• Tan Elise

Best practices in Building online communities


I've been invited to speak at a few events to share about community building so here's this living blog post to share my thoughts.


Successful Community building isn't rocket science


Humans love to meet like minded people, connect with and learn from each other

In fact, if you are an entrepreneur, building a community is very much like building a company. It's about solving a pain point and then rounding up the "customers" who experience those pain points and continuously engaging them and providing them with value that solves their pain point.


Staying true to your Passion and being authentic is super important as that will help you to stay committed to building and maintaining the community even when the going gets tough.


Framework 1: Why, What, Who, Where, How


Having been engineer- trained, as well as a graduate of the INSEAD MBA program, I love frameworks. It is also much easier for my readers to crystallise the key takeways and implement them. I will be sharing two frameworks in this post.


To build a successful community, first start with Why.


  • Why

  • It is important to understand why you are setting up the community.

  • What's the purpose of the community? What kind of problems are you trying to solve?

  • For example, at MFH, we are bringing like-minded people together across a fragmented startup ecosystem across Southeast Asia and India

  • Is there another community that's serving the same purpose as yours? If so, why do you need to set up a separate one?


  • What

  • What is your passion and motivation?

  • When you are fuelled by your passion, things will naturally flow. You become a magnet for others to reach out to you.

  • Would that passion be enough to 'power' you to build and maintain the community for a few years? Note that building a community is like having a second job.

  • What's your schedule like? How would commitment look like to make sure your community stays active?


  • Who

  • Who are you targeting?

  • How are they solving the problem now? Where do they go to?

  • For example, our MFH community would go to tech blogs like e27 or techinasia to look up who the investors and founders are and try to reach out to them via cold linkedin messages or emails.

  • How will your community solve this problem?

  • What needs to be done to help them network better and more easily connect with each other? Organising regular event could be one of the solutions.


  • Where

  • Where are you going to engage your community members? Where would they most easily interact with each other and connect?

  • Is it whatsapp, slack, linkedin group, facebook group? Each of these platforms present different kinds of audience and pros and cons.

  • For example, we find that Linkedin is very effective in reaching out to people who are interested in support Mentor For Hope and Makan For Hope. Hence, our marketing tactics for our events are very Linkedin focused.

  • But for the day to day communications, we find using Whatsapp group for our mentors and slack for our founders most effective.


The How


Framework 2: Awareness --> Interest--> Conversion and Activation --> Retention and Advocacy


  • To grow the community, you will need to create Awareness.

  • Events are usually helpful, you may organise native events or partner with relevant partners. During this events, you are also cultivating the interest.

  • After the event, always follow up with call-to-action, like join the slack community so that you can convert them.

  • Thought leadership Articles -- this helps others to discover your community

  • Go to where the potential members are already hanging out online -- then reach them with content like articles


  • Activation

  • I find regular email newsletter and posts on social media and the chatapp communities extremely useful to keep the community active.

  • Out of sight, out of mind -- you will need to commit the time to share relevant content regularly.


  • Retention and Advocacy

  • To retain users, the method is similar to converting them to members. The key is Engage, engage, engage. It can be done through conducting polls, sharing useful content like resources, events, webinars, social media, newsletter and so on.

  • To convert people into advocates, it involve a few steps

  • Firstly, identify potential advocates. These are people who are active in your community, who have been sharing useful content in your community.

  • Recognize and empower them -- call them "ambassador" for example

  • Empower them by giving them authority, for example to 'broadcast messages to the channel' on slack, or organise regular meetings to hear their feedback, allow them to run community events and so on.

  • Reward them -- by showcasing them and what they do on your social media or newsletter

  • This will encourage them to repeat their 'behavior'


Parting words:

  • Start with adding value and follow your heart ❤️

One of the most inspirational communities I have seen is the Asian Hustle Network on facebook. The founders wanted to shine the light on asian small business owners and help them more quickly spread the word about their product or service and this really helps with the network effects and the exponential growth of the community.


Most community builders resonate with this: Helping one and another to become better versions of ourselves. Do make sure your community stay true to this.


  • Your vibes attract your Tribe

Recognize that all of us are unique, our interests and passions, obsession, by embracing our unique self and bringing that to our community, our vibes will attract our tribe (likeminded individuals).

  • You will attract people with similar energy, empower them to be your community leaders

By investing your time and energy, you will attract similar people and they are your best supporters. Do empower them and allow them to lead community building efforts. As your community expands, it is important to decentralise your community work.

  • It is not about the number but the reach and engagement

Siu Rui Quek, cofounder and CEO of Carousell shared this during our Makan For Hope Festival that it is better to have 100 people who love you, than thousands who are following you on social media. It is so true. These 100 people also have their networks and by empowering them and continuing to stay true to the purpose of your community, you will bring much more value to your members.


  • Care deeply, your members can sense care

Siu Rui also shares this. When you care and love deeply, your actions will naturally flow and this is how your members will sense it. Humans respond to love and care and that pretty powers everything in the world isn't it? :)


Recently we, at makanforhope.org, organised a MFH Webinar on Building communities and here's the link for you to watch:


Join our community:



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