Your business might start with a product or brand, but it ends with your audiences.
Did you know that only 40% of marketers use online communities despite the fact that more than half are actively trying to connect with customers?
Sure, there are plenty of social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram or marketing strategies such as experiential events and direct marketing campaigns that could help marketers to engage with their audiences, but there is a more direct and cost-effective way that you can take to connect on a deeper, more meaningful level with your customers.
We’re talking about online communities.
Online community, at its essence, is a group of people with common interests or shared values who interact with each other online and come together for a purpose. For marketers, the purpose naturally should be about celebrating their brand and their values.
While Facebook Group could be one of the examples that falls into this definition, but to effectively utilize online community as a marketing tool, marketers need to treat it as a social business, which includes using a company website as a central touchpoint, having dedicated forums to engage directly with your customers, and a functional social media team and communication system within your organization.
How can online community accelerate the growth of your business?
So, why should you invest your time and resources into developing an online community? Well, developing a resourceful online communities contributes greatly to the success of your business.
- Content marketing
Online community is an effective approach to give your business an advantage in your content strategy. It is a valuable source for collecting authentic and insightful UGC. Mining content from your online communities can lead to messaging that resonates because customers trust and value information generated by people like them.
2. Wider audience
Developing an online community allows you to reach a broader audience worldwide. As you share information about what your business is about and what you offer to the communities, you also increase your brand visibility to market your business easily.
3. Data-driven strategies
You can also gather feedback from your communities. By using a specific engagement platform like online community, you’re the one who set the rules and guide the conversations, which could lead to higher quality information that could help you to improve your business decisions.
Online community helps to humanize your brand and engage meaningfully with your customers to improve brand loyalty and customer retention. A good way to do this is by continually sharing information with them that can trigger interaction, for example by using interactive content or VR/AR technologies. Moreover, online community also acts as the perfect channel for customer support and risk management to identify threats and problems early.
5. Customers as brand ambassadors
Customers are your most important assets. Online community thus provides you with a medium to make them feel heard and valued. When customers feel empowered, they will share your story and message to their peers. In essence, you are creating a group of loyal brand ambassadors to talk about your business in a positive way.
Brands who Did It Right
With interactive communities, brands have the opportunity to truly listen to the customers. Check out some of the examples of well-executed brand communities to inspire yours.
Starbucks created a forum for coffee enthusiasts to share and discuss their ideas. Through this forum, they made their customers feel valued by highlighting the customer ideas that are being put into action. Beyond that, the company has also taken full advantage of the power of UGC by reposting some of the best-tagged customer photos on their corporate social profiles. In addition, Starbucks Rewards program takes their brand community to the next level. From integrated app, games and personalized rewards, Starbucks ensured their community members are constantly connected to their brand.
Gymshark has successfully created a strong community to promote their brand. Aside from regularly sharing helpful health and fitness related information in their blog, the company also handpicked athletes to represent the brand and engage with their own loyal fans on a personal level. Be it through special sales, live classes and demonstrations, Gymshark has successfully built a brand experience for their customers online and offline.
Disney has done everything possible to make their brand not just a media company, but a complete entertainment experience. Their memorable characters and films are the perfect vehicle to build lasting emotional relationships with each of their customers. Disney fanatics across the globe are all connected by a shared value. From magical park experience, annual gathering, to cosplay meetups, Disney is the ultimate expression of what it means to be a member of a brand community.
“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” — Albert Einstein
The primary benefit of branded communities is that they create a participatory and valuable experience for your customers. This shows that the heart of a successful business is the human element.
Yes, online communities are a tremendous source of customer data, but their main attraction lies in their ability to facilitate ongoing conversation between brands and consumers. These dialogues are the ones that build awareness, influence, and value, ultimately creating long-lasting connections and trust that will ensure the sustainability of your business.
What are your preferred methods of engagement?
Viral Access is an AI and data-driven social communication company — we help you tell your story through social media. We pair your brand with relevant micro and nano influencers that help you increase awareness, engagement and conversion. We have the systems and team in place to support large scale communications throughout Asia.
For business inquiries, contact us at: firstname.lastname@example.org.