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It's Not All About You: Is Company-Centric Communication Hurting Your Online Community Engagement?

Written by Katie Bapple | on November 6, 2014 at 8:55 AM

How to Communicate with Online Community Members to Improve Engagement

There is a way to communicate smarter and it's quite simple - take your company out of the conversation.

It remains a common practice for companies to use traditional marketing tactics that inundate people with messages of product superiority and boastful "us v. them" claims. But customers generally don't care about what they can do for an organization, they care about what an organization can do for them.

According to a Nielsen Global Survey, up to 77% of people are influenced by word of mouth from close personal connections when making a purchasing decision, compared to 34% who are influenced by the ever-present promotional email.

In fact, word of mouth was more powerful than any form of traditional advertising, including TV, internet and radio ad spots. The buying conversation has become more personal than ever. Consequently, the main way organizations typically communicate with their audiences is becoming less effective.

Problem: Company-Centric Messages Are Less Effective in Keeping Members Engaged

When it comes to online communities specifically, there are a few problems with this:

Problem #1

Traditional marketing tactics do not foster a sense of community. In online communities, members want to be enabled to hear from like-minded peers with whom they can personally identify (branded communities included), not corporations.

Problem #2

Promotional messaging does not offer a strong value proposition for why the audience should be engaged in an online community. Organizations need to address "what's in it for them?" if they hope to get community buy-in.

Problem #3

Marketing oriented around products and services takes away the focus from makes the online community a community – a shared sense of inclusion supported by audience interactions – negating internal goals for higher engagement and retention rates.

Soution: Make Your Communication About Your Community

When communicating with your online community, make the content entirely about the online community. For example, instead of promoting a product or a service:

  • Highlight recent conversations started by members of the community
  • Share blog posts that provide a learning opportunity, address a relevant current event or  announce community news
  • Promote "how-to" events hosted exclusively for community members
  • Send a regular newsletter that shares a variety of popular user-generated content

A shift in communication doesn't mean you stop building brand awareness amongst your audience. In online customer communities particularly, community members are brand advocates and they have a greater reach and impact than internal staff could possibly ever scale or achieve. The end result will be a much higher level of audience retention, engagement, product awareness, and trust.

Nine low-cost member engagement strategies for associations.

Topics: Communications, Engagement, Online Community

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