Building a Community

What if I told you that you could double your chances for fitness success? Many people who begin exercising fall out of the habit within the first six months because they start feeling good, or the results are just too slow to motivate them. Getting involved in a fitness community will bolster you towards success for a ton of reasons. They keep you accountable and they help you figure out what obstacles might be holding you back. They also help measure your progress and remind you of the small victories that you may have easily forgotten. And finally, they help you see the big picture about who you are and what you want to achieve.

There is a community like this that exists for your brand – your customers! Building an online community is the best kind of engagement for your customers to have with you brand. This is a great way to help you build influencers, build brand recognition and increase overall website traffic. More importantly, you will get direct user feedback and reach potential customers that you may have never hit otherwise.

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You don’t have to have an uber-large corporation to develop a successful online presence in your customer community. Pay attention to social networks and build your presence on them early. We all know about the obvious – Facebook, Twitter, Insta – but, what about Pinterest, Ello and Snapchat? Once upon a time, these channels didn’t mean much and were first starting out. Keep your eyes peeled for the next big thing and take a fresh opportunity at the ground floor when it comes to new social networks.

Speaking of these different platforms, they are NOT all created equal. Each has a specific style that caters to the interest of the user. Insta is image-heavy, Pinterest is for shopping and LinkedIn is strictly professional. Tailor your brand message, discussions and the way that you engage to meet the expectations of your customers on this platform. News channels like CNN have been using specialized content to reach users on Snapchat. Imagine being able to get real-time news on Snapchat! It’s the perfect platform because the news is just a headline with a short explanation afterwards and Snapchat only shows short video clips.

As you form your online communities on the various social platforms, resist the urge to direct them back to your website. This may seem counter-intuitive, but I swear it’s not. Channel your people into the group with personalized invites and promote the community on  your owned properties. Use any and all resources you have at your company’s disposal to drive active participation in this group. When you direct people away from it to your website, you are dissipating the energy that the community has formed. Actively promote it over time and before too long it will become self-sustaining, growing larger all on its own.

What about content? This will take the most time to develop and probably give you the hardest decisions. Don’t feel like it’s foolish to spend time and money on a platform that you own. Commit and build actual value in your group, value that your customers cannot live without. Carve out a few minutes each day, or appoint staff dedicated to the group’s outreach, participation and moderation. You can also source third-party sites and groups to promote the community through networking with other group owners and forum moderators. It’s a great opportunity to land yourself on a “best of” or “top 50” style list.

And don’t forget your real-life connections! Bring the online group to the forefront by encouraging your customers face-to-face, on the phone, or via email to participate. This creates a strong center for the community based on already existing relationships. Reach out to current customers and users, colleagues, influencers, even relatives! Not only will these people be great participants, there is an opportunity to ask them to be an advocate for your brand.

And finally, building a community really doesn’t have an end date like other marketing campaigns. This is a strategy that should be developed and nurtured over the long-term. I would advise using dedicated staff, or investing in a professional firm to keep momentum going. Once you see things starting to click, double up on your efforts to compound success.

Are you a part of any online communities? Leave me a comment below!

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3 thoughts on “Building a Community

  1. Jaclyn this is such a smart article! Building an online community for your customers is one of the smartest things your brand can do. And it’s also one of the best ways to lower business costs that most brands don’t even consider.

    Here’s an example: Let’s say a brand takes your advice and starts an online community on a site or forum where customers can connect with each other and help each other. Every time a customer connects with another customer and answers a product question they have or solves a problem they are having with the product, that means they have averted a call to the brand’s customer service center! Which means the brand avoided the cost associated with helping that customer! If I recall correctly, Pitney-Bowes had determined that every customer helped on their online forums represented a cost-savings to the brand of around $7, the internal cost saved since the customer didn’t have to call customer support.

    So your idea of creating a community for customers not only results in happier customers, it also saves the brand money!

    Like

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