How to build online communities to educate your customers?
In this article, we will explain what is an online community, how they work, and show you what it takes to build your own online community, drawing on examples from successful community creators and managers who have built engaged communities around their business and brand.
What is an online community?
An online community can be defined as a group of individuals who have common interests, opinions, and goals who become a member of a community and meet in an online platform.
Depending on your company goals, this may look like a private group to share learnings and guides to your customer base, or it may be an open forum where thousands of people gather to share resources and feedback on a specific subject e.g. parenthood.
But whatever platform you choose, online communities are a great way to facilitate meaningful connections between your fans/followers. They empower your audience to:
- Discuss topics that are of interest to them
- Engage with your brand, products & services
- Learn together with other followers
- Collaborate on projects together
- Share information, advice and related news
How to start your own online community?
Its easy to start an online community as there are many free community platforms available in the market which also includes social media networks. They are also in full support of brands building their own communities and have made it easy to create a community for your company.
But the hard work in building your own community is actually figuring out its purpose and how you’re going to promote it and get members to join.
Here are 8 steps that are essential to building your own online community.
- Identifying your key stakeholders for the online community.
- Define the purpose and goal of the online community.
- Select the right community platform.
- Build a member profile on the community platform.
- Develop the community rules.
- Set up your community on the right platform.
- Promote your community to get new members.
What kind of content to share on your online community?
There any many types of content that can be shared on your online community, here are 6 types of content that popular with followers.
Human beings are mostly visual learners so the power of images has a lasting effect on people. A study showed that after three days, a person would retain only 10-20% of written or spoken information but almost 65% of visual information. So infographics are a great type of content to be shared with communities.
2. Top 10 Lists
Brands and bloggers have now discovered what women’s magazines have known for years: top 10 Lists work. So get ready you top 10 lists to be shared with your community.
3. Case studies & success stories
We’re wired to success stories and the benefits of testimonials are well documented. The best kinds of stories are always very relatable from the community.
4. How to guides
When you’re thinking of writing a how to guide make sure it detailed. The perfect how to guide is normally 1,500 words but the more in-depth you go with an idea or topic, the more likelihood that it will get read and shared by the community.
5. Personal company stories
It is no secret that when it comes to social media, driving emotions are very important. So if you are creating content for your audience, getting them to engage with your posts on an emotional level is a great way to connect with them.
6. Resources & Tools
Sharing a list of resources and tools can be a fantastic way to deliver value to your community while simultaneously working with a content type that isn’t quite as time and work-intensive to produce.
How to create value for your online communities?
Encourage Information Sharing
Get other businesses in your industry involved in your community by encouraging them to share their press releases or related information in your community. Not only will this improve your brand authority but it’ll also add huge value to your existing community members as they’ll be able to keep up to date with the latest information in the marketplace without having to look elsewhere.
Review Related Products & Services
Your industry isn’t just limited to the types of products and services that your business offers. So one way to add value to your community is to review related services that your online community will find useful. This can help establish your company as a trusted brand and will expand your community out with your own particular niche. Writing reviews will encourage people from everywhere in the marketplace to visit your online community for impartial information about the latest products in your industry.
Create A Classifieds Section
Enabling people to promote their own services and content within your industry is a great way to add value to your community. A classifieds section will encourage people to visit your community regularly to see what promotions and offers are available. Consider allowing other businesses to post content on your community too as this can help improve your authority in the marketplace and establish your brand as a market leader. This in turn, will add value to your online community as your members will associate themselves as being part of a large and successful network.
Actively promote new members who join your community and encourage existing members to introduce themselves and interact with other members. By creating business opportunities within your online community, you will add significant value and encourage people to increase their presence on your online community.
How online communities are beneficial to your business?
Before you start building an online community, you need to understand why you are building it in the first place. Here are some points that will show you what you are missing out on by not creating your own online community.
Increase Customer Loyalty
By building a community, you can engage your members and create a sense of belonging for your loyal customers. With an online community, members get to come together and discuss various issues, provide solutions and associate with the product or service.
Creating Brand Advocates
Ever noticed those people who never stop talking about their favourite brands or the new product that they recently bought? These people are your word of mouth brand advocates who promote your brand without many resources. By creating an online community you can empower these brand ambassadors and influencers to spread your product throughout the internet.
Controlling of Your Data and Customer Experience
Your online community is a direct space between you and your customer. So you can not only control customer relationships and communication but also have a pool of valuable customer data in the form of comments, feedback and opinions.
By allowing your online community to grow, you can increase your customer base and get more sales by targeting your online community. Your community can also draw more visitors who land on your community and become long-term consumers based on the strength of your online community.
Broadcasting your Message
The best way to spread your message is by word of mouth. Combining the powers of the internet and your online communities, you can launch new products, updates information or services without much hassle. Your community can help spread the word and create the hype that your product or service needs.
New Possibilities of Consumer Insights
The insights and consumer feedback that you can receive on an online community is priceless. Especially with consumers being able to post pictures and videos, it helps your research and development team in improving the product or service.
Reducing Market Research Costs
You know that you can collect a lot of valuable data through your online community. This reduces the resources directed into market research. In case you don’t already have specific information on the online community, you can put up a poll or a survey to ask the right questions to your core audience and grow your business and brand.
Getting your Board of Directors Involved
Online communities are windows that allow companies and staff to get first-hand experience of what consumers really think about their product or service. This is a great place for directors to see what consumers think of new products or enhancements on old ones. This can help the directors make informed decisions on product improvement using direct consumer feedback and insights.