In today’s digitized world, business-customer relationships are built and nurtured online. Being online allows you to connect with customers, address their needs and get feedback about their experiences in real-time. It is important that your business is perceived as open and available. One way to achieve this is to host an online community for your business.
This could be a feature on your website or your social media channels. These communities provide your business with the unique opportunity to gauge customer opinions and improve the performance of your business.
Why Online Communities Are Important
Online community platforms, in particular, constitute a powerful business development tool –one that allows businesses to ‘follow people home’ and embed themselves in their everyday lives via social media sites like Facebook and twitter. In other words, they allow brands to establish their presence on a scale surpassing more conventional strategies, at a fraction of the cost.
Things to Keep in Mind When Establishing Online Communities
• At the very outset, companies must be clear about why they wish to create an online community. While a fun, virtual hangout might sound like a good idea, an online hub should also actively foster business growth, and have a discernible impact on traditional KPIs as well. Companies should make the effort to articulate in concrete terms, how exactly an online community can help them meet their business goals.
• It is crucial that companies don’t ‘dilute’ the impact of their online activities by establishing multiple ‘nerve centres’. One central platform like twitter or LinkedIn is sufficient to anchor a thriving online social site. It is important to conduct preliminary research to discover which platform will be most effective for your business.
• An active and engaged moderator is an indispensable feature of any successful social business platform. The moderator is both gatekeeper and curator—s/he decides what content makes it to the site as well as what shape it takes. S/he also galvanizes community members into having fruitful interactions with each other about important topics thus generating traffic as well as useful content.
Rapid, sustained access to their consumer base allows SMEs to develop a product and a service delivery model that is tailored to their client’s unique needs. The following features enable online social platforms to facilitate this process:
• Customer advisory groups: companies can cultivate customer sub-groups within the larger online community to serve as sounding boards for new ideas and strategies, especially during the planning stage.
• Video libraries:
can be used to educate the company’s customer base, by sharing detailed or in-depth information about all of its products and their features.
online social platforms are equipped with survey tools that can be used to gauge or confirm consumer attitudes towards, and recommendations to improve products and service delivery. Running a dedicated online community as part of your company’s business development strategy can be hugely beneficial.
It creates a dynamic feedback loop between a company and its clientele, and establishes customers as key stakeholders and participants in the product development process.