These days, a brand’s reputation is squarely in the hands of its customers. So much so, that social communities have become vital platforms for ensuring success.
Whether you like it or not, people are talking about your brand online. If you’re not actively involved in driving the discussion and participating in your communities, user-generated content can quickly become a liability.
That’s why one of your most important public relations goals is to build a thriving community that potential customers and brand advocates alike will happily turn to for answers.
Here are five ways to do just that.
#1. Segment Your Forums Where Necessary
B2B customers tend to be busy people who have neither the time nor the patience to wade through countless forum posts to find what they need. That’s why having the right organizational structure is critical in building a healthy community.
To that end, segment your forums to help guide users in the right direction. In the case of B2B communities, this may involve having different knowledge bases for different products and services, as well as a gated community that offers greater customer intimacy and an exclusive hangout to collaborate more effectively.
#2. Focus on Feedback and Ideas
A strong B2B community isn’t just about reducing the workload on your support team by providing a self-service knowledge base – it’s also a one-stop shop for feedback and ideas.
In fact, focusing on feedback and ideas is so important that it’s worth having a dedicated section of your forums where customers can share their input. The demands of B2B customers will be far better satisfied when you’re clearly willing to empower them with a say in the development of your products and services.
#3. Be Consistently Present
Abandoned branded communities quickly become an enormous liability, harming your reputation with unregulated content and a severe lack of company involvement. That’s why you need to be consistently present, not just in your own communities, but also on the social networks and other platforms that your customers use.
Far too many companies see branded communities as little more than a shortcut for customer support. But beware – there are few things that frustrate customers more than trying to find what they’re looking for on a messy and disorganized community that’s been hijacked by trolls and spammers and all but abandoned by its original creators.
#4. Communicate & Share Great Content
An online community isn’t something you just build and check in on occasionally. It’s supposed to be a thriving gathering of customers providing constructive feedback and looking for solutions to their problems.
Peer-to-peer support undoubtedly offers a great way to reduce support ticket volume, but that doesn’t mean your community management team shouldn’t also communicate and share value-added content on the company forums.
That’s why any healthy branded community must be part of a wider content strategy backed up by strong communication. Consider, for example, the value of regular news updates, user guides and development roadmaps.
#5. Reward Your Members
Implementing a system that rewards your most valuable community members, such as those who offer the most useful feedback or responses to support-related queries, is a great way to build a healthy environment. Gamification provides one such way to reward your members, by giving them a special status to set them apart from everyone else.
The application of game-design elements might sound inappropriate for the seriousness of the typical B2B community. But brands need to recognize that it’s something many people, particularly those among Generation Y, are now very much used to and, indeed, even expect.