brown Digital observed the online activity of 60,000+ consumers, and discovered Lithium communities drive 12x more sales than all other social channels combined. Read the study to learn more: Owning Your Brand’s Social Community Drives More Shoppers and Sales.


1 U.S. News - "What Starbucks Gets About Loyalty"

2 Forbes - "Gartner's Top 10 Predictions For IT Organizations In 2017 And Beyond"

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