Organisations of all sizes recognise the benefit of being social yet many still assume platforms like Facebook and Twitter can meet all their engagements needs and fail to consider the alternatives.
A thriving community isn’t just great for an organisation’s reputation and brand awareness, the real advantages are often more actionable. Here, we’ll look at six major areas of benefit a forward-thinking business can gain from developing its own community rather than just using existing social networks.
An audience is made up of lots of different groups. It can include customers, employees, prospects, and partner businesses. One of the greatest virtues of a dedicated community is how it brings together a group of individuals that might otherwise never meet around a common subject matter.
Good communities work by providing members with the necessary tools to connect with peers and host organisation, to build meaningful relationships, find answers to vital questions, share experiences, and to gather necessary feedback.
Over time as relationships develop, engagement grows and enhances.
The result of all that engagement is specific and detailed content. Peer-to-peer chats, problem solving, and all the thought leadership that goes on plays a huge role in building the value of a community to its members – and over time, as content volumes increase, as does that value.
Often a community development project has its genesis in the marketing department as it sees the benefit of establishing a permanent feedback loop to help it quickly and easily understand the needs, drives and desires of the various groups that interact with the business.
In forward-thinking businesses, however, the benefit of a dedicated community will soon become apparent to other departments.
For development teams, communities are ideal places to gather feedback on existing products, to answer customer queries, and to find out what the audience would like them to develop next.
While they’re busy understanding what needs to be built, sales people can look for leads in the community. They can develop relationships with prospects, gain an understanding of customer pain points, and once empowered with all that knowledge they can start to cross- and upsell.
Of course, the community also acts as a vital customer service channel, which brings us neatly to…
The need to provide good customer service is critical to any business. Usually, this means operatives at the end of a telephone or internet connection – but as an organisation grows, how should it meet the increased customer service demand?
There must be a smarter way than simply scaling the customer service team to keep up with demand?
By integrating its customer service operation with an online community, Nordic Semiconductor was able to reduce the burden on its support teams – and restrict the need for it to grow exponentially – as customers more readily sought answers to their questions from peers.
Customers got their queries answered quickly in the community allowing operatives to offer a more valuable service as they dedicated more time to individuals whose queries couldn’t be dealt with in a public forum.
Why not Facebook?
Of course, these are all significant advantages, but wouldn’t just be easier to use established social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn to conduct all this activity? Isn’t it possible to engage an audience more quickly and cheaply on these platforms?
Wherever it takes place, social engagement helps remove the divide between a business and the customers, but if an organisation uses third-party network for all its digital interactions it risks leaving a vital part of its operation outside its control.
Customers today want more than a sale, they need a relationship. If an organisation bases that relationship on a third-party site, it’s powerless to prevent service changes damaging its customer interactions.
With an owned community, not only can a business remove the risk of its interactions being compromised, it can add necessary functionality to enhance and encourage the quality of communications that take place.
Owning the conversation is one thing, but more crucial for a company that runs its customer engagement on social networks is that it has no control over data. It can’t decide how data should be applied and it will have only limited access to analyse the interactions that take place.
Relationship data is powerful stuff. Without access to information on how customers behave, a business is unable to conduct meaningful analysis nor maximise its digital relationships.
Conversely, a business running its own community – and controlling its own data – can tailor the experience to suit the audience. It can build the site to make sharing and conversation simple, it can offer rewards and incentives, and it can gather information on every bit of usage to inform both the development of the community and the wider strategic aims of the business.
If you’d like to know more about maximising the digital relationship you have with your customers, please either call, email, or complete this short form.