18 Aug Building Content Communities
If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that developing a space for customers and community to meet online is of the utmost importance. Online content communities became a necessity during lockdown as the only means of gathering together to share projects, news, and just connect with other people. These communities also taught us the significance of inclusivity—while you may never transition a brick & mortar store to a fully online offering, having a space to gather online offers opportunities for those customers who are unable to attend live, in-person events for various reasons.
You can structure your online content community around so many things that tie into your business:
- Host workshops and classes on Google Hangouts or Zoom, and then use your online community space to discuss the techniques learned, projects made, or continue fostering the connections formed in those workshops and classes.
- Host Make Alongs and encourage participants to join the online space to share their works in progress, post questions, and help one another along.
- Host Mystery Make Alongs and use the community space to disperse the clues.
- Offer those who join your online content communities special coupons and discounts only available to members. Once you’ve formed a community online, there are endless opportunities for engagement.
If you haven’t yet made the leap to starting your own online communal space, here are 3 free options worth examining.
If your business is already on Facebook, it’s very easy to form a Facebook Group for fans and customers of your business. Why bother if you already have a Facebook page? There are benefits to having a Facebook Group as an online content community.
- It’s an additional space for you to engage with customers, and for customers to engage with each other. The Discussion tab in a Facebook Group makes it easy for customers to talk to one another.
- Facebook Groups tend to see higher engagement numbers than Facebook Pages, and may be given higher status in the algorithm.
- Facebook Groups include an “Announcement” tab as well, which makes it very easy for community members to quickly locate the latest news from your business.
- You can populate the “Group Topics” tab with hashtags that can be used elsewhere in groups. When a customer clicks the hashtag, they will be taken to any post within the group that mentions the topic.
- You can populate the “Media” tab with tutorials, product reviews, or YouTube-style vlogs to further communicate with the community.
- Lastly, there is a “Files” tab that is great for community activities like Mystery Make Alongs. You can upload clues for your Make Along directly to the Files tab to easily share MKAL clues. Any time a file is uploaded to your Facebook Group it is immediately added to the Files tab, and if community members navigate to the Files tab, they can also click through the file to the original post, making searches very easy.
The beauty of Facebook Groups lies in how much you can do for free. You can also easily create a sense of exclusivity by making your Facebook Group private or secret. This means you will need to add each individual member that asks to join your group, but this should also cut down on scammers and spammers.
You can find instructions for creating a Facebook group here.
Discord originally began as an online community for gamers, but it has grown to include so many different kinds of communities, mainly due to its versatility. Anyone can create a server on Discord, and it’s totally free. The paid version of Discord (Discord Nitro) boosts your server, allows for larger uploads, and offers additional services like custom emoji creation and HD video.
Community members on Discord can chat via text, video, or voice. Members can share photos, videos, and gifs, and communicate privately one on one or publicly within channels. You can even connect Spotify to Discord to share playlists. The Video Chat function on Discord makes it easy to connect with your Discord members, and there’s even an option for screen sharing, which can be used for things like tutorials. The voice chat functionality allows users to create voice channels, where members can talk to one another—your Discord members can have video or voice-only Stitch & Bitch gatherings if they want!
Public or Private
Like Facebook Groups, Discord allows you to set up either a private or public server. You can invite members to your private community with a dedicated link or password—again, creating a sense of exclusivity.
Categories & Channels
Discord is organized first by Categories, and then by Channels. For instance, if you own a yarn shop, your categories might include Yarn, Notions, and Patterns. Under those categories, you might have Channels for each brand you carry. Categories and Channels make it easy for members to organize and locate content.
Discord also offers bots to perform automatic functions, like welcoming new users, instating preferred pronouns, and more. You can search for available bots here, or even make your own!
Discord offers enormous opportunities for growing your community. Your free Discord group can have up to 500,000 members, 50 categories, and 500 channels per category. One Discord member can also join up to 100 servers.
To see the kind of community you can build on Discord, check out Stitchcord, a crafty Discord community!
Tribe’s online community platform is free for up to 500 members, so if you’re keeping your circle small, it could be a good choice. Tribe offers a lot of customization and control over your online community. It also offers more specificity in terms of content categories, and it is open to third-party app integrations. Tribe also offers analytics, so you can track what works and what doesn’t. With Tribe you can incorporate activity feeds, groups, posts, and more, so it is almost like creating your own version of Facebook or Instagram. This makes it slightly more labor intensive, but highly customizable.
Tribe allows you to customize how your community looks with headers, colors, emojis, images and more. If you’re a whizz with CSS, you can customize your Tribe community’s CSS as well.
Tribe members can do more than just post and respond to messages. Each of these types of posts can also be customized with emojis.
They can post:
- Articles – Longer-form content with full text formatting. This is essentially a blog post format.
- Question and Answer – Users can pose questions and request answers from the Tribe community. The best answer can be highlighted, and other users can up and down vote answers. Users can also post polls, with several options for answers.
- Discussion – This most mirrors a Facebook-style post, with comments nested under the original post and the ability to ‘like’ responses. It’s purpose is to encourage dialogue among Tribe members.
- Post – This is similar to Discussion, but is meant for shorter content, and there are no nested replies. This is most like the old status update on Facebook.
Admins on Tribe can add or remove any of the above post types, and change how they function. For example, if you don’t want to use Articles, you can change it to Events and use that space for posting information about upcoming in-store or online events. Admins can also limit which users can post which types of content.
Tribe also has a gamification feature, which means you can reward members actions and allow them to earn points redeemable for whatever you see fit. Whether that’s a shop discount code, free pattern, or free product is up to you. Tribe also offers widgets you can embed on your own website.
You can learn more about Tribe here.
We hope we’ve given you some options to consider when creating your own online space for customers to gather. Need help starting your own online content community? Contact us today!