How-to Guide

How to Transform Your Website into a Vibrant Social Community

How to Transform Your Website into a Vibrant Social Community
Recent referral traffic trends demonstrate the danger of relying solely on external platforms to attract visitors and sustain long-term engagement with brand enthusiasts.

Do you know the source of your website traffic? How about what drives the most traffic: organic search, paid search, or social media? Traffic trends change constantly; your answers today may be different than they were even just a few months ago. In 2014, social media, specifically Facebook, was referring the largest share of visits to many websites. However, for the first time in four years, search has outpaced social for referral traffic, driving 35% of site visits versus social’s 26% of visits.1

Think of your website as your core destination for developing a social business. #SocialCommunity

These recent traffic trends demonstrate the danger of relying solely on external platforms (which you don’t control) to attract visitors and sustain long-term engagement with brand enthusiasts. It’s not time to abandon your company website in lieu of the hottest social platform; it’s time to transform it into a vibrant social community (which you can control). Says digital strategist Jeff Bullas, “Think of your website as your core destination for developing a social business.” Follow these tips to create a customer-centric social hub that keeps your customers coming back for more.


Ask, “Why should my customers invest time in my community?”

If you can’t answer this question, your social community is doomed before you even begin the community vendor selection process. Vibrant social communities are built around a shared purpose that aligns member aspirations to commitments from the brand. Gartner has identified nine common objectives for customer engagement with online communities, including a desire to share feedback about a product or service, to get support, and to exchange knowledge with like-minded peers to improve a product or service.2


Don’t Bury the Link

If your audience members can’t quickly find what they need, they won’t stay engaged for long. Ensuring customers are always one click away from the right information is a great place to start when mapping out a vibrant community. Don’t bury the link to your social community in your homepage footer; instead, integrate links back to your community throughout your website. For example:

  • Display community member’s ratings and reviews along with profile information on your product pages.
  • Highlight your superfans in how-to videos.
  • Add contextual FAQ integration so that customers can find answers from their peers in the community at the right time.
  • Create a forum topic for each product and include a high-level link directly from your product offering pages.

Listen Before Taking Action

What makes online communities unique is the conversation, engagement, and energy of its members. There will be times when “passionate” discussions turn into negative posts about your products, services, or brand.

Let these customers vent, acknowledge their concerns, and then find the easiest way to make everything right again. When you listen carefully instead of immediately jumping in to defend your product or service, you’ll glean incredible insights and ideas that could make your community better and stronger in the long-run. It’s also very likely that other community members will jump into the conversation to answer questions and advocate for you. In fact, 65% of people who visit a brand’s community would defend that brand. Brands consistently see that customers who engage with their community remain customers longer, and are more satisfied than customers who don’t engage in that channel.


Forget Sales and Find Your Superusers

A small minority of social customers can make the difference between success and failure. In the world of social communities, a good customer is not the one who buys the most; she’s the one who is knowledgeable about your brand and is most likely to contribute a significant amount of time and assistance to fellow customers. Superusers provide a loyal service to their favorite brands by sharing their stories and experiences, which are more trusted by peers because they are not endorsements from employees.3

The first step towards harnessing the benefits of superusers is to identify top experts and influencers so that you can reward them for their topic expertise and nurture their positive behavior. Through its Expert Elite program, Autodesk recognizes the importance of superfans as the core of the Autodesk Community. These people have demonstrated a strong sense of leadership and collaboration that contributes to a healthy and valuable customer community. The Expert Elite program now has over 200 members representing 23 different countries, and have delivered 7,000 accepted solutions, received 17,000 kudos, and posted 60,000 replies.


Looking for more information on how to optimize your online community to drive business impact? Download The High Performing Community Handbook and start leveraging the power of your community.


1 Search Engine Land - "Search outpaced social for referral traffic last year, driving 35% of site visits vs social’s 26% share of visits"

2 Gartner - "Optimize the Role of Peer-to-Peer Communities in the Customer Journey"

3 Fortune - "Companies are on the hunt for superfans"

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