As social media grows, customers are seizing more power and influence. We are now living in the age of the customer, a time when customers have a huge influence on businesses and want to have a voice. Companies are beginning to create or leverage online communities — groups of people united around a common interest, value or goal that connect over the internet. Online communities allow businesses to reach people from all around the world in a personal way. They generate buzz about your brand, creating opportunities to engage current and potential customers.
So, how does an online community bring value to a business?
- Grows and humanizes your brand. Creating meaningful bonds with customers shows you aren’t a robot behind the screen.
- Builds relationships. The relationship you build with your customers will either make or break your company. Strong, positive relationships centered around trust will result in brand loyalty.
- Improves customer satisfaction. Successful and thriving online communities result in more satisfied customers. According to Gallup, two out of every three purchasing decisions are based on emotional factors. For brands, how customers feel generally corresponds with engagement. Communities play a key part in instilling confidence in buyers and fostering positive perceptions.
- Increases Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Fresh, relevant content is a major driver in SEO rankings. The nature of the social web encourages participation such as sharing, voting, commenting and linking — actions that can help increase your visibility in search engine result. Popular content gets exposure and traffic and can result in a substantial number of relevant inbound links that boost your status in search results.
- Cultivates awareness. When customers are invested and engaged with your business, they become a wonderful marketing asset. Having a strong online community can encourage discussions about new products and service.
- Provides insight. When you want truthful feedback about your products and services, what better place to look than to your online community? People who participate in online communities are eager to offer input, ideas and answers to your questions. Pick their brains, ask them questions and bounce ideas off them. If they think you’re trying to produce something of value, they will offer up the approval, encouragement and support you need to move forward.
What about your customers and followers?
- Builds trust. Regular interaction between a business and its customers and followers will create strong relationships and trust in that company.
- Enables customers to engage personally. Being a part of an online community means customers have freedom to interact directly with the business. According to Needle, 84 percent of brand advocates (highly-satisfied customer or person who recommends their favorite brands and products without being paid to do so) say they have received questions that buyers would never ask company representatives. Online communities provide a place that makes it easy for customers to get in touch with brand advocates in a less intimidating, more accessible manner.
- Provides feedback. Online communities allow customers to easily share which products and services they like and dislike. They also provide a place where customers can communicate with other customers about products and services, giving each other feedback and fostering confidence in purchase decisions.
Investing in creating and maintaining an online community is one of the most important investments any business can make. Now, more than ever, customers want to have a voice and influence business decisions. Building a place that stimulates engagement and positive relationship growth is what they want, and will in return, immensely help your brand.
Now that you’ve learned the value of an online community, you may be wondering how to create and maintain your community. Don’t miss our next article, “How to Create and Maintain a Strong Online Community.”