Best Practices For Building Online Communities
The way people form relationships with brands has changed dramatically over the last decade. Customer or partner involvement plays an essential role for any organisation looking to grow its brand awareness and customer base. An effective online community will automatically generate higher visibility for your business, more referrals from existing customers/clients, and act as a platform for clients or potential new customers to express their thoughts on your products or services. In the COVID era, when companies must prioritize creating more intriguing paths to interacting with their consumers and remaining top of mind in a more disconnected world, this is increasingly essential.
By encouraging an open forum where members can discuss topics surrounding your area of expertise, you can gain multiple insights into customer or partner interests, gather and capitalise on data and turn data into revenue-generating opportunities by creating multiple touchpoints of conversion with a seamless brand experience.
These forums help people to learn about their experiences, talk with other customers and post feedback. This lets people know that the company is trustworthy because they listen to what customers say and create opportunities to improve their service.
If you are building a new community or refreshing an old one, it is important to prepare a plan. The best way to start is to decide the reason for starting it.
How to build an online community
1. Identify who your audience is
Communities can be important multipliers for your audience and business objectives. The finest communities, have momentum behind them and start by appealing to an organisations target audience. This entails using the power of a content marketing funnel to attract attention, build trust, and advocacy for your organisation.
However, online audiences and online communities are not the same. Your target audience is made up of individuals that are potential purchasers for your business’s goods and services. Lifestyle, beliefs, values, etc., are just a few examples of the numerous characteristics that define them.
An online community is a space that allows your most loyal audience members to continuously engage with your brand, by sharing content and engaging in discussions about it. The most important task is to identify who your key community audience is and to then identify the key characteristics of what will make them successful advocates for your business.
2. Define the goal for your online community
Then, you’ll need to consider why you want to engage with your audience online and what you wish to achieve with the engagements.
Do you want to:
- Improve your customer satisfaction ratings?
- Reduce customer support costs?
- Identify and engage influencers, advocates, employees, customers or donors?
- Increase partner collaboration?
Knowing the answers to these questions will help you know why you want to start your online community. It will also help you know how to make it work for your goal.
3. Decide what type of community you need to build
Once you understand this, you’ll need to decide whether you’ll need a shared interest forum or an informational one. Shared-interest forums are spaces where people can find other people who share their interests. People can talk about different things in the forum, like with each other. An example of this might be a user-driven recipe site or a road cyclist route sharing app.
On an informational forum, people share and engage with content that is related to your specific product or service. An example of this might be a product customer service site where the community can search problems, solve issues together with customer service agents and share content.
4. Assess additional requirements
When you know what type of engagement you are after, you can start to look at features that will help you achieve your goals. These could include things like if it needs to:
- Harness or deliver data analysis
- Deliver a seamless customer experience
- Enable a customer support solution
- Integrate into existing software
- Be a multi-device solution
5. Confirm what management your community needs
Deciding who will be managing your community is one of the most important decisions you will need to make. To identify your company’s stakeholders. You should consider the following.
A. Who will be managing the community?
Example: community manager, marketing, customer support etc
B. Which parts of your organisation will be impacted by the community?
Example: marketing, product management, customer success etc.
C. Who will oversee the community digital experience?
Example: Chief Marketing Officer
You will need to build the community with the above people in mind to ensure that they can easily manage, analyse, and draw data from the community to ensure it is successful. Decide who should have what level of access to your community and what functions they may need access to. For example, an admin could change members’ login information or add/remove moderators, while a moderator could remove posts and moderate the chat area.
Choosing a platform
Carefully decide which platform to use for your community by checking that your chosen platform will support your needs.
Salesforce Experience Cloud is an online community building and engagement software that helps customers, donors and partners to interact with your brand and each other on a website, portal or app.
Using Salesforce Experience Cloud for your community-building will help with the following:
– Improved customer experience
– Maximise engagement and collaboration
– Easier sharing of information
– Automate member support to do the heavy lifting for you
Salesforce Experience Cloud makes use of the latest technology enabling organisations to easily create social communities where their audiences can interact directly with the organisations at any time, from anywhere.
This Salesforce Experience Cloud solution is built for fully adaptable for multiple types of audiences. Customers are empowered to self-serve and interact with opportunities and manage their accounts. Volunteers are kept up to date with communications. Donors are kept in the loop with the impact of their support, and partners can be managed with easy and effective channel management.
To utilise Salesforce Experience Cloud to its full capability, we recommend using our partner implementation services to ensure that you get the most out of your investment. Doing this not only ensures that your platform is built in your brand, with your specific needs and goals in mind, but it also means that you and your team will be fully trained on the software – so that you can ensure its long term success. It is a pain-free solution in which you can launch an online community successfully, with less stress since you won’t have to manage the build yourself. The consultant will tackle all of the questions you might need to consider to build an excellent customer experience.
After your community is built and your team understands the software, you can start thinking about preparing it for launch.
How to launch an online community
Before you launch your community, make sure your community is pre-populated with engaging content to spark discussions. It is useful to stage your launch to identify and update any existing issues with the way it works. First, plan a soft internal soft launch with colleagues before your community goes public. This will give you a good opportunity to ask for feedback and conduct any additional training that might be required.
Once you are happy that your community is in order, you should invite an external limited audience to feedback on your community. This could include trusted customers, volunteers or even a group of loyal followers whose input you trust. Incorporate any feedback that you receive before the final stage of launch.
When you are ready to launch your community to the world, you’ll need to ensure that you promoted your community to your network. Invite your customers, donors and followers. Ask teams to speak to key contacts and influencers who might get the word out and gamify your community if you can to help create a buzz with your audience.
Once you’ve done this, your community will be live and ready to engage! You can get to analysing community data and making informed, actionable decisions to drive community growth.
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