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5 Fears Slowing Down Your Community Projects

Answers to the most frequently asked online community questions

The customer is king, right? That’s not a surprise, because we all expect the brands we choose to treat us like royalty– and that means we expect excellent customer service.

Because of technology and social media, those expectations are only rising. Customers now expect every brand to provide them with excellent customer service, faster and on their terms.  A survey conducted by Lithium Technologies found that a whopping 82% of business leaders say that their customers have higher expectations compared to just three years ago.

The pressure is on for every brand to keep up with rising expectations and to truly put the customer first.  One effective (and proven) way to get there is to launch an online community.  

Many brands – large and small - have found success in launching online communities to provide customers with an online destination where they can ask questions, get peer-to-peer support and share/ get ideas. Just ask Sephora and Sony Europe.

An online community can be a huge improvement on your customers’ experience, and I’m sure you have a ton of questions before you even get started. Wherever you start, begin with your customer in mind. After all, community is all about relationships and interactions.

If you do not build your community from a customer-centric point of view, your strategy may create great functionality, but customers won’t engage. So start with your customer and build outward.

Here’s a great starting point - we answered the top 5 community questions to calm your fears in launching an online community.

1. What if no one comes?

If you have passionate customers who love your products and services, then you have the makings for a successful community. Your customers are probably already communicating with you on social channels, emails and message boards. It’s time for you to harness all that communication and engagement. Plus, there are a variety of gamification features that reward experts for sharing their knowledge and passion about your brand; you will have the tools and analytics at your fingertips for identifying potential superfans and cultivating those  relationships over time. And, when you’re ready, don’t forget about marketing tactics for driving traffic to your community, including SEO, social referrals, website components, and a consistent mobile web experience. By inviting your greatest assets – your customers – to not only engage with your brand, but also to advocate for it, you will immediately see the value that an online community adds. In other words, if you build it, they will come!

2. What if someone says something negative?

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to look at your brand through rose-colored glasses. Even your biggest advocates will have a reason to voice their unique opinions from time to time. As a matter of fact, whether you realize it or not, conversations about your brand – positive and negative - are likely already happening on other channels. So why not bring those conversations to your own community, where you can not only curate the experience, but address negative sentiments or feedback head-on, in real-time? Not convinced? Here are a few more perks that come along with the territory of manning your own online community:

  • You can set the guidelines and rules of engagement
  • You can deploy moderation tools to enforce these guidelines
  • You can cultivate relationships with superfans who will come to your defense and advocate on your behalf

3. Why will people join my online community if nobody trusts brands anymore?

First off, it’s tough to say that people have stopped trusting brands. There are certainly some cases where this is true, but, for many brands, trust is critical for their success. That being said, it’s important to remember that your community is not a publishing site. Rather, you are hosting an experience that brings together your customers, especially those who are most passionate about your brand, in a forum that fosters conversation and connection. Your community is not a place to market or advertise to your community members. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Your community is where you spark conversations, share and test ideas, co-create products, and cultivate real relationships – between your brand and your community as well as between your community members. 

4. How can I measure the value of having a community?

Let’s first talk about your goals. Every brand is different and chooses to build and grow a community for different reasons. There are many ways in which a community will add measurable value to your brand – everything from customer satisfaction to call deflection. There are many assets to help brands every step of the way to create and present a business case that clearly ties your community to broader business goals. Whether you’re hoping to reduce call volume, increase revenue, deliver a great service experience to a new demographic, or simply identify issues faster – it’s possible with an online community that’s tailored specifically to your business.

5. What resources do we need to keep up?

Managing a community sounds like a gargantuan task. Many brands start with a Community Manager and a Moderator to get the ball rolling. In many cases, both of those roles are not dedicated full-time to the community (at least, in the beginning). But as your community grows, you can scale your resources to address the growing needs of your community. What you may not know is that staffing a community is much more scalable than staffing a customer service center, primarily because the posts in an online community are rapidly indexed by search engines and can be seen by tens of thousands of people at once. Not to mention, once you nurture your superfans into brand advocates, they can also be active in helping you manage your community (again, one major reason why your passionate community members are your best assets!). 

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