Strong customer relationships can make your business a success, boosting customer retention and the emotional connection between them and your brand. One of the easiest and most efficient ways to build this relationship is to create and maintain an online community.

This community becomes a place where you can interact with customers on a regular basis, encouraging discussions and asking questions. As the community grows, your goal may be to drive leads, upsells and referrals as well.

However, a flourishing community doesn’t just grow overnight. As a community manager, you have to set metrics, monitor conversations, and organize the data you’re receiving, all of which helps you run and grow a successful brand community.

If you’re new to community management, here’s what you need to know to be successful.

Set Metrics for Success

Your online community can be a valuable tool for your business, not just for engaging with customers but for increasing word of mouth marketing, building a brand, and driving leads. As such, it’s important that you set metrics so you’re working within a focused framework.

These metrics can be used to dictate discussion topics, monthly themes, and more. Here are a few data points to consider:

  • Traffic: If your online community is on your website, consider traffic to the community. Do you see growth over time? Where is the traffic coming from?

  • Engagement: How many people are coming to the community versus actually engaging? Which discussions are they engaging in most? This may dictate future questions, content and discussion starters.

  • Members: How many new members do you gain every month and how many do you lose? Is this consistent month over month? If there was a spike, what caused it

Introduce Guidelines

Community guidelines are important for keeping the conversation positive, effective and on-track. Include basics like: be respectful to everyone in the community, keep negative or critical comments to yourself, and don’t share private information—refer to direct messaging for that. For an example, check out Telstra’s community guidelines. Add anything else you think is important or specific to your brand. Note that these guidelines don’t have to be long or complicated—in fact, the less complicated, the easier they are to follow and abide by.

Don’t forget to create a specific web page for the guidelines, with its own unique link. This makes it easier to share to new members or every once in a while if an issue arises.

Monitor Closely

Despite having guidelines, there may still be times when you need to remove a comment or address an issue. As such, it’s important that you closely monitor the community seven days a week, unless conversation halts on the weekends.

If you do have to remove a comment, you may consider addressing the group about it, or simply reaching out that person specifically to explain why. When addressing the group, re-share the URL to the guidelines so everyone can get a refresher on what’s acceptable and what’s not.

Encourage Networking

Your community is only as valuable as your members think it is. Encourage them to network with one another so your community becomes a place for them to meet and talk, rather than just a group created by your company. The more value they get from your community, the more likely they are to check back, participate in discussions and stay involved.

If the group is large enough, you can even encourage members to start their own Meet-Up groups or even plan mixers, hosted by your organization, in areas where you have offices. This gives customers and community members a chance to meet face-to-face, and potentially interact with someone in your organization if the latter is possible as well.