Select Page

How to Build an Online Community (Ultimate Guide)

Should you build an online community? Is an online community right for you, your business, or your brand?

Online competition is getting more and more challenging as the years pass. With artificial intelligence advancing as quickly as it is, competing online will only get harder than it is today. You almost ask yourself if doing business online is even worth it anymore.

I’m here to tell you that, in most cases, it’s worth it.

I’m also here to give you an effective solution that has helped me and many other brands and businesses.

And that solution is to build an online community!

But an online community isn’t for everyone, and it’s more than creating a group on Facebook. There is a lot to communities and a lot to keeping them going. And that’s why I’ve written this entire guide all about how you can build an online community for your business or brand.

This guide is pretty extensive, so to make it easier for reference, I’ve added this handy table of contents for you to jump to different sections of the article:

Why Build an Online Community? My Own Success Story

Before you build an online community, you need to figure out why you want to build one.

I want to share my success story with you.

But I also want to note what I did to get to a position where I could build my online community. I also want you to fully understand the pros, cons, advantages, and disadvantages of building an online community. This section is meant to help you decide whether to move to the next step or not.

As I said before, an online community isn’t for everyone, but it’s definitely for some people.


Hiking with Shawn

My online community is derived from a YouTube video showing photos of hiking trails with corny music added to it.

I created a YouTube channel in December of 2016 and called it, Hiking with Shawn.

I just got into hiking after burning out from cycling so much. I started cycling to get into better shape and change my unhealthy lifestyle. I did it so much (every day) that I was getting bored with it and starting to go back to doing unhealthy acts. I found hiking, which turned into a way to balance everything out.

My health story isn’t really have anything to do with building a community, right? Wrong! Storytelling is important, and it’s good to have a story because you can use it to allow others to relate to you and your niche, and then they’ll want to join your community.

My YouTube channel became a local favorite. I become locally famous and still am. I’m not really known locally as Shawn Gossman anymore. When people see me, they see, Hiking with Shawn.

I eventually started focusing on the people focusing on me. I got to know them. I changed my video and content strategy to focus on their needs. I built a social empire with more than 11,000 people following me on Facebook alone. I’m on all the popular social channels. I have an active newsletter. I have a huge social group. I have a blog that gets page one on Google for most of its content.

I was able to build an online community by putting people’s needs before my own while staying focused on my core mission.

I made my YouTube channel to show a few friends and family members where I hike, but it turned into a brand and a branded community. An online community is definitely for me.


Build an Audience First

The most important thing to ask yourself before you build an online community is whether you need one.

If you’re social and want to help others network based on your niche, then an online community is right for you. If you don’t have time to engage and interact with people and treat a community like it is its own business altogether, then a community isn’t probably something you should try to create.

It’s true that online communities can help you make more sales and grow your audience significantly. But what other truth that is often not revealed until it’s too late is that all that will take dedication, sacrifice, and hard work.

If you want to build a community and you’re ready to make the big investment of doing it, then the first thing you need to do is build your audience.

You need an audience before you launch a community. This blog ( doesn’t really have a community yet. That’s because my audience growth was still in its infancy when I wrote this article. My Hiking with Shawn brand has a very active community because I grew the audience over a six-year period to what it is today.

It takes work, commitment, and dedication. It also requires you to be consistent and build a brand. That’s how you win with online community development.

You have to have an audience before you can have a community.


Pros and Cons of a Community

An online community has many pros, cons, advantages, and disadvantages. Sometimes the pros and cons differ for different people based on their desires and outcomes of maintaining an online community. But there are basic pros and cons to be aware of.

The PROs of an online community are that you can create loyal customers who will buy your products because they know you, trust you and interact with you daily because of your community. You can also gain organic ambassadors from these loyal members who will market and promote your business without you asking them to. An online community will help you learn more about and understand your target audience better than before. An online community will help you gain new ideas, increase your profits, and network with more people.

