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A Quick Guide to Building a Community of Brand Advocates for B2B

At the TSIA Interact event, I detailed some super interesting research on how community can solve some of the biggest business challenges. Read on to find out more! 

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5 min

Adrian Speyer
Nuala Cronin

Can Community Solve Business Challenges?

7 minute read

May 11, 2021

At the TSIA Interact event, I detailed some super interesting research on how community can solve some of the biggest business challenges. Read on to find out more! 


400 business leaders were surveyed on a variety of topics: first, the biggest challenges they were facing, and second, how these could be solved with community.  

There are multiple challenges facing businesses, but our survey respondents told us community has proven success when addressing these top 5 concerns: 

  • Increasing customer engagement

  • Improving customer experience

  • Brand Awareness

  • Getting meaningful feedback (VoC)

  • Driving and maintaining brand loyalty

There are two types of community discussed in this breakdown so lets ensure we’re clear on these. 

  1. Social Community (Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram)

  2. Branded Community (Dedicated, brand-led space)

Social community is a space for an audience to connect with a brand via third party platforms such as Facebook or Instagram.

What are some identifying social community factors:

  • Passive Audience pool

  • Mostly brand to audience

  • Bite sized content 

  • Ephemeral content

  • Social profile only

Branded community is a wholly owned experience: either self hosted or a service hosted. It is a dedicated space for customers to interact with each other.  

The identifying branded community factors:

  • Active members

  • Interaction between customers as well as brand

  • Long-form content with imagery and media

  • Linear content set up

  • In-depth customer profile

The results of our survey show that social and branded communities don’t have to compete; they can work in conjunction with one another. Branded communities will lead the way in most of these business challenges though social communities absolutely have an important part to play.

How do Branded or Social Communities Solve Business Challenges? 

Customer Engagement

Our survey results found that 57% of organizations without a community found customer engagement to be the number one concern in terms of business challenges.

Linear to this, using a community (either branded or social) saw engagement increase 25%.

But, does a branded community create a more engaged customer base than a social community?

  • Branded communities provide a more intimate setting for members - people are more comfortable sharing information and create deeper bonds.

  • Companies gain access to deep customer profiles via branded communities - there is rich customer data that allow you to understand and serve your customer needs better.

  • Customers are more inclined to feel appreciated when a brand invests in a dedicated space - engagement is a direct result of appreciation.

Customer Experience

Customer Experience may be one of the most important business objectives; happy customers are repeat customers. 

75% of our survey respondents agreed that social community has helped to improve customer experience while 88% of respondents felt that branded community improved customer experience.

 

When comparing social and branded communities, there was significant impact in customer retention, creating new leads and increased sales.  

Let’s dive deeper into why branded community improves CX:

  • Data connection allows for “easier” attribution - you know where your sales came from.

  • Brands control the experience - your community is your to customize creating a more personalized experience.

  • Ability to thoroughly understand customer/brand interactions - your surveys can give you great insight into CES/ CSTAT.

  • Deeper connections due to purposeful visits - people are coming specifically to your community and not being distracted by other factors.

Brand Awareness

72% of our 400 respondents saw traffic increases to their websites due to community but further than that, 57% saw an increase in organic traffic. Why? The SEO power branded communities create. 

Why are branded communities a better choice to increase brand awareness?

  • Discoverability in search engines becomes easier - people will not find your network in a social network.

  • SEO benefits - your community is using their own language within the content in your community - it’s not marketing jargon therefore it's more searchable for new customers.

  • Remarketing & retargeting - The data you have access to creates the ability to cookie and retarget your members with much more accuracy. 

  • Domain prevalence - with less distractions from competitors people will spend longer on your website.

Product Insights and Product Feedback

Our respondents found that it was easier to get meaningful feedback and insights from their customers on branded communities over social: 20% easier. 61% of survey takers found branded communities had an important impact on product insights while only 43% found social to be a good source.

Why does branded community come out on top?

  • It offers a space to share and be heard - if customers don’t have a dedicated space, you will have a hard time harnessing their feedback and insight.

  • You can easily match customer data with feedback. You have deep access to customers’ product history.

  • You can follow up on feedback via email. Have you ever tried to contact someone on Facebook? You can email people directly without the awkward initial back and forth.

  • You can sync your community with your other PM tools - streamlining your processes.

Brand Loyalty

Finally, we all know loyal customers are super important to business objectives. We’ve touched on how communities help with brand loyalty before, but let’s look at it’s direct business impact!

 

 

Overall, having a dedicated space for your customers has a direct impact on CX measurements as well as positive feelings about a brand. However, as you can also see, branded communities surpass social communities in terms solving business challenges.  

Why?

  • Building deeper relationships makes leaving harder - a branded community connects like-minded people. 

  • The space is clearly made for them  - it will reflect their values and sensibilities.

  • It effectively measures CES and CSTAT, impacting NPS.

  • More time spent on the community directly impacts renewals, sales order totals and brand affinity.

Using Social and Branded Together

Of course, there is a strong case for branded communities as a solution to business challenges but that does not mean social communities are not worthwhile. 

How can they work together?

There are different benefits to each type of community that you should take into account but certainly, there are many shared benefits that can help you achieve your business objectives. 

However, social as your primary community channel may not be a great step forward. Consider these factors:

Social Community Limitations

  • No customer data access

  • No brand control 

  • No ability to scale (search and organization)

  • No SEO benefits

  • Rule changes - impact audience built

  • Competitor Access

  • Questionable ethics

  • Is it really a community?

It may seem easy to use social community, or even that it is the right choice because the “audience is there” or “it’s free” but there are community building issues you can’t ignore. 

Why Branded Communities Excel

  • Flexibility (customization) - you can make it an extension of your brand.

  • Marketing & Support (email) - you have access to customer information.

  • Customer Data (analytics) - you can really know your customers.

  • SEO Benefit - you can drive customers to your website and increase organic traffic.

  • Integration - you can integrate your own system without concerns of changing rules

In the end, you can reconcile both branded and social communities. If you currently have only social but you’re trying to increase your branded community usage? Here are simple actions:

  • Use social for discovery - drive people to your branded spaces.

  • Make sign up as easy as possible.

  • Be purposeful in what is shared & how.

  • Invest in a community manager - remember this is a different position than social media manager.

Want to watch the full presentation? Click here!

Community

Adrian Speyer

Written by Adrian Speyer

Adrian Speyer is the Head of Community and Lead Evangelist for Vanilla Forums. Besides spending many years in digital marketing, Adrian has been building communities of all sizes for over 20 years.

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