Online communities are evolving – are you keeping up with your audience’s expectations?
When people think ‘community’, they often think of social media, but it isn’t the only option – or even the best one. Social media platforms are a good way to make initial connections and explore interactive brand experiences with an audience, but building a thriving community around your brand requires more than just online conversations. A community is about creating a more meaningful experience, developing a space like a custom community platform or brand engagement portal, where customers can access member-exclusive content, gain support, create connections, and ultimately become advocates for your products or services through online brand advocacy.
Talking about community-led growth isn’t just about social media ‘likes’ or Twitter conversations. It’s about building a focused community that’s unique to your organization – a customer loyalty hub – and delivers tangible growth. This involves community content management, website personalization, and user profile customization to enhance the user experience.
Here, we explore community-led growth and how to evolve your own community-building methods to secure it.
First things first: what is community-led growth?
Community-led growth generates value beyond your product or service offering. It’s about providing a full wraparound experience for every customer, incorporating integrated social features in a brand identity showcase. This approach focuses on driving customer satisfaction, loyalty, retention, and engagement through a customer support forum, knowledge sharing, and enhanced experiences.
Every brand has a community – to drive growth, you need to nurture it
Every brand has a community: your customers, your prospects, your employees. It’s up to your organization to bring this community together in a community-driven forum or a customer loyalty hub, creating a space that encourages interaction and sparks ongoing engagement – and in turn, attracts new members to that community.
For instance, a SaaS business could use these tools to drive community to drive growth by providing in-depth support in customer support forums, enhancing the product by connecting with the person using it. For a B2B media organization, an online community can build broader meaning around their content, providing an interactive brand experience by giving published material deeper context and forging meaningful connections between subscribers and experts.
Social media vs branded community: what is better to drive growth?
When developing your online community, the choice between further exploring social media or crafting your own brand engagement portal depends on your goals. If fostering a true sense of community is your aim, then a branded community holds the advantage. This community might feature user collaboration tools, a user feedback section, and social media integration, evolving past an outreach tool into something more collaborative. They are effectively the next step up from joining a social media community, as they give more capability to create a personal, tailored space that can be carefully managed to deliver the audience’s expectations. It’s also a space that’s exclusive to your brand: you’re not sharing it with thousands of others competing for your audience’s attention every day.
What are the benefits of community-led growth?
Having your own community enables you to bring your audience into the community-growth flywheel. This digital evolution of the sales funnel is a continuous cycle of acquisition, adoption, retention, and advocacy. Community-led growth delivers value to existing and new customers, going beyond the product or service you offer, and includes engagement analytics to track progress.
The benefits are numerous, but the core advantages it brings to growth are:
Retention. Your community offers both a support forum and a knowledge base that’s tailored to your audience. By listening and reacting to their needs, you are more likely to retain customers. And creating a community online for customer retention is the foundation for growth.
Loyalty. Do people really stay with a brand out of loyalty to a logo and a set of values alone, or is it because they get something back? Your online community acting as a customer loyalty hub, develops a two-way relationship, rewarding audience loyalty.
Insight. Customer demands are changing at a faster rate than ever. Your online community captures real-time customer feedback – enabling you to grow your offering in the right direction, based on genuine insight.
Advocacy. Word-of-mouth recommendations are powerful, but limited to small networks of people. With an online community, you can turn every customer into an advocate for your brand but with a much wider reach.
5 tips for evolving your online community past social media
Building a thriving online community takes work and commitment, and you’re not going to achieve success over night. However, there are some tips that can get you started on your journey.
- Build a branded online community that’s tailored to your audience, on a flexible and easy to manage integrated platform.
- Develop a sense of exclusivity and personalisation with features that connect with your customer’s needs and interests.
- Give something back that enhances their brand experience. Use your community to provide support, connections, insight, and exclusive content they won’t find anywhere else.
- Use your existing communities – e.g, on your social media platforms, CRM, etc – to draw people towards your online community.
- Keep offering value. ‘Build it and they will come’ definitely does not apply to your online community: if you want people to come, and stay, and over time become loyal ambassadors for your organisation, you need to make sure you are demonstrating your value at every stage of their journey.
- Guide new habits. Social media use is habitual for your customers, visiting your community is not – yet. With features that keep instigating new interactions, like events or networking opportunities, visiting your community can soon become a regular habit.
As markets become more competitive and customer expectations are raised as a result, online communities are becoming valuable assets for driving retention, loyalty, and growth.
To find out more about building your own online community with the Zapnito platform, book a demo today.