It almost sounds like it’s worth it to build an online community and that there are no reasons why you shouldn’t, but that isn’t always the case.

There are CONs to building an online community. It requires more effort than you may want to invest in it. You’ll need to be active every day or have a team that is active daily. You will see the emotions of your consumers more closely than ever before. Sometimes emotions create negative situations, and other customers and followers will be present to see how you play down those situations. Sometimes dealing with people can be difficult. You also have to moderate and act when it is required. Bullying and trolling have happened in online communities since the age of the BBS.

Before you start to build an online community, make sure you weigh the pros and cons against what you want out of an online community.


How to Build an Online Community

Now I’m going to show you how to build an online community. I’m showing you the strategic functions of building your community, not the technical aspects.

I’ll touch base on platforms and your different options for the type of online communities to consider making.

However, the main purpose of this section is geared toward the strategic manner in which you build an online community. I feel like that is an important section to cover in order to help you remain successful in your community.


Create a Purpose, Niche, and Strategy

You need a niche. You need a purpose. You need a strategy. You need all three of these ingredients, or you won’t be able to build your community.

A niche is your community’s topic. It should be the topic of your brand or business, which you build an online community around.

My online community is about hiking in the Shawnee National Forest because my brand is all about the Shawnee National Forest hiking and outdoor recreation. I wouldn’t build a community around vehicle maintenance because I don’t have a brand, business, or audience built up around maintaining automobiles. It wouldn’t make any sense to choose a niche that doesn’t align with the brand or business I’ve already started.

Once you determine your niche, which should be simple, you must create a purpose for your online community.

A purpose can be crafted by setting goals and objectives that lead to the mission of the community. The objectives and mission of my hiking community are to help people gain the information they need to visit and recreate in the Shawnee National Forest and help support our local economy. It’s all about local tourism through outdoor recreation.

After you define your goals and mission, you’ve developed a purpose, and now you can move on to creating a strategy.

Your strategy is your online community plan. It will explain what you want from your community for a set time. You’ll define how you’ll get what you want. You should have at least a year of the strategy. But it’s way better to treat it like a business plan and set it for 3 to 5 years.

All of the elements mentioned in this section will help you keep your community aligned with your original intentions of it.


Define your Target Community Members

You have an audience, and that’s great, but it doesn’t mean your audience is your target members for your up-and-coming online community.

A community is a whole different monster. You need to have a target model member for what type of person you want to be a part of your community. Once you figure that out, you can market your online community to those types of people and gain a better chance of getting new members in your community.

I can’t tell you who your target member is because it will differ for everyone.

But I can give you advice on how to figure it out. First of all, go back to your niche, goals and objectives, the vision of your community, and its mission. Ask yourself what kind of members fit those strategies. That will help you determine your ideal member.

What do you want to achieve after you build an online community? What do you want to get out of it?

Answer that then you’ll understand what type of member you want to be a part of your community.


Online Community Platforms

There are many different types of platforms and categories to build an online community with. You should choose the one that is right for what your goals and mission are geared towards.

A mailing list might be your best community option if you want to gain customers by sending them messages with relatable content and sales copy. If so, look into MailChimp or CovertKit to create a newsletter infrastructure.

If you want a community where you’ll show courses and interact with your membership, then you might use a platform like Circle or BuddyPress for WordPress.

Some communities are made with online chat and messaging programs like Slack and Discord.

You can use old-school online community platforms like forums. Simple Machines Forum, PhpBB, and XenForo are some discussion forum platform options.

You can also use social media to create a community. I have a social group on Facebook with nearly 30,000 members. But keep in mind that social media is rented space. If you lose your social channel, you’ll most likely lose access to your community, which could be permanent. Be really careful with completely relying on social media.

There are free and paid platforms. Paid typically means you have to do less work, and it’s usually hosted on the company’s server. Free typically means that you put in a lot of work and setup, and you host using your own web resources, which tend to cost more money.

