A customer community platform can be a fun way for your target audience to share stories, ideas, and experiences with your product or service. And not only does it provide a solution for your brand to stay top of mind with these customers, you’ll also have continuous access to customer insights.
Challenges With Customer Community Platforms
You probably noticed that it’s going to take a whole lot more than simply setting up your platform and inviting users to make your community remarkable. Both from a user experience and company return on investment perspective, right?
Goals and Objectives
To truly get the most out of your customer community platform you’re going to need to:
- Understand what makes a bad vs good community platform;
- Identify your short, mid and long-term community objectives;
- Identify the various features of your customer community platform that will allow you to achieve those objectives faster.
Some of the challenges community builders within small and medium businesses often experience:
- Platforms feeling massive, clunky, and lacking flexibility;
- Being limited in functionality and features;
- Not integrating well with other popular tools;
- Being unable to grow as the business grows;
- Having poor design and user interface;
- Not allowing for a mix of quant and qual market research methodology.
What to Look for in a Platform
As a community manager you’ll want to ensure that your customer community platform provides the following benefits:
- Provides a amazing experience for your community members;
- Saves you and your company time – it needs to be quick to set up and get going;
- It’s easy to use and saves you money (provides a real ROI);
- Has enough functionality to grow as your company or project grows;
- Comes with an excellent and responsive customer support team.
But how do you know that a community platform can provide such benefits? One way to find out is to take a look at unsolicited customer reviews online. In case you’re interested, here are some independent reviews of our CMNTY platform. Another way is to read through customer success stories and case studies to get an idea of how other businesses have benefited from using a particular platform.
Related Post: The CMX Guide Compares Community Software
How To Build a Greater Customer Community
Below are 5 key strategies that we recommend you focus on in order to build a powerful online customer community, along with key community platform features you could use to implement them.
Once you’ve read through all 5 strategies, your team will need to decide which to work on next based on where your community is right now. You should then adjust your community strategy for the next 12 months.
1. Grow Your Community To Critical Mass
The critical mass is the point at which the level of growth and activity in your community starts to take off with minimal direct input from you and your team.
For example, according to community consulting firm Feverbee’s online community lifecycle model:
This point is numerically defined as when more than 50% of growth and activity is generated by the community (as opposed to the community manager).
So how do you get your customer community to critical mass? This can be achieved in several ways:
- Personally invite customers to join and participate as members;
- Stimulate activity in the community by starting discussions around key topics your members are interested in, encouraging members to respond; and
- Invest time in building strong relationships with members through reaching out to each person individually.
2. Help Your Customers Kick Major Goals Using Your Product
Your customers are using and investing in your product in order to better themselves and/or their company in some way. So, a critical path to your success is understanding what it is that they’re trying to achieve. In other words: what roadblocks they’re facing and how your team and your product can help them realize their goals faster.
Consider this: when your customers win, and your product and business helped them achieve that win – who are they going to give credit to for their success? Your business of course!
Success Tip: Be proactive and take ownership of engaging with your customers and empower them to share their wins publicly. Don’t leave it to chance (or your busy customers).
- Encourage users to share their wins inside your customer community platform first.
- Involve your members in product development. I.e. through co-creating something special and customized for a segment of your customers you’ll make them feel part of something special.
- Encourage User-Generated Content (UGC) from your members. Several brands are using UGC to good effect including Buffer, BMW, and Starbucks.
3. Incentivize Community Members to Voluntarily Participate
A proven way to develop a sense of community and loyalty is to reward community members for demonstrating positive behaviors. We’re not talking about hanging out wads of cash here either. Science tells us that there are better rewards for driving deeper engagement than monetary compensation.
Career analyst and author Dan Pink shares the research and surprising findings around what motivates us in his TED talk. Watch it here:
4. Use Customer Data To Gather Insights
Your customer community platform is the ideal tool for building insight communities and conducting online qualitative research studies. In other words, your customer community platform should allow you to analyze patterns & dig deeper. This will provide you with rich information to improve your business and community.
Furthermore, your community platform should save you time by integrating your community with other key business processes automatically. Check out our post on how to achieve that with Zapier.
Recommended customer community platform features to utilize to achieve this objective:
- Use data gathering tools like Forum Discussions, Survey, Idea Contest, Poll, Personal Diary;
- Use data categorization like a Tagging tool to categorize content for later retrieval;
- Deploy communication tools like newsletter, blog, custom HTML-based pages;
- Use incentives and rewards, gamification;
- Task automation with Zapier.
Now It’s over to You…
To summarize, building a great customer community can reap many benefits for you, your company and your community members. Once you’ve established what your key objectives are for your community, ensure that your chosen customer community platform provides the functionality that will enable you to execute on those key objectives. And is flexible enough to grow with you as your community grows.
So, which of the 4 strategies outlined will you focus on? We’d love to support you in making it happen.