Won’t You Be My Virtual Neighbor? 4 Reasons You Need the Online Community

BLOG POST BY SARAH MALCOLM, CHIEF DIGITAL STRATEGIST AT THE NEWS FUNNEL

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Virtual neighbors are the best kind of neighbors. Gain helpful advice and keep peeping busy-bodies behind the screen. An active social media presence bolsters any brand, but participating in the online community is the next step for thriving brands. Most customers make purchasing decisions based on how they feel about a company and its products. Whether starting a group or joining an existing one, online communities offer benefits for any B2B or B2C.

1. Brand Awareness

Joining an existing online Facebook or LinkedIn group builds build awareness to a whole new audience you may not have discovered otherwise. Highlight expertise through informative posts and answers to member queries. Most groups have rules against self-promotion of services, but an active presence sprinkling feedback on other user’s posts acts as a soft promotion. Starting a group linked to your brand acts as an awareness-building tool. A strong community presence invites to business referrals and lead generation.

2. Grow Audience

Online communities range from small to massive. Regardless of size, leverage the group’s membership to network virtually. Joining or creating a group grows the potential audience for your service or product. Starting a group that delivers authentic, quality content on a regular basis builds a loyal customer base. These group members become brand advocates that build excitement around new product launches. For business-to-business marketers, the online community is an excellent way foster introductions and build relationships with industry leaders.

3. Build Brand Loyalty

Use a special members-only community to reward brand loyalty. Through the group, offer privileges reserved only for members: sneak peeks of upcoming products, exclusive content, and other perks. Take the online group offline by hosting real world events, like a mixer at an industry conference like RECon or offer to meet up at a CRE // Tech Intersect.

4. Gain feedback

Online communities are ideal places to receive customer feedback. One study learned that customers posed questions to brand advocates that they wouldn’t ask company representatives 84% of the time. People prefer to find other ways to solve problems before going to customer service. The online forum is the perfect place to learn what customers need from your products, what they like, and other pain points for exploration.

Besides creating or joining an industry group, use social media networks to build an online community. Learn how in our Cracking Social Media series.