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Online communities are the bread and butter of consumer engagement today. Communities allow like-minded people to engage on topics they both relate to. Most importantly, an online community brings life and authenticity to the conversation. It doesn’t feel forced or pretentious – communities are where real people tell it like it is.
Reddit and Global Web Index did a recent study titled “The Age of Us – and the Rise of Online Communities.” They asked users of social media and community websites how each platform made them feel. People feel they can have meaningful conversations and are respected by others in online communities. So the interest for the communities is there.
However, many organizations are unsure if an online community is the right answer. It comes as an intensive platform to manage. But honestly, building communities is all about building loyalty and advocating for your brand. In this article, I will share some key things that online communities should have and how to measure the success of a community.
Related: The Key Benefits of Building an Online Community
A common goal
“Community” is defined as “a group of people having a specific characteristic in common”. This shows that your community should attract and retain people who share the same interests and care about the same values as your business.
For example, if you are a company that manufactures electric vehicles, you want to attract people who are passionate about environmental conservation and eco-consciousness. Once you have a common interest and goal, conversations flow naturally and your members begin to gain confidence in themselves and your brand.
A simplified platform
Hosting a community doesn’t have to happen on a website or social channel. You can invest in an online community platform that lets you build, manage, and market your community in one place.
This software can also host your on-demand content and any other merchandise you choose to sell. It’s essentially an all-in-one platform, so your efforts focus on building your community and engaging with members rather than managing online community operations.
Recognition and reward programs
We explained how important advocacy is in communities. Part of creating defenders is rewarding them. Rewards and recognition can be done in many ways. A simple dedication, a good shopping or meal, or access to an exclusive event count here.
The key is to try to understand what is best for your members based on what stage of the customer lifecycle they are in at that particular time. While rewards can be expensive for your business, it’s a small price to pay if the larger goal is to build brand advocates.
Related: A Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Community
A team of content creators
Communities mean lots of conversations and discussions. It also means making solid, educational content available to members to maintain interest. Avoid having a community that is only for customer support.
Instead, prepare a team of writers to create useful and engaging content related to your business or industry. It allows members to find relevant information without searching for it on your blog or resource page.
Effective community management
But the more content you post, the more responses and comments you have to manage. Since the rise of social media, community management has become a popular and indispensable element for businesses.
Let’s review the Nike Community Club case study. Clearly, the challenge of leveraging Nike’s mobile services and apps to create a community of like-minded people was achievable. Nike created a platform that helped people interact with others in fun and innovative ways. Activities included things like quizzes, which individuals enjoyed. Nike also managed to maintain its brand throughout the process.
Related: How to Build an Online Community People Will Love
Measure community success
Measuring the success of your community is no small feat, but it can be done with the optimal tools and a strategic plan.
Communities have been around for years and there are many facets you can measure. There’s no doubt that metrics like customer support, product feedback, user acquisition, and customer retention are tied to many measurable and valuable metrics for business owners. But before you go ahead and measure more than a dozen metrics each month, take the time to define your business goals and the value of your community against those business goals.
The next step is to have your team members track and analyze your community’s results. Ask them to ask questions about the results and look for patterns in discussions among members. If you’re new to building a community, here are three steps you can take to get started:
Membership Consumption: Track the active participation of members within your community. Also track the number of new members you gained during this period and any members who became inactive.
Resolution: Track the number of customer support issues that were resolved during the time period. A percentage of resolved, escalated, and unresolved issues is a good way to compare the metric.
Contents: Track the amount of new user-generated content that is created during a time period. It is also useful to track the amount of commercial content created and distributed within a time frame.
Communities can give a business an amazing competitive advantage because they actively put the consumer first. This encourages community members to stay active and acquire new members, leading to increased member retention and business interest. Members also tend to be supportive of each other, which helps your business manage the community and resolve customer questions.
The result? A truly authentic network of members actively engaged in your niche. As community engagement grows, members become more knowledgeable and eventually become subject matter experts in your field. They become your defenders. This is the ultimate marketing goal for any business owner.