🏘️ Cultivating community

In a world full of technology and AI, constantly craving organic connections is something we all have in common. That's why creating a thriving online community where your followers can flourish is more important than ever. This week's newsletter is about giving your business a human touch by crafting a community space, drafting the proper guidelines, and how you can show your faithful followers the person behind the publication. Let's go!

In this week's issue πŸ“¨

  • Building an online community
  • Community guidelines for your publication
  • How to establish community trust

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Giving back

Being part of a community can help you feel like you have a place in the world and are involved in something meaningful. Starting an online community for your publication creates a deeper connection with your readers, supercharging engagement and loyalty. The simple act of conversation can also help generate more content ideas and word-of-mouth marketing.

Let's examine some actionable steps for community building that will help turn transactional relationships into meaningful moments.

Initiate your audience

  • Harness the power of promotion so you can easily be discovered, boost trust, and transform attention into income. You can't create robust brand awareness without first gaining an audience. Once you welcome the right people who will advocate for your work, community will start to happen naturally and become self-sustaining.
  • Decide if your community will be free or paid by examining the pros and cons of each. A free community space can grow quickly and reach broader audiences, but it also tends to have lots of spam and inactive users. A paid community space creates quality over quantity by filtering out not-so-serious users in favor of more active members who contribute at higher levels.

Define your goals

  • What will your community accomplish for your publication? Your community should deliver fresh content ideas, raise your status within your niche, and help you stay accountable. Define your incentives clearly so running, moderating, and promoting the community won't become just another item on your to-do list.
  • What will your community provide for its members? They should be aware of what they will gain access to, be able to pitch publication ideas, and give/receive feedback. Your community should be a space to help your followers save time, solve problems, or be more productive. Knowing your community goals upfront will attract those who are most compatible.
Tiblio makes clear how their community empowers your business strategies.

Choose your tools

  • Select a community platform that best suits the needs of you and your members. There are free platforms like Slack, Discord, and even Facebook. If you need more elite features, opt for paid platforms like Circle, Cove, or Swarm. Plenty of available options can fit your community's lifestyle, many of which can be integrated using tools like Zapier.
  • When launching a paid community, you'll need integrations that allow you to take payments, and you'll want to choose a protected platform that only allows specific people to access it. For example, publishers on Ghost that offer paid subscriptions can automate this process using Circle and Zapier to invite new paid members to a Circle community automatically.

Create your workflow

  • How you handle setting up your community, organizing your space, and onboarding your members will depend on the community you want to cultivate. Generally, the best way to satisfy your followers is to keep clean visuals, use simple layouts, and create an easy-to-navigate sign-up process. Anything more complicated can lead to community confusion.
  • Begin by brainstorming the name of your group and how you want to customize color and imagery. Check that settings like language and permissions are correct and what channels, rooms, and threads should exist. Consider special introductions for new members, develop a schedule for specific content, and clearly display community rules.
Video-centric community platforms like Swarm offer numerous customization options.

Track your success

  • Measuring what your members do once recruited is the last stage of building an online community. To create positive results, consider sending out a personal email to early adopters of your publication, inviting them to your new community with an included discount or free access. This will help start everything off on the right foot with followers who are already loyal.
  • You can track community analytics like the number of members added, how many are active or inactive, and what spaces are generating the most engagement using paid community platforms like Circle. Data like this will help you recognize what's working, what isn't, and what changes need to be made based on your audience's wants and needs.

Moderate your community

  • Elect who will moderate your community and how much time they'll dedicate to doing it. Discuss how new members will be approved, what language should be used, what topics will be tolerated, and how community violations will be handled. Consider looking to other thriving online communities for moderation inspiration.
  • Posting explicit community guidelines keeps unwanted content out of your community while keeping it relevant and enticing for new members. Setting clear expectations, asking for moderation help, and using automation when possible will make the community easy to maintain. The easier your community is to maintain, the longer it'll be around.

