Online customer communities are all the rage these days. One doesn’t have to look very far to see a Facebook or Twitter page rife with customers chattering back and forth, providing valuable word of mouth advertising without the cost of big media buys. However, for every Comcast and Ford, there’s a graveyard of communities that never get off the ground. The scenario goes something like this:
- Step 1: Enterprise 2.0 savvy marketer gets buy-in from boss on a customer community.
- Step 2: Enterprise 2.0 savvy marketer builds community using the newest, latest cool online tool – something with lots of vowels in its name.
- Step 3: Enterprise 2.0 savvy marketer invites customer community to visit the online site.
- Step 4: and then nothing happens…
Well, the boss complains about a failed project, but that’s likely not the desired result. When it comes to online communities, the argument of nature vs. nurture is irrelevant. If you lock five people in a room for a period of time, those persons have no choice but to interact. In the online world, there’s always something else vying your communities’ eyeballs.
You can do everything right in planning your community, but without ongoing management, marketing, and maintenance, you set yourself up for a lone spike in traffic, and that’s it. As much as organizations want customer feedback, customers also want a reason to come back to the community. You don’t have to create elaborate content to keep users returning, but you will need to maintain an ongoing presence that speaks to the needs of your customer base.
This maintenance should be as much a part of the community plan as setting up the goals and choosing your initial customer targets, and resources should be allocated accordingly. Plan for ongoing content creation, and remember that even if you intend to be the key point of engagement for your community, your time is not free. In most cases, a successful customer community has a dedicated community manager that can focus on community promotion, content creation, community monitoring, and reporting. A dedicated community manager can help you build a stronger relationship between your company and your customers.
At Projectline, we love nothing more than creating spaces for the voice of the customer to ring loud and clear. We can help you build and grow a community where your customers can share their experiences, learn from your leadership, and provide much-needed feedback for strategic planning. When run correctly, these communities can also increase customer loyalty and positive word of mouth.