Brand’s success can largely depend on the emotional attachment people feel towards that brand. Online communities is one of the marketing tools brands can use to raise emotional connection between users and the brand through sense of belonging to a social group.
Sense of belonging is an important element of human psychology. The base line is that people want to connect with like-minded individuals, be heard and be understood. In an online community, a user can do just so and connect both parties – other users and the brand.
By allowing people to participate in discussions, offer suggestions and express their opinions regarding brands’ activities/products/services brands can not only gather important data about their customers and fans but also get people involved with their brand and feel important.
If managed properly, online communities can allow individuals grow that emotional connection, creating life-long brand loyalty and insuring brand’s long term survival.
Top tips on online community management:
1) Make sure all interested individuals have a chance to be heard as it will make people feel like they have influence and their opinions matter.
2) Do not ignore raised issues. If people are complaining about a product or a service, pointing at brand’s faults and issues, it is crucial that the brand is defended by its representatives who answer questions, correct false information and apologise to its customers when necessary. Lack of action can have drastic effects and result in the loss of fans and customers.
3) Don’t loose brand’s strategic focus. Make sure that topics offered and discussed are relevant to the brand’s strategic objectives, do not contradict its purpose and mission statement.
4) To create the sense of exclusivity, brands can offer community memberships which can allow wider access to the information or greater influence across the community. For instance, a brand can make basic topics available to all users but full access can only be granted if you are a member. Membership can be linked to purchase history with the brand. For example, members must own at least one item by the brand or must have spent over £… on the brand’s merchandise in the past year. The membership tactic will largely depend on the type of brand (luxury, public, charity?) and the type of products offered (cars, stationary, consulting services?).
5) Finally, communities must be regularly monitored and the content must be analysed so brands know exactly where they are at the moment and whether there is a need for a strategy adjustment.