Your Business and professional Online Communities
Gone are the days when an organization has to meet in person to start or finish a business deal and close business chapters.
The reality is that IT/Web-technology is not only here to stay but it advances every day; hence the need for every individual to adapt to this trend and get the utmost benefit from it.
With technology, one can start an interaction with any business online whether via the company’s website or through their social media handles.
Part of the business social interaction leads to creating online communities, for support, branding, customer loyalty, etc…
What is an Online Community?
It is a platform created by businesses or groups to help interact with their users of a product or service. It bridges the gap among users of a product or service from the various parts of the World.
An Online Community can be created on various social media platforms like Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, etc. It aids smart interaction among peers, current and potential customers and business partners.
Having a designated place for open discussions helps build a strong community within an organization.
An Online Community is a great place to get tips on updates and smart features, talk about your problems and read how others have solved problems and make your work & life both easier and smoother.
12 Benefits of an Online Community
- Get Found and increase new Customer Acquisition
- Reduce Risk of Purchase– Peer-to-peer support forums, easily-accessible documentation, help guides, and other support content reduce the risk of new purchases and make prospects feel more confident with a new purchase
- Possibility to boost Upsell, Cross-Sell, and Add-On Revenue
- Increase Customer Loyalty / Customer Retention
- Improve Customer Engagement and
- Enrich Customer Experience
- Nurture/ Foster your future Brand Advocates/ Champions
- Direct feedback from all Stakeholders including customers – that is true insights that you cannot possibly get them from Market Research
- Use that feedback to improve and even develop your product or service offerings
- Genuinely keep up with the competition – people will tell you if the competitor is doing something better or worse
- Reduce Customer Support Costs by 20% – 50% according to Business Case studies
- Provide an overall Great Brand Impression – it is your Launchpad for great Content
12 Qualities of an Online Community Manager
The real purpose of an Online Community is to take all applicable social media to the next level, and to open up a world known as Social Business. Thus, choosing the right type of Online Community for your organization is important, and so should be the person who should be running your Online Community.
His/her main objective should be to gain membership and engagement.
Interacting with people is a difficult job; It requires the need to look for people who have the skills and experience that are difficult to teach.
From our own rich experience, here are some of the qualities that we believe that every Online Community Manager should ideally possess:
#1 Empathy: an Online Community Manager should be someone with a willing heart to understand and respond to the emotions of a client in a situation at any particular point in time.
Golden Tip: hire someone with a great social personality and not an IT expert to run your social media & online communities.
#2 Social Charisma: You should know how to react to issues and comments made by clients on the platform at any point in time. Yelling at people for posting wrong content and dictating them ‘a posteriori’ rules will make them go away and possibly destroy the community
People -we all have tendency to shift to tangent topics, It is the obligation of the Online Community Manager to gracefully bring the topic ‘back to the theme’ of the Online Community. It is also his/her responsibility to try to understand why someone went off topic and whether that was a generic ‘pain issue’ for the whole community.
All discussions get closure so sometime it is better to let an off-topic engaged discussion to ‘die on its own’ a day or two later on.
#3 Ability to learn: with daily expansion of scope of smart technological concepts and ideas, a manager cannot afford to miss new social and technological trends and updates.
#4 Be a Discussion Leader – s/he should also be learning about the content/ theme/ topic of the online community discussions and s/he should be stimulating, starting and carrying on discussions. Otherwise, you will have a dead community/ user group.
#5 Willing to learn from members as well
#6 Conflict Resolution: In any community-including an Online one, everyone has its way of understanding issues, it is certain that diverse responses to issues by members can easily upset another.
It is therefore necessary that the manager has the skill to resolve conflicts that may arise from the interactions of members.
#7 Community Planning and Management KPIs– Set your target and goals, plan your community, have calendar for various activities that are needed for growth and sustenance of the group.
Your community has a vision and mission for operating; it could be to increase sales, educate clients and to promote a particular brand hence you have to set metrics to aid you achieve your goals and to increase your performance.
#8 Have clear rules + communicate them upfront – State the regulations of the Online Community in clear terms: you have to explain to members that they all have equal rights; and have to respect people’s opinion but not to insult or use any foul language on anyone. Don’t be a control freak nor micromanage the community
#9 Monitor Conversations – always with grace and respect; it is important to criticize ideas not people
#10 Encourage Networking
#11 Be Fun !!! In order to have a successful Online Community, itsManager has to make the community effective and make interactions more friendly and fun. Ideally he/she is a great storyteller
#12 Create the Community-feeling – make them have a sense of belonging in the group
Simply put: Hire someone who is:
- passionate about your business or interest,
- truly loves people and makes them happy,
- a clear communicator and great storyteller
- a writer who is curious, analytical and critical.
Community is such a great word coming from a Latin word meaning “things shared by many or all”.
That said, building and maintaining an Online Community for your organization is rather serious business
The most important benefit of a branded Online Community should be a better overall impression of your brand and your organization. An Online Community serves both as a source of information and a way to communicate great content with current and future customers.
When customers visit your Online Community and they find great information and hear positive comments, it immediately increases their overall impression of the brand.
The Online Community should add value to all its visitors and members by providing great educational content while maintaining some form of entertainment hue.
Make sure that it is a fun ‘addictive’ environment for your members, that they develop new friends there and that you ‘show to them’ the relevant information instead of a textual boring list with to-do instructions.
Basically, create for them moments of inspiration – this is why you need a very social (definitely not an engineer or technical) Community Manager. Then your brand will benefit from this newly created enthusiasm and support for your customer/brand advocates.
These people are usually the most active participants in almost any of your Online Community discussions/ forums, and they are also very loyal to your brand.
Use your Online Community to build real and meaningful relationships with customers and prospects. These relationships foster continuous engagement and loyalty.
Your Online communities will also provide you with the possibility/opportunity to sell without the bitter hard-“sell” after-feeling and make your organization more approachable.
Remember? People buy from people.
Thank you and Good Luck please.
Berlinda and Spiros
About the authors:
Berlinda Atuahene is an Online Community Manager and a Customer Service practitioner at Vodafone Ghana.
Spiros Tsaltas –a PR Practitioner & former University Professor, is a PRrincipal at HireLoyalty ( www.HireLoyalty.com ), the only Strategic PR Firm in West Africa that Consults (How-To) , Measures (Test-To) and Trains (Learn-To) in anything relating to Customer Loyalty and Loyalty- focused PR.
They both welcome all your comments/ remarks/ feedback /suggestions at Press [at] HireLoyalty.com. HireLoyalty can be reached at +233 20 741 3060
© 2019 Spiros Tsaltas and © 2019 HireLoyalty.