How to develop an online community launch plan for purpose-driven brands

A headshot of Judy Garvey

by Judy Garvey

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So you’ve decided to launch a brand community to help raise awareness, build engagement, or collaborate on solutions, and you’re left with the big question: “Now What?”

How do you go about preparing for the launch? What sort of things do you need to have prepared? When should you feel comfortable inviting your first community members?

All of these questions can be answered by developing a thorough community launch plan. A detailed launch plan will cover elements like communication, recruitment and incentives, and your Chaordix Client Engagement team can help guide you through the process of creating this plan.

Start by Looking Back

First, start out with your overall timeline. Does your purpose-driven brand community need to launch on a specific date? Is there a “real-life” deadline, timeline or event that you’re working towards? Or is there a date by which you want to start collecting results or ideas? Use this as your final milestone and develop a workback schedule from that date.

Read Next: 6 online community management tips for your business

Expect that you’ll need about 2 - 3 weeks to gather pertinent information from different stakeholders, although this can move slower or faster depending on your organization and the speed at which you usually move.

Once you know your end-date, you can start to plan for all of the different elements that need to be included in your launch plan: technical configuration and branding, activity planning and creation, communications and recruitment, stakeholder buy-in, as well as any training for moderators or other community managers.

If your purpose-driven community will leverage an “Innovation Challenge” to crowdsource solutions and ideas from members, it’s best to plan all relevant details, such as specific challenge phases and timelines, prizes and who your panel of expert reviewers will be, well before launch. It’s important when designing your Challenge Brief, that you make clear to all participants how ideas will be evaluated and how the winning solution(s) will be used to drive change and support the community’s main cause or purpose.

If a review panel will be leveraged from inside the organization or outside (including external field/industry experts), these reviewers should also be highlighted, including their areas of expertise and relevancy to the cause at hand.

Launching a brand community with a clear purpose or cause in mind makes planning and creating activities a little bit easier. Working with our expert Program Design team to create your first set of community programs will ensure that activities are set up to collect valuable data and drive participation, while still creating a fun and engaging online experience for members.

You’ll want to plan the appropriate amount of activities to achieve the goals you’ve outlined for your brand community. We recommend 2 - 4 new activities per week, but that will depend on the length of your program and the type of participants you’re trying to attract, as well as a number of other factors!

Related Read: 7 community management tips for better customer insights

Similar to activities planning, which may include a series of surveys, polls, and discussions, you’ll likely want to include a challenge (or contest) planning into your community launch plan.

Challenges tie directly into activities, providing additional opportunities for data collection and interaction, and inform the overall theme of the programming being developed. You should define your Challenge early on in your launch planning as it will be a central theme that can be included in communications planning as well.

Your launch plan should include the different communication elements that you want to use to stay in touch with your community members. While it is too early to create drafts of every single blog post and email you want to write in the community, we suggest developing a consistent communications schedule, and sticking to it over the life of your community.

For example, you could plan to always email community members on Mondays and post a blog on Wednesdays. Once you have those pieces figured out, you can begin to slot in different topics based on what’s happening in the community (from an activity and challenge perspective), or with other news related to what’s happening around your brand cause and CSR initiatives.

The communications schedule can be very flexible, as your brand community progresses, but getting into a regular schedule helps to create a habit and sets expectations for community members as they join.

Recruiting for Purpose

What’s a brand community without any members? Including recruiting efforts in your community launch plan will ensure that you have users ready and excited to join when your community launches! You can start building buzz online and via social media, and make sure to communicate to your internal team that you’re going to push recruitment to drive community sign-ups.

On top of organic (free!) recruitment, you may wish to set aside some budget to attract users to your community. This might come in the way of social media paid promotion or purchasing incentives and prizes for members who sign up and start participating.

Make sure you plan to cover things like ensuring stakeholder buy-in, this might come in the form of a town hall meeting or personal conversations with others on your team.

Either way, having support from others on your team is important. If you can create an engagement plan for these stakeholders so that they know what to expect when your community launches, that’s even better! We recommend having a couple team members participate in your community regularly to ensure that community members feel like they’re interacting directly with your brand.

Read Next: 4 big steps to engagement marketing

The final piece of your launch plan should include training that you or your team members may need in order to participate in the community. Your Chaordix team can help to prepare you for this if necessary, but on top of making sure that people understand the nuts of bolts of what and how to do, you will need to ensure that they understand when they need to be involved, and why it’s important that they participate.

Once you have all of these elements of your launch plan created, your purpose-driven community will be well on its’ way to being the destination to connect and co-create solutions to the global or local challenges your brand aims to solve.

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