In 2019, machine learning, automation, and artificial intelligence will dominate digital marketing. Such intuitive technologies make you forget what really matters- the human side of your brand.

People love brands they can trust and relate to.

Brands that appreciate their loyalty and opinions.

Brands that listen to their problems and focus on resolving them.

As the number of businesses appearing online keeps growing, the digital marketing landscape has become fierce. Having a website, a blog, social media pages, and an email marketing strategy is not optional anymore. It has become a standard.

Therefore, the only way to stand out in the crowd is to nourish stronger relationships with your target audience and build a strong online community around your brand.

The Benefits of Building an Online Community

Online audiences and online communities are not the same.  

Your target audience is a group of people that may be interested in your brand and products. As you keep learning more about them, you will be able to define them more precisely and create better buyer personas. The audience segmentation phase depends on a wide range of factors like their demographics, physiographics, lifestyle, beliefs, values, etc.

Once your target customer starts interacting actively with your brand across multiple platforms and channels, they become a member of your online community.

And, a community is a family.

It’s a group of your brand advocates that engage with your brand daily, share your content on their profiles, and engage in discussions about it. Above all, they’re looking forward to seeing your new posts and are always coming back for more.

Now, the benefits of building an engaged online community are multiple:

  • Boosting your online credibility. Your community becomes a resource of relevant information, actionable tips, and hottest content.
  • You can listen to your customers to learn more about the major frustrations they face.
  • Online communities increase user satisfaction and foster customer retention.
Community online: Social media
Nowadays we have many options of online platforms where we can foster an online community.

Choosing where to Build your Community

As the number of social media platforms grows, choosing the right place for your community may be challenging. You need to focus on those places that make sense for your brand and that your audience uses.

For many businesses, building and growing a Facebook group seems like a logical option, given that Facebook is still a dominant social platform. Facebook hasn’t set an official limit for the number of group members, helping your community grow uninterruptedly. Most importantly, they’re constantly adding new features to Groups. For example, the “Watch Party” feature lets users share a public video with their group and watch it together, similarly to using live videos.

LinkedIn Groups are also immensely popular in the business world. They’re helpful to the people wanting to learn more about their industry, connect with potential business partners or employees, and grow professionally.Finally, many businesses have seen a great potential for community building in Slack. It can be an awesome tool for both improving your team’s communication and providing exceptional customer support.

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Getting your Online Community off the Ground

The success of your online group depends on the people you target. If their expectations don’t line with yours, then you will face poor engagement and conversions. Here are a few steps to take to prevent that:

  • Determine the purpose of your online group.

Only by blessing your group with a unique goal will you be able to get it noticed by the right people. Why are you building this group? Will you use it to ask for customer feedback? Will you use it to promote your products or simply to build relationships with your members? These are just some of the numerous questions you need to answer before starting off.

  • Give your group identity.

Choose the right tone of your group and write detailed guidelines to determine the purpose, missions, and goals of your group. Make sure this description is visible to all potential members. Creating a brief introductory video may also be a good solution.

  • Ask potential members the right questions.

For example, Facebook lets you ask up to 3 questions that will help you decide whether to approve a request or not.

  • Encourage your members to invite other people that may be a good fit for your community.

Investing in word of mouth marketing and referral programs will grow your community faster and increase your online credibility.

Investing in word of mouth marketing and referral programs will grow your community faster and increase your online credibility.

Keeping your Online Community Engaged and Unified

Just because your community is flourishing doesn’t mean you can kick back and relax. You need to keep your community engaged. Here is how.

  • Keep your communication consistent.

Consistent, daily communication builds trust with your group members and gives them a sense of genuine belonging. Look at when they usually leave comments and publish your top content then. If you’re going on vacation, make sure you find someone to replace you and let your group know about that. Sudden changes may hurt user experiences.

  • Share high-quality content.

The reason why people join your community is simple, they expect you to provide them with actionable tips and informative content that can help them boost their industry knowledge or solve specific problems.

Precisely because of that, your articles need to be highly informative, insightful, and easy to digest. Above all, they need to be packed with relevant statistics and links that may be valuable to a reader. In addition to articles, experiment with other types of engaging content like infographics or long-form guides. Videos can also engage your followers and help you humanize your brand. Live videos are a great option, as they let you interact with your audiences in real-time. As creating such content takes too much time and effort, you need to support your content calendar with quality content published by other relevant resources in your niche. Content curation will keep your audiences engaged and yet, you will have more time to create quality content.

  • Respond regularly.

Many marketers don’t answer questions asked in their group. Others reply to each comment individually. Even though there is no rule telling which approach is right, providing timely feedback proves that you care about your customers and earns you some extra karma points.

Sometimes, you will face negative feedback, too. Treat such comments professionally, talk to your customers politely, and try to identify the source of their frustration. Only this way will you keep your members engaged and motivate them to actively interact with your brand.

Over to You

Building an engaged online community is not easy. However, it brings numerous benefits to your brand. It lets you set yourself apart from your competition and create a relatable brand people trust. Above all, it helps you build stronger relationships with your audiences and retain them.

Text: Lauren Wiseman

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