It’s obvious that people are changing the way they buy things over the years. They research more. Actually, they do it themselves. They read product reviews, seek for recommendations before placing an order. Brands have to find ways to deal with negative feedback or leverage the power of word-of-mouth to spread out their messages to the audience. How to do it? Well, online communities play a role in this process. You think about a forum for everyone but not sure on how to build a community.
Then, you start to ask questions:
- How do I start a community?
- How can I get people engaged within the community?
- What if no one joins my community?
Fortunately, those questions have answers. In this post, we’ll discover:
- How can your business benefit from an online community?
- Is it worth building an online community?
- What kind of experience should you create for my customers?
- How to increase engagement?
Before embarking on community building, let’s ask yourself:
Why do you need to build a community?
Think about the way brands shouting their messages at their audience: Facebook ads, Google ads, remarketing… Gradually, their audience might feel this is like spam as those brands don’t solve their problems. Not to mention, the advertising budget allocation might take brands a lot.
Among a hundred answers to this question, we put together the most three common and important:
1- To communicate with your customers
In their latest index report, Sprout Social claims that what customers really want is to communicate with brands. That’s why they follow brands on social media. They want to know more about the brand, its products and services.
So, why don’t you provide a resource for your customers through an online community? Make it a place where your customers can quickly find the information and answers they need. They can meet people with a shared passion, interests, and even problems. People go to communities to feel accepted.
Beauty Talk – Sephora’s online community is a perfect place for this brand’s customers. Here, users can ask questions, share their ideas and have their cosmetics wonders solved by other beauty lovers. Sephora’ marketing team can use this forum to find out the most-loved products and also discover their customers’ pain points.
2- To learn from your customers
Gaining customer insights is the goal of every business. We don’t deny the power of the survey but, with an online community, you’ll learn a lot more about your customers’ needs and interests by observing the way they talk to each other.
If you’re a fan of Lego, you probably don’t want to miss Lego Ideas, a forum allows everyone to vote their favourites, leave feedback, and submit their own ideas. The most popular ones go to the market. This is a brilliant idea from the Lego team to learn what their customers want. This insight has helped this toy manufacturer to stay relevant for so long.
So, make your community a giant focus group for your research! That’s how to do business in the community.
3- To make your brand referred
If you have loyal customers, congratulations! They might be so excited about your community. Who knows they will tell their friends about you? They might offer a blog post, ideas, or even go to events on your behalf.
When you create your own online community, you can add other layers of value to your product or service.
Shopify community is one of the most persuasive examples. It’s the place that connects merchants, partners, and experts, as well as those look to learn more about Shopify.
Aside from providing a forum for discuss, Shopify community adds value for its audience with active support. People can seek help from other merchants, experts and Shopify staff with solutions, advice, and exciting content. The forum is also a golden opportunity to do business in the community. Service providers can ingeniously promote themselves here.
Should you build an online community in the first place?
1- Know your goal
You are aware of the benefits online community brings back. But is it worth it? What is the first step in community organizing and building? Ask yourself a question:
“What’s your business goal?”
Before starting building a community, consider how it can contribute to your business. There are some business goals that an online community can help you work towards:
- Reduce churn: You can reduce refund requests and churn by adding value to your product and helping people find success with it
- Repeat business: Driving value and communicating with your existing customers can help you get the repeat customers.
- Advocate: If you serve your members well, they will become your brand advocates. Having an engaged community is also a valuable part of your business.
- Research: Your community is a giant pool of customers insights! Leverage it and define their needs to have suitable marketing and product creation!
- Generate lift: If you’re trying to promote something like an event, or a new release, sharing it with your community can give it a lift.
2- Add Value
Points above can give you a sense of how an online community might help your business. If you determine your goal and want to create a community, ask yourself also:
What values am I adding to my customers?
Remember, your goal has a strong bond with the value you deliver to your audience. So how can you add value to your online community?
- A community of like-minded people: It’s not easy to find a forum of like-minded people to ask specific questions. An online community like that is attractive, as people need really beneficial info, not the ads.
- Access to you: Pdon’teople are likely to join your community because they think you can answer all of their questions.
- Problem-solving: People are likely to join your community because they think you can answer all of their questions, as well as addressing their problems. So, help people get the most out of what you offer.
If you still think an online community makes sense for your business, let’s move to the next point:
How to build an online community?
