In the realm of community management, the collective suite of digital tools and platforms needed for community managers to create, manage, and grow online communities is crucial.
However, it's not just about having tools – it's about having the right blend of them. When community managers choose the correct combination of tools tailored to their community's needs, they’re better equipped to nurture interactions, streamline processes, and offer a great experience.
In this article, we take a deep dive into how you can build the right kind of tech stack for your online community.
- The importance of the right tech stack for community building
- Key components of a community-building tech stack
- Integrating the tech stack for seamless community management
- Challenges in implementing the right tech stack
The importance of the right tech stack for community building
Amid the sea of endless interactions and information online, carving out a dedicated space for a group to come together can be a daunting task. This is where the precision of a finely tuned tech stack is invaluable.
Community management isn't just about hosting a platform where members can gather. It encompasses a wide array of responsibilities, from moderation and content curation to analytics and member support.
A comprehensive tech stack aids community managers in each of these areas:
- Efficiency – Automating repetitive tasks, streamlining administrative functions, and efficiently managing content can free up community managers to focus on more strategic tasks.
- Scalability – As communities grow, the demands increase. What works for a community of a hundred might not work for a thousand. A versatile tech stack can adapt to the growing needs of a community.
- Personalization – Community members expect tailored experiences. The right tools can help segment the audience, deliver personalized content, and ensure each member feels seen and valued.
- Insights and feedback – The more you understand your community, the better you can serve them. Analytics tools in the stack can provide invaluable data on member behaviors, preferences, and feedback, guiding decision-making processes.
Marketing and community engagement
At first glance, marketing and community engagement might seem like two different arenas. But in the digital age, they’re intricately linked. Marketing isn't just about selling a product or service – it's about building relationships, trust, and community.
Here are just some of the ways community and marketing are intrinsically linked:
- Engaged community members often become brand ambassadors, advocating for the brand, its values, and its offerings both within and outside the community.
- Communities provide a direct line to the user base, offering immediate feedback on products, services, or brand messaging. This can influence and refine marketing strategies in real time.
- Engaged communities can become a hotbed for user-generated content, which can be a goldmine for marketing campaigns.
- Beyond the initial conversion, communities play a pivotal role in retaining customers. They create a sense of belonging, making members more likely to stick around, repurchase, or engage further.
While a robust tech stack can help grow a community, its use cases can enhance marketing efforts and overall brand perception. The interwoven nature of community building and marketing highlights the need for a well-chosen tech stack.
Key components of a community-building tech stack
Whether it’s facilitating communication between members or measuring community engagement, the right MarTech can make your job as community manager so much easier.
Let’s take a look at some of the key areas of community-building and examples of tools that can help your community thrive.
At the heart of any thriving online community lies effective communication. Ensuring smooth, engaging, and efficient communication among community members is paramount. The right communication platform sets the tone for interaction, fostering an environment where members feel connected, heard, and valued.
Originally designed as an internal communication tool for businesses, Slack's adaptable features and seamless user experience have made it a favorite among community builders.
Its organized, channel-based structure allows for segmented discussions, enabling communities to categorize conversations based on topics or interests. Features like threads keep discussions clean and coherent, while integrations and bots can enhance the user experience, be it through automated onboarding of new members or the integration of third-party apps to facilitate richer interactions.
In fact, Slack is utilized here at Community-Led Alliance, where community managers gather to discuss everything related to building and managing a community – oh, and it’s free to join!
Microsoft Teams, developed as a hub for teamwork within the Office 365 suite, has become a cornerstone for many business communities.
It facilitates voice, video, and text communication, catering to diverse interaction needs. A standout feature of Teams is its tight integration with Office applications, enabling members to collaboratively work on documents, spreadsheets, or presentations in real time within the platform. Unlike Slack, which prioritizes channel-based text discussions, Teams emphasizes a blend of seamless communication and collaboration.
The platform is professional and team-centric, making it an ideal choice for business communities, inter-departmental collaborations, or project teams.
Given the unique capabilities of both Slack and Microsoft Teams, the choice of platform should be based on your community's primary objectives and communication needs. Whether it's topic-driven text channels or collaborative document editing, the platform establishes the blueprint for community interactions.
Community engagement tools
While communication platforms lay the groundwork for community interactions, engagement tools keep the community alive, active, and vibrant. They foster a sense of belonging, ensure members remain invested, and offer avenues for deeper connections.
Common Room stands out because it’s specifically designed to bridge the gap between businesses and their communities. Unlike traditional forums or communication platforms, Common Room offers a holistic approach to community interaction.
Its unified dashboard means businesses can aggregate interactions from various channels – be it from social media, emails, or other platforms. This centralized view ensures no conversation is missed.
