When digital marketing is mentioned, most companies think of Twitter, Facebook or any of the other social media sites through which they can push information. While those social media sites should certainly be a part of any digital marketing strategy, experts also extol the virtues of an online community that publicizes and provides testimonials for a company’s products.
An online community can develop around articles, information and news about your product or general topic on interest. If your company already has a website and marketing team in place, should you consider creating your own branded online community?
According to Information Age, nearly two-thirds of companies with online communities report seeing an increase in total revenue due to strong community engagement. When people feel connected to brands and to other customers who use them, it breeds retention.
A thriving online community can also save money in support costs because community members tend to solve each other’s problems instead of contacting a company’s support department. By reading the discussions among those in the community, businesses can also get an idea of what they need to improve about their product.
Examples of Online Communities
Private branded communities require a login and give customers a safe place to share ideas, advice and interactions about your brand. Salesforce.com, for example, offers a layered community in its Salesforce Discussion Forum, which is organized by topic. Oracle Marketing Cloud offers Topliners, a community in which members “interact with others in marketing and sales who are interested in Modern Marketing.” Spiceworks is an online community for IT pros. H&R Block’s online community connects users to a tax professional for quick responses to tax-related questions and is reported to have generated a 15 percent lift for the business.
Of course, these are examples of large online communities that have been around a while. Your goal doesn’t have to be as big. In fact, c space, a company that helps brands build deep, insightful relationships with customers, believes that smaller communities (300-500 people) are often best:
“When the goal of a community is to generate insight, it is the number of people talking that counts. So we measure engagement and unique contributions (versus page views) as a matter of course. For example, we have found that, on average, 64 percent of a community’s members contribute every month. Similarly, in a given month, it would take 200,000 visitors to a public community to generate the same number of contributions from a single 400 person community.”
Branded online communities exist to help customers use a company’s products more effectively. The more familiar customers are with the product and the more adept they become at using it, the more likely they will stick with it and invest in upgrades.
Even though the benefits of an online community are many, it is not an endeavor to be entered into lightly. Next time, I’ll talk about what you should consider before launching an online community and best practices to follow once you do.