Here’s our 3-step process for building a community:
- Get someone to join the community
- Get them to engage in the community
- Get them to share the community with others
So, how to build a community? The 1st step is:
Getting someone to join the community
You actually know some advice that tells you to start small or create a kind of emotion that your members want and need to feel. It’s not false, but there’s a tip to trigger participation: rewards for account creation.
It means you provide incentives for your potentials when they create an account. Let’s say, 500 points equates to $5 off just for creating an account. And BOOM! You have new accounts!
MudLOVE built their community around the vision of inspiring others providing clean water to those in need. Before buying any products, people are excited to join the MudLOVE community and being part of the story that they’re telling.
Besides giving incentives, you should also create a desire. The point is, knowing what your customers care about most and invite them to join you to celebrate ‘that thing’.
Once you successfully get people to join your community, the second step is:
Getting them to engage in the community
People join a community to feel accepted. Once members have joined a community, they need to actually do something to be considered active members of it. In this step, give further rewards for simple acts of engagement. The strong communities often encourage their members to get engaged, they could achieve the top-level VIP tier. The higher the tier, the more rewards your members get. That way, you can prompt regular and consistent interaction within your community.
To get members to come back for a repeat purchase, we can strengthen this through gamification. If we reward points for other actions like sharing on social or leaving a review, it becomes fun. Rewards are one of the fun factors in how to build a community. They are one kind of motivation, don’t let your customers ask themselves: “How to get involved in community?”.
Also, with the VIP tiers, you get better and increasing perks for doing more with that store. Let’s take the example from Yves Saint Laurent:
Yves Saint Laurent encourages shoppers to earn the best rewards with early access to products, offers, and exclusive invitations.
Now, let’s move on to the final step:
Get them to share the community with others
You can do this by giving out rewards for sharing on social like Facebook or Twitter, or rewarding points for referring your friends.
The best brand communities leverage people’s “desire of having more”. Doing this, they can make their customers become passionate brand advocates. To accomplish this, Canva gives its members credits for telling others about them:
What important here is showing members the value they get in sharing the community with their acquaintances. Hence, they are more likely to spread the word any chance they get.
So, each of these steps plays into a complete cycle. We need to get someone to create an account and join the community. They’re not going to become engaged with it if we can’t get them in. Once they start to engage with that community, that’s what I’m going to get them to refer their friends and get more people into the community.
Let’s think about these three points as part of an interconnected triangle:
No one’s ever going to engage in my community if they don’t join in the first place. No one’s going to share with their friends if they’re not involved. And, if no one’s referring me to their friends, no one is going to join.
When these are all working together, you’re building a strong base of customers for your community. So. let’s have a look at each of these steps when they’re working really well.
At the 1st step, it’s a success if you have people registering for an account rather than checking out as guests. If people are checking out as a guest, you have zero ability to make things personal for them or do anything with that person in the future. What you can do if they have an account is, you can start to engage with them on a personal level.
You know step 2 is working when your customers are doing actions that mean something to you. When they’re leaving reviews, following you on Facebook or following your blog. These happen organically as people tried to accumulate points, and move through VIP tiers.
And, you know your step 3 succeeds when your existing community is acquiring new customers for you, effectively removing your dependency on ads.
Popular mistake when building an online community
“Build it, and they will come!”
You thought this, right?
Unluckily, it’s not a dream. The fact is, building a community takes work and time. Lots of people underestimate how much work setting up an engaged community is.
Have you ever wondered why “online community manager” is a job title? This work takes time and effort.
When you create a community, it is not something you can set up once and then forget it. There are just a few of the things that you’ll need to do to maintain your community:
- Welcome new members
- Start discussion threads
- Reply to comments and questions
- Solve the customers’ problems
- Enforce community guideline
- Encourage more people to join
What if: no one participates?
Building community is a kind of investment. It sees your existing customer base and does lots of the heavy lifting for you. But, what if no one joins?
If you’re creating a community that adds value, people will join. People are willing to pay for your product are more likely to engage with you.
If your community has only 10 people sign up, then create an outstanding experience for those 10.
Creating a community has 10,000 members overnight is impossible. Can you image how hard it is to manage a community of 10,000?
When your community is small, you’ll have more chances to engage, you can add value more directly, and get to know specific members in person.
Bear in mind, you build a community is to give value, no matter how many people it’s for.
Now, you should know the basics of how to build a community. To create a sustainable, profitable community, keep in mind to give values to your customers. In this post, we focus on leveraging the rewards we offer to our customers. So, what value would you add to your customers? We’re happy to hear your thoughts in the comment section below!