The Importance of Community Building to Achieving B2B Growth

February 28, 2024

In today’s digital era, we regularly lament the demise of our community. We feel disconnected and lonely in our neighborhoods, towns, and workplaces.

The growth in work-from-home and hybrid employment arrangements seen during and since the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the sense of workplace disconnection.

Online communication tools and social media platforms provide ways of staying in contact with friends, neighbors, and coworkers—but they are transient, noisy, and overwhelming.

The concept of online community building has emerged as a pivotal strategy for businesses aiming to regenerate a sense of common purpose within the workforce, which they can then use to fuel their growth.

Such communities can extend beyond the company’s employees to include other stakeholders and communities of practice.

When effectively harnessed, these groups amplify a company's capacity for innovation, operational efficiency, new business development, customer loyalty, and brand advocacy.

In this post, we explore the importance of building different types of online community, the concept of intentional proximity, actionable tips for cultivating successful and valuable online communities, and popular software tools for hosting them.

We also offer a sneak peek into what MessageUp is developing in the online community domain.


The Role of Online Communities in Business Growth

Online community building serves as a cornerstone for nurturing relationships, establishing trust, exchanging information, fostering loyalty, and enhancing brand reputation.

The essence of a successful community lies in bringing people together around shared interests, goals, or values, and creating a sense of belonging and mutual support.


Employee Communities

The internal ecosystem of a business plays a critical role in its success.

Employee communities promote an inclusive culture of collaboration, irrespective of geographic proximity.

They encourage knowledge sharing, innovation, and a sense of belonging.

Such communities take various forms, including professional development groups, diversity and inclusion initiatives, and common interest networks.

Investing in employee communities—whether by creating them or encouraging employees to create their own—signals that your company understands the importance of community and is willing to support it across organizational and territorial boundaries.

Initiatives like these have been shown to improve overall job satisfaction, reduce turnover rates, and enhance productivity.

This internal solidarity becomes a foundation upon which external success can be built, as engaged employees deliver superior customer experiences.


Customer Communities

Customer communities offer a platform for customers to engage with one another and with the brand, sharing experiences and providing critical feedback.

They help your businesses gather invaluable insights into customer needs and preferences, so you can adapt your products and services accordingly.

Moreover, customer communities can be a powerful marketing tool. Satisfied customers are more inclined to become brand ambassadors who spread positive word-of-mouth and create social proof, which attracts more new customers.


Stakeholder Communities

Stakeholder communities, including those with investors, suppliers, and partners, are another important ingredient to a business ecosystem.

Building stronger relationships with these groups through community engagement initiatives can lead to improved collaboration, preferred access to resources, joint innovation, and superior alignment on business goals.

Stakeholder communities also provide valuable insights and feedback that can inform strategic decision-making.

Actively creating and supporting such communities enhances trust and loyalty, which are crucial for long-term success.


Communities of Practice

Communities of practice are groups of individuals with shared interests or professions who exchange experiences and ideas to become better at what they do through regular interaction.

These communities can drive innovation, improve skills, and help develop and disseminate best practices.

Encouraging your employees to form, join, and actively participate in this type of community can lead to a more knowledgeable and skilled workforce, driving improvements in product development, customer service, and operational efficiency.


Creating Intentional Proximity

Successful community building involves designing environments that facilitate meaningful interactions and relationships between members.

It's about bridging the gap between individuals and the organization, and among the community members themselves, to foster a sense of connection and shared purpose.

This concept is especially important in the digital realm, where online communities must replace the physical cues and spontaneous encounters that we are accustomed to in daily life.

Intentional proximity renders physical distance irrelevant by creating environments that encourage interaction, such as facilitated discussion groups, online events, and reward and recognition structures for those who regularly contribute.


How to Build a Successful Online Community

Here are ten tips for setting your online community up for success:

1. Define Clear Objectives: Establish clear goals for the community that align with business and members’ objectives. Understand what you want your community to achieve in areas like member support, idea exchange, innovation, and networking,

2. Foster a Welcoming Environment: Create an inclusive and supportive atmosphere that encourages engagement. Make members feel valued and safe to participate.

