If you help companies develop social strategies or manage online communities, you have heard this before.
"Our audience won't engage in an online customer community because they do not use social networks."We see this in both the for-profit and association worlds.
However, we know by now that online customer communities are not about social networking. They are about bringing together your customers, employees, and partners to help your customers become more successful with your products or services. This can be a very social endeavor or more of a traditional online experience.
How Can Your Company Engage Less Tech Savvy Customers Online?
Here are 8 ways that non-social customers can participate in your online community:
#1) Weekly Email Summaries
Many less tech savvy customers or members are much more comfortable using their email inbox than they are navigating your private social network. Send segmented email summaries featuring the most popular information in your community. Link each feature to each item's exact location in the online community.
#2) Offline Events
Host offline networking events where customers or members that are hesitant to be social online can develop a comfort level with the community and meet "people like them."
#3) Listserv Discussions
Many customer or members are more comfortable participating in your online community from their email inbox. By using an online community platform with a listserv integrated into the online community's forums, less technical members can add to the discussion simply by responding to emails.
#4) Automatic Subscriptions
When the online community is launched or after a member joins, community managers can pre-set subscriptions to important or highly-trafficked discussion forums (and listservs). Tips: Tread lightly and be sure not to overwhelm (read: spam) customers. Also, make sure customers know how to change their subscriptions.
#5) Videos, Blog Posts, & Downloadable Documents
It may be the idea of a social network that is the roadblock, while the less-experienced customers or members are perfectly comfortable with the content. Highlight (and link directly to) files, articles, and videos in the community so that there isn't any confusion about the value within the site and how to access it.
Hold online and in-person training geared toward less social customers and members. This will go a long way toward making it clear that your organization values them and will invest in helping them get the most out of the online community.
#7) How-To Blogs
Create a 'how-to' blog in your online community featuring monthly posts on how to use a specific feature of the online community.Be sure to highlight the blog in your email newsletters and other communications.
#8) Featured Members
Prominently feature a member in the community every week or two. Detail how they use the community to help them in their lives and jobs. Provided that your private social networking software has the capability, you can also highlight a summary of their recent activity (e.g. Jane Jones posted a new file in New Product Idea Group).
Follow some of these tips and you'll have your less tech savvy customers and members commenting on articles, leading discussions, and asking for more functionality in no time.
Though private social networks are touted as the future of customer management, the experience of less technical customers or members does not have to be intimidating. Flexible online community software is geared toward keeping customers and member at all comfort levels engaged and getting value from your online community.