Over the years, I have had great success growing businesses around building membership communities based on users of a brand’s products or services. Whether selling an automotive product, offering services in the disability sector or promoting the work of a not-for-profit, building a community around your business or organisation is a cost-effective way to reach markets that have become hardened to traditional marketing campaigns.
Examples may be…
An in-home nursing service could create an online community for recipients, carers and family members to discuss and inform about issues, challenges, resources and tips. Encouraging conversation but also offering your expertise and experience in the general discussion.
An automotive cleaning product that offers an interactive community on how to get the best results to tackle challenging problems and share their experiences. Once again, the brand would be the expert, steering and guiding the conversations but giving room for others to offer their perspective.
A community enables you to
- Identify people with a passion for your industry, services and products.
You can get more bang from your marketing dollar by identifying those in the market for your product. You can create a free community for people to get this information. You have also collected a database of people who are in the market or know people who are in the market for your products and services.
- Build trust with followers and become an authoritative voice.
As you speak into this community and others chip in with their positive experiences, your authority increases, and even handheld criticism can create a sense of security for those worried about the “worst case scenario”. If this is done online it can be great for your SEO.
- Create advocates who will spread your message and endorse your brand.
- Online communities are often excellent for fans and experts to share their knowledge and success with your products and services. You may find that your community influencers become the best advocates for your brand.
What sort of community?
Your community needs to attract the same people that would require your products or services but speak to broader issues. It might solve problems, rally around a common cause or connect people with common interests. A business that provides respite relief for families with high care children with disabilities might start an online community around playgrounds and activities for children with disabilities for instance.
What sort of content builds membership communities?
The answer to this is always “Shareable Content”. Sharable content conations messages, ideas and information that connects with an audience so much that it becomes part of the story they want to share. To create sharable content you have to:
- Tap into emotion.
- Listen to the issues and speak to them.
- Lead the conversation.
- Ask other leaders and influencers to contribute.
Read more about sharable content here.
Avoiding the negative; negativity in a community like this can only attract more negative people. You don’t want your community to become a whinge-fest.
Moderate and contribute.
Steer and drive your community, but don’t overdo it. Sometimes sitting back and allowing the community to do the work is quite rewarding. If you build your community out of fans, they often offer advice and endorsements; all you have to do is chip in with your experience and expertise to keep it on the right track.
Don’t allow questions to go too long without being answered.
Never allow it to be hijacked; negativity and people with an axe to grind need to be moderated to keep the experience a positive one for everybody.
Don’t forget about offline.
Getting your community together in one room is always important; it brings authenticity to the community, even for those who can’t be there. When you do offline, try to live stream or upload heaps of videos and images to help those who are more remote feel part of the event.