How to Build an Online Community: 21 Experts Shared Their Opinion

How to Build an Online Community: 21 Experts Shared Their Opinion

How to build an online community? Every marketer at least once thought about it. Communities mask a lot of learning opportunities offered by the best industry experts who are more keen to share knowledge and expertise with like-minded professionals. In the current digital marketing landscape, communities are struggling to bring new users on board and keep them engaged.

To give you some proof, take a look at a graph below that demonstrates monthly traffic (April 2015 till December 2015) to Inbound.org from, once a very popular community platform.

How to build an online community - Inbound stats

Inbound.org era has come to an end. It was a long and strenuous process. It’s hard to believe that such a powerful community that nurtured so many talented experts no longer exists. I remember the days when being featured in Inbound’s newsletter meant getting anywhere from 1,000 to 2,000 online visitors. So for those of you who is still looking for a new source of traffic to replace Inbound, then give Zeist and Growthhackers a shot, both of these platforms are great.

Some time ago, Alexandra had a great conversation on LinkedIn with 21 acclaimed experts that shared their thoughts on this topic. If you don’t want to end up like Inbound, then this post has some very interesting insights. You’ll find out about the nuances of a well-structured community and how to improve engagement. Many experts were actively using Inbound and contributing to the community. So we asked them about the steps you need to avoid in order to make your community an outstanding one.

In this article:

Concentrate on engagement

Alex Tachalova

Alex Tachalova

It's all about the movement, hustle and bustle. Movement equals life. Active community members who leave meaningful comments is the key metric here. All marketing processes should focus on improving this number. G2Crowd works on this metric, too. Every week G2Crowd sends me emails trying to convince me to contribute to their community. They are even willing to give away a $ 10 Starbucks gift card, which I’m certain helps them score some good reviews. So always think about the value you can bring to your community and reward the most active users.

Mary Green

Mary Green

Mary Green that had been previously an Inboud.org community manager stresses that what you need to is to keep people engaged.

David Iwanow

David Iwanow

First off, don’t spam your users with stupid emails begging for engagement on threads. As for me, I had been aggressively marketed to via social media and email, and this is something I hate the most. So forced engagement can play a big role in driving users off the platform. Also, don’t underestimate the amount of resources that it takes to run a good platform.

Ana Wolsztajn

Ana Wolsztajn

Constantly encourage the people to pitch in and participate in valuable discussions.

Tap into emotions through meaningful communication

Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré

Emotions drive everything — they always have. Successful communities (and marketing strategies) aren’t built out of Spock-like logic. They evolve and grow out of human needs to be accepted, appreciated, and feel part of something larger than ourselves. Nichole Elizabeth DeMeré shared her View of Inbound’s Sinking Ship. Continue reading here.

Matt Antonino

Matt Antonino

A community isn’t only about karma/posting. It’s about bringing people together in a meaningful way. Ultimately, I still value the time I spent at Inbound with Elvis, Mary, Ed, Nicole, Keri, and others but it has been a while since I really contributed regularly, like everyone else.

Don’t stop innovating

Alex Tachalova

Alex Tachalova

You have to bend over backwards to make things happen. That means you need to constantly search for new strategies. Even though there’s nothing with following best practices from established experts, you need to focus on innovation. Don’t reject the opportunity offered by new changes. While there’s nothing wrong with taking expert opinions into consideration, you need to keep searching for new approaches.

Invest in your community’s brand advocates

Alex Tachalova

Alex Tachalova

Brand advocates are like a fertilizer to soil: they help your community grow and prosper.
Irene Lewis

Irene Lewis

It’s very important to have great community managers who are really involved in what they’re doing and passionate about they job. On the other hand, as soon as one member of the team is leaving, the whole team starts falling apart. This doesn’t benefit the community.
Sam Hurley

Sam Hurley

I believe a platform like Inbound needs prominent leadership from a number of community members / advocates, to continually lead the change and bring fresh ideas to the table. Also, actively involving members in experiments and empowering THEM to develop the whole concept.

A thriving community is likely the result of two core actions: Awesome marketing and members' inclination to spread the word. The latter is particularly powerful — Achieve this across influential users right through to first-time testers, and growth is a given… Empowerment is the key!

Josh Garofalo

Josh Garofalo

For the most part, community is about a team and people who work with it. For example, Once Mary Green and Ed Fry left Inbound, I stopped using it. Not in protest… but something important was missing. Mary made it feel like a community. Ed did an amazing job of pulling me and other people I respect into conversations where we all had something to contribute.

