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Like anything starting an online community begins with a clear vision and a planning process. Starting small and planning your phases and acquisition processes as well as software is important. In the online community there is going to be an adoption and familiarity gaining time for your users. Therefore, focus on the features that your online community will offer your customers. Launch it, Market it, gain the numbers and nurture and look after the customers that are onboard.

What is an Online Community and is it suitable for a business

Online Community is a place where people with common interest can collaborate, seek support, create and share in a mutually beneficial way. The word “Community” is being adopted to these online applications due to the nature of the activities and sense fellowship that take place within the ecosystem. As we move in to more of community-based and community-driven Internet than what we are familiar with, we will see more and more people, institutions and solutions adopting community concepts in their everyday tasks.

From a business point of view online communities can be used in variety of creative ways to gain customer trust, drive top line growth and optimise marketing and support expenses. However, running an online community is not for all organisations; why? launching and driving a community requires certain organisational mindset and a culture and it is a slow process to epiphany.

As an organisation, are you open to customer feedback and willing to act on them? If yes, Online community would be a good solution that you can capitalise on. However, having an open culture is not enough to sustain the community and drive true value for a business; you need numbers and numbers play a key role in a community. In other words, you need to have a customer base or a member base that is large enough to promote a community.

Type of online communities that are common in the market:

  • Crows Support: These are mainly useful for services businesses, where there are large number of customers that keeps trying to engage with the organisation through their support channels. Typical behaviour of these platforms are posting questions and receiving the best possible answer from the crowd rather than a service specialist.
  • Ideation Spaces: These can be considered thought leadership communities that contribute ideas to solve specific organisational problem, improve products or even solve globally impacting issues. Usually, the ideas get voted by the community and evaluated over a period of time before they are tested and prototyped.
  • Crowd Sourcing: Commonly used for philanthropic purposes to raise funds for a specific cause within a community; however, this type of platforms are gaining momentum in funding entrepreneurial initiatives to raise capital. If the community is accepting the initiative there is a good chance of raising funds for your cause.
  • Social Communities: This is the most common type of communities that is being used by the public, in the last decade the growing usage of social media in varying types have cased people to build a virtual community experience. This type of communities are not specific to brands it is globally available for any subscriber.
  • Influencer Communities: These come is different forms from fashion industry to movements that are believing in a cause to technological enthusiast. These forums are moderated by the subject matter experts and is often promoted by the community members from within the community.

What can an online community do for a business?

  • Increase Customer Experience: Customers have the ability to search for their interest on the platform and see if they have an answer already, or they can get faster and accurate responses from the members, rather than waiting in customer service ques.
  • Retain Customer Loyalty: Most community platforms use rewards and recognition programs for members who are using and contributing to the community. These rewards can come in the form of monetary gifts or merchandise making the customers valued in a community.
  • Reduce Marketing efforts: rather than paying public social platforms for advertisements retarget the community to upsell and cross-sell products and also to increase the LTV of a customer. This is more effective and targeted, which also help brand advocates to promote products and services.
  • Increase Profitability: By reducing marketing and support effort there is a direct impact to the top line in a positive way over a period of time. Also valuing the customers and their contribution will result in indirect contribution to profit growth by increases LTV, brand advocacy and service delivery.
  • Speed to market: If you have a new product that you need to take the market and you can use your community to conduct market tests and adoption faster. Your online community can be invited to perform A/B tests, which allows product budget to be used effectively.
  • Ownership: Having an online community vs running a community on a social media is not the same, although both can complement each other. Driving traffic in to your online community means that the data that is generated and users that you manage are your responsibility, with that there is a greater opportunity understand your customer intimately and mange the community in a way that brings benefit to your business and customers.
  • Loyalty, NPS and LTV: The biggest benefit that you would obtain through an online community is customer’s trust, loyalty and increases Lifetime Value. Buy empowering customers to be a part of the business journey and recognising them for the contribution they feel part of an organisation that value them, and in return you get their trust.

Online community platform is a great tool for organisations to introduce their customers and internal staff to collaborate and co-create. Having an Online community provides the advantage of nurturing customers in a much closer and an intimate way than through traditional or digital marketing. Online community growth and sustainability is a long process and there is no shortcut approach to it. If your organisation is open for customers voice and is willing to be co-creating along side your customers Online Community Solutions will help you stay ahead in the market with increased customer satisfaction.

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