Checklist for Creating an Online Community

Updated: Jun 22

Written by: Evan Goodfellow


If you are considering an online community, that is great! You are about to embark on a journey that will bring you increased interaction, streamlined results, informed decision making, and a saving of time and money on top of it all.

But what are the first steps?

You will realize your greatest success with an online community if a few things are taken into consideration before hand.

1. Get On Board With The Benefits of an Online Community


Having an Online Community as part of your business strategy will help you to:

a) Interact with your customers.

b) Create advocates.

c) Be more innovative.

d) Build brand loyalty.

e) Get quicker results.

f) Improve insights.

g) Lower your research costs.

2. Consider Whether Your Community Will Be Blind or Branded

Online Communities can be blind (the client is not named) or branded (the client is named).


a) Blind Community- Will multiple organizations be using the community? If so, a blind community is a good choice. A blind community will also work well if category affinity (e.g. beer enthusiasts) is more important to you than members who are customers or non-customers of a particular brand.


b) Branded Community- In a branded community, less expensive recruitment techniques can be successfully used. Recruitment is also easier since your client lists and other sources (e.g., links on Facebook, company website, etc.) can be used. People are more likely to join and participate because they already have an affinity for your brand.

3. Decide If You Need a Public or Private Community

Communities can be public or private. The difference between the two communities is how members are able to join. Whether you choose a public or private community ultimately depends on how the community will be used and the target audience:


a) For a private community, specific types of individuals are invited to join. Only those individuals with the invitation link will be granted access to the community.


b) Public communities have a “Join Now” button on the frontpage of the online community. Individuals are able to register for community membership themselves.

4. Short Term or Long Term


Communities can be classified as short-term (lasting just a few weeks or months) or long-term. Which one you choose will depend on the purpose of your community.


a) Short-Term Communities are typically utilized for specific research issues.

b) Long-Term Communities are created to engage individuals on an on-going basis. Community members (which in most cases will be customers) become part of your company’s decision-making process.

5. Create a Name and URL


Choosing a name and URL is a key step in setting up a community. The name needs to be catchy and easy to remember and needs to emanate the personality you want to communicate to the target audience.

6. Design Elements


The central component of an online community is the portal. The look and feel of the portal is very important because it communicates the tone for the community and the brand. For branded communities, the portal should be designed to reflect what consumers associate with the brand.


7. Legal Requirements


When setting up an online community, there are some legal considerations to keep in mind. Documents that need to be posted in an online community include the following:


a) privacy policy

b) terms and conditions

c) non-disclosure agreement

d) contest or incentives rules

e) compensation/incentives

f) disclaimers

8. Size


The number of members in a community varies and typically depends on how the community will be used. Smaller communities tend to be used mainly for qualitative purposes, while larger communities are utilized for both quantitative and qualitative projects.


9. Recruitment


The first step when thinking of what recruitment initiative to use is to answer the question: Where is my target audience and how can I find them?

a) Internal Source- customer databases (email or postal information), your website and social media accounts (e.g. Facebook pages, Twitter), retail point-of-sale initiatives, in-store intercepts

b) External Source -purchasing contacts from panel companies, purchasing email lists available for commercial purposes, advertising (e.g. direct mail, Google), telephone recruitment

10. Profile Your Members


When creating the profile survey, or personal details survey, the following guidelines should be used:


a) describe the community

b) be relevant and include screener questions

c) keep it short

d) aim to motivate participation

e) broad questions first, personal questions later

f) make it interesting

For more details about getting started with an online community, download our free Checklist for Creating an Online Community eBook.

If you are considering an online community, feel free to contact us for a consultation and free demo. We are more than happy to discuss your options- and the benefits- of using an online community.


Please check us out on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn!

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