A very warm welcome to community manager, Suzanne Buckley, who is sharing with us why online community engagement is so important. Suzanne is an expert in managing online communities; Facebook groups, membership sites and everything in between, and she keeps the human connection at the core of her work.
Community is a buzzword in online business and entrepreneurship at the moment. And with good reason! Online community engagement is on the rise, as individuals, brands, and businesses have begun to tap into the potential within online communities.
What is an online community?
In its simplest form, an online community is a group of people who interact through an online forum or platform. Usually these people have a shared interest or expertise in something, whether that’s a series of books, a particular clothing brand, an online course, an exercise format, or a type of cooking. The community uses the internet to connect and communicate.
Where can I find them?
Sometimes the community is hosted on a social media platform: a Facebook group for example. On other occasions it may be hosted on a dedicated community platform, such as Circle.so or Tribe.so. Some people prefer a Slack community, where others go full-on informal and create a Whatsapp group. Whatever your platform of choice, be sure that it works effectively for your community.
Who is doing it?
Community is fast becoming a key strategy for brands who want to grow their understanding of their audience, as well as entrepreneurs who want to provide their followers with a high-quality experience of their expertise or products. One can even argue that a thriving community is the heartbeat of a successful organisation. So what does online community engagement look like for forward-thinking, community-minded businesses?
1. You’re always getting to know your members.
From the day they join your community, your focus is on getting to know your members. Their journey with you, however long, is important to you, so you work hard to make sure they are having a positive experience. The emphasis you place on customer success will create a direct response in your community. Do you know when your members joined your community and do you celebrate their anniversaries with them? Why not partner with a local small business and send a small gift as a thank you for their loyalty? When you ‘do community’ well, your members are engaged and your online community is thriving. Members join and remain in your community beyond their initial purchase or download. Anyone involved in marketing their business knows it’s harder to bring in new members than to upsell to existing members! So look after your community!
2. You’re building your tribe.
It’s not simply about accumulating followers, likes or numbers! Great online communities aren’t about size or exclusivity, they’re about value. Think about some of your favourite online communities – what do you like about them? What makes you keep coming back for more? What value do your members see in your community? If they value it, they are much more likely to engage with it.
“Think outside the box around what you stand for and why you do what you do because I guarantee there is a passionate community of people that will engage with that.”— Allen Burt (CEO Blue Stout, The Ecommerce Scaling Agency)
Online community provides your members with a place to express themselves: their thoughts, reviews, concerns, and frustrations with your product or service. You enable your members to become experts in your product or service and provide them with space to demonstrate their support for your product/service and other members.
Research into word of mouth referrals indicates that significant numbers of people (as many as 92% of people!) would rather buy a product or service that has been recommended by somebody they know. Read that again and then take on board how key your community can be as part of your marketing strategy!
Maximise this opportunity within your community by offering membership benefits. There’s a reason why huge brands offer reward and loyalty schemes. Set up affiliate programmes for your products and services for members of your community. Give them a percentage cut of your product’s value for every sign up through their affiliate code.
3. You’re adding value to your members’ experiences.
By creating and nurturing a positive community online, you are looking after the customers you already have and they will shout about your business! Community moderation must be a key aspect of your community planning. If you want to grow your community, you can’t simply set rules and guidelines and then step away.
Allowing your members the opportunity to express themselves freely and to ask all of their questions is valuable. However, it’s vital to keep the tone and atmosphere safe, engaged, and encouraging. You might be able to manage your online community yourself. Or you might want to hire a Community Manager to help you to moderate, support, and nurture your online community.
Another key aspect of community is asking your existing members to direct your ideas, both in terms of solving member problems and creating new products. If they love and endorse your current service or product, why not tap their knowledge and opinion for future developments?
So what’s next?
Building an online community could be the best move you make for your business this year. Why would you let slip the potential for growth within your already supportive community? As you’ve seen above, you have a potentially untapped goldmine of member feedback, support, and direction for your company’s growth over the next twelve months and beyond.
“What you put into your online community engagement tactics is what you will get out.” Higher Logic
Make this the year that you commit to investing in your company’s existing or potential online community. And let us know how you’re getting on with that!