Building virtual communities during a pandemic

Communities should form part of organisational culture but during a crisis like COVID-19 it’s more important than ever to be part of virtual communities and keep them engaged .

Communities are now a large part of the stakeholder make-up and should be thought of as part of the foundations of the organisation.

Conversations make communities thrive and we’ve never had it easier to communicate with people virtually. Whether it’s through social networking apps or custom-platforms such as Skype and Zoom.

10 Steps to developing virtual communities:

  1. Purpose – what’s the point of the community? How will it help people and be valuable to them?
  2. What do you want to achieve?
  3. Who are your people? What people will make up this community and what do they look like? Profiling your audience and knowing where they hang out, what they care about and what they value in brands will help you understand.
  4. How will it work? You’ll need to understand the mechanics, the type of communication, the content required. Consistency should be the focus.
  5. What do you need them to do? Is there an ask?
  6. How often will you communicate? Developing a content calendar will keep you on track and allow you to integrate with other forms of communication.
  7. Use the information you have about your people, from your audience profiling, and start to develop conversations around their likes, dislikes, ask them questions etc. Remember at times likes this, they will have concerns, many will ask the same questions and there may be an element of having to set the record straight, to avoid the spread of misinformation. Are there key messages you need to consider including?
  8. Check in with them and mean it.
  9. Face-to-face time is more meaningful than just a call or text message. Try out some live streaming.
  10. The consistent approach, married with meaningful conversations and the reinforcement of key messages should mean your virtual community is feeling calm, informed and like you care about them.

What are you learning whilst listening to conversations or being asked questions? How can you further help and alleviate any stress? Consider using their questions and turning them into a frequently asked questions (FAQ) PDF, nicely designed but with easy to understand answers. It’s not what you want the community to know or have, but what they need. Too often lack of engagement, lack of listening and understanding and lack of two-way respect hinders organisations from being all they can be.

Attracting people to a new community

If your community is not organisational-led and say it’s for a specific geographic location or a niche subject, you’ll need to attract people to the community. Doing the above is a start, but you’ll need to use social media channels to let them know you’re there and get them involved. I suggest a small budget is also required for this, to guarantee reaching your audience through the likes of Facebook ads.

Tip: Share other people’s content, share your own content, answer questions, ask questions and connect with relevant people. Listen hard! You don’t need to be active on every platform, only the ones your community will be present.

Other tips:

  • Always respond to comments.
  • Tag other people and invite them to join the conversation.
  • Give other people credit where it’s due. It’s also nice to give other people a shout out just to acknowledge them and their skills, experience or achievements.

Finally, leadership will be the single most important aspect of any community whether it’s physical or virtual. Showing good leadership will only ever have a positive impact.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my post. If you need to discuss anything or need help building your community, give me a shout.