How to grow a cloud community

Every influencer and organization has started somewhere. From a few people to a following of tens, hundreds, to thousands if not millions of followers. The most common starting place is a website, where they introduce a brand, service, product, cause, or share their opinion, professional or otherwise, on topics and current events. They all had humble beginnings as a personal blogger, trainer, an entrepreneur with an idea for an awesome product or service, or to bring awareness to a cause.  With the rise and fall of social media channels they started to utilize them and tools like, video-sharing apps, online forums, and social media groups to engage a growing following.

As the number of followers and topics of discussions grow, influencers and organizations, want flexibility and an ultimate branded destination to attract people from all channels and keep them engaged and connected to the brand.  They want to reduce the complexity, the time, and labor costs needed to maintain and develop content strategies across channels.  The ultimate destination is a online community or Facebook Group alternative that is in their brand, where they can sell products, tickets, services, and can offer exclusive content or access, at a low monthly fee. 

The typical steps that an influencer or an organization goes through in creating a online community is as follows.

Select a Distribution Channel

A blog, email list, website or social media account are first distribution channels used to introduce a niche idea, service, product, or a cause that is important.  One common trait between a person, an organization, and powerful influencers, is a radically different perspective on a subject and a unique branded experience for its followers, customers, or members. But bear in mind, that a radically different perspective alone is often not enough.  When a person or an organization, bring together the customer or member experience around a brand, and the radically different perspective there is success.

A radically different perspective however, does not mean the opinion is always considered accurate by others. The ideas – and therefore the topics – must fill a content and user experience need. Perhaps there is a knowledge gap in the niche or industry that your content addresses.  However, the user experience tools are limited to and start with a Website, blog, or social media post that are often monotone or appear uninteresting to people.  

When building the desired user experience, influencers start with a blog or website builder like WordPress, WIX, GoDaddy, Square Space and social media platforms for engagement.  In most cases, the website and social media brands are different.  The audience are limited to, reading an article and making a comment or social media post.

Grow your Audience

An influencer or an organization, start to create content that expresses its radically different perspective, and makes it available on its selected channel.  However, the blog, email list, website, or social media channel should not be the only one that content is shared on.  By making content available on other channels, the audience and discussions about the product, service, or cause, grow.  It is a good idea to ask questions or encourage people to give feedback to the influencer or organization or interact with each audience members.

At this phase, the influencer and organization facilitate engagement on multiple channels.  They provide the audience with features like messaging or video calling from 3rd party services like What’s App, Events, a public calendar of activities, a private Facebook or LinkedIn Group, Twitter and Slack to allow the audience share photos, posts, and send public messages.

The website and emails lists are great for sharing static content. Social media like Facebook or LinkedIn Groups and SLACK are great for audience shares and discussions.  Twitter hashtags help facilitate the discussion on twitter, and YouTube Live Q&A is an excellent method to expand the audience too.

A webinar is an effective channel for engagement and content delivery.  Instead of just reading your words, audiences get to communicate in a personal and engaging way. At the end of the webinar, the audience can ask questions or share thoughts on the topics discussed. It allows the audience to get more familiar with the organization and know the people behind the offering. More importantly, a well-prepared webinar helps strengthens the brands and positions them as an authority in the space.

As the audience and engagement grow, the influencer and organization will start to think of ways to make money or offset the costs of content creation and managing the multiple user channels.  They hire well-known speakers or experts of the industry that can generate ticket sales, hosting events, or charging a monthly membership fee for access.  But to achieve any of these options and additional investment in time or money is needed.

Monetize your audience

As the audience grows, as does the need to enhance the user experience to include orders for products, services, tickets, donations, or to advance the cause.   At this stage, the need and benefits of the ultimate destination are felt and the Influencer or organization have a decision to make; should we 1) continue to use disconnected 3rd party services and invest time to bring it all together, or 2), License a Facebook Group alternative that has an online store, service bookings, event management, messaging, chat, member engagement, and other management features, or 3), invest in custom software that will provide the ultimate branded destination, and automate some operational activities to save  it’s staff time, and them ultimately money?

An Alternative to Custom Software

At the end of the day, the influencer and organization realize that continuing to use disconnected 3rd party services and managing engagement across multiple channels is not always the best options for growth.  At some point, they get overwhelmed by the various manual processes required to utilize and streamline software from many different vendors, inconsistent user-experience due to technical hiccups, and the difficulties to manage a big community.

Licensing a Facebook Group alternative is a better option providing that it can be customized to meet the influencer’s or organization’s current and future user experience needs.  They weigh the pros and cons of different options only to get confused with the available options. 

Until now, custom software was the best and obvious choice.  It should be closely weighted with the risks associated with custom software projects.  Over 60% of custom software projects fail, or experience budget over runs, schedule delays, and there is always a risk of mistakes, or worse, building the wrong thing.

The Community Cloud is here to help you all the way in building a cloud community just like you envision, and is a better alternative to custom software. The Community Cloud benefits:

  • Zero investment on custom software
  • No risk of building the wrong user experience
  • Launch your online community in 90 days.
  • Professional guidance from experts

Starting an online community is not always an easy process. The development involves not only creating valuable contents and gaining new audience, but also investing in many different tools.

3rd Party servicesLow to no upfront capital investment No changes to operating modelManual work a rounds make it hard to scale.High risk of inconsistent user experience across engagement channels Manage multiple engagement channels
A Facebook Group AlternativeChannels are used to attract new audience members and engagement is centralized.Consistent user experienceEnhancements and new features are included.Create alternate revenue streamsLow – medium one-time setup fee Feature customizations may be needed.The Influencer or Organization do not own the software.
custom softwareChannels are used to attract new audience members and engagement is centralized.Consistent user experienceCreate alternate revenue streamsThe Influencer or Organization own the software.Over 60% of custom software projects fail, miss the budget and schedule. 9-12 months to have a stable platform.$150,000 + to build the platform Risk of building the wrong thing. The Influencer or Organization are responsible for maintenance of software and servers.