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How to Build An Online Community » Succeed As Your Own Boss

How to Build An Online Community » Succeed As Your Own Boss


In today’s digital age, building an online community has become an essential strategy for small business owners to connect with their audience, foster engagement, and drive growth. An online community offers a platform for building relationships, sharing knowledge, and creating brand advocates. It can also be a source of revenue with a subscription membership site. Whether you’re a solopreneur, a startup, or a small business owner, establishing and nurturing an online community can be a powerful tool for business success. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the steps to effectively build and cultivate an online community for your small business.


Understanding the Importance of an Online Community

Before diving into the specifics of building an online community, it’s crucial to understand why it matters for small business owners:


Increased Engagement: An online community provides a space for your audience to engage with your brand, ask questions, share experiences, and provide feedback. This interaction fosters a sense of belonging and strengthens customer loyalty.


Brand Advocacy: Engaged community members are more likely to become brand advocates, promoting your products or services to their networks and helping you reach a wider audience through word-of-mouth marketing.


Market Research and Feedback: Your online community can serve as a valuable source of insights into your target market’s needs, preferences, and pain points. By listening to your community members and gathering feedback, you can make informed decisions to improve your offerings and customer experience.


Content Creation and Distribution: An active online community can contribute user-generated content, such as testimonials, reviews, and user-generated photos or videos, which can be leveraged for marketing purposes and shared across your digital channels.


Networking and Collaboration: Building an online community allows you to connect with like-minded individuals, industry peers, and potential collaborators. These connections can lead to partnerships, collaborations, and new business opportunities.


How to Monetize an Online Community

Turning an online community into a source of revenue for a small business requires strategic planning, creativity, and a deep understanding of your community members’ needs and preferences. Here are several ways in which an online community can generate revenue for a small business:


Membership or Subscription Fees: Offer premium membership tiers or subscription plans with exclusive benefits, content, and features for community members who are willing to pay. This can include access to premium content, live events, private forums, expert Q&A sessions, discounts on products or services, and personalized support.


Paid Courses and Workshops: Develop and sell online courses, workshops, or training programs tailored to your community’s interests and expertise. Offer valuable educational content and resources that address their needs and challenges and charge a fee for access to these premium learning experiences.


Affiliate Marketing: Partner with relevant brands, products, or services that align with your community’s interests and values and earn commissions by promoting their offerings to your community members. This can include affiliate links, sponsored content, product reviews, or recommendations shared within your community.


Sponsored Content and Advertising: Monetize your online community by allowing brands to sponsor or advertise within your community platform. Offer opportunities for sponsored posts, banner ads, sponsored newsletters, or sponsored events that reach your community members in a targeted and relevant way.


E-commerce and Merchandise Sales: If your community has a strong affinity for your brand, consider selling merchandise, products, or services directly to your community members. This can include branded merchandise, digital products, physical goods, or services that cater to their needs and interests.


Consulting and Coaching Services: Leverage your expertise and credibility within your online community to offer consulting, coaching, or advisory services to community members who seek personalized guidance and support. Charge a fee for one-on-one sessions, group coaching programs, or mentorship opportunities.


Freemium Model: Offer a free tier of membership or access to your community with basic features and content and upsell premium upgrades or add-ons for enhanced benefits and experiences. This freemium model allows you to attract a wide audience while capturing revenue from those willing to pay for additional value.


Event Sponsorship and Partnerships: Organize virtual or in-person events, such as webinars, conferences, meetups, or workshops, and secure sponsorship or partnership opportunities with relevant brands or companies. Offer branding, exposure, and promotional opportunities to sponsors in exchange for financial support or resources to host the event.


Data Monetization: Aggregate and anonymize data collected from your online community, such as demographics, preferences, or behavior insights, and offer it to third-party companies or market research firms for a fee. Prioritize data privacy and security and obtain explicit consent from community members before monetizing their data.


A great example of this is Success Female Entrepreneurs by Marie Wendt. Her free Facebook community has more than 300K Members. She often posts questions and invites members to post job listings. She monetizes her groups with her online toolkits and coaching programs.


Another example is NonfictionAuthorsAssociation: led by Stephanie Chandler. Her free Facebook group has over 23K members, but she also has a paid membership site with three levels of membership. She monetizes her group with two virtual conferences a year, a directory of vendors, and online courses. For more information:



My last example is Indiebusinessnetwork.com by DonnaMaria. It is a membership site with a private Facebook group for makers and artisans who make things like candles, soaps, creams, and room sprays. It offers different membership levels, quarterly planning sessions, an annual international retreat for members, live events, and general and product liability insurance for its members. They offer many trainings and webinars for members. www.Indiebusinessnetwork.com


Implementing a combination of these revenue-generating strategies and continuously engaging with and adding value to your online community can create a sustainable and profitable business model that benefits both your small business and your community members. Tailor your approach based on your community’s unique characteristics, preferences, and goals, and experiment with different monetization methods to find what works best for your business.


Steps to Build an Online Community

Now that we understand the benefits of an online community and how to monetize, let’s explore the steps to build and nurture one for your small business:


Define Your Community Purpose and Goals: Start by defining the purpose and goals of your online community. What do you hope to achieve by building this community? Is it to provide support, share knowledge, foster collaboration, or promote your products/services? Clarifying your objectives will guide your community-building efforts and help attract the right audience.


Choose the Right Platform: Selecting the right platform for your online community is essential. Consider factors such as your target audience’s preferences, the type of content you plan to share, and the features you need. Popular platforms for building online communities include social media networks (e.g., Facebook Groups, LinkedIn Groups) and dedicated community platforms (e.g., Kajabi, Discourse, Mighty Networks).


Create Compelling Content: Content is the lifeblood of any online community. Develop a content strategy that aligns with your community’s purpose and goals. Provide valuable, relevant, and engaging content that sparks discussions, educates your audience, and adds value. Mix different types of content, such as articles, videos, polls, Q&A sessions, and live streams, to keep your community members engaged.


Encourage Engagement and Participation: Actively encourage your community members to participate and engage with each other. Ask questions, start discussions, and respond to comments to stimulate conversation. Recognize and reward active contributors to foster a sense of belonging and appreciation within the community.


Listen and Respond to Feedback: Listen to and respond to your community members’ feedback and suggestions. Use polls, surveys, and feedback forms to gather insights into their needs and preferences. Act on their feedback to demonstrate that you value their input and are committed to continuously improving the community experience.


Moderate Your Community: Establish clear guidelines and rules for participation in your online community to maintain a positive and supportive environment. Assign moderators or community managers to enforce these guidelines, moderate discussions, and address any conflicts or issues that arise. Consistent and fair moderation is key to ensuring a respectful and inclusive community atmosphere.


Promote Your Community: Promote your online community across your digital channels, including your website, social media profiles, email newsletters, and blog. Highlight the benefits of joining your community and encourage your existing audience to participate. Leverage partnerships, collaborations, and influencer marketing to reach new audiences and attract members.


Measure and Analyze Performance: Monitor key metrics and analytics to track your online community’s growth and engagement. Use tools such as Google Analytics, social media insights, and community platform analytics to measure metrics like member growth, engagement levels, content performance, and sentiment. Analyze this data regularly to identify trends, opportunities, and areas for improvement.


Building an online community as a small business owner requires time, effort, and dedication, but the benefits are well worth the investment. By creating a space for your audience to connect, engage, and interact with your brand and each other, you can foster a loyal community of supporters, advocates, and customers who will contribute to your business’s success. Follow the steps outlined in this guide, listen to your community members, and adapt your strategy based on their feedback to build a thriving online community that strengthens your brand and drives growth.


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