How do you build an online community successfully?
Building a strong online community or forum involves a systematic and strategic approach.
Companies are spending millions of dollars to build a loyal online community. Today’s reality is that consumers are looking for more than just a product or service – they want to build relationships with a brand. With countless options, consumers will only open their wallets and spend for the brand they can truly feel a connection to.
Winning consumer affinity is ever so important in today’s technology-driven society where brands need to compete with multiple competitors online. But the question is, how do you build customer relationships online?
Here are 4 Best Ways How To Build An Online Community:
Interact With Customers:
Although this is also an extremely important concept offline, it is emphasized even greater online due to the characteristics of online channels. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and review websites allow multiple users to comment on and give feedback about your company.
The very first step in building relationships with your customers is to interact with them. Answering their queries, replying to their feedback and providing necessary information is essential to engage your customers and show that your care about their well-being.
BP found itself regretting its lack of interaction with its followers when a parody account, @BPGloablPR (170,000 followers) became more popular than their official Twitter account @BP_America (44,000 followers). Many people mistook @BPGlobalPR as the official account as it was more interactive, while @BP_America merely used the account to announce its news and ignored any customer queries or feedback.
Most importantly, people can see how you response to other users’ comments which in turn affects your reputation. The KFC Singapore Facebook page provides prompt and efficient response to any queries and complaints of their service. It is also crucial to watch your language and tone since there is a lack of visual cues online. Using emoticons or smiley faces can help to project a more approachable and friendly image.
There is no doubt that people want to feel liked. So, rewarding loyal customers is a great way to strengthen relationships with your customers. According to Entrepreneur, repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers. So rewarding them and keeping them loyal is a great way to increase profits. There is no need for fancy gifts, just give them something of value to show appreciation of the time and attention they spent on your business. Simple things such as offering online-only offers, digital coupons, online collectibles like stickers or badges, or even helpful and exclusive news about your company’s products will be effective enough to retain their interest.
Relating to your customers and familiarizing with them is another good way to get into the hearts of your customers. More brands have shown a willingness to interact on topics beyond the usual customer service, portraying a fun, trendy and approachable image. The best case study for this is IHOP, a United States pancake chain, which frequently engages its customers on Twitter by adapting to the popular social media trends. They recognize that Twitter is used by a younger audience and hence wanted to “talk the Twitter talk” to connect directly to them.
Allowing your customers to have a say in your business makes them feel involved and important. Content-creation competitions have been very popular in recent years as it is a good way to gain publicity for your brand too. The Microsoft Cannes 2011 competition required participants to produce a 60- to 90-second film to show how a Windows 7 PC is at the core of a student’s life.
Doritos also created a successful campaign where participants had to create a commercial for their brand’s famous corn chips. The campaign, called Make an Ad, Make a Fortune, allowed the most popular commercial (voted on social media by the public) to be broadcast on prime-time television.
When we talk about brands that have truly appreciated customers’ ideas and views, Starbucks often comes to mind. To increase engagement with customers, Starbucks created “My Starbucks Idea”, a platform that allows customers to contribute ideas and suggestions that can improve their business. Other users will vote on the ideas they agree with and the most popular ones will be implemented across all Starbucks chains.
Empowering your customers to make decisions in the company is a sure way to make them feel important and involved. These user-generated content and competitions not only empower your customers, it also helps to increase publicity for your brand. Thus, it not only makes your customers feel important and involved, it can also show that your company is cares about customers’ voice and has a participative culture.