Building Online Communities: 4 Key Elements

Head of the Class

Richard Millington writes about the elements that are crucial in building online communities. He maintains that if you can identify and isolate the elements in successful communities, you can apply them to develop others successfully.

Implementing the following factors will enable the strength of the online community to rapidly improve.

Strong membership
Integration of needs
Shared emotional connection


Tight Boundaries help the feeling of membership. A community for the world’s top physicists will be far stronger than a community for physicists. Consider which skills, knowledge, interests, experiences or assets are most necessary to be accepted.

Emotional safety. Invite members to talk about their most difficult issues, and initiate discussions related to the geekiest and most emotional topics.

Common symbol systems. Identify the words, images and ideas that have unique meaning to specific members, and use them.


A big mistake of branded communities is they don’t offer members enough influence. Members are attracted to communities they feel they can influence. These are a few things you can do to encourage this.

Provide opportunities. Members are attracted to groups they feel they can influence, so give them opportunities to do just that. Call for opinions frequently, have a be more involved tab and recruit volunteers.

Feature contributions. If a member makes a great contribution, mention it prominently and encourage responses.

Write about your members. Discuss what members are doing and talk about their milestones.

Integration and Fulfillment of Needs

What needs does your community satisfy? If you’re solely relying on information, your community won’t achieve its potential. Some key factors include;

Being an accepted member. This should be a status symbol that members can embrace, raising the profile of the community outside of the platform - featuring it in media will raise its platform gaining more members.

Retaining talented and knowledgeable members will attract those who want to be in a community with the best and brightest. Being accepted should be a status symbol that members can embrace, raising the group’s profile outside of the platform.

Shared Emotional Connection

Perhaps the hardest and most important element of all.

Information is not enough to build community. Regular meaningful contact between members is key. Introducing and highlighting bonding-related discussions will improve their quality. Ensure members have plenty of experiences and encourage them to share.

According to Richard, by introducing these relatively simple elements into your community, you should in turn, considerably strengthen it.