A quick Google search of ‘the benefits of an online community’ provides a plethora of encouraging results; from reducing support tickets, increased customer satisfaction, customer retention and advocacy, to improving SEO, increasing product innovation and increase in content reach. Whilst these are all viable reasons to invest in an online community, how do you assess whether a community is actually the right solution for your business?

The truth is, no two organisations are the same, and every organization has its unique set of goals and challenges, which means there is no clear-cut or black and white answer to “does my organisation need an online community?”

The first thing to consider: What is an online community? The entire reason behind launching a community is to bring people together with common values, problems, or experiences. If you think that potential members can connect on some common theme, you’ve got yourself the foundation for an active online community!

Next, you may choose to consider the three ‘problems’ explored in this blog post when deciding if your organisation needs an online community. You may also want to learn more about the Reasons for Building an Online Community

#1 You need to collect real-time customer feedback

People love to share their ideas. Online communities empower your customers and are an ideal platform to tell you exactly what they want and of any issues they are having. These interactions are a goldmine of product enhancement ideas for your product development team.

For many businesses, the cost of customer research such as surveys, market research etc., is expensive and time consuming. A customer community creates a direct and on-going feedback loop from your customers and prospects, back to the organisation. It allows R&D teams to more easily test features products within the market, make adjustments earlier in the development process and create more helpful products.

#2 You want to deliver consistent customer experience

An online community can mean a decline in support tickets, while connecting your customers to you and one another in a friendly, conversational space. It’s a great tool to keep costs and workloads manageable while still providing a great customer experience at every stage in the customer life cycle as your business expands.

Some companies might be hesitant to accept the transparency that comes with an online community, but those that do will be rewarded. Prospective customers will also invest themselves in you if you give them the chance to learn more about you through the community.

#3 Your customers aren’t finding your content

Everyone agrees that keeping your website up to date with fresh content is important for SEO but not al of us have the time or resource to make this actually a reality. This is where user generated content comes into its own – content created and shared by your customers on an online platform. It is the easiest and cheapest way to gather new content. And a huge bonus – Google views it as authoritative, so it ranks very, very well. 

An online community is a melting pot of user generated content and engagement, which means search engines crawl content on online community platforms extremely regularly.

So, are you concerned about any of the three problems named in this blog post? If they resonate with you, it may be true that your business does, in fact, need an online community. You can also use these issues as a guide to start talking about your organization’s online community strategy.

How does this information relate to your business goals and the value that you can provide to your customers or members? Leave me a comment below and let me know!

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