Research shows the key benefit of sport participation is not fitness, but the creation of a sense of community. How can clubs create this sense of community? There are 7 key elements to creating community within a sporting team.
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How To Create An Engaged And Loyal Community
Creating a sense of community is an important part of making your customers feel valued and having a positive experience with you. It also is a surefire way to help you grow your business and revenue streams. Research shows that customers who participate in your community are:
- more likely to engage with your products and services
- more likely to help other customers have a positive experience
- more loyal, and
- more likely to refer other customers to you
Rather than carrying the load of communicating one-to-one with your customers, creating a community can also lighten the load by letting your customers interact and share experiences with each other.
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What's the difference between a community and a membership program?
What do I need to create a community?
The good news is that you probably already have a lot of the things you need to create a community. If you:
- Have events for your customers/members to attend
- Frequently share news and updates with each other
- Have a network of suppliers, members, partners, and/or sponsors
- Run initiatives like fundraising or competitions
- Ask for feedback from your customers
- Have a place (online or offline) where your customers can congregate and interact with each other
Then you are already forming the basis of a community! If you’re not doing any of these things, that’s okay too – we are here to help you! The most important first step in forming a community is defining the common interest or factor that brings you together.
Step 1: Define your community’s purpose or interests...
Whether you run a retirement home or sell knitting materials online, there is always one common interest or factor that motivates people to engage with you.
The first step in forming your community is defining who your target client or member is, and what they have in common with you / your brand.
For example, if you run a gym, your customers are likely to be healthy-minded, fitness-oriented people. Their common interests may be around gym gear, weightlifting, yoga, and trying out new healthy recipes. They may want to feel more confident, look healthier, and meet other like minded people so they can motivate each other.
Alternatively, if you sell mountain bikes you know that your customers are likely to be part of a cycling group, enjoy riding on weekends, like a challenge, and might share interests in bike gear, famous cyclists, and endurance tactics.
It’s important to remember that anyone can create a community as long as there is something that brings the community together. It could be an appreciation for tattoos, or a distaste for olives – the most important part is finding what will bring your people together.
Step 2: Decide what you are going to offer...
Using the shared interests and beliefs you have identified, decide on a purpose for your community. Use this to inform the type of events and services you will provide as part of your community experience.
If you’re stuck on what to offer, start with something simple by thinking about what your network enjoys doing and how you could incorporate that into your community.
For example, if you are trying to establish an ESL community in your local university, then you might know that most of your fellow students like to have lunch at the local cafe, or that a lot of ESL students are taking the same course as you in Computing and Economics.
You could start by creating an event for ESL students to meet up every month at the local cafe to get to know each other and share experiences. From here, you could book out a study room for ESL students in Computing to use at a specific time/day to help each other with assignments. From here, you could ask your university to have a spot at your next open day where you can invite new students to join your ESL Computers community.
Once you have an active community, you could engage a local sponsor to give your members discounts on computer equipment in return for the opportunity to advertise in your community platform. It doesn’t have to be extravagant or extreme, the important step is to organize a series of occasions or events that are specific, frequent, and in line with your community interests and then, if you want to, build them into an opportunity for sponsors and business partners to engage so you can turn your community into a profitable venture.
Some other examples include:
- If you run a women’s beauty community where you want members to share tips and tricks on beauty products, then partner with a local sponsor to provide discounted hair treatments at the salon when a member signs up
- If you have a knitting group, host a monthly knitting competition where your members can judge each others creations and the winner is featured as “Knitter of the Month”
- If you exist to make an environmental impact, organise a clean up day in your local park or bush lands
- For a cycling community, host a weekly cycling event followed by breakfast at a cafe
Step 3: Create a safe place where they can interact
Now that you’ve identified the type of community you’re building, you need to decide how and when members are going to interact, to strengthen their relationships with you and each other.
The traditional definition of community is having a shared physical space in which people frequently meet and interact. However, with the rise of technology like mobile phones and the internet, the online space you create for your community is just as important as what you offer offline.
If you have a physical location, then frequently using your shared spaces and event facilities is an important way to create a sense of community. Giving your community a space to interact within your store/building/gym/facility creates a sense of belonging and exclusivity that strengthens the internal connections between your customers.
