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Why 2015 Will Be the Year of the Private Online Community

Written by Hunter Montgomery | on February 23, 2015 at 4:31 PM

At Higher Logic, we've always believed that the key to engaging members, customers and constituents is through building a private community over which your organization has control, rather than building that community on a public social media site. But because of the popularity of sites like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn - and the fact that those platforms are free (although the time your staff spends managing them is not) - many organizations think that member engagement efforts are better spent on those free social channels than on an owned community or collaboration platform.

However, Forrester Research recently published a report that echoes what we can't stop talking about - owned communities are where it's at when it comes to engaging members, converting prospects to customers, building customer loyalty and driving brand reach.

It's not to say that sites like Facebook and Twitter aren't valuable and don't have a place in your organization's communication strategy. But the Forrester report reveals that engagement on public social sites is very low, and organizations need to shift focus and stop making Facebook the center of their relationship marketing efforts. The report found posts from top brands on Twitter and Facebook reach just two percent of followers, and engagement is even lower: a mere 0.07 percent. And those are brands spending considerable money with staff devoted to social media management; for organizations without those resources, reach and engagement are even lower.

Both Facebook and Twitter have become more about paid media than social media, and even organizations that previously drove decent results on those platforms are finding it harder and harder to reach audiences at all, let alone drive engagement and tangible results.

If Facebook and Twitter are proving to be less valuable, where should organizations be spending time and effort driving member and customer engagement? According to Forrester, branded communities are going to be 'the next big thing' in 2015. A recent Forrester survey shows U.S. "online adults" who want to stay in touch with organizations are almost three times as likely to visit a site as to engage on Facebook.

Adding a community where they can engage with each other and stay on top of what's new at the organization is the best way to engage members, convert prospects, and build customer loyalty and lifetime value. Hundreds of Higher Logic clients can attest to this - just check out our case studies of real organizations driving real value from collaboration platforms.

You can see community in action in our latest video, too - check it out.

Think about the time and effort your staff are spending trying to engage members and prospects on social channels, and how much value you're seeing in return. Not meeting your expectations? Then maybe it's time to consider a private online community, or to redouble your efforts on making your existing private community a place your members and prospects can't do without.

Original research explains the impact online communities have on businesses.

Topics: Online Community Management, Social Media, Customer Communities, Member Communities

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