Users want to control community’s content on their end

Ed Leake

Ed Leake

Keep accepting original content and don’t hold a spot for a post that died a few years ago.
Benji Hyam

Benji Hyam

А community should decide which content is best, not their managers. It’s an opportunity to see which content is really engaging and which isn’t.

Community isn’t about link repository

Elvis Malkic

Elvis Malkic

  • Make your posts motivating
  • Don’t just create a link repository for mundane articles.

A community provides opportunities for people to meet and communicate with one another and with the industry experts; to connect with professionals outside the community. Besides, being a part of a community allows you to improve your skills and learn new things.

Robert McGuire

Robert McGuire

I think community just comes down to the ability to share links. If you can, marketers will ruin it. I’m in the design phases of a new community space now, and one idea I’m considering is an absolutely no links policy so that provocative and engaging threads like this one are really the only reason to go to it. It’s sort of like a «everyone leaves their cell phone in a basket at the front door» dinner party. It cuts against what we think we want to get to what we really want -- an actual conversation.
Matt Antonino

Matt Antonino

Building a community from the ground up can sometimes be hard, but it can also be fun. The best part is that it’s always an interesting process but learning how marketing works is rarely about who shares links first.
Tadeusz Szewczyk

Tadeusz Szewczyk

Take care of your community — don’t let self-promotional content and links take over your timeline.

Don’t torment your users with bad design

Tadeusz Szewczyk

Tadeusz Szewczyk

Keep your design clean. Don’t clutter the layout with redundant details. Also, don’t mislead users by randomly adding and removing features over and over again.
Kathleen Slattery Booth

Kathleen Slattery Booth

Think about community’s UI, allow people to communicate with one another.
Sam Hurley

Sam Hurley

Let your users decide if they like your recent interface changes or not, just like GrowthHackers once updated their interface. Don’t force them to use the new interface by completely removing an old version.
Benji Hyam

Benji Hyam

Users poorly respond to every new feature because they already have a habit of how it works and what it looks like, especially when a community platform gathered a broad audience.

Decide how your community will benefit its users

Yam Regev

Yam Regev

Communities of amateurs are circling mainly around an agenda. Communities of professionals are circling around an agenda + a lot of added value.

I mean, each community member, whether it is a community of professionals, gets an added value from being an active part of the community itself. Otherwise, they won’t stay there.

It seems that no professional communities can thrive by solely discussing the agenda and actionizing it, while communities of professionals need to feel more self-empowered as they contribute to the community.

The bigger the added value is for a professional member, the more they will give from themselves for the community to thrive. Yam wrote an article about this, read it in its entirety here.

Kathleen Slattery Booth

Kathleen Slattery Booth

If you encourage folks to create original content for the platform, you should give these posts some visibility. So unless you gamed it and got your connections to upvote what you posted, nobody saw it. For instance, writing original content for Inbound.org was like the tree that fell in the forest with no one there to hear it. Also, if you’re building a community, it should be all about forming connections.

Social Media is the Place to Start

Ayesha Ambreen

Ayesha Ambreen

Building a community and keeping a community engaged (alive) are two different things. Often it takes more to sustain. That is why social media platforms, with all their grandeur and numbers, still struggle so much with innovation and user experience. Good content and numerous views can get buried under optimized promotions and monotonous content.
Tereza Litsa

Tereza Litsa

I think that social media (e.g. Facebook Groups or Twitter chats) have replaced the idea of communities created for like-minded people. And if I want to check interesting content, I can personalise my interests, rely on Twitter lists for my favorite people (influencers or connections) or even check the useful zest. is for new posts.

Define Your Goals First

Caroline Gormley

Caroline Gormley

Be able to show value to your boss and prove out the ROI of participating in engaging dialogues is very hard for marketers. It’s not right (like at all) but it’s the reality so many of us face. If you’re creating a community, you should manage your goals first.
David Spinks

David Spinks

The need for community to drive real value for the business. Otherwise, eventually, it will get cut.
Jason Quey

Jason Quey

I’ve never built a successful community, but I’d imagine engaged users, quality interactions between users, and reasons to keep coming back.

To Wrap Up:

There’s a lot to think about. Yet, we need to draw a conclusion to this subject and see what should have been done differently. Here are some tips that will help you improve your own community:

  • Show value of being part of your community
  • Encourage your active users
  • Create an atmosphere for people to connect with others
  • Build meaningful conversations with community members

It’s extremely important to create such community platforms that give participants value, teach them new skills and help them grow professionally. I hope these tips will provide some clarity on why brands need to take their users' voice seriously encourage you to create a perfect community of your own.

Did we forget something? Most likely, there’s a lot more to providing the best user experience for your community. What would you add to our list?

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