In recent years, social media platforms have become essential for businesses. They facilitate the process of information sharing and processing, but are also helpful tools to grow the businesses. On the one hand, they can serve to promote the companies and their products. On the other hand, companies can create communities on these channels. New customers can arise from the members, which in turn leads to the growth of the businesses.
In a more recent development, businesses have been shifting their communities from external social media platforms to platforms owned and managed by themselves. This has turned out to have a great impact growth-wise and from a customer satisfaction standpoint.
What are brand communities?
When talking about brand communities, it is important to understand what exactly they are and why they exist. Generally speaking, a brand community is a group of people who show interest in the same brand and get together online to discuss the topic, exchange information and help each other out. The members of a brand community feel a connection to each other because of the shared interest and belonging to the same group. It can also be said that a brand community is built on a set of relationships that the members have with the brand, the product and other customers.
Brand communities arose from the fact that businesses wanted to build relationships with their customers and be able to communicate with them. Nowadays, brand loyalty has been difficult to sustain. For this reason, it is recommended to offer customers channels of communication along with quality service. Depending on the brand or product, people may face challenges and have questions. Thus, brand communities have proven to be a great way for businesses to assist and support their customers by providing guidance and feedback. Furthermore, it has been shown that members can also help each other among themselves with their own knowledge of the products.
Winning customers’ loyalty
People with a special interest in a brand like to be able to interact with it. For a business or brand, it is hence important to be active online, where they can represent their brand in order to gain the attention and engagement of consumers. Interaction on the networks through these brand communities can ultimately create consumer-brand relationships between customers and companies. In addition, people can socialize with others who have the same interest by sharing immediate and relevant information.
By building an online community for a brand, the focus lies on peoples’ shared interests and their problems. In other words, the customers’ needs are more important than just promoting the brand, which in the end ensures the customers’ trust and loyalty. In a modern world, where the cost of switching becomes progressively lower and brand loyalty is harder to cultivate than ever, customers reward businesses with well managed communication channels. This is one of the main goals of a brand community. Repeated interaction and long term relationships are therefore keys to building trust and loyalty.
Why go for a business-owned community instead of using existing social networks
There are a few things to consider when looking at creating a brandl community. Firstly, you need to consider what you want to communicate on those channels. Secondly, you should work out who your target audience is. Finally, you have to figure out how to reach your target audience and how to connect with them. We will look into the third point here. Of course, the first thought would be to create accounts on the usual social media platforms like Instagram, Facebook and Twitter and maybe on more professional networks like LinkedIn as well. For most businesses, it is recommended to have an online presence on at least two of such platforms, in order to connect with existing and potential new customers. These channels allow businesses to communicate with their audience by sharing information, promoting their products and establishing a brand presence that customers might be able to connect with and establish trust and loyalty.
However, these networks are limited. One of the limitations is the lack of customization of the platform to suit the businesses. Every business has to adjust and fit itself within the constraints of social media. Another limitation is the lack of efficient two-way communication. Another aspect is the fact that customers are very easily distracted and continue scrolling. The solution to these problems is a community platform managed by the business itself and with the sole purpose of building a qualitative community. Nevertheless, social media platforms can be used to get the attention of the target audience and then direct them to the businesses’ own community platform.
The business-owned community platform can function as a communication channel for the business to the audience, but also work the other way around, offering customers the possibility to inform themselves with the provided information on that platform or by getting in contact with the business directly. Furthermore, these platforms can be greatly customized to represent the businesses’ brand identity and cater to the businesses’ wishes in regards to presentation. The platform can also be used as a sales funnel, with different content pages that provide information on different aspects of the business. Additionally, these pages can offer the visitor an option to learn more and to get the product via “call-to-action” buttons or links. With more and more consumers using the internet these days to inform themselves before a purchase, it proves to be a great resource to have a well-rounded online community with a mass of information ready. Studies have shown that a large percentage of customers tend to search their questions for answers first on the internet before contacting customer support. If a business manages its brand well and provides the right information, it can result in reduced customer support tickets and, thereby, saving costs in that department.
A business-owned community platform, of course, needs a bigger investment than opening accounts on existing platforms, but the benefits and rewards are far greater than those of conventional communities. Business-owned platforms have shown to result in higher customer satisfaction, increased customer retention and growth of the company, resulting in more sales and consequently higher profits. The best part is that these platforms don’t have to be created from scratch. After all, there are softwares that can help companies connect and engage with their customers. zehnplus, for example, offers such a solution.
What is the conclusion?
As we have seen now, business-owned community platforms outperform external social media platforms in many ways and are important for sustaining brand communities. The communities in turn help businesses strengthen the bond with their customers and attract new ones by interacting with people and gaining their trust. In the end, the customers’ loyalty makes the companies grow. However, a community alone is not enough. It is essential that the company engages with the members so that a reciprocal relationship can develop and be maintained.
Moreover, in order to have a successful business and nurture a loyal community, the focus should be with the customers. Not only do companies have to keep their needs in mind, but they should also give them the opportunity to express their opinions so that they are able to be involved in effecting change and improving the brand or product.
If you are intersted in a branded community, be sure to check out our series of blogs on how to build a successful branded community.