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Building Digital Communities – 4 Tips

Businesspeople are a social bunch. We like to talk about ourselves, each other, other businesses and what we’re all doing to try and succeed in this crazy world. And thanks to the “Interwebs,” we can all do this from safely behind our computer screen.

Digital user groups and communities have been around pretty much forever (well, “forever” in terms of the digital age). Hell, the Internet was pretty much invented for the purpose of bringing communities of scientists together. ARPANET—that was the world’s first online community.

These days, it’s pretty much inevitable for user communities to spring up around businesses, especially product- or software-based businesses. Some businesses take charge from the get-go, setting up these communities themselves, managing them, curating them and actively participating in the exchange of information. Others simply let them grow organically with a shrug, happy the communities exist but not interested in taking part.

And frankly, that’s stupid. You have this community of people who use your products coming together and actively engaging in conversations about you, and you don’t make an effort to join in?

Don’t make excuses about being busy. Depending on the time and resources you can dedicate to community management (and “none” is not the right answer), there are varying levels of participation anyone can handle. Remember, this is a golden opportunity for you to steer brand perception and provide the authenticity customers want – so decide how active you want to be and dive in.

1. Some is better than none – Look for the channels that already exist, and make more of an effort to contribute and comment. Think social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn, including groups set up by your customers.

2. Own it – Don’t leave it up to customers to do the work of setting up groups. Take charge—create, manage and moderate groups in popular channels (again, Facebook and LinkedIn are good places to start), or create your own online forum. Host Twitter chat Q&As. Be involved in conversations, and take the initiative to post things proactively.

3. Go all out – As a marketing automation user, you have incredible tools at your fingertips to integrate with community engagement. Go all out and create a full community/content program. As in the level above, create and manage your groups. Direct people to a landing page with a Web form to sign up for in-depth tips, tricks and case studies. Then, use the information you see to develop a content program dedicated to your user community. You can even feature stuff from community members (with their permission, of course) to create a stronger bond.

4. Address the problem – If there is any negativity, be sure to address it head on. Demonstrate great customer service and be sure to do so in the public forum. If there is feedback or sentiment that’s less than positive, don’t ignore it, delete it or hide from it.

The last option is awesome because you get a list of customers who are highly engaged with your product. So you can do cool stuff like give them exclusive offers, the first crack at registering for events, or beta testing new features. Plus, you’re keeping them within your branded community, rather than forcing them to look outside for help. It’s a nonstop loop of engagement that always leads back to you. 

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