You online customer community is a lot more exciting to you than it is to your customers or members.
Very few people in your target audience are looking to join an online community or private social network. They don't have the time, mindshare, or grasp of the benefits to join just because you offer a private online community.
Think about your other marketing activities.
For instance, when I am marketing Socious online community software, I rarely discuss how great online community software is and how companies and membership organizations really need to create private online customer communities. People just don't have time for one more thing.
They want help solving problems, advice for their jobs, and ways to meet their goals. So, I write about using online community software to increase sales, boost customer retention, and create more profitable products. These are issues that people care about.
In the same way that my target audience is not moved to action by software, most of your customers or members are not inspired by the idea another social community.
By urging customers or members to "join your online community," your organization may be leaving significant opportunity for growth on the table.
In a recent appearance on Socious' web show, ProCommunity, online community management guru, Richard Millington, offered screenfuls of tips for improving the ROI of your private social community. During the discussion, he highlighted the most important factor in getting people to join your organization's online community.
It is just that simple. Use your email, blog, and public social networking channels to promote the information and activity in your community that would be helpful to your target audience. Rather than marketing your private online community to your customer or members, promote the relevant information they can find in your online community:
Get skilled at creating teasers. The idea is not to give away the farm on these channels, but to drive people back to your online community to get the full value of the content or discussions.
Growth Takes Investment. Keep in mind that this tip in not a silver bullet solution. It takes a deeper commitment to online community management, content production, and listening than many organizations have in place today.
It's an Easy Sell. This approach can significantly grow adoption and the number of return visitors to your online community. It combines powerful content marketing techniques with the fact that your customers or members usually get access to the "end product" (the content and community) at no cost. This makes the conversation from non-member to community member very smooth.
Marketing your organization's private social network to customers or members is a critical step in the online community's lifecycle. Increase your new member conversion rate by highlighting the useful, actionable, and educational things that are going on in your community, rather than just promoting the online community itself. It is the single biggest thing you can do to move people from aware of your social community to members of your community.