For companies and membership organizations that are planning to build a branded online community to increase sales, improve customer satisfaction, and better control support costs, this recent video from Inc.com has some great tips. However, many deserve explanation to be truly valuable to a business to business (B2B) or membership marketer.
These tips for creating an online community for your business or nonprofit include:
- Engage and create dialog regularly by asking questions and responding the community members. This is important, but I wouldn't put it first. Nobody will be in your community to respond to the discussions that you initiate unless you give them a reason to come to the community in the first place (see my point about content below).
- Show you are listening by asking for feedback and acting on it. You only have a small window to show your customers that your online community is worth their time. If you ignore this tip, you not only risk your online customer community failing, but serious brand damage as well.
- Only bring people into your community who will engage at a high level. I don't agree with this point completely. All customers or members don't engage in the same way. It is important to know your audience and segment your community according to their demographic and behavioral profiles, so that you create an engagement platform that best serves your customers and your business goals.
Most business social networking software provides different ways to engage distinct customer personas. Example: Less tech savvy or very busy customers might want to participate in the community through their email inbox using the integrated listservs, while younger customers might want to connect to the community using your online community's mobile app.
- Create calls to action that lead to more engagement with your brand and in the community. This is an excellent point. In your content, responses, and community email messages, you have an opportunity to steer the actions of online community members toward tools, events, and information that will both benefit them and your organization.
Some of the most important parts of building an online community were not touched upon by the host, but were highlighted in the short clip from Ben Huh, CEO of humor website, Cheezburger Network. Ben talked about the following:
Give Customers or Members a Reason to Come To Your Community
It is your responsibility to get your audience to come back to your online community daily. When Higher Logic sets up a company's online community, we call this compelling reason to return to the community, "The Reason Why." Organizations need to develop a solid reason why their customers or members will return to their community daily. Otherwise, the platform will wither on the vine.
The Importance of an Online Community Content Plan
The second key tip was only touched upon, though its importance can't be understated. That is the role of content. In cultivating your community and making it someplace your customers will visit often, your company will need to develop an online community content plan to pump insightful and often exclusive content into your community almost daily in the form of blog posts and articles, video, and files. Give your community something to discuss.
For companies and associations planning an online community, it is the helpful content that is going to establish the behavior of making a visit to your online community part of your customers' or members' daily routine. However, over time, it is the relationships, discussions, and social networking that will keep them engaged.