A Marketer's Guide to Building an Online Community
How you engage with customers, user groups and influencers across the social web is one of the most hotly debated questions among marketers today. A major obstacle for marketers looking to achieve true "social" status is finding the right blend of content and community in order to get true context and added value. Here are four tactics marketers should keep in mind when working to build an online community:
1. The agenda should be broader than your products. It's important to make your community an educational resource on a general topic to have genuine appeal to a wide audience. Conversations have already begun across the social web. It’s up to marketers to find a way to take the conversations and content already in their audience's Twitter streams, blogs and Facebook fan pages and effectively turn them into fine-tuned channels to increase customer retention and spread brand awareness.
Social publishing lets marketers do this, and at the same time spread brand awareness and acceptance. For instance, Drupal Commons, a ready-to-use Drupal distribution prebuilt for community websites, allows users to easily create profiles, join groups and discuss their ideas with others who have similar interests, making it a strong viral branding tool that ensures maximum impact.
2. Everyone is a marketer, including your customers and employees. The fact is that marketing functions within organizations have expanded to virtually every department, as everyone will find themselves in some "marketing situation" through online conversations. This is why businesses need to think holistically about their marketing strategy. The very tools that enable customer engagement on a brand’s site should be closely integrated into internal analytics and marketing processes. Only with true integration of web content and social software will businesses be creatively nimble enough to navigate an increasingly competitive marketing landscape.
3. Help people help themselves. When visitors can learn by doing, they'll likely become members with self-discovery — and learning keeps them coming back for more. But with the vast amount of social channels living on the web, marketers face the difficult task of convincing a target audience that their community is one worth participating in. Marketers need to create an environment that's worthwhile to their audience.