Online communities can be great ways to build up a feeling of belonging among your customers. They are also effective marketing machines. We take a look at why they are worth creating.
What is an online community?
With regard to brands, an online community is similar to a social media online community (like one on LinkedIn for example), but different at the same time. With a social media community, you have a number of areas that can be seen as disadvantageous. For example, building an online community on Linkedin automatically means that you are giving up the data of your leads and customers, because LinkedIn owns the data it creates. Also, it is important to remember that a person using an online community will be much more invested in the engagement the community provides. Let’s dig a little deeper into how these communities benefit brands.
The benefits of an online community fall into the following areas:
- Make real connections
- Improve your customer experience to stand out from the competition
- Recruit new members by generating leads
- By gathering and addressing feedback, you will be able to make better products and programs
- Increase the efficiency of support by crowdsourcing
- Increasing revenue through in-community advertising and more
- Your advocates can drive referrals by speaking out in the community
- Your business will grow
- Let’s look at some of these in a little more detail.
By creating communities, organisations can connect customers with real people. Those with questions can tag fellow members in a discussion or ask questions in the community. However, perhaps the most critical aspect of their experience is the feeling of belonging.
Google indexes the content generated by communities that have public sections through discussion forums, articles, and updates. In search results, your community will appear when prospects look for solutions. Having a more active community makes the community more searchable, more relevant, and boosts branding and leads.
A better customer experience
Your online member community or customer community can stand out from the competition, offer real-time answers to questions and delight your customers, or simply be a channel to develop products based on your customers’ needs.
Advocates and referrals
Your advocates are nurtured and acknowledged when you have an online community ambassador program. You might consider using ribbons, badges, or gamification to show off each advocate’s contributions, for example.
As well as their peers, other users, and prospects in the community at large, encourage your advocates to connect. Experts in your products can spur conversations, answer questions, and help users find the best solutions to their problems – all building customer loyalty and motivating them to sell you more products.
What great branded online communities look like
It is easy to make mistakes here. Hiring a specialist to create an attractive online community is one thing, but ensuring it runs well and helps you reach your business goals is another.
Make it worth their while
Imagine your community as being for a specific group of people with a specific mission. People using a specific tool or product might form a community so they can learn, educate, and network with others who use the same thing. For example, if you build an online community for your local running club, it might be used to connect, plan events for the group and advocate for runner safety. In any community, interactions should be simple, secure, and intuitive.
Be open and multi-faceted
Your community has the potential to deliver value far beyond expectations when you take down the traditional one-way information exchange and open up communication. Investing time in engaging people and engaging them in meaningful interactions inspires engagement and meaningful connections.
Have a clear and shared purpose
While your organisation may have a broader goal in mind for your community, like increased revenue, you must always keep the basics in mind. The communities we create are for people who are looking to connect and learn. Don’t forget that.
Have strong moderation
This doesn’t mean being a dragon about it. The most important part of becoming a good online community moderator is finding the right balance between directing conversation to maintain order, contributing to keep it relevant, and giving members, employees, or customers enough freedom to express themselves.
Having guidelines helps build a sense of safety and security in the community, as well as benefiting every member. Members should feel at home sharing their knowledge and opinions without feeling stifled.
So what does it all mean?
You can create and build an online community for two fundamental reasons. The first is to make a place where your own employees can meet and share ideas. That obviously helps your brand in a myriad of ways.
Secondly, you can use it as a marketing and customer retention machine. Having a place where customers can come and share tips on your products and gain loyalty points or rewards at same time we’ll just build more loyalty. Loyalty leads to referrals.
Essentially the whole idea of an online community revolves around the idea of having a constant, effective marketing machine, with people sharing reviews, talking about your product or service, and generally feeling like a tribe. If you can set one up, it is well worth thinking about, and a great way to drive customer loyalty even further.