Try to fully understand your community’s category and decide on the best platform before you build an online community.


It’s a Learning Experience

I’ve been creating online communities for more than twenty years. I’ve created chat room communities, discussion forums, social media groups, newsletters, and other types of communities throughout the years.

I’ve made mistakes. I’ve made significant errors that ruined my previous communities. I’ve learned a lot through all my years of experience in online community management.

Mistakes and errors will happen. They might happen frequently. This is especially true when you start building an online community without experience.

You have to accept it and use it as a learning experience.

Learn from your mistakes and errors and use that knowledge to build an online community better.

And try to learn from other community managers, too. There is a whole bunch of people online who know a lot about building communities. They have blogs, communities about building communities, and newsletters. Be a part of those communities and learn.

I actually have a discussion forum that focuses on starting your own discussion forum in case that’s a type of community you want to build. I welcome you to join it. Even if you’re not building a forum, you can still apply the topic information on the community to your platform or community category.

If you build an online community, make sure you are open-minded about learning from it.


Always Try New Things

When it comes to maintaining an online community after establishing a member base, you need to continue improving it through innovation.

Many people fail after they build an online community because they don’t try new things. After a while, a community starts to get boring and dull if the same things happen again and again.

If you create a community where members can discuss topics with one another, eventually, they may run out of topics, and membership will likely decline.

You can mix things up by trying new things. Tim Stoddart, the CEO of Copy Blogger, created the Copy Blogger Academy. It allows discussions between members of the community focusing on the niche of the Copy Blogger brand. But Tim also innovates the community to include interaction courses, webinars, and progress engagement through automation. It’s more than just a chat room, and that’s a great example of trying different things. If you’re not a part of the Copy Blogger Academy, I suggest joining it. It’s one of the best investments I’ve made.

Don’t let fear and your “safety bubble” get in the way of innovating and trying something new. Too many let that happen, and their online communities essentially diminish.

You have to keep trying to better your community if you want to keep it around for a long time.

Build an Online Community

How to Create a Content Strategy

Every community needs content, and every community needs a content strategy.

Whatever category you decide to build an online community in, every one of them will require you to create and produce some kind of content.

There are several different types of content. There is written content. There is audio and video. And there is graphical content. One of these some or all of these types of content are often used in online communities.

It’s important to have a strategy for consistently creating and publishing content; otherwise, your community will not make it.


Content and Theme Calendars

One thing to do before you build an online community is to create a content and theme calendar.

Your calendar is to create content and themes around content so you don’t run out of things to publish in your community. The moment you run out of things to say is the moment the downfall of your community starts to take. You must be able to keep fresh and unique content flowing in order to have a successful online community.

Choose a day of the week or every other week to create a month or two of content and themes of content for your calendar. This way, you habitually set yourself up to never fail at content production and distribution.

Depending on your community’s niche, you can use different themes that relate to it. Themes help get members in the mood or spirit to engage with the community. Themes help to keep it fun and interesting.

Content is king; the kingdom only stands if you keep creating the content. And you must be consistent with content, just like you have to be everywhere else.


Acknowledging and Appreciation

A community will never be about you or your brand, even though it really is. A community to a member is about them because their needs and desires are what made them join.

And it’s 100% your job to ensure that you acknowledge and appreciate every member that joins your online community. If you don’t do this, you’re failing your community.

The best way to get into a mindset of acknowledging and appreciating community members is to treat every member who joins your community as a potential best friend.


Look at each member as a potential best friend that you’re trying to win over. How do you make a friend? By meeting them, talking to them, engaging with them, and repeating this process on a daily basis. You acknowledge them by being social with them first. Then you appreciate them by learning more about them and praising them for your good efforts.

This makes people feel really good. It makes them happy about their choices to become a member of your community.


Be You, Be a Human

Don’t adopt a different persona in your community.

