Online community engagement is a key component for cultivating stronger and longer-lasting customer relationships. The underlying aim of an online community engagement is to boost customer awareness and eventually earn their trust.
The loyalty of customers is one of the primary factors that contribute to repeat sales, which are imperative to the growth of any business. More and more organizations are fostering an online community engagement strategy to help their customers learn, share, and collaborate with each other, which in turn can promote growth and relevance within their respective industries.
What is an online community?
An online community is a digital space that links individuals through their shared interests and experiences, mutual goals, or a shared purpose. Depending on the community’s objectives, each online community has its own rules, guidelines, and norms.
Online communities have become an essential asset that contributes to the agile growth of an organization. These communities act as a key source of information for all participants. Through this network, businesses can easily answer customers’ questions, acknowledge their contributions, and receive constructive feedback.
8 Benefits of Online Community Engagement
The benefits of online community engagement are plentiful. It will drive more leads, improve brand loyalty, and increase retention. It’s also much more cost-effective to promote your business with an active and engaged community instead of advertising on Facebook and Google AdWords.
By creating an online community, the company provides a platform for communication and experience sharing. In contrast, it is beneficial for a brand if users stay on community pages for longer than on other pages, thus becoming more engaged. Let’s dive into the below-mentioned 8 benefits of online community engagement and why it is important for your organization.
1. Direct Access to Customers
With online communities, you can directly reach your customers in an environment that you control and own. You can foster positive brand sentiment and boost brand loyalty by engaging with your customers on a more personal level, tailoring content to their needs, and providing real-time support. By doing so, you can better serve your customers and improve their experience.
You can also cultivate and grow your brand’s advocates when you have a brand community that is dedicated to your brand’s biggest fans and most avid users. You are involving them in the customer journey and empowering them to become brand advocates by providing a space for them to share their knowledge and expertise.
2. Decreased Support Costs
The 2021 Community Industry Report found that customer support activities ranked as the primary objective for most online communities. The traditional customer support method entails an organization helping a customer, while brand communities empower members to help and support one another. Good customer communities have members interacting with each other and answering each other’s questions. In addition to cost savings in support, customer communities can also generate new contacts and up-sells.
Customers who can support, train, and inspire other customers mean your team does not have to do that work, and your products can be used more effectively, and often in ways that customers have not even thought of. This leads to a lower headcount and increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
3. Allows for Deeper Engagement
Organizations and communities are both able to take advantage of the opportunities offered by online engagement methods. Online communities provide members with more ways to participate and interact. Among the many ways members can interact with your brand and each other, there are challenges, activities, surveys, and polls.
With these different forms of participation, you can satisfy members’ varying preferences, which leads to higher levels of engagement, especially when compared to social media and other marketing activities.
Research shows that the engagement rates on social media range between 5% and 5%, while they are closer to 40%-50% in online communities.
4. Generate leads and acquire new members
A community can be a great place to start if you’re looking to generate more leads or acquire more members. You become discoverable in a community, and you provide value right away. According to Aberdeen findings, an online community platform can improve return on marketing investment (ROMI) by 33%.
Google indexes tons of user-generated content from public sections of communities, including discussion forums, articles, and updates. Your community will appear in search results when prospects search for solutions to their problems, increasing brand awareness. Your community grows in search authority, content, and relevance as your user-generated discussions grow, boosting leads and brand awareness.
5. Stand out from the competition
For your organization, online communities serve many functions, from content creation to marketing intelligence, but for your users, they often play a significant role in their satisfaction and overall experience. On paper, you and your competitors may look similar, but an online community can make you stand out.
According to Temkin Group research, companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn an additional $775 million over three years by investing in customer experience (SaaS businesses are predicted to earn $1 billion, making them the biggest winners.).
Through the use of a member community or customer community, you can distinguish yourself from the competition by providing real-time responses to questions and offering moments of surprise and delight to your customers.
6. User-generated Content (UGC)
The term “user-generated content” refers to content created by your customers rather than your brand and is often considered more authentic and influential. UGC is 42% more effective than branded content and has a 6.9X higher engagement rate than branded posts.
You can access your customers’ content directly through online communities, as they give you direct access to them. By sharing images, videos, and text, community members are creating UGC that can be repurposed into ads and posts. Brand communities play an important role in social media management by providing a regular stream of user-generated content.
7. Engaging Unrepresented Groups
Engaging an online community builds social cohesion and gives everyone a voice. Engagement cohorts often fail to include underrepresented groups. A traditional, or face to face engagement activity may be dominated by a small group of participants who tend to interact frequently, and where issues can become dominated by the same voices. It is often impossible to hear alternative viewpoints, or, more crucially, they are absent altogether. The same applies to public meetings and offline forums, where everyone may not be able to speak up freely.
Online engagement provides a safe and accessible venue for people to participate in the conversation without the limitations of a public forum. Diversity brings diverse communities together, including hard-to-reach and disadvantaged groups, allowing marginalized and often excluded groups to participate in the decision-making process.
8. Customer loyalty
Customer retention/loyalty is the goal, and helping existing customers succeed better is the focus of the most powerful sales increases. Moreover, if community resources aren’t used for critical business functions, such as customer support, it can have a negative effect on loyalty.
According to Gartner, failing to integrate communities into support will result in customer fallout in 70% of organizations. This also means that community deployment will be unsuccessful in some instances. Creating community self-help sites and expecting customers to flock to them results in an unsuccessful deployment. These deployments can also be operated purely by peer-to-peer communities with no administration. However, moderation should be provided by companies.
Engagement in online communities is a valuable investment. As a result, it leads to customer acquisition as well as brand loyalty, which ultimately builds trust and satisfaction, saves time, and promotes customer retention. Engaging actively in the community allows companies to identify gaps, support members, and build long-term relationships with them.
When conducted properly, and with an eye to the quality of engagement and inclusiveness of community representation, online engagement can amplify the reach and value of community engagement in a way that more traditional methods cannot. FLOOR, a powerful all-in-one community platform, provides creators and planners with all the tools they need to build, engage and manage their community from start to finish. Contact us today to know more.