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.

Derek Gleason

Derek Gleason

We have built a strong community (6,200+ members) on Facebook related to conversion optimization. A big key to success has been explicitly banning «link drops» in the community. Peep and a number of other CRO experts are also regular participants. In short, if you have a question, you can go there and get an answer from someone who really knows their stuff. Since we use the Facebook Group as a way to build brand awareness, we don’t have to make any sacrifices regarding the content (i.e. turn the group into a sales pitch).
Shane Barker

Shane Barker

A key aspect of building an online community is to keep the members engaged and active. You can use these tactics to do so:

  • Welcome new members
  • Start discussions on different topics
  • Reply to comments, answer questions
  • Start engaging quizzes and contests
  • Ask questions and encourage members to reply
  • Use gamification to encourage community engagement.

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.

Krishna Rajaganesan<span class=" width="150" height="150" />

Krishna Rajaganesan

The benefit of being part of a community is to share ideas, network, and build relationships with like-minded people. The impact of the community is realized only when it brings a positive impact on your mindset. Finding the right set of people who can share their expertise is a good start to building a community.

And some of these people are influencers in various fields and are easy enough to find.
Jonas Sickler

Jonas Sickler

Freedom of speech is critical if you want to build an engaged community. But you must be mindful of trolls that spew hateful, useless comments. These individuals will drive away users and turn your platform into a ghost town. To find a balance, build in a reporting system to moderate and ban users that provide no value. The same goes for spammy links and irrelevant promotional content.
Angelina Harper

Angelina Harper

When you define your audience, you have to work on creating a sense of belonging to the community. With social media management tools, you can automate the hard work, but you have to check everything and encourage communication with questions, information and topics that are interesting for discussion in your niche.
Kurt Philip

Kurt Philip

Provide the necessary resources for the community to freely answer questions and help each other as well as setting the ground rules that the group has to abide by.
Vlad Shvets

Vlad Shvets

If your community format allows that, look into hosting regular AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions. AMAs allow you to both engage your community members and build relationships with the thought-leaders in your industry (which get invited to answer the questions).

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.
Matt Shealy

Matt Shealy

Innovation for your community can come in many forms but it should always be centered around providing value in new ways. This could be anything from new features and functionality they can use to providing new forms of content they can use to engage. Brands and publishers alike should approach every visitor, new user or customer as part of their community. The goal is to provide enough value that they continue to engage. One recent example we came across is a cybersecurity publisher who provided all users a COVID-19 scam website checker in response to thousands of hacker generated sites aimed at stealing data. This is a perfect example of providing value to a community that enhances brand loyalty.

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.
Jessica Edgson

Jessica Edgson

82% of manufacturers today use content marketing. That means that there’s a lot of great content to compete with. If you want your online community to succeed, you must provide outstanding content written to professional standards.
Lee Savery

Lee Savery

It is important that your content remains fresh for your community. Let them decide whether something is meaningful or relevant at this point in time. This means you should also involve the community when any new content is created for it. Engage with them and ask members directly — think about their needs and pain points!
David Roberts

David Roberts

It is the highest time to build user-generated communities. Humans are social. An exchange of information is a vital need. And that’s why communities managed by users gain popularity. Business pages and groups in social networks give users a valuable possibility to spark conversations around your brand, thus, feeling they’re a part of something bigger. Here, open and honest communication between a company and customers occurs. User-generated content is the most impactful evidence of social proof of your product or services.

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.
David Campbell

David Campbell

Be sure when your rolling out a new feature or design that you communicate this with users in the right way at the right time.

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.
<span style=Tytus Golas" width="150" height="150" />

Tytus Golas

Our Tidio Live Chat community is bound together by our SaaS product. The Facebook group we created is inhabited by nearly 2.5k users who exchange their comments about our app, chip in their own ideas on product improvements, and advise each other on matters related to running an online business. Moreover, the engagement is further fueled by our Customer Support Team that swiftly addresses our community members
Jon Torres

Jon Torres

The main reason a community works is because it is a symbiotic relationship for all contributors. By constantly evolving and innovating you are testing ways to best serve your online community. Offering members new features and perks help keep your platform from getting stale. Use new features to provide value whether that be in the form of new tools, new chat functionality or new ways to contribute.

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.
Adam Hempenstall

Adam Hempenstall

If you want to build a community, listen to what your customers are saying. Some of the best discussions we’ve started in our Facebook group were based on the questions we got from our customer support emails, live chat and social media messages. Listen to what your customers talk and worry about and the community you create will be authentic and based on their needs, rather than your needs to promote yourself and your product or service.
Waqar Azeem

Waqar Azeem

Focus on building a good reputation in the community. Get your impression better day by day and avoid self-promotional content. To the other marketers, attract them with worthy information -this will keep you out of their spam bin.
Lastly, signup for professional social media management tools to grow your business in the market.

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.
Mark Xavier Quadros

Mark Xavier Quadros

In all honesty, creating a solid community is no easy feat. It’s a complex on-going campaign with a series of overlapping tasks. For this reason, I recommend setting S.M.A.R.T goals and having a flexible project plan. Planning ahead--and setting the right goals with community building will help set realistic expectations and of course, much-needed direction.
George Mathew

George Mathew

Building an online community is all about building an audience first. This requires investing in content. Not just any content would do. Ask around, take inspiration from blogs, forums, comments and community posts to find out what’s keeping your readers up at night. ANd then go about writing about those problems and showing them a guiding light on how they can solve these problems. A community germinates when people find the content around the brand to be useful to their daily lives. This is what you need to be aware of first and foremost.
Sam Molony

Sam Molony

It is essential to define your goals and be clear about what you want to achieve when trying to build a community. This is the approach we took at Zoomshift, where we wanted to grow a community around HR & employee management for our employee scheduling platform. Having clear goals in place helps to underpin all of the actions we take to foster a community and generate engagement.
Chris Wagner

Chris Wagner

It is always worth looking into the less common types of social media. Facebook Groups are good, but have you tried Reddit? Quora? Heck, have you ever seen the discussion section of a popular website or even news outlet? People crave discussion and thought-provoking material. In online forums, your ability to contribute to or foster a community is put to the test like nowhere else.

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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