In this digital age of bots and automation, it’s easy to overlook the human aspect of your marketing efforts. This is a wasted opportunity, especially since customers do not purchase based on an algorithm or advertisements; they make purchases based on emotion.
Building an online community can be a way of injecting a human side to your brand, amidst automation and impersonality. An online community differs from the audience, in the way that both the brand and its customer are engaged in a conversation, rather than just an audience, or where the customer just listens to what the brand has to say, which is both one-sided..
Building an online community takes time, and may seem like a daunting task, but here are a few good reasons why you should do it:
Your community becomes a resource
An online community can become a place for your customers to find information and get advice either from you, or the other members of the community. At the same time, as the business owner or community manager, you’ll glean valuable insights from engagement with your customers which you won’t be able to get from surveys and market research alone.
Makes customers more dedicated
Building an online community makes customers more dedicated, which increases customer retention. According to a customer acquisition study by Hubspot, it’s at least 5 to 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than to retain an old one. Another study found that increasing customer retention by just 5% can increase profits by 25% to 95%. Double win!
When customers find the brand that works best for them, they will be less likely to leave them. They will be insensitive to price changes, and resist buying from competitors even if they can afford it. Additionally, when community members are connected to your brand and the community around it, it creates a switching barrier.
A switching barrier is an obstacle that customers have when they switch from one product or service to another. These usually come in the form of monetary costs, but can also be in the form of psychological, effort- or time-based opportunity costs. For instance, WordPress may be free to use, but it does not have customer support. The thriving online community that helps each other out is part of the reason why it’s difficult for users to switch to another content management system.
Removes sole dependency on ads
When you have an engaged community, you don’t have to solely create ads to push people to visit your website or social media pages because they will come naturally to you. When they like your content, what you bring to the table and more importantly, how you make them feel, they will put their trust in you, especially when they see that your community represents the values of your brand.
Your customers become your brand advocates
It goes without saying that producing a good product or service goes hand-in-hand with cultivating an engaged online community. When you have both a good product or service and an engaged online community, customers see that you consistently produce quality output because you’re open to listening to feedback, this inspires loyalty.
Customer loyalty is invaluable. Not only will your loyal customers spend twice as much as regular customers, but also spread the word about your business, and word of mouth marketing is still very effective. In fact, it is the most trusted form of marketing, as 92% of people would trust recommendations from friends and family over any type of advertising. Additionally, 74% of consumers identify word of mouth as a key influencer in their purchasing decisions.
How to Build an Online Community
There are different ways to start building your online community. You can start by engaging the audiences in your social channels, creating a mission statement for your brand, starting a rewards program and even getting into cause marketing.
The top brands know that with so many different businesses sprouting up left and right, they cannot differentiate based on product quality, price or advertising like before because there is always going to be another brand with more resources or is better at what they do. Cultivating an online community is the solution that can set them apart and they cannot be replicated by their competition.
Interested in starting your own online community? Alter New Media specializes in social media strategy and management, as well as cause marketing and purposeful partnerships, and purposeful PR–just some of the many strategies we can assist you with to start your own online community. Send us a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.