One of the main reasons why Apple is such a successful brand is because they have managed to build an online community and a cult following for themselves. People wait in queue for hours and even days just to get their hands on the latest iPhone and proudly show off their purchase to their friends and family. This is what brands should strive towards. Building a community around a brand is absolutely necessary for its long-term survival. This is the case even for your online course and academy.
Benefits of building an online community
- Reduces dependency on ads and promotions to improve brand awareness and sales
- Increases customer retention by creating a switching barrier between you and other brands
- When you provide exceptional value and inspire people, you are turning them into brand advocates who will naturally talk about your brand with their network. There is no better marketing than good old word of mouth.
- Creating an online community means you can get up close with your customers to understand their specific needs, problems, and requirement. This will help you create courses that can solve real-world problems.
How To Run An Online Community
Let’s look at all the ways through which you can build and maintain a strong online community for your online academy/course.
People need a strong reason to give you their already scarce time and attention to join your community. For some people, knowing you as a person or an entrepreneur might be enough. But for most people, they are going to need something more than just face value. They would want you to give them real value. There are many ways through which you can provide that value.
You could provide free consultations to people regarding your subject of expertise or if you are experienced enough, give long-term career advice. Or you could also give student feedback as it directly ties into your online business. You can also offer extra resources and original content that would create exclusivity for people interested in joining your community.
When people see that you are investing your time and effort to give value to your community, they will psychologically be obliged to engage with you. This will lead to solidifying a better relationship with these community members.
Lead and set rules
If people are to interact and engage with the community you are building, they will want to do it in a safe and respectful space. A big part of building and managing an online community is making sure your members feel safe and at home. You or any other person will have to be a leader and show up for the community.
Leadership style differs from one person to another. But there are some things that are standard and can set up your community for success. Implement strict rules against hate speech and bullying during online discussions and encourage members to be respectful of each other’s opinions.
Take the time to introduce new members to the community. Just sending an email with the names and photographs of new members should be enough. This shows that you actually care. Small details like this matter the most. During this introduction process, always familiarize them with the rules and code of conduct of your community. For the first few keeps, keep an eye on their activity.
For many online educators who run their business with a community component, the community members are the very soul of the success of the business. If you are one of those entrepreneurs, it would be wise to keep an open dialogue with these members as it can help you gain a lot of value and insights.
Keep in contact with your community and ask them questions to understand their needs, wants and viewpoints on a variety of topics. Ask them what they are currently struggling with and how they expect you to help them with those problems. This is also one of the best ways to generate ideas to create content that actually works i.e., you don’t have to worry if they would accept what you create.
Creating a clear line of communication allows you to get to know you community better. This will in turn help you build courses around solving their problems. You can get people to open up more by using humor.
Ask for feedback
It can be a bit intimidating to ask for feedback from students. Nevertheless, it is a crucial step to improve your online academy/course and elevate it to the next level. Your community is the best place to ask for honest feedback.
Ask hard and direct questions like – How could your material be improved? What are your lectures missing? What topics are students struggling with the most? How can you simplify the learning process?
Since they are part of the community, you can expect them to give honest answers more often. This is more true in case your community members are paying customers. Building such a strong relationship with your community members when you are not afraid to hear out their suggestions and implement them is what builds loyal customers and superfans.
Follow an engagement calendar
Fact: your members are not online all the time waiting for your content. If you want to streamline running your online community, maintaining an engagement calendar can help. This lets you allocate time for a specific type of content including blogs and social media.
Here is a sample of an engagement calendar:
- Monday: a live video session with the community
- Tuesday: Share a link to a blog, podcast or video, or anything else relevant to the community
- Wednesday: Q&A session
- Thursday: Respond to queries on the forum page
- Friday: Promote your course
- Weekend: Post a survey
Once they get used to this schedule, they can know what to expect from you on any given day. This allows them to better plan their time. You can also better prepare yourself and manage your workload.
Involve them in the creation process
Make your community feel more valued by letting them in on what’s happening behind the scenes and the creative process.
What your social media community sees might differ from what your private community sees. You can let your guard down and show the real side of the business with our private community. Share pictures and videos of the creative process and your struggles. People love it when online entrepreneurs are authentic and vulnerable.
You can even go a step further and involve them in the creation of your next course. Crowdsourcing has worked for many brands.
Connecting people within your community is also an important part of the online education business. When creating content for your community, don’t forget to include activities that allow your members to interact with each other. All you need to do is create a safe and transparent environment and people will start mingling with each other.
Further Reading: 7 traits of highly effective online teachers
How Learnyst can help
Learnyst is not your average Learning Management System (LMS). We take a holistic approach at how we can help tutors setup their online academy/course for success. Create a course using our authoring tools, host them on your custom website and start selling them. It’s as simple as that!
Our extensive features also help you build and maintain a strong online community for your course/academy. To know more about us, get in touch now!