Digital communities allow you to interact with your customers beyond a casual social retweet or like. An online community will benefit your overall marketing strategy, but that shouldn't be your primary goal. Learning should be. Community is about gathering information from customers so that you can improve and build better products and services.
If you're thinking that it's time to elicit the voice of your customer, first ask: are we ready to engage, listen and become a customer-focused company?
If you're ready to jump into the deep end and kumbaya with your customers, these two simple community-building tips can help you get started.
1. Determine the general theme that you'll be asking people to rally around.
Model your target audience's reaction to the theme. Will they prefer to interact with you, the brand, or other users? Will you be asking them to share their written thoughts or media as well? Will most users be accessing the community via mobile or desktop? Will you reward engagement? If so, how?
Build rapport with potential early adopters of the community. They could very well be existing customers that can leverage the new format to more publicly share their passion for your brand, ideas and strategies.
"Loyalty means nothing if it is independent of a community. Community is nothing if
not occupied by loyal members.
Community begets loyalty, and loyalty is
a derivative of community."
- "To Nurture Business Customer Loyalty, Foster Community," by Mark Woollen,
Sr. VP of Product Marketing for Sales Cloudat SalesForce
Ideally, you'll implement a loyalty campaign and reward the little actions like signing up, making a comment and sharing your content.
2. KISSS it: Keep It Simple and Scale Slowly.
It takes time to grow true loyalty within a previously disparate group of users. Don't ask too much of them to start. Seed conversations with a couple of simple topics and encourage your early adopters to get involved.
As the conversations take on a life of their own, measure your community's effectiveness through analytics and user feedback. Remember, this is where the two-way conversation becomes a trusting relationship. You asked for input, so now you'll need to show your users that you genuinely intend to do something with it.
Regularly discuss community feedback within your department or company. When appropriate, implement tweaks, build new products and let your community know they're making a difference in the evolution of your brand.
Finally, grow judiciously once the initial campaigns have garnered enough engagement. You'll have worked out the kinks in terms of encouraging user involvement, moderation and rewarding your community for their engagement.