Whether you have a physical location or not, your community needs a safe space to interact online. Whilst a physical space gives you a set time to come together and interact, and online space opens up the possibility of interacting in between their day to day lives, such as early in the morning, at lunch break, or in their free time.
The best communities are the ones that have a combination of both physical and online spaces to interact with because they keep their people engaged and form stronger connections that outlast any particular event, competition, or season.
It also alleviates a lot of pressure in people having to adjust their schedules or priorities to be able to attend a physical event. This way, even your customers who are busy or have other priorities can still be engaged in your community, and you can reap the benefits of having them connected and continuing to interact with your products and services.
There are a variety of options for both physical and online spaces that you can create for your community.
If you don’t have a physical location, consider:
- Hiring out an event hall (you can charge a little money for tickets to cover the cost)
- Partnering with someone who does (buddy up with a sponsor or another organization and you can help each other)
- Utilising public places like a local park or coffee shop
If you want to create an online space consider:
- Creating a Facebook groups page and an event calendar or a combination of other social media platforms (this can be time consuming and hard to keep private if you need to)
- Get an all-in-one community engagement platform that’s private, and can be customized to have your own logo and brand colours (there are some highly affordable options out there, for example our plans start at just $48 a month)
Step 4: Invite People In
Now that you have identified the main interest or purpose of your community, and you have selected a combination of online and/or offline places to interact, the next step is to connect your network of customers, sponsors (if you have any), suppliers, and staff.
The goal here is to get your network involved and interacting with you and each other within the realms of the community you are creating. This ensures you are:
- Creating a sense of belonging
- Generating loyalty to the community
- Giving people a chance to participate
- Transcending beyond just providing a product or service
- Increasing the likelihood of the community growing
- Creating a better experience for your customers, and also your partners!
To invite someone into your community, you can utilise something as straightforward as an email to all your clients inviting them to join with instructions on how to sign up, or create something fun and exciting like a private event where you hand select the people you think are best suited to your community.
If you are using a community engagement platform that lets you create your own mobile app (like ours), you can invite people to your community by sending them a link to download the app.
Your invitation should communicate the benefits they can receive from joining your community so your customers and wider network are motivated to sign up.
Some key things you could talk about include:
- Being able to access exclusive events or offers
- The opportunity to meet like minded people
- An easy way to stay connected and informed about things you are interested in
- Share tips and tricks with other members
Step 5: Engage Frequently
Once your community is formed and you have a purpose, a set of events that help you connect, a private place to interact (both online and offline) and you have invited people to join, your focus will shift from forming the community to keeping it engaged.
Keeping your community engaged can be difficult at first but gets significantly easier over time as your members become advocates for your community or your brand. The goal is to empower your members to interact and engage with each other, so try and engage in a way that inspires conversation and sharing of thoughts and ideas where you can.
As a general rule of thumb, you might look to:
- Post at least one news or update to your community a week
- This could be someones birthday, a recent change in your community, something happening in the wider world that’s relevant to you, or anything that might spark the interest of your members
- Have an event or activity at least once a month
- Whether its online or offline, a cooking class or a paid event, try and have an option at least once a month for your members to attend
- Chat directly with your members
- Reach out to members directly and check in on them to keep them engaged. If you run a large community, choose a trusted network of people who can do this with you
- Ask for feedback
- Conduct surveys, create polls, ask questions, and motivate people to share their experiences with you and each other. Whether positive or negative, asking for feedback is an important part of making your community feel heard
Step 6: Grow
Now your initial network is frequently engaging, your community is ready to grow. Invite others in, form partnerships with local sponsors and businesses to provide events and discounts, encourage customers to add their family and friends, and advertise your community to your wider network.
Remember to always align your growth with your community’s purpose. This is especially true for the people you choose to partner with and get sponsored by. For example, if you are a sporting club running a Women in Soccer community, then think about partnering with local business coaches, course providers, or sports stores that can give your members discounts on club t-shirts in return for being able to advertise in your platform.
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This article was written by:
Creating connected communities, smarter.
9 St Pauls Terrace,
Spring Hill, QLD, 4000
Creating connected communities, smarter.
9 St Pauls Terrace,
Spring Hill, QLD, 4000