Communities built specifically for business professionals are nothing new, but today they’re more accessible than ever. That’s because of the rise in popularity of online communities and, specifically, communities tailored to the needs of entrepreneurs and business professionals. This has given rise to the importance of managing online communities for entrepreneurs.
These communities used to take the form of small groups who met regularly to share their problems or ideas with other like-minded members. But today, online communities give people the power to build virtual spaces where professionals meet and network with others worldwide.
However, despite all the upsides, this also poses a dilemma. How do you manage a community built specifically for entrepreneurs and business professionals? You certainly don’t want to run it in the same way you would a Reddit gaming group or even an online community made for people interested in lifestyle tips.
That’s why we’ve put together this short list of best practices for managing online communities built for entrepreneurs and business professionals — but let’s first see what those communities look like.
Characteristics of Online Communities For Entrepreneurs
Online communities built specifically for business professionals aren’t much different from traditional face-to-face communities built for the same purposes.
Of course, people now have the ability to build much larger communities than were possible before. Some online communities for business professionals contain thousands of members. That’s good if you’re looking for the most content and networking options possible.
However, smaller and more focused online communities are still very popular. These types of communities usually, but not always, come in the form and structure of traditional mastermind groups.
Creating or choosing the type of community that’s best for you will depend on your goals and needs. However, these best practices will work for just about any online community tailored toward business professionals.
Why Should Entrepreneurs Join Online Communities?
Online communities can be amazing resources, especially for those running or creating businesses. They give professionals and entrepreneurs access to others who likely face similar challenges and who are willing to share their knowledge.
They’re also great for networking. Many online communities either hold regular live events or encourage their members to reach out and meet one another through other means, such as special topic channels.
Best Practices For Managing Online Communities For Entrepreneurs
Develop and share your community’s goals
Before creating your online community, it’s important to sit down and think about what that community’s goals will be.
For example, will the community focus on creating a space for professionals to share ideas? Will it cater to those looking for networking opportunities? What about professionals just looking for resources and tips? And finally, will it be focused on a specific sector, or will it include people from diverse backgrounds?
All of these things will factor into the type of content you create for your community and how you ultimately decide to manage it. And while it might sound like a tedious exercise, it will save you a lot of time down the line.
Once you map out your community’s goals, share them with others. This could be within your rules and guidelines, or it could be elsewhere. It’s just important that your members know what your community is about and what they can expect when they join.
Create guidelines for interactions
Clear guidelines and rules are essential for almost any online community, even those made for professionals. Essential rules for your community should include the following:
- Not disparaging other members
- No soliciting unwanted ads
- No hateful comments, including those based on race, religion, creed, etc.
That said, business communities also have room for guidelines and expectations that members can use during interactions. For example, these types of guidelines might include:
- Not monopolizing conversations and leaving room for others to contribute
- Doing your best to offer up solutions or answers when other members reach out
- Reporting any violations you witness to moderators
These are just some suggestions, and what you decide to incorporate into your own rules and guidelines will depend on your community’s size and goals. However, it is a good idea for most communities to regularly remind members that guidelines do exist, and enforce them consistently.
Find and recruit the right members
Perhaps more than with any other type of community, it’s important that hosts and managers seek out and recruit the kind of members they would like to see within their community.
This is especially true for mastermind groups, which are usually much smaller in size and rely on the expertise of veteran professionals than larger communities.
However, even larger communities should put in place steps to ensure that they’re allowing in the types of members that will benefit the community as a whole. This can be done through simple questionnaires or just charging for memberships.
Lead by example
As a host, your community looks up to you for leadership, which is why it’s vital that you lead by example. In other words, act as you would want to see your members act.
This can be as simple as just being present and responding to questions and concerns, or it could be a bit more complex and involve calmly dealing with a dispute between two members.
This doesn’t just include being reactive, either. It’s good for members to see the host or community manager actively interacting with the community and trying to get conversations or discussions going. The more members see this, the more likely they will be engaged and introduce topics or respond to questions with their own answers.
Host on your own platform
There are plenty of hosting options out there when it comes to traditional social media sites. However, it is probably more important than ever to consider the benefits of hosting on your own platform, especially when hosting a community for business professionals.
Not only do traditional platforms not give hosts adequate opportunities to display their branding, but they don’t offer a native course builder or payment options. Some platforms also aren’t tailored towards professionals, such as Discord which was made for gamers and still relies heavily on gaming-related tools, such as emojis.
Luckily, there are now several platforms built specifically for online communities, such as Nas.io. These types of platforms offer features like branding space, a clean and professional UI, course builders, and payment options.
Make sure to create value for your members
Your community members should always be your most important priority when managing or creating your online community. And this extends to the content and events you create for them.
Let’s face it; people join online communities because they see value in them. So, a community for business professionals that isn’t hosting things like networking events, Q&As, or even posting content related to business isn’t going to hold on to as many members as a community that is.
We’re not saying you have to be online and monitoring your community 24/7 — but it’s good to ask yourself how a planned event or piece of content is adding value for your members.
Looking back to your community’s goals will help greatly with this. As long as an event, content, or even a post is in line with your goals; then odds are it’s creating value in some way.
Reward your best members
This is a great best practice because it allows you to do two things simultaneously if you use it correctly. Rewarding your best members will not only help people stay engaged but might also lead to some content ideas.
That’s because some hosts choose to reward their best members by doing things like bringing them on to co-host a live event or interviewing them and asking questions from the community. Both are excellent event ideas, especially in communities tailored towards business professionals where expertise and personal experience are extremely valuable.
Of course, there are other ways to reward your best members, like giving them simple shout-outs or access to exclusive events or talks.
No matter how you choose to spotlight your members, doing so will encourage members to be engaged and active.
Lastly, an online community without feedback is kind of like a business without feedback. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing everything right — there’s always room for improvement.
That’s why it’s essential to look at analytics to see what posts or topic channel members are interacting with most and build off of that.
It’s also never a bad idea to ask your members directly what they would like to see changed or added. This could be done through a post or through an anonymous questionnaire.
Not only will this communicate to members that you care about the improvement of the community, but it might alert you to some things or issues you could’ve missed entirely.
Managing online communities for entrepreneurs and business professionals isn’t all that different from managing other types of online communities. However, it does require a bit more planning and structure than some other types of communities.
It also requires the right tools. That’s why Nas.io recently built a tailor-made platform for hosting online communities. Our platform gives hosts access to things like built-in international payment and course options, custom-made resources and pdfs, a network of like-minded hosts to lean on, and a community manager to ensure things run smoothly.
But that’s just the start. Check out all our platform has to offer and see how easy we make managing online communities for entrepreneurs.