How-to Guide

How Top Brands Build a Social Destination with Online Community Software

How Top Brands Build a Social Destination with Online Community Software
When your business invests in online community software, you’re providing the infrastructure that allows customers to interact and support one another—all while making a stronger connection with your brand.

Although social media platforms can be valuable tools to attract new customers and drive brand awareness, they fall short in building deeper relationships. People go to these sites to connect with friends and family, and, if you’re lucky, you may get their attention for a few seconds as they scroll through their timelines.

An online community is essentially a “social hub” for your customers to gather, discuss your products and services, and get help in a community of like-minded brand enthusiasts. You’re also steering conversations towards a social destination where YOU control the customer experience, as opposed to public social networks. When your business invests in online community software, you are providing infrastructure that facilitates customer interaction and support, all while developing a stronger and more consistent connection with your brand.

Here are four ways marketing innovators create a vibrant social destination with online community software.

1. Determine Your Shared Purpose

Before you invest in online community software, carefully consider why consumers should devote time to your community. The answer is the shared purpose that will unite its members. What does shared purpose look like? For Fitbit, it’s users around the world supporting one another in achieving their wellness goals. For GoDaddy, it’s small business owners learning from each other, brainstorming together, and even going into business together.

Our goal has been simply to make it easier and quicker for our customers to find the information they need.
Liam Woods, Digital Community Channel Manager, AGL

2. Remove Roadblocks

Brands like AGL, Australia’s leading integrated energy company, understand that customers expect to interact digitally. They also want their questions, needs, and concerns addressed quickly. “Our goal has been simply to make it easier and quicker for our customers to find the information they need,” says AGL Digital Community Channel Manager Liam Woods. To achieve this goal, AGL transformed its digital customer experience in 2015 by creating a social destination where customers can find information and solutions more easily than ever before.

To provide a seamless pathway for customers to get support, AGL promotes their community across multiple customer touchpoints, ranging from homepage links to an integrated content and social media strategy. However, the most impressive way they remove roadblocks is through intelligent, contextual FAQ integration on their website. This peer-to-peer feature allows customers to quickly find answers to commonly asked questions at the right time, allowing them to share feedback and also contribute to the growing knowledge base.

"Our community works because it's a collaboration...between the company and our most enthusiastic customers." - Mark Hopkins, Social Media Project Manager and Community Manager for the Lenovo Community

3. Harness the Loyalty of Fans

International technology powerhouse Lenovo had a mission to build a collaborative hub that could connect customers to other customers, Lenovo engineers, and Lenovo partners to solve technical questions 24/7. But before the community was even launched, Lenovo reached out to existing active users in the social web to ask for their support. These experienced users acted as guides in the planning and implementation of a new social destination—The Lenovo Community. Post-launch, these users continue to share their time and knowledge by acting as moderators, writing articles, and providing technical support. “They act as nodes in a human network, expanding our collective awareness, understanding, and ultimately, influence into other spheres,” says community manager Mark Hopkins. In the first three years of operation, this group of approximately 30 members contributed 44% of the solutions in the community, and in less than one year helped grow the community knowledge base to over 1,200 articles. Now that’s successful collaboration.

4. Reward Your Members

Software alone is not enough to keep customers engaged and motivated to return to your community. A proven way to incentivize members to participate and keep coming back is to reward them through gamification. Barclays Travel Community uses miles to motivate members to participate. Registered members of the community can earn miles for activities such as completing a travel profile, posting a story with a photo, or having your story "kudoed" by other registered members. Members can then redeem miles for travel awards or e-certificates, and can earn profile badges like “City Slicker” or “Stately Explorer” specific to their past travels, making it easy to find fellow travelers with similar interests.

It’s time for brands to understand the current and potential value of online customer communities and develop an effective strategy for them. Learn how to leverage community to acquire and serve customers, and grow your existing customer base in the eBook The High Performing Community Handbook.

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