Interesting stories & ideas πŸ“š

Guiding light

Your community should be a safe space where readers feel secure expressing themselves authentically without fear of harassment or abuse, and your community guidelines are the rules you set to ensure that this mission is successful. Your policies should cover acceptable and unacceptable behavior, the content your members share, and their interactions.

Ashley R. Cummings, freelance writer for Uscreen, shares eight ways to set clear community rules that show how much you care.

#1 Use your brand's current mission statement to help guide your guidelines. Harness your standards, voice, and authenticity so your members trust you'll follow through on your safety promises.

#2 Make your community guidelines matter by asking your members what they care about and what rules they want to see. Invite them into the process by conducting surveys, having discussions, and applying their feedback.

#3 Break down your guidelines into dos and don'ts for easy reading. Not every member will read every word of your terms and conditions, so it's nice to spell it out for them in a simple-to-read package.

#4 Include a content policy to help your members understand that the content they share should be safe, appropriate, and helpful. Don't be shy about being firm on what they can and cannot post to avoid confusion.

LinkedIn's community guidelines are direct and easy to understand.

#5 Don't go overboard with the depth of your community guidelines. If they're too complicated to understand, violations are almost guaranteed. Just stick to the basics, such as no spam, personal attacks, NSFW content, or discrimination.

#6 Value your member's privacy and safety by explaining what data you collect, why you collect it, how you use it, and whether or not you share it. Trust should always be a top priority when cultivating a healthy community.

#7 Consider any age restrictions based on your content and brand identity. Who can and should participate in your community? Feel free to research age laws in your members' countries or states.

#8 Explain what happens when rules are broken so your members know what to expect. Are they given a warning, put on probation, or removed from the community entirely? Deciding on the consequences is crucial.

Handle with care

Earning the confidence of your readers is essential for forming faith in your publication and content. Your followers wouldn't be followers if they didn't like and respect your work, but to curate a thriving online community, they also have to trust who you are and what you stand for. If you want to keep your community real, your members should know the real you.

Meetwaves content writer and marketer Georgi Todorov explains how to gain the trust of your members for infinite online community growth.

β€£ Keep your online door open by inviting your members to engage with you. Encourage them to email you any positive or negative feedback about your brand, content, or the community. Consider messaging your members to thank them for their contributions, ask how they're doing, or what you can do to improve things. Making everyone feel at home will let them know they have a home with the community you've worked hard to assemble.

β€£ Be authentic and keep your promises as much as possible. If something fails, own up to it. If you've made a mistake, talk about it. Being honest about the good and bad will show your community members they can trust you. Transparency will encourage your members to offer their own guidance and contributions if things aren't going well, and you'll have a nice circle of advocates to celebrate with when things are successful.

β€£ Create unique community experiences to help your members reach their goals. Why did they subscribe to your publication? What do they want to accomplish within the community, and how can you guide them? They should know that you want to create great content, but you also want to give them memorable moments they can share with their loved ones. The more personalized the community feels, the more they'll see you as a person they can trust.

Excitement, trust, and gratitude can stem from positive member experiences.

β€£ Make it all about the people, not just your brand. Members don't fall in love with analytics, sales, and revenue; they fall in love with content and connections that speak to them on a human level. Anyone can give a transactional experience, but creating a community culture that upholds trust is the real deal. When you make your community about your followers, they'll naturally promote your publication without you having to do a thing.

β€£ Don't oversell by treating your members like everyday customers. Constantly pitching to your followers doesn't garner their trust; it only creates doubt. Your brand's value lies in the content you create and the community you build around it, not what you can sell. Providing proper resources and solving problems within your niche will sell itself. Establishing a hearty community is playing the long game, so don't sell yourself short.

β€£ Always lead by example by being the community member you want to have. If you don't see enough connection happening in the community, start conversations. If you don't see enough questions being asked, propose questions to your members to get things rolling. If things are feeling a bit chilly, be warm, engaging, and open-minded. Generating community trust will take some effort, but the return on your investment will be priceless.

Curator's pick ✍️

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