We live in a connected world that is getting even more connected. A study published earlier this year reveals 5.11 billion unique mobile users in the world today, and that number has been growing by a million new users every day. This explosion is an excellent opportunity for brands and companies to get in touch and to build a community through various channels.
… building a lasting community is a conscious decision that companies have to make.
Businesses have seen the benefits of having a tight-knit community, with smaller businesses scaling through a strong online presence on social media, and larger businesses maintaining the core identity and values that translate across territories. However, companies cannot passively rely on access and connectivity to build a community.
Over the years, we have nurtured and built an active community for our business, and our results have been predicated on the approach that building a lasting community is a conscious decision that companies have to make. It has to be presented to existing and potential clients for meaningful interactions, and ultimately, needs both parties to invest time and effort to flourish.
Behind that approach, there are three key areas we have focused on for that growth.
1. Empower your community
Creating an ecosystem of content that makes it easy and intuitive for members of your community to find resources relevant to their needs is essential. There are two branches of content that companies should have for their community:
This branch of content answers questions about the products and services at hand (such as video tutorials, FAQs and guides) that will help with the inevitable technical enquiries that will arise, as well as news and updates relating to the products and services.
This branch of content gives insight that relates to and around the business. Content such as projections for the future of the industry, how external factors can affect the use and perception of products or services can be considered.
Get your community involved in the learning process (e.g. tests) and certifications (e.g. badges) to mark their achievements. Gamification is a great way to get people involved and compels a strong follow-up from their learning experience and can be used within the company as well. Hubspot is a great example of a company that charts and rewards the learning process.
Creating an ecosystem of content that makes it easy and intuitive for members of your community to find resources relevant to their needs is essential.
2. Engage meaningfully
[Forums] can grow to become an extensive knowledge base and gives you an idea of the topics and questions that your community is concerned, which you tackle through your content ecosystem.
A study by Gartner predicts that by 2020, 85% of customer relationships with businesses will be online without human interactions. Examining which online channels work best for your customer engagement is critical.
Comparing email, IM, forums, and live chat, which ones work best? Look back at the basics to understand the nature of the communication channel and how overall, real-time communication trumps non-real time in this day and age. Interesting statistics show that customers see convenience and how quickly their issues were resolved as important.
We believe that forums are a great way to encourage the different segments of your community to engage with one another. The distinct advantage of this channel is that it gathers team members and customers from various locales in one place. Despite being non-real time, it can grow to become an extensive knowledge base and gives you an idea of the topics and questions that your community is concerned, which you tackle through your content ecosystem.
Give privileges to members of your community that are active contributors or existing customers. Before you know it, you’ll have a focus group, and think-tank rolled into one.
When you have a stable online community, bring them offline. Emotional connections and putting faces to names in person is powerful, no matter your industry. Channel your online efforts to create momentum for an offline event, and remember that when it comes to customer interactions, consistency always beats intensity.
3. Envision together
… share your development roadmap, make it possible for your community to take ownership, and make the features and add-ons community driven.
For some businesses, taking the stealth approach seems advantageous; it protects ideas and intellectual properties while giving teams more time and less pressure. But this approach does more harm than good and alienates the community.
Members of a healthy, growing community want to get involved, so share your development roadmap, make it possible for your community to take ownership, and make the features and add-ons community driven.
Relinquishing ownership of your creation can be a challenging undertaking for some brands, but there are three simple steps to loosen the reins comfortably.
- Don’t try to outthink your customers. Always be sure what your team is creating and improving matches your customers wants and needs. What you might think works as a feature could very well be a distraction.
- Be truthful about your roadmap and milestones. Your community won’t care so much if what you implement looks and sounds good, and it doesn’t work well. Some features and changes cannot be done overnight or polished in a single version, so be honest and upfront about what your team can accomplish. Do not squander the trust of your community.
- Understand trends and pivot when you need to. What worked for the community in the past might not work as well with new industry trends, competition, and evolving user expectations. Listen and be open to change.
A good community helps you accurately envision the next iteration of your products and services, which will always be a work in progress. They will keep you grounded in reality and remain relevant.
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