In 2020, community became one of the hottest “buzzwords” in the tech sector. Communities began popping up left and right as companies needed new and different ways to reach their customers. When the world went into lockdown, companies’ traditional methods of interacting with clients (lunches, sporting events, etc.) were no longer an option. Companies needed to evolve to a spot where remote work took a front seat, and in-person meetings took a back seat.
Long story, short: Company priorities have shifted. They no longer focus purely on their audience and what generic content they are providing, but also how they are interacting with their audience. Many are making this transition to providing communities that bring in new prospects and support current customers.
Having a community is much more than just a business need to keep up with the times. It’s become harder to have meaningful conversations with the people we interact with daily, which is where communities comes into play.
Building an audience, building a community
Many organizations think they already have a community but, in reality, they have a strong audience. When you consider the definition of an audience, marketers often think of a group of people that consume their content. For communities, it’s not just about people consuming content, but how people digest it, how they share it, and how they build relationships through it.
At its essence, building an audience is about providing content for a specific group of people. There’s no further step needed. Building a community, on the other hand, is about bringing people together over a specific need or topic and creating the emotional and relational ties to each other through healthy conversation.
When you build an audience, you create a strategic content calendar. You make plans for how to nurture and grow your audience. You evaluate your plans and readjust so you stay topical. Communities require that and much more. You can’t just hope your audience interacts with each other. You have to create a posting calendar to keep discussions alive. You have to create programs for members who will be your front line, who are excited and want to see the community grow.
Community strategy is about spending time doing activities that don’t scale. It’s about individual relationships. Those relationships are what turn your audience into a community. Spend time with your audience and turn them into members through communication and relationships. It’s much more than just a group of people – oftentimes it’s about a feeling, not a specific action.
Building long-term customers
When community members take time to get involved in discussions, they remember what’s being discussed and build a bond to it. Their engagement with each other and your service (or product), create consistent business that you can count on.
Creating happy customers
Communities that are customer-success driven mean customers know they always have a way to reach you when they need you most. They won’t have to wait after submitting a support ticket. Instead, they can ask a question in your community, and not get just one response, but many they can implement immediately. These customers will be life-long advocates of your products and service, because they are able to access help and advice on how to use it anytime and anywhere.
Just remember: Each interaction your members have with your community is an extension of you. If you post an idea, will members read it and respond, or read it and move on?
What community can do for your company
Although building a community can be expensive and time-consuming, there are many reasons companies build them. For many communities, the main objective is to provide support for their customers. They focus on keeping ticket numbers lower because they have community discussions which solve many of their problems.
For others, they are focused on achieving greater customer success. They enable customers with tips, tricks and “how to” workshops so users better understand how to use their specific services and generate more success from them. Customer-success focused communities look toward active users, new members and net promoter scores as their success measurements.
When it comes down to it, a community solves a lot of business needs. But it’s not easy. It takes time, effort, patience, executive buy-in and lots of support. Your community will help your company, yes, but how is your company going to help your community?