As a small business, it can be difficult to break into the online realm. However, with a bit of creativity and strategy, you can use social media platforms as powerful tools for developing an interactive community around your brand. By actively engaging current and potential customers through creative content and conversations, you can unlock the full potential of building an online community for your small business.
Businesses need to build a community in order to promote meaningful engagement with their target audience. From these engagements, you can unearth ideas to help your brand grow, among the many other benefits that online communities provide.
What Are Online Communities?
Online communities are digital spaces where individuals come together to share common interests and experiences. It takes conversations that would happen in person onto social media, among people from all over the world. They provide a platform for meaningful interactions, fostering relationships between like-minded people. While these days an online community may be likeliest to start on a social media platform (e.g., a Facebook group), they can also form and thrive in the comments section of a website or blog post, or in forums and email threads. such groups can create powerful networks that span geographical boundaries – allowing their members to stay connected anywhere in the globe.
When an online community forms around your product or company, you may be able to turn the community members into advocates for your brand. You can also leverage their social media presence to drive customer engagement with your products.
How do online communities work?
The power of online communities is that anybody with an internet connection can easily figure out how to build one that fulfills their interests. A person or business that starts an online community sets it up so that members can easily join – whether or not an approval process is in place – and connect with other users to discuss shared interests whenever they want, wherever they want, entirely online.
Where can you find online communities?
Online communities are common on social media. These days, it’s not difficult to find a Facebook group or Twitter hashtag dedicated to just about any cause, cultural figure, or brand. While social media platforms may be the most common source, online communities can also connect their members via forums, emails, and comments sections on websites and blog posts.
Benefits of building an online community for business
A branded online community can benefit your business in several ways:
- Easier, quicker connections with customers and, therefore, better customer service
- Bolstered social media presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and other major social media sites
- Identification of top-level customers as brand advocates who can use their social media presence to promote your business
- Access to ideas from loyal customers on how to improve your business, products, and services
- Faster routes to potential new customers and a higher likelihood of retaining current customers
- Increased cross-sell, upsell, and add-on revenue
Types of online communities
There are four main types of online communities your business should know:
- Social communities: As the name implies, these communities are built on social media platforms. Businesses can leverage them for marketing, brand awareness, and audience expansion purposes.
- Support communities: In support communities, your customers offer support and help to other customers, lowering your customer support costs.
- Advocate communities: In advocate communities, brands incentivize their most loyal customers to promote the brand on the internet.
- Insight communities: In insight communities, businesses get feedback from longtime customers on how their products or services could improve.
How to build an online community
1. Let users educate one another about your products.
Create an environment where customers can share their knowledge and become expert evangelists of your products. Unlock the power of peer-to-peer education in advancing awareness about what you have to offer.
WordPress is one of the most used platforms for building a site or blog. Since it is an open-source project, volunteers have helped develop not only the core software but also its themes and plugins. And because so much can be done with WordPress, users find themselves searching for ways to get the most out of the platform.
These are just a few reasons why WordPress Forums are one of the most vibrant and active communities online. The forum is a great place to get acquainted with WordPress, as well as for tips and tricks to optimize your site, providing its users with a productive and collaborative experience. Most importantly, the forum is moderated by a community manager and other experts who are more than willing to answer queries about the platform, themes, and plugins.
2. Allow the community to influence your business.
Invite your community to be part of the business journey and tap into their expertise and insights for growth opportunities. Your customers should feel invested in the success of your enterprise, growing with you every step along the way.
Here are some tips on how to integrate the insights of your online community into your business operations.
1. Engage with Your Customers
The first step in allowing your online community to influence your business is to create meaningful engagement with them. Whether this is through social media, email, or other means, it’s important to connect with people who have already done business with you and those who may be interested in what you offer in the future. When customers feel heard, valued, and appreciated, they’ll be more likely to provide honest feedback that can help you better understand their needs.
2. Listen and Take Action
Once you’ve established a connection with your customers, it’s time to start listening! Pay attention to customer comments, questions, complaints, and suggestions. Not only do these provide valuable insight into how people perceive your product or service; but they also tell you what changes need to be made in order for them to become loyal customers. If there are recurring issues across multiple channels, consider making changes that address those issues directly – this will show your customers that their voices matter and they’re being taken seriously.