You need to be real when you build an online community. Being real means being yourself. You need to speak with your voice and do things you normally do. When you’re being real in a community, managing the community and keeping it active becomes second nature because you don’t have to complete the challenge of acting.

Leave acting to actors and the acting profession.

You shouldn’t treat yourself like your company’s spokesperson when interacting with members of your online community.

Your community is a place for people to enjoy, feel at home, and don’t feel like they need to be completely professional about everything. Unless, of course, that is what you envision from your online community.

Communicate with your own voice. It’s easy to spot people who are faking it or trying to act like something they’re not. It’s super easy to spot it. And when people do spot it, they don’t you serious after that.

It’s a reputation ruiner to act as someone else, and it’ll turn an active community into a ghost town in a heartbeat.

If you can’t be yourself in your community, then a community isn’t for you.


Onboarding and Encouragement

Onboard every member joining your community and encourage them to be active.

A good onboarding strategy typically starts with a direct message (or maybe an email). Welcome them to your community and then tell them what to do next. The thing they should do next should support the effort of engagement and growth within the community.

A great example would be to ask new members to introduce themselves to the rest of the community. Sometimes people don’t know how to make a good introduction to give suggestions on what they should include. This allows them to basically interact by answering a pre-set of questions rather than trying to think of things to say.

It’s an easier way to get people active in an online community.

If you don’t initiate their activity, a few things typically occur.

The member doesn’t say anything at all. They become inactive or just lurk. They eventually forget about the community. They leave the community. It’s a wasted effort. With a little onboarding and encouragement, you might have converted the shy member into a loyal member of your community.

Treat every member like a potential best friend and get them active starting on day one.


Track Your Members’ Progress

Giving your members attention doesn’t stop at onboarding and initial encouragement.

You need to continue to encourage members to be active. It’s one of the main core components when you want to build an online community that will result in success.

It can be a challenge because you always have to do it.

But there are many ways to make the challenge of doing it a lot easier. If you can automate onboarding and encouragement segments, then do it but make sure that if they reply to you, they’re getting a real person – you. That’s the issue with automation these days. People don’t mind if they get a real person at the end if they need them.

Use a system by creating pre-defined activity encouragement segments. The first is the introduction; the second is what you want them to do next.

And while you’re doing this, you need to track their progress. Tracking their progress is a way to understand the member further and better encourage them to be active in the community.

Tracking progress is also a great way to determine what is and is not working. It can help you stop yourself from wasting time and energy on something that should be scrapped.

Study your community members to understand them better, and then you can tend to their needs better.


Connect Members with Members

Don’t feel you need to do all the work to please your membership. You have a number of other options.

Those other options are your community members!

You should build an online community with the intention of encouraging members to network with other members.

This is why it’s important to encourage members to introduce themselves and participate in the community. You can track their progress and their interests and likes. Then you can suggest other members network with them based on that data.

An online community is a networking hub, so you should try to focus on this effort.

It will help give you a break from pleasing all of the members because bonds will be made, and networking will occur. Members will help each other, answer questions, and help keep your community as active as you’ve always dreamed it to be.

But you’ll never get this opportunity if you don’t try to learn about your members. Don’t let this benefit go to waste because you’ll regret it in the long run.


One Interesting Post a Day

Props for this idea go to Ethan Brooks, a community expert who helps run community aspects on Hampton, a community for serious entrepreneurs and founders.

In a podcast episode of Copy Blogger, Ethan talked about how they post one really interesting topic daily in their community. This is gold for anyone trying to build an online community.

If you want to encourage activity, you must publish content encouraging engagement.

One very interesting content piece published daily will help encourage members to actively participate and engage with each other throughout the day.

Posting one chunk of content daily isn’t that hard. It’s not like you have to post a full blog. You just need to post something very interesting. It could be a metric or even a meme. It just needs to be interesting and engaging with your specific community members.

