How to develop your company’s online community

How to develop your company's online community

How to build and develop your online community

Q: I see my competitor posted an ad looking for an online community manager. We just finally got our social media in gear, we’re on Facebook and we actively tweet… isn’t that enough?

A: Setting up your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media accounts is the easy part. Engaging with your community in a coordinated fashion and being a good online community manager is the hard part.  Don’t take this role lightly; it’s not an easy task to build a vibrant online community in a time-starved, attention-deficit world.

Q: Who should I get for this community manager role?

A: The community manager function is really core for most organizations. There is no shortage of “social media experts” that will offer to manage your online community for a fee but ideally organizations should have someone internally who is responsible for nurturing their online community.

Q: We don’t have the budget for a full time community manager? Is this still doable?

A: This is a common problem where organizations take their website to the next level of interaction and offer online groups, forums, and blogs, but then their online community becomes a virtual ghost town. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come, unless you are prepared to do the hard work of nurturing your community.

If you are on a tight budget, consider hiring a student or recent grad to work with your company as an online community manager. It’s win-win; great experience for the budding online community manager and often adds a skillset that may not exist internally.

Q: Should I focus on my Facebook presence or my website?

A: It doesn’t have to be one versus the other but usually when you have customers or prospects on your own site, you don’t want to send them away. Consider embedding your Facebook and Twitter activity feeds on to your home page so you can engage deeper with more control over your content and brand.

Q: What are the online community management DOs and DON’Ts?

A: Know the purpose of your online community and set some key measurable goals. Select one person to be in charge of your overall online community building and give this person the resources they need to truly nurture the community. Consider implementing online community tools like BuddyPress for your organization. Personally welcome all new community members and actively monitor the interactions between community members. Be prepared to jump in quickly when things go sideways. Make sure your navigation and general usability is excellent, nothing kills an online community faster than people getting lost and frustrated.

Follow the four tenets of a good online community manager articulated by Jeremiah Owyang (@jowyang): be a community advocate, be a brand evangelist, have savvy communications and editorial skills, and gather community input for future product and services.

Don’t outsource this role unless you just need help temporarily — your online community manager really needs to be part of your core staff, not just a hired gun.  Don’t assume that online community building is free. It takes a lot of time and effort and doesn’t work well when it’s just done off the side of someone’s desk.

BizTech Q&A is our answer to the most common technology questions related to your business. Email us your questions at, and we will respond.

Cyri Jones teaches at BCIT and Capilano University and is the founder of He blogs at Ivan Surjanovic is a marketing faculty at Capilano University and CEO of iPower Lab. He blogs at and tweets on

Written by Dr. Ivan Surjanovic and Cyri Jones, 
adapted from BizTech101 column in Business in Vancouver

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