What’s at the centre of your community strategy? It might sound like a question with a lot of possible responses, but there are a limited number of good answers. It might be tempting to look at businesses that have invested in community and simply assume they know what they’re doing. Many community strategies, even from large businesses, are poorly thought out and lack a coherent vision or reason to exist. The follow-the-leader approach will only work to a limited degree. An intelligent community strategy needs to look at what works and why it works. Conversely, ill-thought out, by-the-numbers strategies will never provide an ROI more significant than “kept the intern busy”. Community is important, and needs to be made a priority.
For example, the games industry has seen enormous growth in recent years. growing four times faster than the US economy. Games companies certainly use the traditional social media for promotion, but the industry is also known for its uptake of forum communities. In fact, I tried to find a major developer that wasn’t using one and had no luck. As noted above though, the follow-the-leader approach isn’t useful. What’s necessary is to figure out why those communities are so useful to the industry.
Brand Advocates are the Goal of Community Strategy
A solid community strategy should be built on the acquisition of brand advocates. Rather than a nebulous place to communicate with customers, community should allow your brand to develop relationships that drive further revenue. I've talked before about the potential of brand advocacy, so I won’t go over old ground. Instead, I’d rather talk about the methods that can be used to create that advocacy. The following articles will go into more depth, but the basic concepts are:
Customers no longer buy products blind. They want to know everything about their purchases before they put money down, and they don’t want to get that information from your marketing materials. They need a place to read about the experiences of other customers, and to hear the details of the product that aren’t covered by marketing. They want a place where they can get excited about their prospective ownership. Post-sale, they want a place to enthuse about their purchase, talk about possible upgrades and upsells and continue the cycle for incoming customers.
With the right community strategy, brand enthusiasts will create an environment where your products are constantly receiving cheap, reliable marketing. Better still, it’s content that will be trusted by customers because it isn’t explicitly a part of your message, or paid for advertising.
Traditional support is expensive in terms of cash cost and staff resources, and customers hate it. No one wants to spend hours in a queue for telephone support or further hours sifting through pages and pages of documentation. Conversely, you don’t want your staff to be sitting on phone lines or staring at a Twitter page hoping vainly to be there when someone needs them. Brand advocacy requires that when something goes wrong, customers can fix it, fast. They want self-serve tools that they can access online.
The ideal support workflow is for a customer to google a question and find a quick answer. Over time, a customer community becomes a constantly evolving and SEO-friendly knowledge base. Your existing brand advocates can add their own opinions, queries and solutions, and the great standards of support create new ones. Crowd sourced support requires minimal intervention and deflects support tickets before they’re even made.
Social is where you give your customers a place to build bonds and share experiences. Give your brand advocates a place to hang out, to talk about their experiences with your product and other interests. They’ll form connections within the community organically, and strengthen their connection with your brand. Customers that feel valued come back, buying more and more often than with brands they have no affinity with. Everything hinges on the social aspect, it’s what gives customers a reason to return, to give support and to sing your praises to their friends.
This is an excerpt from our free e-book The Three Pillars of Community. If you'd like to know more, we'll be discussing these principles in our upcoming webinar on October 27th. Register here to reserve your seat!