Ok, here’s the question: what do member retention, organizational growth and your website all have in common?
Answer: community (that is, if you have one).
Online communities aren’t just for enormous, multinational companies -- small organizations need them, too, just as much as the behemoths do. They’re an incredibly important part of growing a business, retaining members, removing technological challenges and understanding what your members really want and need.
How do communities make sense for small organizations, where every decision -- big or small -- can make a huge difference in your bottom line?
If you can’t easily be found online, you may as well not even exist -- 90% of people never go past the first page of a Google search. Having your website land up front is key to your growth and brand recognition. That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is so important. And a big part of creating good SEO is having abundant, ever changing and evolving content for search engines to pick up.
That’s where your community comes in.
Online communities allow you to crowdsource your members ideas and lean on them to boost your SEO -- bringing in more people from organic searches. When you create a vibrant community culture, members will be inside your community every day, building your knowledge base, helping your organization’s searchability.
One aspect of SEO you need to keep in mind is this -- prospective members can’t find your community if it’s closed behind a member login. No, your entire community doesn’t need to be open for all to see. Even opening up a few active discussion threads can help boost your search results.
To create an active environment, community engagement revolves around your members’ needs and wants. But it shouldn’t only include their voices. Empower your entire team to be part of your organization’s online presence. If they’re in your community every day, they’ll have a better perspective on what your members think, and members will have a closer, more personal relationship with your organization. True, community is an enormous member benefit, but it should also be seen as an incredible tool for gaining important insight on what it’s like to be a member.
Technology can be a constant struggle when you’re a new or small organization. It is expensive, complicated and difficult to integrate every tool you use with each other. How are you supposed to grow if you continually come across technical challenges?
Depending on what platform you choose, you can combine your website with your community, making it a two-in-one option that works seamlessly. Rather than maintaining two sites, learning two processes, and working with two different support systems, your team only needs to keep track of one thing.
Plus, you can connect other tools, like your AMS, to your single community/website platform -- no more technological hiccups or inconsistent data. This gives your growing organization the power to design and manage a fully responsive website -- through a streamlined process -- without worrying if you dropped the ball somewhere along the way.
When you combine your community with your website, you’re able to grow your organization more easily by removing technical challenges and making each tool in your technical tool belt work together.
Increasing your member base is about recruitment -- you can’t grow if you can’t add -- but a huge aspect is also retention. Otherwise you’re just filling a leaky bucket. And community helps you stop that leak.
Not only do online communities help bring in new people, through increased SEO and trust building transparency, but they help make sure that you keep the awesome members you already have. When you engage your members through community and they begin forming strong relationships with each other and your organization, community becomes a big part of why they’re loyal to you. Their membership is about more than what your organization has to offer -- it becomes about the community and support system surrounding your organization.
Why is that? Each community is unique -- the culture, feel, discussions and members can’t be replicated. Your competitor may look similar to you, but they’ll never have the same community. And that’s a strong reason for many members to stay loyal -- or to join you in the first place.
As your members and team build your community footprint, they build bonds with each other, making community just that -- a real community.