I will start using this concept on my Patreon community, which comprises people who pay to be a part of my community. I’ll focus on posting one topic a day that concentrates on something hiking and outdoor related which evokes emotional responses. It might result in happy, upset, sad, or anxious replies. The idea isn’t to anger people at myself or the community but to discuss something that results in an emotional change. It’s common with content that sparks debates.

We should never build an online community if we don’t have the right plan to keep it active.


Enhance Your Online Community

After you build an online community, you need to continue enhancing it as time progresses and membership grows.

One thing to remember is not always to be the only one keeping the community active. Eventually, you should have team members helping you out with the community. They could be paid staff members if you have the capital, but you can also rely on volunteer staff members. Many communities online have nothing but volunteer helpers.

As your community grows, so will issues; you must address them before they hurt your community. You might even have to act against problem members. It happens in every established community – not everyone can get along.

And we also must address an elephant in the room – should you build an online community where membership is free, or should you charge for membership?


Create a Team with Organic Ambassadors

You need a staff team and community ambassadors; this is how you get both.

Focus on ambassadors first!

After you start to gain membership in your community, start paying attention to the members who are most active. Pay attention to the ones who are being active without you having to onboard and encourage them to participate. The ones who visit every day and multiple times a day should be on your radar.

These members are your organic ambassadors. They are loyal members of your community because something about it made them fall in love with it. They’ll market your community and get you more members without you even asking them to do it.

These people are your BFFs when it comes to building a community.

And your ambassadors are the ones who will make the best staff members in your community. Most of them will do it for free. But if you can gift them something special that no one else gets, that will make a big difference, too.

Maybe it’s a paid staff position.

If it’s entirely volunteer, maybe it’s free membership on a paid level. It could be t-shirts or other merchandise. It can be accessed in a private community within the main community. It can be a little of everything and more benefits than what I’ve listed.

These members are going to help you keep your community active, encourage other people to join it, and even help you run the community when you show them that you adore them so much that you want them on your team.

Just don’t get upset if someone says no. Being staff in a community isn’t for everyone. It’s a responsibility and a commitment. Not everyone wants that.

But in most cases, organic ambassadors will likely accept your offer to help you manage the community.

It should be a goal to eventually have a moderation team, a content team, and an ambassador program to help manage and promote your community. This all can be accomplished with paid staff, volunteers, or even a mixture of both.

Just ensure that your community’s long-term doesn’t just mean you run things solo.


Moderation Tips

It’s important to have a community moderation strategy in place before you build an online community.

Start with creating a set of common sense, easy-to-understand, and fair community guidelines. These will be the rules that all community members must follow. They should be treated as a standard, meaning everyone must follow them regardless of their level. Don’t ever favor one person over another in your online community. That will ruin your reputation and backfire on you very quickly.

Creating community guidelines is a simple task. You just need to point out what you prohibit in your community. This will be things like spam, abusive behavior, illegal activity, and even profanity unless that’s something you’re fine with.

You don’t have to write an encyclopedia of law here. You just need to define the basic regulations for using your community.

After you create your guidelines, make sure you enforce them on all members. If you don’t, your community will likely become toxic at some point. A toxic community doesn’t last very long, and it’s hard to recover one after the toxicity occurs.

It’s a good idea to have a moderation plan and structure. Decide when and how you will act when guidelines are violated.

If someone joins and immediately spams a link that goes to spyware, you should ban them permanently from the community. If two members get into a heated argument and cuss each other, you should coach them in private and warn them that future acts could mean their account is suspended.

Each offense is going to require a different way of handling it.

Just ensure you get moderation and community guidelines in order before launching your online community.


Free vs. Paid Communities

Do you build an online community that costs money or join, or is membership free?

The advantage of charging money for membership is that you can let the system pay for itself while earning you a profit, and typically only serious people join the community because not everyone is going to pay for it.

The disadvantage of charging for membership is that not everyone is going to join the community. It will be harder to convince people to pay for their membership. You’ll have to do more work in order to build your community.

