Even with a great offer, are you still facing a hard time to engage your customers and increase your market? You might be missing a strategy to build an online community.
If you don’t want to join the brands that fade away for not dialoguing with their audience, here’s what you need to do!
Why building an online community?
The community is the fan base of a brand or company and is engaged at an emotional level, not just with the products and services. Your community identifies its personal values, beliefs, and stories in the brand.
That’s why your marketing strategy must provide unique customer experience, not only while using your solution. You want to inspire and empower your audience with your message, so they’ll become ambassadors to your brand.
Your ultimate marketing goal must be turning customers into promoters, and promoters into content creators. This way, they’ll help you to promote your brand.
How to build an online community?
To build an engaged and strong community you must find where they are, what they like and care about, which format of content works better, and why they follow you. Here’s what a successful community building strategy must have!
Brand identity and communication
The very first step is to ensure that your brand identity and communication are aligned with the audience’s perception of it. Try this exercise:
- Why the brand exists?
- Where it wants to go?
- Who are the target audience and their needs?
- What your brand is and is not? Describe your brand with 3-5 adjectives.
- Which are the guiding principles of your brand?
- What other brands do to achieve great results?
- Which are their successful campaigns?
With this in mind, move on to define the best channels to communicate with your target audience, adapting your content to each of them, and establishing clear guidelines for image, tone, and content format.
As a business, we are not social media consumers but producers. The only content we should consume is content that inspires us, and to establish a strategic relationship with people who already have an audience of your dream clients.
Make a list of at least 50 influencers, authors, singers, entrepreneurs, maybe a boss or a manager, someone very successful, someone you look up to, in order to model people who do what you admire. It’s important to identify them.
Then, create social network profiles for your future project and follow people who have chosen. Try to go as deep as possible in their post, comment, interact, and list their best practices. You will probably get some new followers from them because they have the same spirit.
Inbound Marketing: the end of the “foot” in the door
Traditional sales techniques don't work anymore. Outbound marketing isn’t really efficient alone. We are in a lead nurturing process, creating authentic connexions, and offering value for free.
Instead of targeting your audience with straightforward campaigns, you’ll attract them through valuable content. The inbound marketing methodology, in short, is attracting, engaging, and delighting your audience.
The goal is converting prospects from strangers to leads to customers to promoters. There are specific strategies to be applied at each level of engagement, so you don’t become pushy, and all of them will depend on your audience’s behaviors.
This methodology englobes all areas, like content marketing, sales, and customer success, as they are all points of contact with the brand. The idea behind the Inbound is becoming relevant to prospects when they start looking for possible solutions to their problem.
That’s how you show them you’re relevant and start a conversation. Therefore, the relevance of understanding where your brand stands, before coming up with a strategy. If you want to go deeper into this subject, we recommend checking this HubSpot article.
Social media strategy
When it comes to community building, social media plays a huge role! Skeptical about its relevance to your marketing strategy? Have a look at these fresh statistics for 2020, by Sprout Social.
Whether it’s Facebook, LinkedIn, or the trendy TikTok, that’s up to you to find out where your community feels comfortable to establish a conversation.
It’s also highly recommended for CXOs and other high-level positions to engage with their audience by posting regularly on their own accounts, asking people what they think about some topics, giving tips, for example.
You need to dialogue with your community, making them interact with your brand organically to build an online community. Some good practices are:
- Talk to them and about them, like friends do. Don’t use social platforms just to sell your services.
- Be consistent in your post schedule. Create an editorial calendar with the kind of content to be shared and when.
- Be thankful for their support. Follow them back, answer their questions, like, and share their posts.
- Make regular followups asking them what else they would like to see and read.
- The platforms are always updating to remain relevant. So should you!
- Adapt the message and the content to the specific rules of the social networks. Facebook is not the same as Twitter!
You’ll likely use more than one platform to promote your brand, so have social media management software to automate and keep track of everything. Most of them provide real-time insights into your posts’ performance and engagement.
There are plenty of options, such as Hootsuite, Buffer, Sprout Social, and Agorapulse. Evaluate which one serves best to your needs based on which social networks they support, price or free account.
To measure your Return on Investment (ROI), define and monitor the key performance indicators (KPI) on a regular basis. Some of the most important are the clickthrough rate (CTR), impressions, site new sessions, comments, likes, and shares, brand mentions.
Determining the success of a social media campaign depends on the goals you set for each channel. Is it reaching people? Interact? Sell something at the end? It depends on which action you expect your audience to take after seeing or reading your post.
