The Benefits of Building an Online Community
Advertising your business doesn’t look the same these days!
It used to be that you could advertise your business and offerings using television, radio, and even online ads to get the attention you needed to be successful.
Nowadays, however, just advertising may not be enough anymore. Imagine having a group of people who engage with your business beyond what you’re selling…a squad of ambassadors touting your brand as the best.
If this sounds great to you, you need to think about creating a community as an important part of your success.
What is a Brand Community?
A brand or business community is essentially a group of people, that are within your target market, and/or already customers, who are loyal to your brand and engage with each other to exchange or contribute ideas. Having a band of loyal followers can be an excellent marketing tool for a brand.
The Advantages of a Brand Community
Besides having a place to advertise and push your products, what are the advantages of having a brand community?
Evangelism and Loyalty – When you inspire your community members, you can turn customers into brand ambassadors. In other words, they become an advocate for your company. Ambassadors love your brand and will help others learn about your products. In addition to being your biggest fan, they spend twice as much as the average customer. It’s a win-win!
Build Trust – Before customers make a purchase from you, they need to be able to trust you. Establishing a loyal customer base will help foster this trust as brand ambassadors recommending your products. In addition, when you use your community to address customer issues, and your customer receives helpful and memorable customer service, they will think of you as a reliable brand. Not only do you have a satisfied customer, but others in the community will see how you handled yourself when things went wrong.
Understand Your Customers – Customer forums are a huge source of intel for your company, including a source of feedback and new ideas. Both can make your product or service better.
You can also use your community to get to know your customers better. Instead of sending out an impersonal survey to a focus group, you have a direct line to your customer base – simply ask your community about their tastes or preferences, and let them write your next marketing campaign.
User-Generated Content – UGC is gold! All of your brand ambassadors generating their own content, with your product, can be highly valuable for your content marketing strategy. The share factor alone can boost your profile in ways you couldn’t even pay money for.
How to Build a Thriving Community
Now that you know why you need a community, let’s talk about how you build a community around your brand.
Find a home – Before you do anything, you’ll need to choose where your customers will interact with both your brand and each other. In order to do this, you will need to think about where your customers hang out online. A Facebook group makes sense for most businesses, however, if you are a technology based business, other channels like Slack may work better. Reddit is another popular user forum for brands and customers to engage with one another.
Start with your own team – Rally your own team members around the cause behind your new community! Give them what they need to deliver on the promises your company makes. Invite them to join in the conversation and reward them with incentives.
Reward your charter members – The first to join will be the hardest to get since there won’t be anything going on within your new community yet. How can you make your early adopters happy? What can you offer them? Ideas include discounts, extra support, contest entries, and the like. If you go out of your way to make your early joiners happy, they will be your biggest cheerleaders when things get going.
Provide useful content as well as “member-only” content – First and foremost, the purpose of your community is to help your customers. Giving customers additional information through posts, emails, or blog content is a great way to build a community. In addition, if you offer “group only” information, your users will feel special by your brand.
Ready to Build your Own Community?
Whether it’s through helpful blog content, videos, rewards, or special events, if executed properly, you can bring your customers into the fold, keeping them motivated to engage with you and most importantly, refer your brand to their friends. Check out these brands for inspiration.
Now it’s your turn!
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