If you decide to keep it free, you need to have some sort of way to make money unless you don’t want to make any money. Some ways to make money are through selling ads, affiliate marketing, and member donations.

You could even have a donation drive like Wikipedia does every year in order to remain free and ad-free. They’re still around after all these years, so it must be pretty effective.

If you decide to charge for membership, you need to come up with a payment plan. You could charge per month or year or give the option of both. If you do both, try to offer a discount for those you pay for a full year; otherwise, you risk just getting monthly paid members who might cancel on you after a month or two.

Another option is doing the freemium model. That’s where you have a free plan with limited features and a paid plan that costs money. Many communities are using this model so that they can put free content in front of a community and then use pay gates for access to deeper content.

Whatever you decide to do, make sure you thoroughly plan for it. Charging money after being completely free later on might be extremely damaging to your community. Make the decision during the process when you actually build an online community.

Whether you decide to choose the free, paid, or freemium option – remember that you’ll have to pay more as your community grows in most cases.


How to Market an Online Community

After you build an online community, you have to start marketing the community to get members.

There are several ways to market an online community. You can use sources that you already own, like your website, newsletter, and blog. You can also use rented mediums likes social media, YouTube, and paid advertising services.

There are definitely important things to consider when marketing your online community.

You need to understand content marketing, search engine optimization, copywriting, and other digital marketing methods.

You can always rely on others and their popularity to help you market your community, too.

Marketing your community will be a big challenge, but once you start getting it right, you’ll fall in love with the process.


Market with Owned Mediums

If you have owned mediums (and you should!), you get a free for all on marketing your online community.

An owned medium is a source of your brand or business that you own. That includes your website and blog. It also includes your mailing list. These are owned because you have access to the database that houses the user information for this sort of owned content.

Because you own these mediums, they’re yours to decide how you want to use them.

You should be using them to promote your online community. You should link to the community on your main website and create Call-to-Actions for it on most of the pages where your potential members will likely be.

You should write a blog post about your community or even a series of posts so that you can advertise it at different moments throughout your blog content strategy. You can also include CTAs on other blog posts when it’s appropriate to advertise the community. It could even be a CTA on all of the posts right above the author section at the end.

If you have a newsletter, you should create an ad to share your online community in every issue you send. It doesn’t have to be a big ad. Just use the right copy and tap into your readers’ emotions, and you’ll likely convert them into community members.

While you should never spam with your owned mediums, use them to your advantage to advertise your online community.


Market with Rented Mediums

Rented mediums are good for promoting an online community on but are a bit more challenging.

Social media is a good example of rented mediums. It’s rented because you don’t own it, and you don’t have downloadable access to your database or content. If the platform suspends you or closes, there is nothing you can do because it’s in their terms that they’re allowed to do that. Every platform has those terms – I promise!

But at times, social media and other rented spaces are great tools for promoting an online community.

But as I said above, it is a little bit more challenging. That’s because social media algorithms are programmed to put less viewing on external content. This is because social platforms want to keep their users on the platform to serve them ads. It’s how they make money. You can’t really blame them for trying to make money.

So, there are two solutions to such a challenge.

(1) You build a community on the social network and then use loyal followings, reputation, and brand awareness as a way to promote your online community. This will mean you have to treat each social channel as a separate community aside from your main community. No one said it’d be easy. Social media is way too over-saturated and competitive these days for it to be easy.

(2) You pay for advertising on social media. Once you give the social network money to advertise your link, they tend to award you more views. It’s a shark-eat-shark world on social media, for sure.

If you want to build an online community, you might have to work hard or even pay to promote your community.


Content Marketing and SEO

Content marketing and SEO applies to any medium you choose to promote your online community.

Content marketing is simple to explain. You need to create content. The content needs to be awesome, helpful, packed full of resources, and answer some of the hardest questions relating to the niche or topic of your online community.

Next – you need to market that content.

