The real essence of an online community lies not on its size, but on the gravity of its engagement.
As companies exert massive efforts in developing stronger relationships with their customers, people are looking for communities that would not only celebrate them but would also provide value to their everyday living.
Making this possible isn’t easy. Sure, readers and loyal customers are great, but knowing more about how they see your products and services is greater. You want feedback and other valuable customer insights that can help you take your brand to the next level.
Furthermore, once you have acquired this type of engagement, the problem of maintaining it comes right after.
To make this whole process a lot easier for you, here are seven strategic ways on building engaged communities and how to maintain them.
1. Identify Your Market and Understand What Excites Them
Before you can even begin providing value for other people, you have to be able to identify whom you’re making a community for first.
Communities are member-centric groups, so you have to understand what excites them and what doesn’t.
This may sound counterintuitive as this is basically one of the reasons why you’re trying to build an online community in the first place. But in order for you to spark an engagement, you must at least have an idea of what gets them to click on your website first.
The best way to achieve this is by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes…
If you were them, what would you like to read? What kind of information would you like to have? What issues would you need answers about? What problems would you need solutions for?
Furthermore, research is key. Go through stored company data or conduct market research. You can also do both to establish the direction of your community even further.
2. Choose a Community Platform
Now that you have obtained a clearer understanding of your purpose, it’s time to choose a platform that can serve your purpose best.
Fortunately, there are a lot of options for you to choose from. Today, Facebook communities take the lead as the social media platform reportedly houses 2.7 billion active users a month, but you could also go for Instagram, Reddit, Slack, or Whatsapp.
If you want to keep things more on the formal side, you can also opt for LinkedIn.
However, it would be best if your organization can come with its own community platform. Doing so comes with plenty of perks that are functional both for you and your users, like:
• Having full control of the community
• Being able to customize it
• Choosing features for a streamlined customer experience
• Anonymity or undercover personas for both administrators and users
3. Create Fun, Educational, and Inspiring Content
You’ve probably heard that content is king when it comes to building communities. However, content alone by itself is not enough. When it comes to building and maintaining engaged communities, you have to make reading worth your users’ time.
Writing top-notch content that’s fun, educational, and inspiring can leave your customers wanting more. Making it relatable and actionable also pushes them to provide their very own experiences and insights.
4. Be Creative, a Lot
You can also go beyond words in making your customers feel more connected and invested in your brand. Your organization can conduct webinars, make videos, and create chatrooms to maximize customer engagement.
You can also answer some of your customers’ questions via live streams.
In addition to providing value, you can also use your creativity to insert marketing from time to time. But by making them learn more about your product’s benefits and by allowing them to experience at least a portion of it, can result in more conversion than plain marketing alone.
This is because keeping them informed makes them feel more satisfied, empowered, and confident with their choices.
You can also choose to integrate gamification elements in your community to increase overall engagement.
Daily interactions like writing posts, sending out replies, and giving out kudos can be given a certain number of points that when accumulated, can be exchanged with incentives from the brand.
5. Celebrate Your Customers
One of the best ways to boost and maintain your online community engagement is by making your customers feel valued and appreciated.
This can be achieved by making them feel that their opinions matter.
Sourcing out feedback and ideas for improvement from their end is like achieving two birds with one stone — storing out data and connecting with them more.
In the ways mentioned above, encourage comments, questions, and suggestions that can give you a glimpse of what fosters loyalty and what drives it away.
Likewise, celebrating your customers can come by crafting personalized responses with the help of your customer service department.
Show your appreciation by simply thanking them for sharing a post, or by conducting contests every now and then for rewards.
6. Share Your Story
If you want your community to open up and engage further, you need to do it first. You can make them care more about the community by forming an emotional connection with your members.
Be prepared though. Once you pour your heart out, there’s a chance that you would be putting together an army of loyal followers.
Your story will be the one that would create an emotional bond with your members. They will see how your values align with what they believe. In turn, they will respond accordingly and will share more than they normally do.
If you’re not sure where to start, some of the things you can share are the reasons for forming the community, how you’re growing, your learnings, your beginnings, and your goals for the community.
7. Join Other Communities and Learn From Them
Research other related groups that are successfully thriving in this area and experience ‘the customer experience’ for yourself.
Other than observing what makes these brands a leader in online community engagement, joining other communities is also a great way to expand your network and establish the credibility and authority of your company.
Engage with other members and build connections while going through people’s posts. Study what methods of engagement works and resonates best. Update yourself with the trends and apply what you learn in your very own community.
Building and maintaining engaged online communities is a digital way of refining and developing customer experiences. With a well-defined purpose and a genuine intent to provide value and connect, your online community can easily become one of your most powerful marketing channels.
If you already have an existing online community, find out which methods included on this list can be applied to foster improvements, but if you’re starting from scratch, feel free to use all the ways we have listed above to help your upcoming community thrive.