Business leaders aren’t just accountable for determining the processes that add real value to an organization; they must also communicate that value to their internal and external stakeholders. There are only a few people in your company, or among your partners, who care about things like the ROI of your community; most people are more interested in your ability to demonstrate its value as a tool to improve business performance.
While delivering a quality product or service is of paramount importance, a successful organization depends heavily on its ability to engage customers and successfully retain their loyalty in a world where choice is in great abundance. Business leaders must understand that this takes time and effort to achieve; hence the value of online communities to forge lasting relationships. It’s important to take time to translate your community activities into benefits that stakeholders can relate to.
That being said, here are three key ways to effectively communicate the value that an online community can bring to an organization.
1. Focus on Brand Perception
A great way to sell the value of an online community is to ensure that your discussion focuses on the brand perception -- that existing and new customers will see the brand more favorably if it has an online community.
In fact, statistics prove this to be the case. A recent study, An Exploratory Research Study: Customer Experience and Customer Self-Support revealed that community does have a positive impact on brand perception:
62% of respondents agreed that an active and visible support community made them more likely to make a purchase.
77% of respondents said that they view organizations more positively if they offer
self-service support options for customers.
Not only will your brand be seen more positively if you have an online community, but your community members can help create an even more positive image. It’s much easier to communicate the value of your community if you can demonstrate the abilities of your fans to assist each other with insightful information and peer-to-peer support. A strong community creates a more meaningful and relevant experience for customers, helping them get more out of the products or services they purchase. This is why many fan communities outlive the brands themselves.
2. Discuss the Value of Customer Feedback
No business succeeds by running blindly into the marketplace without understanding their target audience. And what better place to learn more about your target audience than an online community?
The truth is, customer feedback is one of the most important aspects of a successful business. Among other things, customer feedback improves:
Products and services
Online communities, like public social networks and on-site forums, provide valuable insight into the problems, wishes and ideas of your existing and future customers. As such, there is no better resource to consistently improve the effectiveness of your marketing strategies and quality of your products and services.
Seeds of innovation are born through the collaborative nature of your community. One highly effective way to communicate its value is to explore all the ideas and feedback your members leave behind. In fact, your next big product idea may come as a direct result of a member request in your community forums.
The ability to receive feedback through multiple community channels helps set up your business for success in a continually evolving and competitive market. Allow people to reach out over Twitter for quick updates on things like service status, start discussion threads on Facebook or post images on Instagram or Pinterest. Then bring all these functions together on your company forum or knowledge base to create a more exclusive and easily manageable community for your most valuable followers.
But if you need more convincing on the value of feedback, here are some stats on why getting feedback is so important:
Unhappy customers will spread the word about you: If your customers aren’t happy, statistics show that the average person will tell at least 15 people about their experience with you.
Negative feedback is aimed at making the experience better for others: When customers leave negative feedback, 73% of them do this so that you can improve and your future customers can have a better experience.
Most of your future profits will come from your current customers: The fact is, 80% percent of your future profits will come from just 20 percent of your existing customers.
In sum, be sure that you bring this up when communicating the value of community since it's highly beneficial.
3. Helps Improve Customer Engagement
Last, but certainly not least, when communicating the value of community, be sure to talk about how it increases customer engagement. This will likely be one of your strongest talking points since statistics show that increasing customer engagement is the biggest challenge that organizations face.
In short, community helps to foster engagement because it works to ensure that members participate, and are drawn to participate. For example, many communities use tactics like gamification to help boost engagement. Gamification helps create a competitive environment within the community, and competition is something that resonates with everyone. The desire to compete and achieve is an innately human response, even if it’s in a small way.
Most often, online communities make excellent use of gamification through assigning ranks or badges based on the activity level of the user:
Badges assign a visual representation to a level that has been achieved by a member. Since badges are tied into accomplishments or activity level, they are something a user aspires to attain and has to earn. At the same time, it identifies that user as someone who has achieved a certain level of knowledge and showcases this achievement to other users.
Ranks/Titles are awarded to a user when they have achieved a certain level of activity. Newcomers to a forum will often start with a “newbie” or “newcomer” designation, or "general" as seen above. The example above is a more simple case, but in most cases, you'll want to assign titles with names that fit your brand personality and customize them to meet the needs of your community.
While community can encourage engagement in other ways, such as through community newsletters, competitions and activities, gamification is a great way to boost participation. Nevertheless, community is statically proven to improve engagement by up to 21%