In the previous 2 articles of this series, we discussed two of the three pillars of community strategy: sales and support. In this article, we’ll be discussing the final pillar: social.
Human-to-human interaction is the very heart of community, and that’s something that’s often forgotten in the rush for ROI.The entire undercurrent of our economy is social, and without sociality few businesses can function. From the town hall to the nightclub to the internet forum, humans have a deep rooted need for social bonds.
Why Your Community Strategy Should Be Social
The social part of community strategy may not have the obvious allure of added sales or the immediate ROI of deflecting support tickets, but without a proper social strategy in place the other two can’t properly function. The social element of your community is its lifeblood, it’s the reason that users come back time and time again. It’s how you build relationships with the crucial brand advocates who tell everyone about how great your products are, and offer free support on your forums.
Your community strategy shouldn't be solely based on having your customers communicate directly with you. It’s also a place for them to talk to each other. Your community should be a place where customers build connections with each other, based on experiences with your products. This is particularly true for enthusiast and lifestyle products, where customers can delight in telling each other stories about how they use your products.
Twitter and Facebook have become a ubiquitous part of community strategy, and they have a lot of plus sides. Primarily though, they’re a place for you to communicate with customers (by posting content) and for your customers to communicate with you (by commenting on it). What’s missing is the ability for customers to communicate with each other. The format dictates the message, and the fleeting nature of these posts tend to discourage the building of strong social bonds. I don’t want to sound too much like a sales guy, but the kind of close relationships I’ve seen built on community forums are of a type I've never seen replicated on other social media.
Creating the Right Kind of Conversation
Historically, businesses have had trouble encouraging the right kind of conversation in their communities. The staid, over-friendly nature of corporate communications is fine for a press release, but building real community requires something different. Customers need to be comfortable talking to each other, their conversations need to feel organic and unforced whether you’re involved in them or not. Is it easier for you to build a connection with someone that you met in a business meeting, or over drinks?
Your community team need to know in advance what kind of conversation they want to see in the community. Once that’s decided, working towards that vision happens from the ground up. What’s the first thing that visitors to your community see? How do your moderators and community managers interact with the populace? What do the rules and/or community guidelines look like? The right tone and approach will vary wildly depending on your business, the important thing is having a strong vision of where you want the social aspects of your community to be.
Making Your Customers Feel Valued Is Crucial to Community Strategy
The end goal of the social elements of your community strategy should be focused on giving your customers a reason to associate with your brand. The social experience of your community needs to be rewarding for your customers, one way or another. Customers who feel valued are more likely to return. They’ll buy more product, more often if they feel an affinity with your brand than if they don’t.
When you consider the angles of your community strategy, ask yourself why your customers are going to return. We’ve talked in previous articles about how brand advocates can provide huge benefits to your business. Social communities are what give them the impetus to do so.