Five Ways to Build an Online Community for Your Business

By Millicent Wamb… | 06th December 2021 | 7 min read

What makes your brand stand out? Is there anything unique about it, something that makes customers want to come back? 

Today, we’re going to find out how to keep them coming and not forget you like a ten-dollar bill on last winter’s coat. 

By the end of this article, you will know the benefits of building an Online Community and how to build and implement it for your business. 

An online community is a group of people with a common interest who primarily interact through the internet. 

There is no doubt that the customer is the most focal point of a business. That’s why having regular and consistent customers is the key to growing your business.  

5% improvement in customer retention increases sales by about 30%-90%. 

Let’s begin with the perks of building an online community.

Benefits of Having an Online Community

 

 

1. Brand Loyalty.

As humans, we all want to feel that we belong. By building an online community, you fulfil this need in customers by providing a platform to interact freely and share ideas.

They, in turn, give you their loyalty and stick to your brand like glue. Eventually, it shall translate into customer retention and an increase in sales.

2. Promotes Self-Service

In online communities, customers help each other out. They ask questions, give and receive answers by themselves. 

You would only need to resolve the severe queries, giving you ample time to create quality products.

3. Increased Social-Media Presence

Brand Advocates mainly facilitate it. They work by advocating your products to non-users through social media platforms. It helps bring more people into the online community and more customers for you. 

 

 

Building the Online Community

1.   Identify Engaging Features 

The first step in building the community is selecting a technological tool to aid you. 

A well-planned community outline keeps things engaging for its members. Prominent organizations like The New York Times, Accenture and InsideView use WordPress1, Disqus and Buffer tools. 

Some of the key features that are present in these communities, and that a small business owner must look for are:

  • User-friendliness: It should come with various plugins that allow you to customize the community to your liking.
  • Ability to upvote or downvote on comments: In this way, you’ll be able to know what to set a schedule for when to post it to your social media platforms.
  • 'Skimmability' (sic) of comments: It enables your customers to go over the comment section quickly. 

2. Appoint Community Managers to Lead the Community

The second step is to assign personnel to lead the community; they will be your community managers. They will be responsible for running the community and ensuring everything flows smoothly.

There are numerous benefits of having community managers. These include:

  • Effective communication: They ensure a continuous flow of information throughout the community. Whenever changes are to be made, the community members are made aware of them.
  • Create relationships within the community: The managers will be responsible for the customers’ well-being. They’ll make them feel at home and in a place they belong. It forms a bond between them and your brand hence securing their loyalty.
  • Customer service: The community managers ensure that customer grievances are not left unaddressed.
  • Brings in the aspect of consistency: You need to be consistently active in the community space for your brand to grow. The community managers constantly engage the customers, make them aware of important details such as launch dates, and tend to their grievances. 

3. Choose the Right Platform

The third step involves selecting the right platform. A good platform supports content like podcasts, videos, and articles.

It is where Content Management Systems come in. They are software that enables you to create digital content for your community. Businesses of all sizes and scales utilize these and benefit from them as well. They are both simple to use and very secure while providing you with tools such as text editors that enable you to publish your content.

Here are some of the most popular CMS which have capabilities to support this.

1. WordPress 

It is a must-have tool that enables you to design your community and draft content. WordPress also integrates a scheduling feature to pick a timeline for when the content will go live. 

One of the best things about this CMS is that it integrates podcasts. It offers a feature that can turn posts into podcasts so your audience can opt to listen to them.

2. Drupal

This platform has an integrated user interface that enables you to create content quickly. Its features such as customizable forms, its ability to filter and retrieve data at ease make it one of the best in the market. 

Moreover, Drupal is very secure, so you can be assured that there will be no unauthorized access to your data.

 Some of the benefits of having a Content Management System include:

  • Increased Customer Engagement.

Since volumes of content can be scheduled in advance, there is a constant flow of information a the right touch-points. There’s no point where the community can turn into a ghost town. Every day your customers are assured that there’s something for them.

  • Increased Sales

Which one is more likely to purchase items between a customer who spends 5 minutes in a store and another who spends an hour in it? The one who stays longer, right?

The same thing applies. The longer a customer spends in the community throughout the day, the more the chances of them purchasing your products before they leave. Make them want to keep scrolling.

  • Better Organization

Through the CMS, the order of your content is well structured, and there’s a clear pattern. The customers can also tell that you don’t just post for the sake, but each podcast, video, and meme has a meaning and ties up to the big picture.

All in all, Don’t let the chats in the community be as empty as a politician’s promise. 

Engage with them, and they will engage with you.

4. Identify Potential Brand Advocates

If you take a close look at the customers in the online community, you’ll find some that are more active and enthusiastic in the space. They never turn down a question; they’re always the first to submit surveys and help others out with their queries. These are your potential brand Advocates.

Single them out and thank them for their loyalty and good service. After that, present them with an offer to become your Brand Advocates. Most, if not all, will be honoured and agree to it.

They will then embark on the journey to become great promoters of your brand while you, on the other hand, can compensate them with special perks.

Some of the practices used by successful brands such as Nike to engage their brand advocates include:

  • Gifting freebies

Cristiano Ronaldo has been a Nike Brand advocate since 2016 and has gone on to wear their shoes for over 900 matches.

In return, Nike has made thousands of sales each time he is seen wearing their shoes2

  • Priority access

It is another effective way to engage the advocates. As the owner of a medium-sized business, you could sign a contract with your brand advocates, promising them first-hand access to your products before they are released to the public.

  •  Special discounts

Another method of engaging the brand advocates is by giving them discounts on your products. It can range from a 5%-10% discount on the products. Be sure to communicate to them that the discounts are valid when they’re part of the brand and they end with the end of your contract.

These methods enable you to compensate your ambassadors without requiring you to dig into your pocket to pay them. It turns out to be a win-win for every party involved.

5. Bring In Industry Experts to Engage with Them

The last step is bringing in industry experts to engage with your customers occasionally. It comes as a pleasant surprise for them while also creating a buzz in the community. Word will spread quickly all over social media, and they’ll come flocking to your site.

It puts your community on the trending stats and pages, enabling you to be discovered by even more people. Hence more individuals join the community to receive those perks.

Nike has adopted this and used it to generate thousands of sales. They’ve brought in professional runners such as Kara Goucher, who dons their shoes and vouches for their comfortability and endurance to other aspiring runners3. They, in turn, trust her word and sales in Nike skyrocket.

By bringing in industry experts in your community, the customers will ultimately gain more confidence in your products.

All’s well that ends well. Building an online community is not just about selling a product or service. It is about creating a safe space for your customers and being part of one successful brand—best of luck.

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References

  1. Jay Hoffmann, Torque (online), “How WordPress Could Power The New York Times,” Published June 24, 2014. Link Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://torquemag.io/2014/06/wordpress-power-new-york-times/
  2. Mike, Digital Spark Marketing (online), 10 Ways Nike Customer Loyalty Gains, Builds, and Retains It,” Published August 22, 2017. Link retrieved November 18, 2021, from https://digitalsparkmarketing.com/nike-customer-loyalty/
  3. Author unspecified, Nike News (online), “Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher compete in custom Nike racewear in Boston,” Dateline: April 12, 2013 Link Retrieved November 19, 2021, from https://news.nike.com/news/olympians-shalane-flanagan-and-kara-goucher-compete-in-custom-nike-race-wear-in-boston
  4. Image courtesy: William White, Unsplash