Communities Gone Virtual – What We Can Learn from Reality TV
By Lauren Rice, Associate Creative Director/Strategist, InVision Communications
Virtual communities are not new. And today, virtual communities are one of the only safe ways we can connect with each other. Which is why it’s more important than ever that we integrate online communities in digital events. It’s a touchpoint for attendees that exists well beyond an event once they close that browser window. Fortunately, it’s much simpler than we think, and we are likely already doing it in our personal lives.
Virtual communities occur in unexpected places. I discovered mine while listening to a weekly podcast that discussed The Real Housewives reality shows. As a spin-off, a group of its committed listeners started a Facebook group to dive even deeper on topics that not even the podcast cared to touch on. My fandom for reality TV had found its match. Long after programming ended, this community marched on as we created new memes of past episodes, shared news, and stories of both the real world and The Real World as we expanded our discussions to even more media.
Reality TV watchers aren’t the only ones discovering how virtual communities can extend their experience beyond the show. Throughout the 16-week NFL regular season, over 45 million people play in games of their own, participating in fantasy football and watching as their rosters rack up points against competing fantasy team managers. Fantasy football has become so essential to the NFL experience, and lucrative to the NFL’s bottom line, that whole media entities are now dedicated to it.
Virtual communities continue the experience long after the episode airs, the whistle blows, or an event comes to an end. With our industry moving to digital, we stand to benefit from the longevity in interactions and connectivity that digital offers. So how can brands foster virtual communities that will live long past a digital event? Read on for some best practices:
Define your community
Before creating a community, think about why this community exists and the value it will bring members. Why would they want to join? What do you think they will want to learn or see? And lastly, how do we keep the community going after the event and keep members engaged?
Now that you’ve identified the purpose of your virtual community, how do you get attendees to know that it exists? Promote it throughout digital event content and communications (pre, during and post). Have an executive give a shout-out during big keynotes. Encourage attendees to join as a call-to-action in pre or post-event emails.
You can also recruit attendees in more personal ways. Dig through data from your digital event. Take a look at live chats and networking lounges or search through social feeds using the event hashtag. Find attendees who are currently engaged. Extend a personal invitation to those not yet a member. For existing members, recommend them for more official roles, like moderators or admins, or consider them as influencers in future campaigns.
Keep the conversation going
There’s only so much that can be discussed and answered during a digital event. And unlike a live event where attendees could approach speakers with more questions after a presentation, a digital event doesn’t create the space for those spontaneous conversations. Instead, use your virtual community as the place for speakers to continue answering questions and sparking conversations with your attendees.
One of the main reasons people attend a live conference is to network. While digital events make it slightly more challenging, your virtual community is the perfect place to connect people with other like-minded individuals craving for that interaction. And since the community is online, networking with others can live well beyond the event.
Make it a can’t-miss experience
Find ways to make your community the talk of the digital event. A little feeling of exclusivity may even garner more attention. It could be an exclusive masterclass with the event’s guest speaker or a fireside chat with an executive who answers community members’ questions—or maybe it’s the place to go to watch the big name entertainment. If your community has that something special, attendees will be drawn to it like a moth to a flame.
Remember, as long as you keep your virtual community relevant, purposeful, and active, your members will stay long after your event is over. Looking for ways to spark your brand’s virtual community? We can help: firstname.lastname@example.org