For example, if your goal is to increase sales, to know how effective a campaign was you need to divide the total number of sales per total number of visitors, and this number. For the percentage, divide the total of conversions per total of visitors, then multiply for 100%.
There is no one-formula-suits-it-all, as it depends on your audience’s behavior. The greatest benefit of this strategy is the low investment cost regarding the return it can generate. But it doesn’t mean you don’t need to dedicate time and effort to produce great content.
We can say that the omnichannel strategy is a holistic strategy for unifying the customer experience in multiple channels, creating a consistent marketing message, regardless of which device or platform.
This strategy helps to align every team within the business: marketing, sales, customer service, product, and other relevant ones for customer experience. It should be playing a part of the unique selling proposition (USP) and create a desire for the product.
A responsive website, suggest tailored content, first-hand beta version test, a personalized service, easy and intuitive design, rewards program, and so on, are all examples of great customer experience you can provide to stand out from competitors.
If there are off-line channels, like physical stores or phone support, you have even more opportunities to impress your customers by offering trials, personal consultancy, workshops, partnerships with other services as a treat.
Omnichannel strategy is very effective to collect data from customers, which leads to better campaigns, segmentation, and retargeting; it increases your brand awareness by being available in multiple channels; better allocation of your resources, improving acquisition cost (CAC) and increase lifetime value (CLV), for example.
For some awesome ideas and strategies that have worked for other businesses, take a look at this very complete article at Shopify!
To build an online community also means to have someone to take care of it, ensuring community engagement and management.
The community manager is involved in several aspects of brand communication, like public relations, content creation, social media, and events. From answering comments and queries, writing engaging content, and launching campaigns.
This professional is responsible for:
- elaborating and implementing the communication strategy
- following the brand guidelines
- keeping it updated with each platform latest features and trends
- monitoring the KPIs
- coordinated with Marketing, Sales and Product teams for updates and new launches
- building a relationship with leads, customers, influencers, journalists, and other stakeholders
- organizing and participating in events
It might seem the same as a social media manager, but it’s not quite. The community manager has a broader role, his or her own active voice, will take part in discussions advocating for the brand, improve the engagement strategy, and grow the community.
While the social media manager is more focused on content and engagement, nurturing prospects and customers in the brand’s accounts.
The reviews website Yelp had an awesome strategy to keep their online community of ‘Yelpers’ engaged, by electing each year the Elite Squad, based on number and quality of reviews.
These members were eligible to participate in exclusive events, like dinner parties at famous restaurants and cocktails nights, and free entrance to other brands’ events, for example. Of course, they all had to write reviews about those and continue creating a buzz about it.
That’s where the Community Manager jumps in! Taking good care of all members and keeping them excited to join, taking them from virtual to real-life interaction and nurturing them with content.
Define the community space
Now that we’ve discussed some essential points to build an online community, let’s talk about how you can create a space to centralize the conversation.
It’s not mandatory to actually build anything since it can work in the social platforms, but if you want to take your audience to a higher level of engagement, it’s key to create a special space to interact and provide exclusive experiences.
Our previous example, Yelp is a primarily digital business, so they partnered with restaurants and bars, to offer other experiences, and promoted their own events to bring together their members, so they can talk personally and share common interests.
From that, the Community Manager could also extract what is trendy among the users, what kind of needs they have, and discuss opportunities and ideas with the community members. If that’s not privileged information, then I don’t know what it is!
A simple Facebook group is a great start too, or create a branded space in Hivebrite, for example. This will work as a focus group where you can try new things and collect relevant data. And the best people to give feedback are the ones with an affinity to the brand, right?
Remembering that every promotional action and communication must explicitly consent. No one likes to receive unsolicited messages, so don’t push content that hasn’t been requested. Invite your audience to participate in the action, by explaining what is and which are the goals.
Prepare to grow and improve
To build an online community requires dedication and a curiosity for understanding who’s your audience, as individuals with interests and needs, why your brand became relevant to them, and what else you can do for them.
It’s a long-term commitment and investment to create a strong brand, with a strong base of enthusiasts. And it starts with the right message to the right people, at the right time. This strategy is based on the core values of your company.
Hope this post has inspired you to think deeper about the relationship between brand and customers. Follow us on social media to get the best tips about entrepreneurship and tech management!
And if you’re a remote worker, we have a Facebook group to discuss what we love about working remotely, and which are our challenges. Join the remote community!