Tailored experiences are paramount for community engagement, and Common Room allows for detailed member segmentation, enabling businesses to cater to individual preferences and engagement histories. When it comes to metrics, Common Room provides insights into community health, member sentiment, and areas of improvement, ensuring community managers can make data-driven decisions.
While many community platforms are adapted from other uses, Circle has been built from the ground up with community builders in mind. This means every feature is tailored towards enhancing community experiences.
Circle offers the ability to create multiple 'spaces' within a community, akin to sub-forums, but with the added benefit of unique branding and moderation settings for each. Circle also works well with other tools. Be it embedding a Zoom call, integrating with a membership platform, or syncing with an email provider, Circle ensures the community experience is interconnected.
For communities that offer premium content, Circle provides built-in monetization tools, enabling direct member subscriptions or payments. Unlike many platforms that come with a fixed aesthetic, Circle allows communities to tailor the look and feel to align with their brand, ensuring a consistent and immersive experience for members.
While both Common Room and Circle are designed to foster engagement, their applications can differ. Common Room might be best suited for businesses aiming to centralize and monitor community interactions across various channels, while Circle can be the go-to for community builders looking for a platform offering depth in customization, integration, and member management. Choosing the right tool depends on the specific goals, size, and nature of your community.
Analytics and insight tools
A community's heartbeat lies in its engagement metrics. But to truly understand the nuances of member behaviors and preferences, diving deep into analytics is crucial. Analytics and insight tools don’t just show numbers – they tell a story.
While Google Analytics is predominantly known for website tracking, its application can extend to online communities as well. When integrated with community platforms, GA offers a plethora of insights.
You can get a better understanding of user demographics, where your members come from, which devices they use, and even their interests outside the community. You can also track how members navigate through the community. Which pages or topics they engage with first and where they drop off.
With GA, you can measure the average session duration to gauge how engrossed members are. You can also take advantage of customization to track specific community interactions, whether it’s downloading a resource, participating in a poll, or clicking on a particular link.
This tracking can help in understanding which resources or features are most valued by members, informing future updates and offerings.
Mixpanel goes beyond traditional analytics, focusing on user interactions at a granular level. It's less about page views and more about what users are doing.
You can use event sequences to understand the chain of actions taken by members. For example, did they read a post, then comment, then share? From there, you can track and measure how often members return after their initial visit so you can find out whether they’ve become regular contributors.
Set specific goals (e.g. from member registration to first post) and see how many members complete the journey – don’t forget to look closely at individual member interactions, tracking their history, preferences, and behaviors.
While communication and engagement tools set the stage for community interactions, it's the analytics and insights that offer a backstage pass into the intricacies of member behaviors. With tools like Google Analytics and Mixpanel, community builders are equipped with the data and insights to continuously refine, grow, and enrich their communities.
Event organization platforms
Events, whether online or offline, can be the beating heart of a community. They offer a unique opportunity for members to interact in real time, fostering deeper connections and bringing the community's spirit to life.
As much as online interactions play a foundational role in community building, events – from webinars to physical meet-ups – can bolster engagement and provide tangible experiences. Fortunately, several platforms make organizing these events a breeze.
(Psst! Community-Led Alliance has events coming soon, so make sure you sign up to get the latest updates about our in-person and virtual events!)
Eventbrite is a comprehensive event management platform, suitable for a range of events from massive conferences to intimate community gatherings. Its capabilities include:
- Event creation and customization – Craft event pages with branding, imagery, and detailed information. You can also set up ticketing, whether free or paid.
- Promotional tools – Spread the word through email campaigns, social media integrations, and built-in search engine optimization (SEO).
- Integration capabilities – Sync with other tools or platforms, be it streaming services for webinars or CRM systems to manage attendees.
Using Eventbrite can create anticipation and buzz within the community. The very act of setting a date, promoting an event, and seeing who else is attending can spark conversations and excitement.
For offline events, it provides an opportunity for members to transition from screen names to faces, deepening relationships and fostering real-world connections.
Meetup, while also an event platform, has a unique community-centric approach. It's designed specifically to bring together people with shared interests.
Beyond just events, organizers can create community groups centered around specific interests or themes. This can be a stand-alone community or an extension of an existing one. You can easily set up regular gatherings, be it weekly webinars or monthly meet-ups, to keep the community engaged.
One of Meetup's key differentiators is its ability to recommend groups and events to users based on their interests, potentially growing your community's reach. Meetup fosters a sense of belonging. It's not just about a singular event, but continuous engagement with like-minded individuals.
For online communities that have members scattered globally, Meetup can facilitate regional gatherings, allowing clusters of members to connect in person. The platform's ethos revolves around moving online connections to tangible real-world interactions.
Both Eventbrite and Meetup serve as bridges, turning digital communities into palpable experiences. By providing easy-to-use tools for event organization, they empower community managers to augment online interactions with memorable events, further solidifying the bonds among community members.
