Leveraging Your Virtual Event Platform to Create Community
“A feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.”
Events – whether in-person, hybrid, or virtual – have always been about building a sense of community and bringing together different groups with similar experiences, roles, or goals.
And while the concept of creating an event community pre-dates the pandemic, the growth of virtual events and platforms over the past three years accelerated the idea and need. Now, it’s easier since event technology and virtual platforms can provide seamless, engaging, and interactive connections in digital spaces.
If you want to go full steam ahead on building a community, your first instinct might be to deploy a fit-for-purpose platform. However, if you’re in the early stages and gauging your audiences’ appetite or aren’t ready to invest in a full-fledged community platform, consider leveraging your virtual event platform instead.
How is the events industry defining community?
A virtual event community isn’t just a shared online space – it’s first and foremost about that underlying sense of purpose or fellowship that connects a group.
The virtual event platform is where those ongoing education and engagement experiences occur – the digital “home.” And with virtual event platforms accessible 24/7, your audience can connect year-round.
In the book, “Reinventing Live: The Always-On Future of Events”, Marco Giberti and Denzil Rankine explain: “If event organizers think like community catalysts and not food, beverage, and logistics operators, or high-powered sales machines, they can orchestrate continuous, creative, and connected experiences every day of the year.”
Why do event organizers want to build a community around an event?
There are numerous benefits to using your virtual event platform to create a community:
- Continuous engagement: Your audience has a dedicated space to continue engagement beyond an event’s traditional time and space confines.
- Global accessibility: Even before travel restrictions existed, most events had limited reach. A virtual event community makes it easier to reach wider audiences.
- Reinforce education and learning: Leverage a dedicated learning virtual community hub to repurpose and share content from your primary events.
- Ongoing brand building: Your organization – including its mission and purpose – stay top-of-mind all year long.
- Budget-friendly for both organizers and attendees.
- Flexibility. Even as events return to pre-pandemic status, an established virtual community can keep continuity during future public health, climate, or political climate disruptions.
What does it take to build a community with your virtual events platform?
When it comes to beginning to build a community, it starts with:
1. Clearly define the goal or purpose of the group
Your audience has many options to choose from, including casual Facebook or LinkedIn social media groups, professional associations or industry affiliations, networking groups, and more.
Establish a clear vision for your community of “what’s in it for me?”. Aside from defining the overall purpose, set expectations around frequency too – how often there will be participation opportunities, what kinds of content will be available, and ways to engage.
2. Identify potential community members
Explore and leverage your existing foundation, including:
- Your audience database – those who have attended in the past, those who are prospects, members if applicable, and even past sponsors or exhibitors
- Your social followers – there may or may not be an overlap with your database
- Your existing content library – content from past events, including webinars and conference sessions
- Strategic partners and affiliates – subject matter experts, industry thought leaders and others who align with your audiences’ goals and interests
3. Create your community home
Your community needs a central digital place to learn, network, engage and connect. This is where your virtual event platform can be an advantage in building your community. Your audience may already have the learning curve and experience using existing technology that provides familiarity and can increase community participation.
You’ll also want to structure the central hub to accommodate participants’ preferences. For example, does your group like to participate in polls and quizzes? Do corporate restrictions or firewalls make downloading dedicated community apps a challenge? Is it essential to use the same technology in digital and in-person event formats? Depending on the answers, a platform that can be accessed from any browser or device without additional software installs, like ConnexMe, may be the best foundation for your community home.
4. Develop your year-round engagement plan
Building a community is a marathon, not a sprint. Just because a framework is set doesn’t mean members will flock to it. It takes a long-term plan of ongoing content, encouragement, and engagement to establish, nurture and grow your group.
From regularly sharing content, asking questions to solicit input and feedback, creating networking opportunities, and more, establish a regular cadence of community engagement opportunities.
For example, if your virtual event platform includes these features, integrate them to increase engagement:
- Q&A and polls
- Contests and quizzes
- Games or trivia
- Networking groups, organized around industry topic discussions, job roles, or ask me anything (AMA) sessions with subject matter experts
5. Designate a community manager
You can’t build a community without a leader – a community manager.
Hubspot defines a community manager as a “liaison between an organization and its audience. They act as the voice, tone, and moderator of the brand through community support, content distribution, and digital engagement to build brand presence and trust, both online and in-person.”
Successful community managers often are:
- Strong communicators who are empathetic
- Flexible and adaptable
- PR and social media savvy
- Content creators
- Well-versed in your company or organization
- Especially in the beginning, the community manager encourages participation, facilitates interactions, and makes connections.
6. Evaluate performance against goals
While it may be tempting to gauge the success of your community-building efforts simply by the number of members, other metrics matter more, especially if your goals are engagement and retention.
Regularly review metrics, including:
- New members in the past month
- Active versus inactive members
- Average community session length
- Content engagement: what type of posts (articles, questions, discussions) spark discussion and engagement?
- Activity participation: what questions, quizzes, or polls receive the most responses?
- Coming out of the pandemic, we’ve seen how virtual event platforms empower attendees to stay connected, even without face-to-face meetings.
When leveraging your virtual event platform to create a community, success can be found in establishing a clear purpose and mission, creating a community hub and a year-round engagement plan, and designating a community manager.