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Why Should I Hang Out with You? 5 Tips for Building an Online Community People Actually Want to Join

With all the unread emails to deal with and arguments to be had on Facebook, why should I take the time to join a community of strangers on some forum or website? What could possibly be in it for me?

If you’re a community manager and you can’t answer that question, then don’t expect anyone to subscribe.

People are busy. They want to use their time wisely by only devoting their attention to things that will truly make their lives better. In other words, people want value.

If anyone knows what it feels like to be over-saturated and under-informed, it’s marketers. Keeping up with the latest trends in marketing is a grueling task. No single person could ever get a handle on it.

In 2012, the founders of HubSpot and SEOmoz wanted to help their fellow marketing professionals stay up on their game. So, they create—a free community dedicated to sharing the latest tips, tricks, and tools in marketing.

Four short years later, Inbound has grown to over 170,000 members!

What was the key to’s massive growth? You guessed it. Value.

The Inbound team built a space where marketers could trade in valuable content. That ongoing information exchange immediately translated into positive results for members’ businesses.

Here are five ways to make your community worth joining.

Share Great Content

This should be a no-brainer. While valuable content alone isn’t enough to guarantee you success, I can promise you won’t succeed without it.

Take a deep look at your community members and what you can do to help them. Look for the intersection between their most pressing needs and your unique value proposition. Once you find it, start writing and sharing.

Generate Lively Discussion

When interviewed about Inbound’s success, former General Manager Ed Fry attributed much of the site’s success to generating discussion over against commentary. It’s easy to post a funny story or a cute picture and get a stream of celebratory comments. It’s quite another to instigate a lively back and forth amongst your community members.

The former may seem like a sign of community engagement, but the latter is where the value happens. According to Fry, it’s where traffic and conversion happen as well.

Promote Active Conversation

Not all content is created equal, nor is every conversation. Some pieces, however, are worth their weight in words.

When a valuable conversation breaks out in your community space, find ways to promote and share it. Not only will new visitors see an active and engaged community, but you’ll remind your current members why they joined.

When people see active engagement, they’ll be more likely to lend their voice to the conversation. When you invite more voices you into the space, you’ll get more of the brilliant insights and ideas that multiply the value in a community.

Tailor Your Content

No matter how tightly you’ve defined your niche, no two community members will be alike. One of the ways Inbound has been able to drive engagement is by curating content for its members. The information they receive is then fitted to match their precise interests.

You may not need to go that far. You can, however, put an extra measure of thought into the content you’re getting ready to share. Look at the people who make up your community. Break them into segments based on their unique interests and tailor content to speak specifically to those narrow margins.

You’ll have better luck sparking a productive conversation with targeted material than you will by throwing out low-value fluff for the lowest common denominator.

Be an Authentic Leader

Don’t be afraid to lead. One of Inbound’s tricks for creating a warm, inviting environment was to have their community managers post regularly on the site’s forums.

Members would often recognize these team members and appreciate their insights and personalities. That personal voice stoked a sense of authenticity that lent credibility to the community leaders.

Communities formed around competent leadership benefit from the kind of focus that helps everyone successfully reach their goals. You may be the community manager, but no one is truly going to pay attention until you lead them to where you know they want to go.

If you’ll step up and lead by offering great content and promoting lively discussion, you’ll become a person of value to the entire community. The net value of you and your community will climb en suite.

Want people to join your community? Make it valuable. It’s that simple.