How to Build an Online Community for Your Customers
An online user community is the most effective way for a company to build their online visibility, credibility, and brand. It really goes beyond integrating forums and blogs. It's a new routine and way of life for their business
Why your business needs an online community?
First, Lets all agree to the fact, The only purpose, a business exists is to serve its customers and make profit. Talking to your users, is very crucial to understand how your product is being used and to decide on the next set of features / road-map.
A online community is the best way to include your customers on to your startup journey. Share whats going on a day-to-day basis. Address support issues globally and transparently. Encourage your customers to discuss crucial product topics and build lasting relationships.
Benefits of building an online community
A community is a place for inclusion; a place where people bond over a common interest, passion, or purpose. It’s a place where relationships are built.
- Your community is the ultimate resource for your customers - A place where they can find information and answers quickly. They can bounce ideas off of each other and work through problems. They can meet new people who share their passions and interests. People go to communities to feel accepted and nerd out over interests
- Your community helps build relationships with your customers at scale - Some customers will be so excited about your community that they’ll get other friends to join. They’ll talk about your brand with their networks on and offline. They’ll ask how they can help. They might offer a blog post, ideas, user testing, or to even go to events on your behalf. The options are endless.Having a customer wanting to shout from the rooftops about you is priceless
- Community drives retention - Your customers are more likely to stick around if they have a community they feel tied to. If there's any doubt whether a community will generate a return on your investment, consider this: Increasing customer retention rate by 5% can increase profits by up to 95% over the long-term (HBS), Increased engagement on community sites can result in up to 25% increase in revenue (MSI), Friend recommendations are the number one influencing factor in purchase decisions (Brand Advocates), It costs 80% less to retain a customer than to acquire a new one
HOW TO BUILD A COMMUNITY
1. STARTING SMALL AND SEEDING YOUR COMMUNITY
Community building takes lots of patience. Like most things, a community isn’t going to be huge on day one. The most successful communities often start as small email lists, friendly dinners, forum threads, etc.
They later grow into something significant as you learn more about its value, and as its members become autonomous ambassadors.
Starting small takes patience and doing things that don’t scale, but the effort pays off in the long-term. No one likes an empty ground. Seed your community with content that is relevant before inviting your users to the community.
2. ADD A LAYER OF EXCLUSIVITY
Exclusivity goes hand in hand with starting small. Some communities keep membership low to keep quality high. Others find a way to grow and maintain that quality. Invite a small, exclusive group to join your community while you gain a better idea of what value your first community members see in it. Tell them that they’re the firsts and that you’re keeping it exclusive - communicate what’s in it for them, and who else is involved!
3. FOSTER A HEALTHY CULTURE AND INSTILL HELPFULNESS
Your community members are there more for each other than they are for you. They’re looking for a resource — a safe place where they can connect over passions and interests.
By creating an ethos of helpfulness, you’re creating an open environment. A place where your customers or community members can learn and share. And once they’ve learned from others, they’ll be likely to return the favor.
4. LET YOUR USERS COLLABORATE
“You’re not as smart as your users collectively. Just listen more and trust that the people who are passionate about the subject matter are going to do interesting and unexpected and amazing things with control you give them.” - Reddit Founder
As the community builder and facilitator, it’s your job to connect your members — get the conversation going, then step away. You can always chime in to answer questions, clear up misunderstandings or share announcements. The point is to allow your customers or members build connections with one another.
5. PROMOTE YOUR COMMUNITY
Once you have a solid foundation - let’s say five to ten people engaging regularly and clearly getting value from your community - it’s time to enter stage two.
You’ve learned more about the value your community adds to its members’ lives. You have an idea around what sparks engagement and what doesn’t. You’ve developed and distributed guidelines based on past behaviors and lessons learned.
Now it’s time to add some members and work your way to scaling. Inform and on-board your next batch of customers to the new community. Also, Promote your community just like you promote your product. Be transparent and open in the community and it will sure get you die hard fans
ITS TIME FOR SOME ACTION. START YOUR COMMUNITY NOW!
The best time to build an audience is even before you launched your product. The second best time is now!
Introducing Hittly! - Hittly is a dead simple cloud based community for your customers. Its very simple and has the features to support, listen and build lasting relationships with your customers
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