We're really excited that one of our favorite online publications, CMSWire, has been writing more frequently about the online customer community movement that is becoming central to so many business strategies.
In a recent article, Marisa Peacock lays out 6 elements of successful online communities. The piece includes a great infographic that highlights these building blocks.
According the post, the main elements of successful online communities are:
How can you match the community-based customer experience to the rest of your brand? It is important that the positioning of your online community, as well as the content and interactions that your customers or members find there, match what you want your organization to be known for in the minds of your target audiences.
What should you be measuring to tell you how to manage your online community? It is not enough to have metrics. You must take pains to ensure you are measuring the right things. Data-driven community management is at the center of successful online customer or member communities.
Can your target audience trust you to provide the value that they want from your online community? This may include disarming honesty, leaving your sales hat at the door, or access to the straight story from executives.
Which activities in the community would make it a success? All activity in your online community does not carry the same weight. Different actions hold different meaning related to your organization's goals and the health of the community. Identify and foster the behaviors that are most beneficial to the long-term value of the online community.
How is the online community going to benefit your organization, as well as your customers or members? Your private online community should be aligned with the most important problems of your customer base and your organization.
Does participation in your online community involve two-way discussions? While "lurker" can find value in browsing the online community anonymously, it is the discussions and contributions that will lead to increased engagement and value.
BONUS: 7th Characteristic of Successful Online Communities
When I talk to social business and member engagement professionals about content that they have produced, they often ask if they have missed something. I believe that they are honestly looking for feedback and to engage in a social dialog that builds upon their ideas.
In this case, the list is not missing something. However, there are important elements that must be highlighted. It is hard to capture and explain all of the characteristics of a successful online community in one blog post or infographic. Entire books are published on the topic each month.
If asked, I'd want this list to include a point about the systems needed to bring people back to the online community. Having an online community that provides measurable value, conversations, transparency, and engagement is wonderful. However, these elements can be no match for the attention spans of busy customers or members.
Use the email engine built into your online community software to set up automated and manual emails that provide relevant information to different customer or member segments to bring them back to the community and highlight engagement opportunities that pertain to them.
In your experience, how does this list stack up? Which is the most important characteristic? Did the list miss anything? Add your thoughts in the comments below.