Today, more and more organizations are looking to build an online community to help their customers learn, share and collaborate with each other, which in turn can foster growth and relevance in their respective industries.
Communities are built to listen to what people want and let them drive the evolution of what it is. The idea is to listen to what they are looking for and provide them the tools they need and facilitate the change. Listening is the best thing you can do. Organizations often create online communities as a way to bring people together around a shared common purpose for expansive online collaboration and growth.
The Benefits Of Establishing An Online Community
Unlike 20 years ago, where resources were not as accessible and well-developed, an online community establishment in this day and age allows people to navigate through challenging decisions, analyze what is the best platform and best tool, and/or simply analyze how to integrate A with B. It allows for ease of access to a limitless world to connect and exchange knowledge with like-minded people. Other benefits include the following:
- It is not uncommon for people to grab their phone and do a quick Google or YouTube search to seek answers to their questions about professional services. The internet has become the source, but there is such a plethora of information available and the formats it takes in the ways to access it.
- Having an online community eliminates the need of spending hours doing a Google search on a topic that has more than likely been addressed in a community thread. Or better yet, you can receive the answer directly from a member of a particular community. An online community brings people together and provides users with a quick and easy way to navigate and find a resolution to a problem.
- Communities come with a support system. This support may come in the form of an employee providing guidance and feedback or from other users. Either way, one can get the help they are looking for. Today, a lot of people have unanswered questions they run across. In business application models such as this, online communities aim to give users a one-stop-shop for answers for day-to-day challenges with subject-matter experts who provide trusted resources.
- An online ecosystem provides a platform where people are able to exchange information, giving everyone who participates a voice. Participation from the members is what will help foster and grow the organization, and encouraging participation among the community will help the organization strengthen its reputation and credibility.
Despite the number of benefits online communities have to offer, there are still barriers that prevent some organizations from diving into the online community trend. Three common obstacles can be:
- Some corporations carefully monitor their employees’ internet access, which hinders employees from accessing online communities. However, many of these policies are likely changing as more and more companies adapt to the “new normal” and have allowed their employees to work and communicate remotely.
- Constraining employees with firewalls and limiting corporate network access will only result in employees using their own laptops and a cellular signal to participate in an online community. These employees will still be a part of the community but with rather difficult restrictions from their corporate environment. Limiting employee access only limits the possibilities and opportunities for growth.
- Another factor is the fear of compromising privacy and security by engaging in online communities. Like most online websites, security is very important. Whatever you are doing today, whether it is being involved in a community or checking your savings account online, security is everything.
Overcoming Barriers And Successfully Running An Online Community
An online community has three main components:
- The software technical element that is made up of code quality and great architecture: Having a strong, secure and well-developed platform that allows for dynamic changes is crucial to avoid any difficulties or changes that can emerge later on. Being able to electronically navigate smoothly while avoiding any cyberthreats should be a top priority.
- The educational component. The education of the end-users is vital as phishing is becoming a very common act. To ensure users are aware and understand the threats they may encounter, constantly teaching and being up to date on issues in the online world will have to take place, such as informing users on what they should and should not respond to and where they should and should not go to with regard to URLs.
- The physical layer, the location access and identification. How do you control mobile devices? Seeking mobile device management is an effective and efficient method. If you have people accessing corporate information over their phones, then you need to make sure those devices are clean when those employees are no longer part of the corporation. It is just a reach to expect that they will clean those devices on their own. Utilizing mobile device management gives you the ability to gain control and be able to delete and restore those devices when it is appropriate, and this resolves the worry of secure data being at risk.
Online communities are more important than ever given the Covid-19 epidemic, which has forced companies to switch to a work-from-home culture. Attending conferences and networking events is no longer feasible, so creating an online community serves as a perfect alternative. As the world of organizations continues to shift, more companies will adapt to a WFH policy and require the establishment of a community where members can collaborate, network and continue to learn from each other.
The key to a successful online community is engagement through a distinctive and beneficial user experience that allows every member to create, function and innovate. An online community is about creating meaningful relationships that are nurtured with feedback, thoughts and engagement among customers or members. This translates into greater brand loyalty and better long-term relationships, as well as opportunities for the entire community.
Source: Forbes – (Steve Richmond – Founder and CEO of Projetech, Inc.)