Have you heard that 2015 is the year of the Customer Community? According to Forrester, branded communities are the next big thing again in Customer Engagement. What is old is new again.
Branded communities have been a proven effective method to build customer engagement. The most active communities will have a wealth of ongoing conversations and useful content, a healthy mix of returning and new members, and recurring site traffic. If it is a support based community, it will also serve as a knowledge base for new and existing customers to find the answers they are looking for without having to contact support directly.While I agree that having a customer community encouraging two-way (most likely forum and comment based) interaction is certainly part of the mix, it is becoming an increasing smaller part of the overall conversation occurring amongst your customers — past, current, and future. I should know. I spent the better part of the last 6 years implementing and consulting on branded customer and fan based communities for large, well-known brands.
People are increasingly looking to connect with your brand and get answers on social media channels like Twitter. The conversations are already happening there. Saying that having a traditional Customer Community is the most direct, effective way to interact with your customers is becoming somewhat hard to believe. It’s essentially the equivalent of going to crowded party and screaming at the top of your lungs “Hey You Guys!!! There is a better party happening at my place and everyone should go there now.” Sure, a few people might follow you out the door and over to your place but there is no chance that everyone will because everyone is already entrenched in the experience at the existing party.
Hashtags have become the new topic threads. In a forum-centric community, topic threads are what segment different conversations. Users have to either find or start their own threads and contribute. Not to mention, that they have to first go to your site, find the community, log in (god forbid if you don’t use social login by now), and then start contributing.
Meanwhile on sites like Twitter, where users are already actively contributing, Hashtags
are now the glue that binds posts from individual users together in a larger community conversation. Whether it is a sporting event, TV show, a knowledge area, twitter chat, or something else, there is no denying that there is a strong sense of community in hashtag based social interactions. Top organizations have known this for a while and have implemented a strategy that involves listening, monitoring, and responding to users on the native social channels.
Most organizations are not curating that social content and including it in their branded communities. Even the top community platforms do not make it easy. There is a growing selection of social curation platforms that allow a brand or business to curate and feature social mentions on their branded community or social hub. However, it is not yet so tightly integrated that a community member could then comment further on the curated social content brought in from another source, unless a community manager has manually started a thread referencing the curated content. This is a huge growth area for online community platforms and social curation platforms alike. Curating social content additionally enables organizations to identify fans, SMEs, and customers on social, perform additional outreach, and mash up socially curated content with community content.
Organizations that have a customer community and a social listening, monitoring, response, AND curation strategy, will ultimately serve their customers better and offer a more complete view of the customer conversation.
Smazing has in-depth knowledge of the best social curation, monitoring, and online community platforms. We will work with your organization to create a craft customer community creating a more holistic community, harnessing the conversation in your branded community and those happening about your brand on social media.