Promote it on everything. Promote it just like you would promote your online community – owned and rented mediums.

Consistently create this sort of content to do better. Creating content like this on a blog, social media, and video is ideal.

SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization. You use it as an integrated tool in your content. Google has over 200 ranking factors for how your content is served on its search engine. SEO will help you create content that aligns with those ranking factors. There is such thing as too little SEO, just as much there is such thing as too much SEO. Too much SEO can get you banned from Google.

Your basic SEO strategy looks something like this: Choose a topic. Create a keyword from that topic and research it. If the keyword is usable, create content and use it in a way that fits and makes sense. The keyword has to be in your title, the first image alt name, the first H1 and H2 headings, and a few times evenly throughout your content, especially the first few sentences and paragraphs. Never target the same keyword more than once.

Try to do some link-building with your content. This means that you should create sharable and linkable content. You want other reputable websites and blogs to add your link to their content. That will give you backlinks which can help with your overall SEO score.

Content and SEO integrated with one another will do wonders for community promotion.



Copywriting is a marketing technique used to influence people to take some kind of action.

Copywriting is usually used to convert people into customers or get them to join a newsletter or something like that.

An online community is also “something like that.”

You can use copywriting techniques to promote your online community.

All copywriting techniques are intended to evoke emotion and psychologically influence people to act. One example of a tactic widely used is PAS. PAS stands for Problem, Agitate, and Solve. You present a problem as bait to get the attention of the viewer; then, you agitate the reaction of the problem to evoke an emotional response. This is the hook, and it will often make people purchase things. Then you solve the problem and reduce the agitation by influencing the viewer to act. In this case, the action would be joining your online community.

When you build an online community, techniques like copywriting are just another tool to help you with succeeding.


Influencer Marketing

Another great way to promote your online community is through people who are already famous.

Influencers. They’re everywhere. They’re all over social media. They love collaborations, especially if they get paid or even just get something free.

Influencers are like having an army of spokespersons.

Find out what you can offer an influencer in your niche, and then start having them promote your online community. They will find creative ways to do it with your guidance included. They generally have a following and loyal people who will do secondary promotion of your community. It is usually a win-win method of promoting an online community.

Sometimes you can turn influencers into loyal ambassadors of your community, too. That will keep them promoting your community to their followers.

But influencer marketing only works if you have some significance to offer influencers for a collaboration.


Online Community ROI

And we finally reach the most important part you have to answer after you build an online community.

What’s the ROI for everyone involved?

ROI stands for Return-on-Investment. The investment for you is spending the money, time, and energy to build an online community. The investment of your member is the membership they initiated (and the payment if it’s a paid community). The return is what you get, and it’s what the member gets.

If there isn’t a worthy return for either of you, the community shouldn’t continue.

Both you and the member must get a return on your investments, or the community is a failure. There is no one who gets one and not the other. Everyone has to have an ROI for the online community to be a success.

Sometimes we don’t learn how this is going to play out until after the community is built and launched. And that can often be a scary waiting game. But it doesn’t have to be the end of community management. It just means that particular community didn’t work out.

What is your ROI? What is the ROI of your members? What do both of you want to achieve? This needs to be defined when you first build an online community. Then after that, you need to track the efforts of the community and see if the ROI objectives are being met.

There is only one way to find out if it works: to build your online community and take a chance.


And that completes my guide on how to build an online community. This guide is extensive and took a lot of effort to create. If you enjoyed reading it and want to see more guides like it, please subscribe to my mailing list by visiting the homepage and filling out the simple form.

Shawn Gossman

About the Author

Shawn Gossman has created content, blogged, ran online communities, and shared a passion for digital marketing for over twenty years. Shawn believes the best way to help content creators, businesses, brands, and marketers is to give away more than you sell. The same advice is recommended for the readers who follow this blog. Shawn also offers various services for extra help in content creation and blogging.

Grow your online brand with exclusive tips from me sent right to your inbox!