How Online Communities can Support Your Business

How Online Communities can Support Your Business

 

Hello again, and welcome to my 8th blog regarding social media marketing.  Throughout these postings, you have hopefully been learning about what the groundswell is, and how you can use all aspects of social media to further your business’ goals.

 

Once you have selected your chosen a form of social media for your business through the analysis of  your market’s technographics profile  and developed a proper business strategy the POST process way of thinking it is time for you to take the next step.

 

It is now time for you to learn how important it is to build your online community and how this community can support key business functions for your company.  Online communities are great, they allow people to seek out help, get answers and advice right away from others, and build a sense of loyalty for a brand.  On the business side of things, they can cut your company’s overhead costs through the elimination of traditional support costs like the costs of having dedicated support staff.  Sure, your business will still incur these costs but they will be lessened if you have a successful online community.  I will touch basis on these cost savings in a future blog regard social medias ROI.

The Success Story of a Canadian Online Community

 

One of the most recent success stories of a company using online communities to support its business is that of Telus and its sub-brand Public Mobile.  When Telus purchased the company a few years ago, it was apparent there was changes needed to be made. The company was bleeding money, trying to support too much with too few subscribers.  When the brand finally relaunched as a Telus company, there was change.  The most glaring change was the shift from telephone/retail support channels to a fully online community to support its customers.  This eliminated a large portion of costs for Public/Telus and allows for customers to become engaged with each other.  On the site, there is a series of moderators who manage the site and answer or help customers with more serious issues.  These moderators are the only employees for Public Mobile that support the business. The rest of the questions that customers have are answered by the community members.  This allows a level of integration for clients that is unprecedented in the telecommunication world.   

 

Feel free to read up on how Public Mobile is doing wireless different via the following links:

 

Mobilesyrup: Telus Rebrands Public Mobile as the “Co-operative wireless Provider”

 

Public Mobile: Doing wireless different has its ups and downs

Advice for Starting an Online Community

 

Now that you have explored a successful online community it is time for you to learn some practical advice for you to use to launch your own online community successfully.

 

Start Small but Plan for a Larger Presence

 

As with nearly anything in life, starting small is the best way to proceed.  Start by analyzing how customers communicate regarding your products and how these customers engage with each other.  Is it through a blog, through a forum or even through social media?  Choose a form of social media to develop your community around and slowly build around that platform.  Plan for growth and eventually supporting many facets of your business with this community. 

 

In Public Mobile’s case, Telus allowed legacy customers to still call in and access traditional support channels like telephone or online support Public Mobile only supported new clients on the site, with the end goal of transitioning their legacy customers to a fully online support community.

 

Reach Out to Your Most Active Customers

 

Your customers know your company’s products and services better than almost anyone else in the world, short of yourself and possibly your engineers.  Reach out to the people who are the most passionate about your brand and ask them how they would participate in your online community.  The people are going to be your brand ambassadors in the online world and it is imperative to keep them happy as they support your community.

 

Plan to Drive Traffic to Your Community

 

You may think great, I have a online community and now I’m done.  Well you’d be wrong. You must plan to drive people to your community.  When you launch it, your community will be like a ghost town if there is no support for traffic.  Advertise its existence to the world.  Perhaps look at SEO (Search Engine Optimization) techniques and maybe pay for a search engine company like Google to direct people to your community. 

 

Build a Reputation System

 

People like to be recognized and rewarded in everything they do.  In the online world, it is no different.  Develop a way for your most loyal users to be recognized and perhaps rewarded for their contributions to your community.  Having a way for people to be recognized will lead to contributions that are of a higher quality.  For instance, on Public Mobile’s community users have the ability to earn community rewards.  These rewards are given by the community to users who contribute and help out other users of the forums with issues.  As members accumulate rewards, they can eventually save money off of their phone bill.  Now I’m not saying give out recognition that carries a monetary value to users, but have a recognition system in place to drive community contributions.

 

Let Your Customers Lead You

 

Listen to your community’s discussions.  Users will have opinions on everything and anything.  These opinions will give great insight to your company on things like processes that need tweaking, new product ideas and even how to improve the community.  Have an area for these discussions to take place in order to have easier access to such discussions.  In Public Mobile’s case they have any community input and ideas directed towards the Public Lab sub forum.

 

By using these tips, you can start creating a online community that can benefit your company in more ways than you can count. 

 

Now I’m going to leave you with two short videos.   One is a meet the Oracles; or what is traditionally the moderators of a community, for Public Mobile.  The other video is another song that I feel is fitting for what our common perception of what communities are for and why we turn to online communities.  Thank you and until next week goodbye.

 

References

Hardy, I. (2015, February 3). Mobilesyrup. Retrieved from http://mobilesyrup.com/2015/02/03/telus-rebrands-public-mobile-as-canadas-cooperative-wireless-provider-offers-data-only-lte-plans/

Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2011). Groundswell. pp174-176. Boston: Harvard Business Review Press .

Public Mobile. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://productioncommunity.publicmobile.ca/t5/Public-Mobile-Community/ct-p/Public_Mobile_Community

 

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