3. Be Transparent
When implementing changes based on customer feedback or suggestions, make sure you communicate these changes clearly and honestly. Letting customers know why certain decisions were made will help them feel more connected to the process and build trust in the long run. Additionally, when a customer provides valuable feedback or input that results in positive changes for your business, recognize them publicly as well – this will encourage others within the community to continue providing input on how you can improve as an organization.
3. Encourage users to create content.
Showcasing user-generated content gives your community a platform to share their unique content and connect with other users who have similar interests. You can feature their ideas on your site and social media pages to increase exposure and give credit to the users who came up with them.
Here are some tips for motivating your users to post quality content on your online community.
1. Reward Users
Rewarding users for posting quality content is a great way to motivate them and encourage them to keep creating. You could offer a reward system where the most active members get access to exclusive features, discounts, or even cash prizes. It’s important that you set clear guidelines so that members understand what qualifies as quality content in order for them to receive their rewards.
2. Make It Easy
Creating content should be easy and straightforward so that it takes minimal effort for members to participate. Make sure that the process of creating or uploading content is simple and intuitive, and provide helpful instructions if necessary. If possible, provide tools or templates that allow members to quickly create high-quality posts with minimal effort.
3. Encourage Interaction
Interaction between members is key when it comes to creating a thriving online community. Encourage users to comment on each other’s posts and respond thoughtfully when they do so. This will increase engagement and motivate users to post more often because they know their contributions will be appreciated and actively discussed by others in the community.
4. Embrace different levels of commitment from members.
Realize that some community members will be more active than others, while a portion of them won’t be active at all. The important part of building an online community is embracing what all your members have to offer. Some prefer to share ideas and be part of the conversation; others take those ideas and run with them. You can’t demand active users to dial down their engagement and inactive users to participate if they do not want to. What you can do is fuel the conversation and get everybody involved in their way.
Having members with different levels of commitment in your online community can provide you with a diverse range of perspectives. For example, those who are more active in your community may have more experience or insights into certain topics than those who are less committed. This diversity allows for unique conversations and debates that can add value to all members.
In addition, having less committed members gives you the opportunity to reach out and engage them for the first time or encourage them to become more involved in the conversation. You can also use these members as a sounding board for new ideas or initiatives that you want to try out on a smaller scale before rolling them out across the entire community.
Finally, by embracing different levels of commitment within your online community, you are showing respect for each member’s individual needs and preferences. This demonstrates that you value their presence regardless of how much they contribute or how often they participate. This level of appreciation can help foster loyalty among all members, even if they aren’t actively participating at any given moment.
5. Set boundaries.
Your brand represents something in the industry, and you need to maintain that image in your community. Therefore, you need capable people who will moderate your community – a community manager and firm community guidelines are vital – and uphold your brand image.
Moderators will be responsible for approving posts and submissions, banning members if need be, and maintaining a healthy relationship between your brand and members, all within community guidelines
Here are five tips for setting boundaries.
1. Establish Rules for Engagement: Outline the types of behavior that is acceptable within the community and make sure everyone understands what will not be tolerated. This can include language, topics, and the overall tone of the conversation. Having rules in place helps create an environment where everyone feels welcome and respected.
2. Monitor Content: Be aware of content posted by members of your online community—both text-based comments as well as any images or videos shared. If any content violates the established rules or otherwise creates a hostile environment, remove it immediately and make sure users understand why it was removed.
4. Create a Safe Space: A key component to having an effective online community is creating a safe space for members to share their opinions without fear of judgment or ridicule from other members of the group or from outside sources. Encourage open dialogue but also make sure people feel safe expressing themselves without fear of retribution or retribution from other members or from outside sources like trolls that may try to disrupt conversations within your online community.
5. Encourage Respectful Discourse: Finally, encourage respectful discourse among all participants in the conversation by enforcing strict guidelines about tone and language when commenting on posts or engaging in conversations with other members of the group. This will ensure that all participants feel respected while participating in conversations within your online community, regardless of their opinion on any given topic or issue at hand.
Building an online community around your small business isn’t easy but it’s definitely possible if you take the right steps. Social media platforms are great tools for connecting with potential customers while forums or discussion boards give them a place to exchange ideas related to your product or service. Content creation is also important as it provides value while increasing awareness of your brand at the same time. If done correctly, these strategies will help you create a strong online presence for your small business and foster customer loyalty over time.