Social networks. Apps. Communities.
What do these 3 things have in common?
That’s right. All three are communication platform game-changers that have transformed modern business. But while the social platform and application revolutions were loud and well-publicized, the brand community revolution has largely stayed under the radar.
As a result, many marketers are surprised to discover that brands like Microsoft...
All have active brand communities.
It’s to be expected, though. Communities are an excellent way to engage consumers, optimize customer service, get feedback and more. 85% of marketers believe in their efficacy, which means that soon, they’ll be as ubiquitous as apps and social media.
If that sounds like something you’d like to know more about,, you’re in the right place. This article will explain:
- What communities can help you achieve
- Why corporations are investing in them
- and How to create a profitable community as an SMB owner
Let’s get started.
Why You Need a Community
Did you know that 57% of a buyer’s journey is completed before they start interacting with your brand? This time is spent doing things like:
- Researching one’s needs and wants.
Customers don’t necessarily know what they require right off the bat. They need to research their needs, wants and problems before even considering a product.
- Finding appropriate solutions.
The next step is to identify products that can fulfill the need or solve the problem.
- Comparing various available offers.
Once several similar offers have been identified, it’s important to compare them.
And so on and so forth.
During this period, you have limited opportunities to sell to your prospect. Consumers prefer to interact with other consumers during this period; especially friends, family and influencers. This effect is extremely strong. A stunning 81% of online consumers’ purchase decisions are influenced by their friends’ social media accounts and 92% are influenced by people they know in real life.
And that’s exactly where communities come in. They give consumers a channel for these informal communications to take place. The benefit for you is that you get to observe and even guide all these interactions. If you get good at this, your community becomes a marketing asset that positions your offer as the best, most natural purchase option without ever directly selling to the prospect.
Pro Tip: You can even go a step beyond and let your customers work as “brand ambassadors” who help other consumers!
To reiterate, these are just two key benefits of having a community:
- Entering the buyer’s journey before your competitors for a significant competitive edge. “Recruiting” your customers to help you sell, create better user experiences, etc.
How to Launch Your Own Brand Community
Next up, let’s look at what you need to know if you’re thinking about launching your own community. Consideration #1 is...
Your Business Community Strategy
Your brand community needs to benefit your business. Otherwise, there’s simply no point.
To that end, the first thing to do is identify your business goals for the community. Here are some ideas to start you off:
- Increase brand prestige
- Create user-generated content and a self-serve customer support system
- Drive more sales
- Improve retention rate
In the end, it doesn’t matter which goal(s) you pick. What’s important is that they are actionable, measurable and important to your organization. Page views are nice - but unless you’re turning them into revenue, they don’t matter one iota.
Now that you’ve identified what you want, figure out what you’re going to give consumers in return. Here are some real-world examples:
- Lego offers user galleries where concepts can be viewed, uploaded and shared with other users.
- Apple gives users discounts and other benefits when they’re highly active in their community.
- Hootsuite lets users suggest and vote for new ideas they want to see.
Don’t underestimate the importance of these two steps! If you can identify how you and your community can serve each other, you’re sure to do well in the long run.
Once you’re done with that, you’ll want to consider...
- Making a competitive audit of your industry. What other communities (and content types) are vying for your consumers’ attention?
- Writing a mission statement or manifesto for your community.
- Writing a content plan that guides your community and their output.
Did you hear the magic word there? That’s right: we said “content”. Your community will produce a lot of content - and planning how to best harness and use this valuable marketing asset is of major importance. Here’s why.
Business Community and Content
When used for marketing, content is a whopping 7x more valuable than traditional marketing messages. This is because getting your own content:
- Improves your SERP rankings, helping users find you
- Increases your brand authority by positioning your organization as a thought leader
- Guides users along the sales funnel
- Can be used for self-serve customer support
For all these reasons, content-friendly community platforms - like ticket-based forums - are an absolutely excellent way to tap into that 7x ROI advantage.
Here are the 3 key ways to do that:
1. Plan your content.
It’s important to have a content plan that factors in things like team timetables, target keywords, content themes and topics, etc. Make an overarching plan and a supporting 12-month one to start off on the right foot.
2. Identify SEO opportunities and threats.
Fill up content gaps in your niche while avoiding bigger competitors who dominate generic keywords (like “tooth whitening” for Colgate).
3. Help community members and customer support employees.
You’re asking them to create, share and disseminate user-generated content. Give them a hand.
Once you do all these things, you’ll have a brand community that’s optimized for customer support, inbound marketing and SEO.
Let’s recap the main takeaways here:
- Remember, 57% of a buyer’s journey is over by the time they reach you. Your new community will help you enter the journey earlier, giving you a host of other marketing and customer satisfaction benefits.
- Your business community strategy needs to be built on a mutually beneficial exchange wherein you and consumers both get something you want.
- Optimizing your community for user-generated content creation and dissemination with tools like forums is critical to succeeding.