Content creation and sharing platforms
Content is a powerful connector. Whether it's an insightful blog post, a thought-provoking newsletter, or an important community update, content shapes the narrative of a community.
Content provides value, sparks discussions, and keeps members informed and engaged. Content platforms play a pivotal role in ensuring that content not only reaches but also resonates with community members.
Substack has revolutionized the newsletter game. More than just email blasts, Substack newsletters are an experience. Communities can offer premium newsletters, creating an additional revenue stream while providing exclusive content.
Substack provides detailed insights on open rates, click-through rates, and more to help gauge the efficacy of the content. Readers can leave comments, creating micro-discussion forums under each newsletter.
Substack's focus on newsletters allows communities to maintain regular touchpoints with members. These curated content pieces can be both informational and conversational, serving as constant reminders of the community's value and activities.
Ghost is a professional publishing platform that marries the capabilities of a blog with that of a newsletter.
For communities desiring full control, Ghost allows for self-hosting, offering total customization and data ownership. Integrated SEO tools ensure content reaches wider audiences and ranks well on search engines.
Ghost provides a comprehensive platform for communities to maintain a vibrant content ecosystem, and, just like Substack, Ghost facilitates content monetization through memberships and premium content.
Regular blog posts can be supplemented with newsletters, ensuring continuous value delivery to members. With built-in engagement features, it fosters a deeper connection between content creators and community members.
Platforms like Substack and Ghost underscore the significance of content in community building. Content not only imparts value but also catalyzes interactions, discussions, and deeper engagements. By leveraging these platforms, communities can ensure their narratives are heard, shared, and cherished.
Integrating the tech stack for seamless community management
Even with the best tools, community managers can face challenges if these tools operate in isolation. What truly enhances the power of a community-building tech stack is its integration – the capacity for these tools to communicate, share data, and trigger actions across each other.
By leveraging integration platforms like Zapier and Integromat, community builders can create a seamlessly interconnected ecosystem that supercharges community management.
With Zapier, community managers can create automated sequences called Zaps. For instance, a new member sign-up on Circle could trigger a welcome message on Slack.
More advanced Zaps allow for conditional operations, like sending a particular email to users who have engaged with a specific type of content. Zapier supports thousands of apps, ensuring that most community tools can be interconnected.
Unlike Zapier's linear workflow, Integromat offers a visual builder where users can map out more complex integrations. Beyond simple triggers and actions, Integromat allows for data transformation between apps, making it powerful for nuanced integrations.
Given its advanced features, Integromat offers error-handling routes ensuring that if an automation fails, an alternate action is taken or a notification is sent.
Integration isn't just a luxury – it's a necessity. Platforms like Zapier and Integromat act as the glue that binds the community tech stack, ensuring that each tool amplifies the others' capabilities. This not only streamlines operations but also enhances the member experience, fostering a more engaged, informed, and vibrant community.
Challenges in implementing the right tech stack
Even with all the tools available, community managers often encounter challenges in the selection and deployment of a tech stack. These challenges can range from mastering the features of a new tool to addressing concerns about community security.
Understanding these challenges is pivotal for ensuring that the chosen tech stack truly fosters community growth and engagement.
Overcoming the learning curve
Each platform in the tech stack comes with its own set of functionalities. Navigating these can be overwhelming, especially when integrating multiple platforms. Not to mention that frequent updates or changes to a platform can disrupt workflows and require additional training.
So, make sure everyone is properly trained in any tools being introduced. Leveraging tutorials, webinars, or even hiring a consultant for hands-on training can drastically reduce the learning curve.
Instead of rolling out all features simultaneously, introduce tools gradually to allow community members and managers to adapt. And don’t forget to engage with forums, as many platforms have dedicated user communities where members share tips, tricks, and best practices.
Ensuring community security and data protection
Like most things online, community platforms can be susceptible to hacking, phishing, or other malicious activities. With laws such as GDPR, there's a heightened need for stringent data protection measures.
Prioritize tools known for their robust security features. Conduct sessions on best practices for security, such as not sharing passwords or clicking on suspicious links, and implement regular data backups to prevent data loss and facilitate recovery in case of breaches.
Selecting and implementing a tech stack is intricate, requiring foresight and adaptability. However, with a proactive approach to tackling challenges, community managers can craft a digital environment that's conducive to growth, engagement, and meaningful interactions.
The landscape of martech is ever-evolving, mirroring the dynamic nature of online communities and their changing needs. Community managers must keep pace with this transformation.
Community building isn’t just about gathering individuals under a shared interest – it's about fostering meaningful connections, sparking engaging discussions, and nurturing a sense of belonging.
The right tech stack can play an instrumental role in this, provided it's used well.
The world of MarTech offers many tools that can propel communities to new heights. However, the real magic lies in how these tools are employed. So, never cease in your quest for the optimal tech ensemble to amplify your community's potential.