How to generate traffic in an online customer community?

What makes BaristaExchange community or all of Sony’s online communities so thriving? Find out.

Nothing gives you insights into a customer psyche better than online customer communities. Clearly, companies around the world are investing in these communities. The worldwide online communities market will reach $1.2 billion by 2019, according to advisory firm IDC. This means more brands are now willing to see online communities as a vital investment. In fact, 77% of companies believe that an online community significantly improves brand exposure, awareness and credibility according to a report by MartechAdvisor. What makes customer communities really work?

Online communities have proven ROI

/ Sports broadcasting leader ESPN was able to bring market research in-house, saving approximately $650,000 in one year after it launched its FANography insight community.
/ A University of Michigan study found that customers spend 19 percent more after joining a company’s online community.
/ 23% of marketers who have online communities indicate that the size of their communities has at least doubled in the past year.

Customer communities have actionable insights

/ In a recent survey reported in MartechAdvisor, 72% of companies with an online community revealed that they use it to gather product feedback while 67% use it to collect new product and feature ideas.
/ About 54% of marketers launched a branded community because customers frequently gave product feedback and ideas.
/ A 2016 study found that 86% of marketers believe that having a branded online community benefits core business operations, while 85% think it will improve the customer journey.

But creating an online customer community is really just the beginning. There are also enough number of cases where such communities become ghost towns after a few months of launching. Why? Because customers are real people and they have priorities. Apart from buying your products or services or discussing about them on these communities, they have a real life that needs attention. Yet, for companies, it’s crucial that these communities actually keep attracting customers and making engagement a priority in the lives of these customers.

Here’s how you can generate and keep the traffic always busy on your online customer community –

#1 Start with common-sense promotion

Your initial set of users will be the first advocates of your brand. Choose them wisely. Do promote your launch all over your website but keep in mind your targeted demographic. If you have made user profiles earlier, it would help you get the kind of people who can become your brand advocates. Here’s how to get your first 100 customers on your online community –

/ Invite relevant contacts: Yes you are desperate to get your first 100 but you can be selective about the most relevant contacts from your database. This will set you apart from several other brands who send invites senselessly to irrelevant contacts.
/ Talk about it: Get yourself and your sales reps into the habit of mentioning the online customer community wherever you go. Personal interaction somehow still works better than a virtual non-personal invites. Explain about your product and the objectives of the community. Get people’s feedback or opinion.
/ Start with offers: There’s a travel community from India called Tripoto that got initial traction by inviting traveller’s profile photographs and adding their logo and interesting one-liner to go with each photograph. Got innovating ideas to connect with people? Do it.

#2 Relevant partnerships

Today, influencers have emerged as the strongest voices and brand advocates the world has ever known. They are the new brand ambassadors who are influencing one niche demographic at a time.

/ Incentivize influencers: Collaborate with influencers in a mutually beneficial promotion where they get to shout out about your online customer community. Give them your products or services for free to review and post these reviews on your customer community.
/ Give influencers the first tour: Before launching the customer community, you may send special invites to influencers to try out and review the community experience on their social media handles.

#3 Highlight useful content

/ What do customers do on your online community? Do they find it useful? Do they feel benefitted? What are those benefits? It’s important to highlight and spotlight useful tips, tricks, content, information to your customers. Create an online community that has enough room to highlight productive content.
/ Give away free content: An enticing tactic to bring more people and continuous traffic on your online customer community is to give away free content. For instance, CommunityCare is a customer community that has a lot of give-aways on their homepage that helps draw relevant traffic.
/ Segregate feeds: Customers are more likely to get hooked to your community if they get the –FOMO – fear of missing out. How do you create that? By segregating group feeds, page feeds, media posts, rating and reviews, suggestions etc so the members keep feeling that they don’t want to miss out on any of these feeds.

#4 Gamification is your best friend

Millennial customers, as is well-known, are wired towards gaming. Any millennial today has on an average at least two gaming apps or gamified apps on his/her phone. Get some inspiration from SKGaming.

/ Rewards/points systems: Nothing gives millennial customers a kick more than the rewards they feel like they have ‘earned’. What’s your product like? Give away some freebies in exchange for certain level of engagement quantified in some rewards or points system.
/ Incentivize invites: Ask your community members to invite friends, colleagues and more acquaintances in exchange for goodies or rewards.

#5 Pay attention to analytics

One of world’s most thriving communities BaristaExchange is thriving for a reason. The company observes the community conversations quite closely and acts upon it. Get your community manager to not only read the insights, observe analytics but also closely watch the conversations that are happening in a community.

/ Feature active discussions: When you feature such discussions or highlight them, other members get an instant feel that your community is thriving. Peer pressure gets the better of them and they sign up for it.
/ Showcase activities: Another sure-shot way to multiply a customer community is to showcase activities that are going on. This gives a FOMO to the outsiders while insiders benefit from the showcase. This is also the best way to get some actionable insights about your products or services.

#6 Personalize

Electronics brand Sony’s communities are notorious for personalization so much it becomes ghostly sometimes. Sony Playstation’s home page begins by asking visitors or members to choose a topic. There are buttons with other subjects that are right below the prompt. Once visitors choose their topic, they get the freedom to personalize the next page as per their interests. This kind of personalization leaves a lasting impact on the customers’ minds and compels them to share the word with others.

#7 Make call-to-action most accessible

Another way to make a customer community a multiplying platform is to make it obvious to the members as to the final objective. This, if done creatively, can make the customers feel important and special because they have what they need at the click of a button.

/ Make purchasing opportunities easy: Purchasing opportunity for your customers on the community should not be blatant but obvious enough. Use analytics to show only relevant products to interested members.
/ Make CTA buttons fun: It’s not necessary that your CTA is always a purchase but it may be the next big step towards it. However, to make it less forceful, it’s vital that you keep the CTA button as per the theme of the customer community.

Having said that, we do want to insist upon a beautiful looking online customer community that attracts users instantly. For that, it’s important that you partner with Vinfotech that owns world’s best social network development framework vSocial. This framework has everything that a thriving customer community development needs. We can practically help you reach the initial set of brand advocates on your customer community. We have helped brands in various fields reach a stronger brand advocacy through thriving customer communities in the last six years. Give us a call.

  • Start with common-sense promotion
  • Relevant partnerships
  • Highlight useful content
  • Gamification is your best friend
  • Pay attention to analytics
  • Personalize
  • Make call-to-action most accessible

About Vinfotech

Vinfotech creates world's best social networks for employees, brands, interest groups and sports fans. We promise initial set of real engaged users to put turbo in your social network growth. Our award winning software vSocial™ allows us to build stellar customized communities faster and better. Our customers include Aston Martin, Burberry, Arabian Gulf League and Snapdeal.

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