Five Best Practices When Building an Online Community for Your Publication

Social interactions and Ideas need space, energy, and most of all, participation to take hold within your audience, and it’s important to keep this in mind when establishing your own for your publication brand. Online communities are virtually unlimited in their scope and purpose, but they all share the common trait of bringing disparate individuals together around a concept, subject, or a sense of purpose.

If your publication needs to build an online community, there are several best practices to be aware of that will help you establish the kind of community your brand can leverage towards benefits. Whether you are looking to create brand recognition, expand your customer base, or increase profitability, these best practices will help you achieve your goals by creating a successful and vibrant community around your content.

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Best practices for building your publication’s online community

Once you’ve decided to start building your online community, it’s time to get started with the basics. These will serve as the foundation for your efforts to attract loyal users that feed into your retention rates. Just keep the following best practices in mind:

1. Assess your publication’s communal requirements

Many times, media brands end up missing the mark in terms of what truly generates value within online communities. However, starting on the right foot with a solid plan can help you build engagement and retain first-time visitors. You can easily develop a good strategy by coming to a thorough understanding of what your brand wants from its community

The most important question here is – how does this community help your organization? This will include your users, the internal team, and your publication’s leadership. There are three steps to asserting your organizational goals:

  • Identify the long-term goals of your organization
  • Outline a strategy (alongside its costs) that will promote community growth while achieving your goals
  • Determine the timeline for implementation

2. Assessment of your user’s needs

At the other end of the bargain lies your users, which form the members of your community. It is critical to promote what your brand can offer the community to increase traction and retention within its audience. Here, thinking from the user’s perspective can be a huge help.

Try to ask the question: what a user would need from a community? What would make them actively contribute towards it? Then, work back to outline what engaging and unique offerings your brand can provide to its community. Tying in the needs of the community with your brand, its products, and its services is a great way to ensure your online community stays relevant to users and continues to grow over time.

3. Gauging the success of the online community

In the bottom line, your online community will likely serve as an effective marketing medium for your publication. Hence, it makes sense to outline clear goals and key performance indicators (KPIs) to ensure you stay on track. There are two aspects to this:

  • Defining KPIs at the outset with clear directives and metrics for measuring engagement and retention
  • Leveraging platform-specific analytics for the platform, you will be launching your online community at

The next step involves matching the KPIs and metrics to the overarching organizational goals. Here, it is important to understand that goals and KPIs keep changing over time, so they should be short to medium-term (6 months) and should not be too ambitious or overreach what can be realistically achieved.

4. Finalizing your platform’s offerings

Having your platform filled with the right content and features is the essence of building an engaged online community for your publication. Going back to the first two best practices can help here. Having a clear idea of the goals for your community and the users will ultimately help you determine what your community platform should include. This is especially true for user interests, as you must select a platform that offers the kind of activities, content, and coverage that your users are looking for.

Doing a bit of research and creating trial accounts across multiple platforms will help here. Checking around your knowledge base and referring to industry sights can often give you the insight needed to form a consensus. The most common aspect to focus on is having an engaging and intuitive interface that makes the process of engagement as smooth and seamless as possible.

5. Moderating your community

The cornerstone of any successful community is in its safety and moderation level. Otherwise, having even a few troll users can completely ruin the experience and engagement for thousands of users of your community. This is where moderation plays a key role, and setting up a range of stringent rules is important.

Setting up community guidelines not only acts as a safeguard against trolls but can also help guide new users on how they should be using your online community. Take note that it is important to hit the sweet spot when setting up community guidelines. You want to encourage users to engage and converse without curtailing their freedom of expression. You also should contribute in a manner that keeps conversations fresh while controlling the threads effectively once they start to go haywire. The three key elements of community moderation include:

  • Curation of user-generated content to ensure quality and filter out non-compliant or non-relevant material.
  • Sustaining an environment of open and appropriate communication
  • Ensuring that users engage within an environment where rules are explicitly stated and protected


Starting to build or even expand on an online community for your publication might seem like a rather steep challenge. However, as with anything sizeable, you need to break the task down into manageable milestones. Focus on each section at once and try to achieve the best possible results with the resources you have available.

Running an online community to generate engagement and maintain retention requires diligence and finesse. Hopefully, these general practice tips should work in your favor and help you successfully increase subscriptions and retention rates for your audience.

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