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Online communities are the bread and butter of today’s consumer engagement. Communities allow like-minded people to engage with topics they relate to. But 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 called “The Age of Us and the Rise of Online Communities.” They asked users of social media and community websites how each platform makes them feel. People feel they can have meaningful conversations and are respected by others within online communities. So the interest in communities is there.
However, many organizations are unsure if an online community is the right answer. It is presented as an intensive management platform. But honestly, building communities is all about building loyalty and advocacy for your brand. In this post, I will share some key elements 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 purpose
“Community” is defined as “a group of people who have a specific characteristic in common.” This shows that your community should attract and retain people with similar interests and care about the same values that your company cares about.
For example, if you are a company that makes electric vehicles, you want to attract people who are passionate about keeping the environment clean and being environmentally conscious. Once you have a common interest and purpose, conversations happen naturally and your members begin to build trust in themselves and your brand.
A simplistic platform
Hosting a community does not have to be on a website or social channel. You can invest in an online community platform that allows you to 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 basically an all-in-one platform, so your efforts are focused on building your community and engaging with members rather than managing online community operations.
Recognition and reward programs
We explained the importance of advocacy in communities. Part of creating advocates is rewarding them. Rewards and recognition can be done in many ways. A simple shout, a shopping or meal voucher, or access to an exclusive event counts here.
The key is trying to understand what is best for your members based on what stage of the customer lifecycle they are in at the moment. While rewards can cost your business, it’s a small price to pay if the bigger goal is to create advocates for your brand.
Related: A Business Owner’s Guide to Building a Community
A team of content creators
Communities mean lots of conversations and discussions. This also means that you have to put up instructive and solid content to keep members interested. Avoid having a community that is only for customer service.
Instead, train a team of writers to create useful and engaging content related to your business or industry. It allows members to find relevant information without having to search for it on your blog or resource page.
Effective community management
But the more content you post there, the more responses and comments you need to handle. Since the rise of social media, community management has become a popular and much-needed element for businesses.
Let’s review the Nike Community Club case study. Clearly, the challenge of leveraging Nike’s mobile apps and services to build a community of like-minded people was achievable. Nike created a platform that helped people connect with others in fun and innovative ways. Activities included things like quizzes, which individuals enjoyed. Nike also managed to maintain its branding throughout the process.
Related: How to Create an Online Community People Will Love
Measure the success of the community
While measuring the success of your community is no walk in the park, it can be done with the right 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 relate to many measurable and valuable metrics for business owners. But before you go ahead and measure more than a dozen metrics each month, take some time to define your business goals and the value of your community in relation to those business goals.
The next step is to have your team members track and analyze your community’s results. Have them ask questions about the results and look for any patterns in the discussions between members. If you’re new to building a community, here are three metrics you can track to get you started:
Membership consumption: Track active member engagement in your community. Also, keep track of the number of new members you’ve gained during that period and the members who haven’t become active.
resolution: Track how many customer support issues were resolved during the period. A percent resolved versus escalated versus not resolved is a good way to compare the metric.
content: Track how much new user-generated content is created in a period. It’s also useful to track how much business content is created and distributed over a period of time.
Communities can give a company a surprising competitive advantage, because they actively place the consumer front and center. This encourages community members to stay active and acquire new members, which increases member retention and business interest. Members also tend to support each other, which helps your business with community management and resolving customer queries.
The result? A truly authentic network of members who are actively involved in your niche. As community participation grows, members become more knowledgeable and eventually become subject matter experts in your field. They become your advocates. It is the ultimate marketing goal for any business owner.