What does it take to build a vibrant online community? Influencers, celebrity endorsements, capital investments – what are the essential ingredients for building an online community? Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn are some of the most popular online communities. But these communities are not built on learning experiences.
More importantly, is it possible to build a community around a learning experience? We are not talking about online course platforms which have thousands of courses and millions of students enrolled. Instead, we are talking about niche training companies who have specialised courses, workshops and coaching programs.
Hence, we looked into some of the popular online communities built around learning experiences in order to uncover their secrets.
#1 The Futur
Let’s start with The Futur. The Futur provides various online courses for creative professionals like graphic designers, branding specialists, UX designers and so on. Over the years, they have managed to build a vibrant online community and become a one-stop platform for everything related to design.
They began building their community by providing free online workshops on their YouTube channel. If you are interested to know more about their beginning, here is a fantastic podcast episode with the initial founders of the company. They discuss their initial journey and their decision-making processes.
From their success story, we can learn how building a successful online community requires a clear mission statement. If you are a training company then you should have a clear goal and back that mission with a mix of both paid and free content.
- Start with a mission statement – Why?
- Publish high-value content regularly on your choice of a platform like YouTube, Instagram, blogs etc.
- Connect with other thought leaders in your industry and host them in your platform via interviews, blog posts, and webinars.
- Take regular feedback from your community members and address their questions
- Provide a platform for your community members to interact with each other
#2 Proko or The Draftsmen
Proko is another vibrant community build around learning experiences. Proko provides free and paid online courses for artists from all over the world on their YouTube channel, which has more than a million subscribers.
They also have a separate channel called Draftsmen which is dedicated towards long-form podcast dedicated towards various topics related to art education and business. In one of their episode, they talk about the value of online communities for better learning experiences.
Looking closely at their model, you will find many similarities between them and The Futur. Both of these training channels built their audience by providing free content and addressing the audience’s questions and feedback on their YouTube channel.
Copyblogger started as a blog related to tips on improving writing skills for digital marketers. They publish free eBooks and newsletters dedicated to copywriting. In the age of 140 characters and short-form content, their focus on long-form value-driven articles allowed them to attract a niche audience.
Their methods are not very different from other companies. The only difference is that they chose blogs and newsletters as their content platform. Further, they partnered with certified experts within their community to deliver online coaching and courses.
AltMBA is an online leadership and management workshop founded by Seth Goldin in 2015. Though Seth commands a strong fan following for his books, lectures and seminars, building a community requires more than a celebrity – it needs a mission.
It is worth noting that AltMBA’s model is unique and is applicable to any training companies. Not to mention that some of the key ingredients are similar to what we have learnt from other examples in this blog post.
Start with a mission statement. This is vital for the success of your online community because learning is a passionate endeavour. When you attract learners who are passionate about learning, it is much easier to build a community around it.
It is also important to differentiate your mission from that of others. This allows you to position yourself better and connect deeply with the community members.
None of the above examples provide unique courses but their positioning is unique. This attracts like-minded people towards your business.
Breaking it down
Can we uncover secrets from all the above examples and provide them as a checklist for training companies?
Here is what we can distil from the above learnings.
- Platforms do not matter: A successful online community can be built on any platform – doesn’t have to be Facebook or YouTube. Proko and The Futur started on YouTube as it is a popular platform for designers and artists. However, for Copyblogger, blogging platform made more sense as most of the copywriters and digital marketers are active on blogs. Similarly, Seth began his early journey from his own personal blog. So chose a platform where your audience is present.
- Content is the king: Microcontent or long-form content, any of them will work as long as it is valuable and high quality. For training companies, content is the key to delivering learnings and showcasing expertise. With consistent content, you attract followers to build your online community.
- Don’t forget the value of positioning: Every day you come across a new online course which claims to change your life. The market is cluttered with thousands of courses each seeking attention. Therefore, you need to differentiate your value proposition from others through your mission statement. There are hundreds of courses on “How to design a logo” but you choose The Futur’s course because you believe in their mission.
- Create your niche: This is similar to positioning. You need to have a clear profile of whom you want to target. If you are providing professional leadership program then you need to narrow your audience. If you simply say, “We provide a leadership program”. This might not work. Instead, if you say, “We provide specialised leadership coaching to newly appointed managers.” This will help you differentiate your coaching from the crowded market.
- Remember it is a community: Do not forget that you are building a community which means that the voice of your members is more important than yours. Provide a platform to take their feedbacks and address them. All of the above examples proudly present their members on their website or channel and encourage participation.
So, are you ready to build your own online community?
Building a community isn’t like opening a Facebook or an Instagram account. It takes time and it evolves with time. But you need to start somewhere, measure your performance and iterate. It is difficult to predict how your community will evolve. But, as long as you are focused on your mission and you are clear as to why you want to build a community, it will help you make the right decision.
About Opentute’s Social Learning Platform
Unlike traditional LMS, which are based on online courses, Opentute is built on the social learning experience. It has in-built social networking capabilities which allow training companies to host their members and engage with them.
Currently, it is a trend to have a private Facebook group to engage with your learners, but this has limitations and is governed by Facebook’s terms and conditions. With Opentute, you can build your own branded portal where you can host your online courses and create multiple free or paid groups as required. You can also invite your coaches or experts to join the group and they get privileges of selling their one-on-one online sessions or provide feedback to learners for free.
You can start your free 14 days trial here.