3. Generate Value: Ensure the community offers tangible benefits to its members, such as exclusive content, resources, and networking opportunities. Regularly share relevant, high-quality content that addresses members' interests and challenges.

4. Encourage Engagement: Use prompts, challenges, surveys, and trending discussion topics to drive member interaction. Acknowledge high-value contributions through recognition, rewards, or opportunities for greater involvement.

5. Leverage Technology: Use dedicated software platforms that facilitate communication, collaboration, and content sharing—including both desktop and mobile applications. Select a platform that suits your community's needs and preferences, considering things like usability, scalability, and integration with other tools in your tech stack. More on this in a moment.

6. Apply Active Moderation: Implement guidelines and actively moderate discussions to maintain a positive and respectful environment.

7. Highlight Success Stories: Recognize member achievements and share testimonials to inspire others and showcase the community's impact.

8. Offer Professional Development Opportunities: Deliver livestreams, webinars, and online courses to add value to community membership. Create spaces or events where members can connect, share experiences, and collaborate.

9. Measure Success: Regularly assess the community's performance against its objectives. Use on-platform metrics and analytics to track community growth, engagement, and member satisfaction, and adjust your strategy as needed.

10. Solicit Feedback: Engage community members to gather insights and suggestions for improvement. Report these ideas to the community and explain which ones you will implement.


Popular Software Tools for Managing Online Communities

Several popular software tools facilitate creating and managing online communities.

Platforms like Discord and Slack are favored for real-time communication and building engaged communities around specific applications, solutions, or projects.

LinkedIn Groups and Facebook Groups offer a place to create interest- or profession-based communities.

Mighty Networks and Circle are the leading providers of more tailored environments for building and managing communities that include online courses, memberships, and branded experiences.

Each of these tools offers features that cater to different types of online communities, which reinforces the importance of choosing the right platform to meet the specific needs of your community.


What is MessageUp Doing?

At MessageUp, we focus on helping CEOs and marketing leaders design and operationalize effective content marketing strategies.

We could create a community for our clients and the service providers who help deliver their content marketing campaigns.

However, we believe that frame would be too limiting, creating a community too small to sustain regular interaction and valuable information exchange.

In other words, it needs to be something bigger to deliver sufficient value for members to justify investing their time, expertise, and money.

We recognize that content marketing, while having become mission critical at B2B businesses, cannot drive growth in isolation. Many other disciplines and strategies must be executed simultaneously for success to follow.

Our wider community is that of B2B growth practitioners—the people who live and breathe the various contributing skillsets and practices needed to make growth happen.

Our aim is to create a community for those people, within which our content marketing focused clients and partners will find extended value, and where we can bring our content marketing expertise to a wider audience.

In keeping with the best practices we shared earlier, we’ve taken time to carefully define our objectives and to map out the community features that will allow us to deliver value to community members.

We’ve selected Mighty Networks as our delivery platform and we’re busy beta testing the launch configuration.

Next week, we will begin inviting current and past customers and newsletter subscribers to join an early access waitlist, with a target launch date of May 1st (hopefully sooner, if enough people join the waitlist.)

Those who join the community from the waitlist will become Founder Members and receive special discounts and other benefits throughout the life of their membership.

To receive a priority invitation to the community, sign up for our weekly newsletter using the link at the end of this post.


The Bottom Line

Community building in the digital era is becoming a strategic imperative for B2B businesses that want to hit their growth targets.

As businesses continue to navigate the complexities of the hybrid workplace, those that fostering employee communities, customer communities, stakeholder communities, and communities of practice can create a solid foundation for loyalty, innovation, and sustained growth.

By creating intentional proximity and adhering to best practices for online community management, you can cultivate vibrant, engaged, and valuable communities that set your business apart in the competitive landscape.


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Image credits: Adobe Stock


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