How to Build an Engaging Online Community

Building a community has been one of the most rewarding things I've ever done.

It has helped me to make friends, create a positive impact, and grow my career.

My in-person version of Codú has been running since 2019, and it wasn't until COVID that I tried to keep some of that momentum by doing online events and hosting an online community.

This has led to over a thousand developers in a Discord group, ten thousand subscribers, and many followers on different socials.

Before Covid, I had pretty much zero online presence.

In an upcoming article, I'll write about hosting real-world events, but for today, let's talk about how to build an online community.

I've made plenty of fuck ups, and I've been trying recently to record what efforts have been running well while hosting online so that I can hopefully scale up.

So here are my thoughts on what I think is working:

Tips on building an online Community

Create Clear Goals and Objectives

Before building your community, it's essential to have clear goals and objectives in mind.

I'm trying to build a Coderdojo for adults since I know when I started coding, making friends and upskilling with like-minded folks was challenging, too.

What do you want the purpose of your community to be?

Are you looking for people to discuss specific topics or products?

Do you want people to collaborate on projects?

Knowing your goals will help guide your online community's direction so that it is successful.

Engage With Your Community

I see a lot of people fail here.

Engage with its members regularly!

This could mean participating in conversations, responding to comments, answering questions, or creating polls or surveys.

Doing this will show that you are invested in the community's success and allow members to feel heard.

Encourage Interaction

This is the most difficult and time-consuming part, but it is what will help you create strong relationships.

I've recently been trying a new format to get people talking, so here are some things I've been doing to make people feel heard.

Once a week, I usually try to welcome new members with a direct message:

It's great to have you in our Discord! Let me know if I can ever help with anything. What made you join us? Is there anything specific you want to get from joining the community? I'm researching to improve the server and ensure people get the most value from the community.

And then, to get some conversation flowing, I've started a Monday and Thursday check-in.

Here's an example of my Monday check-in (or "standup," as I've been calling it, thanks to a comment or the format in the Discord (cheers, Dan!).

Good morning @everyone! It is the Monday morning standup time!

  1. How was your weekend?
  2. Share your pictures if you took any!
  3. What's your plan for the week ahead?

So this might get stale, and maybe you want something else?

Asking some direct random questions can often prompt some chatter. This can be hard to think up on the fly, so I have a backlog of questions I hope to get people talking.

Here are some examples that I have on my list that I will try out soon:

  • If you could have free meals for life at one fast food chain, which one would you choose?
  • If money were no object, what would you do?
  • Did you start coding for passion or money?
  • What is one hobby you would like to try?
  • What is your greatest new discovery? It can be an app, TV Show, book, or whatever.

Over time, you will have your own members' prompt conversation, but it cannot be guaranteed, so the best advice I got was from Matt from Frontend Mentor (who has over 20,000 members at the moment): to "be the member you want to have."

It's been the most solid advice ever because the more you behave in a manner you are hoping for, the more you will get these interactions.

Building an engaging online community takes time and effort, but it has enormous potential for growth and success when done right!

By setting clear goals, engaging with members regularly, and encouraging interaction, you will have a thriving online space for your community.

With dedication and patience, anyone can create an amazing and unique online community!

Avatar for Niall Maher

Written by Niall Maher

Founder of Codú - The web developer community! I've worked in nearly every corner of technology businesses; Lead Developer, Software Architect, Product Manager, CTO and now happily a Founder.


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