How to Harness the Power of Online Communities.

Online communities aren’t a new concept, in fact, they’ve pretty much been around since the dawn of the internet age. Now I wasn’t around then, but back in my day MSN, Bebo and MySpace reigned supreme with their limited capabilities, before the likes of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter came along. We’ve come a long way from what started as online bulletin boards, and yet many businesses and brands still struggle to gain traction or get a return from their efforts when it comes to engaging and mobilising their communities. This is mainly due to a lack of understanding. Consumers want dialogue, not a corporate monologue. So, how do you engage with an online community:
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engage

Don’t be fooled by this word, I don’t mean spamming your followers with endless posts, I mean be present, add value, have a dialogue. Engaging is about answering peoples’ questions and queries, helping to solve their problems, providing insights and advice.

What I don’t mean is constantly selling, whether than be products or services.

Relationships are built on trust, you achieve this by demonstrating credibility and value up-front. Consumers are looking for their brands to engage with them beyond a transaction. They want an experience, by engaging with customers you’ll build confidence in your brand.

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be human

Don’t forget communities are made up of people, and people love people. They want to talk, have conversations not be talked at or interrogated. They want to be related to as human-beings. What does that mean? It means talking at the same level as people rather than down to them, so ditch your marketing speak and jargon, along with the overly salesy posts. It means, have fun! The world is full of products and services, what sets your products and/or services apart is YOU.  Relating to customers directly as humans creates emotional bonds; and emotions drive decision making.
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be open

Your online community can be one of your biggest assets when it comes to getting valuable feedback and sparking innovation. 

They offer a forum to throw thoughts around and test ideas. Communities give you access to audiences that are ready and willing to tell you what they think, and they expect to be listened to in return. Give and take.

The brands that evolve and grow with and through community interaction are the ones that remain relevant, because they’re adapting to their customers’ changing needs, interests and values.

So, what have we learnt from the above?

Communities are not about short-term lead generation but long-term relationships based on honesty, transparency and mutual trust. Community activation leads to:

  • More authentic engagement with prospects and customers.
  • Long-term, deeper relationships based on give-and-take, mutual trust and understanding.
  • And, most importantly ongoing advocacy of your brand within the community but also to wider audiences too.
– david alston –

‘Social media is not a media. The key is to listen, engage, and build relationships.’

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