Online customer communities exist for a variety of reasons. A company that wants to reduce tech support costs might set up a forum to connect with their customers. Another might set up a LinkedIn group to allow their customers to share best practices. And yet another might set up private spaces to reach segmented customers on a deeper level and enhance the customer experience.
Whatever the reason, there’s one thing every customer community must have to thrive: engaged customers. Without active participants who contribute to conversations, share experiences, and inspire others to do the same, communities will quickly wither and perish.
Don’t let this happen to your community! Instead, instill what Bluewolf calls customer obsession into every customer interaction to foster ongoing engagement. Customer-centric organizations are focusing on exceeding customer expectations by providing personalized experiences to retain customer loyalty, and to create brand advocates. Communities are an excellent way to deliver these experiences, which in turn will boost engagement.
Discover how you can instill customer obsession with every community interaction with these three tips:
- Recruit your advocates
While you could have your staff send and moderate posts, you and your customers will get more value out of your customer community by leveraging peer-to-peer influence. This means asking your advocates to step up to the plate.
Because your advocates are your biggest fans and the voice of your company, they are ideal candidates for infusing enthusiasm, experience, and life into your community. This gusto makes for stronger customer connections and support, making your community thrive.
What’s in it for your advocates? By being positioned as mentors and leaders, they get the recognition they crave and deserve, motivating them to continue advocating for your brand at other opportunities, such as submitting online reviews, providing referrals, or participating in a case study.
- Create a private community
If you’re currently renting real estate on social networks such as LinkedIn to build your community, you may not be getting the levels of engagement you expect — or the bottom line benefits that go with it. According to Gallup research, fully-engaged customers provide a 23% premium over average customers in share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth.
While LinkedIn groups are great for growing your professional network or creating brand awareness, they’ll never allow you to connect as intimately with customers the way a private network does. One great example is the use of Chatter in Salesforce.
In order to get customers engaged in your community and brand, and keep them engaged over the long-term, you’ll see stronger results if you set up a niche community specific to their interests. By providing like-minded customers with a safe place to connect with each other, and with your brand, you can glean much deeper insights into their wants and needs, as well as gain meaningful feedback on products or strategic initiatives.
More importantly, by creating these communities on your own property, you can better infuse your brand into customer interactions so they’ll keep you top of mind; encourage those customers to stay engaged throughout their customer lifecycle; and ultimately, drive higher-value deals without the added cost of acquiring a new customer.
- Measure, adapt, repeat
To ensure that you are giving your members what they want from your community, it’s important to measure what’s working, and what’s not. Tracking referrals and associated revenues, as well as conversions from community content, are two important metrics to watch.
Other goals could include numbers such as:
- growth in community membership over a defined period
- number of active participants for a given time period
- number of posts and other interactions
- social share levels
Whichever metrics you choose, be sure they’re tied back to strategic objectives so that you can prove the value of your community efforts to the C-suite later on. By giving your customers a rich platform on which they can connect, exchange ideas, and solve problems, you can provide customers with the kind of engaging customer experience that will keep them coming back to your community day after day – and buying more year after year.
Community engagement starts with customer engagement: download The B2B Marketer’s Field Guide To Customer Engagement to learn how to leverage advocacy to drive brand, demand and profitable growth.
-Chris Newton, VP of Business Development, Influitive