The community at its basis has people who share common goals, interests, or attitudes. And online communities are no different from their real-life counterparts. They serve the same purpose. They induce a sense of belonging and help people to make connections.
So, how can an experienced marketer capitalize on it? Building an internet community around something you are good at, you are passionate about, for instance, your product or the service you provide, allows you to communicate with your clients in a more efficient way.
The purpose of building an online community for business always was and always will be in creating your clientbase. It’s crucial to be an active member and interact with other participants. Because they are your clientele. Whenever they interact with each other, whenever they talk about you, your brand recognition increases.
The Point of Creating an Online Community
What does an online community give for my brand? Quite simply, you get authority, presence, and links. Or rather, tools to build them.
The content you make helps people to engage in discussions. In large and active communities the members are also creating content themselves. If that’s the case, it can become an important part of their lives. People share info about you and become loyal.
But that kind of relationship must never be one-sided. A large majority of people look at online communities as a place to make connections with others, who share similar interests. A sense of belonging is one of the primary driving urges.
Give them the content they want. Give them the freedom to engage in activities, discussions. Let them make their own content. When members do something for you, recognize and appreciate that.
If that kind of place is made just for self-promotion, it will push people away. No one would want to stay in a place like this.
After all, communities are made for people, not the other way around.
Site vs Social Network
What options do you have when it comes to starting your community? First of all, you can opt to start it from social media or you can create your own website. At first glance, it might seem like they are not so different. But your approach towards them, the optimal strategy to use, might be shockingly different.
Let’s start with what pros and cons each option has. That will help you decide what is needed in your specific case.
They are internet platforms and large sites. Such as Reddit, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Discord, etc. The simple part is you don’t have to promote it or lure people in. Because they are already here. Millions, if not billions of users who can potentially be your target audience. In other words, you can start your account for free and publish content for your subscribers while researching your audience at the same time.
But social media platforms have their own share of drawbacks. The first is your competitors are already there. And you can’t just shut them, you have to fight for your clients. And that’s the work for your marketers and content makers. The second drawback is you don`t “own” your community, not really. Site owners can change the rules and regulations, terms of usage, or algorithms. To stay afloat you need to be flexible.
Another solution is your own community platform. It’s the type of site that belongs to your brand. The good part is it can take whatever form you want. It gives you full control over your branding and marketing strategy. You can surpass the restriction of social media. Full control gives you the ultimate tools for deep analysis and makes it possible to create a perfect environment for your audience. And no competitors whatsoever.
Compared to social media platforms, online community site’s conversations were regarded as more meaningful, its atmosphere judged more respectful, and users felt more able to be themselves and respected by others in turn.
Social media offers a wide network of people for users to connect with, but community site visitors feel more comfortable in their own skin.
The process of building a site is not an issue in the modern world. WordPress, a powerful CMS (content management system) allows you to create your own site with no prior knowledge in coding. And what`s better there are tons of plugins for WordPress that can trivialize the tasks you may encounter.
Alternatively, you can even make your own app for Android and iOS to keep in touch with your clients, while providing some sort of service.
The biggest drawback is you are basically starting from scratch. There are zero active users on your site. And you must make an enormous effort to promote your platform in order for it to start properly working. From an average user’s perspective, it’s much easier to browse through their feed on social media than dedicate their free time to visit a site. And you`ll have to convince them otherwise.
Measuring the Success
I made a website for my community and now it starts to grow. How can I determine if I`m doing things right? The biggest problem in answering this question is in figuring out how profitable your actions were. But rest assured, your brand recognition will eventually lead to a sales increase.
The best indicator for a long-term benefit is the number of new customers. The more connections you make with your potential clients, and the more aware they are about your brand the cheaper for you to get new customers. Community effectively reduces your expenses for doing so.
One trick is to see how much money you allocate for supporting the community and divide it into the number of new clients on a monthly basis. It will show the price you pay for each new client.
Another way to determine your success is the analysis of the community’s growth. You should pay attention to the fluctuations in order to understand what the people want and if you have to tweak your strategy. Engagement rate is also a valuable indicator for this kind of project. Likes, posts, reposts, comments, clicks. The more the better.
Creating your own community is by no means an easy task. It requires a thoughtful approach, time, and effort. But in the end, after all the work you put in it, it becomes a valuable tool for your brand promotion.
Making a “human face” for your company and building a place for people to belong is what determines your success in this endeavor.