Are You Craving Community for Your Customers? Here Are the Tools You'll Need.
Cultivating a feeling of 'community' is crucial to any company's success.Without it, customers will just shop somewhere else.
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Consumers at many businesses aren't content to be mere passersby or just the means to an end (profit) for those businesses. They want, instead, to feel a part of something significant, something that helps those of a similar mind connect and share their common interest.
Related: Why Building Community Is More Important Than Networking
So, when companies build a community-oriented customer base, members of that community are more likely to return to that business than continuously search for something new.
Cultivating a community, in short, is crucial to any company's success. If you are hoping to build a group of loyal customers or users for your business, here are some tools that could help you -- and your customers -- create the sense of community you crave.
Hivebrite is a website exclusively for community management. The system allows companies to customize personalized platforms for their communities, rather than make members adapt to generalized platforms. Hivebrite lets you decide how users sign up and log in (i.e., via email or other social media accounts, and via open accessor invitation-only status).
It helps you manage member databases, network with participants, oversee content and events and conduct online payments. Hivebrite is a practical first step for anyone hoping to optimize community engagement.
Related: How to Build an Entrepreneurial Community
Ning is another system that can help you build a platform exclusive to your business. An example of a past client? Tennisopolis; the company created a platform that allows tennis lovers to message one another, share content and discuss the latest news in forums.
You can do the same at your company, by integrating social media sharing, allowing your "community" members to move between your platform and channels like Twitter, easily. This is especially useful for companies looking to build communities that have already established common interests.
Kuba Rogalski, an employee at Brand24, says he uses his own product for a variety of tasks, such as tracking brand mentions and for all online conversations related to his company. He also monitors industry discussions he could potentially engage in, as well as people across different social networks who are asking for product recommendations.
Brand24 is an excellent resource for companies wanting to monitor their brands on an internet-wide basis. With this tool, managers can learn more about where those in their target audience digitally congregate, what interests them and how often they talk about particular subjects (like your brand).
Customers will not always take their complaints to companies directly. Oftentimes, they just vent somewhere else on the internet; Brand24 helps companies find those conversations and act accordingly.
Riffle by CrowdRiff
Cultivating a community from scratch often requires a significant amount of one-on-one interaction. The more followers you amass, the more people will trust you, but you will need your initial core group to reassure newcomers that you are legitimate. This is the power of the brand ambassador effect: "Your earliest fans are more likely to become your first evangelists, espousing not only your product's quality, but the quality of your community and of your customer service, as well," Alex Mantheil wrote on Buffer Social.
Riffle by CrowdRiff is a Chrome extension that helps you get to know your customers on an intimate level. Are they iPhone or Android users? What are their Twitter habits? Where can you find their LinkedIn profiles? What kind of people are mentioning them online, and why? CrowdRiff also uses artificial intelligence to help marketers create visual content their audiences are most likely to find appealing.
Like Hootsuite, Buffer lets you schedule your social media posts across channels. Writing on OpenSource.com, Jono Bacon explained the challenge most businesses face: "One thing is clear," he wrote. "It is important to have a regular stream of material to keep your audience engaged. To help with this, you should pre-schedule content to post at the most effective times … You can do this manually using many of the social media networks, but it is a bit of a pain and very repetitive when using multiple networks."
Buffer offers businesses a solution, whereby they can provide the system with an abundance of content at once and ask the app to divide that mass of content into posts scheduled throughout the week. Buffer also provides analytics, further assisting companies in their mission to deliver fresh content and relevant channels and keep community members engaged.
When building a community, remember this advice from Sujan Patel on InfusionSoft: "Your community members need to feel safe sharing with others in your group," he wrote. "They need to feel that they've "earned' their spot in the community. They also need to be able to understand the group's social norms and how to communicate like an insider."
Related: 7 Strategies for Achieving Phenomenal Online Community Growth
Technological platforms, then, are excellent resources for bringing people together and fostering interest in your business, but regardless of the tools you decide to use, it's ultimately the way you use them that will dictate whether your community ultimately engages with your brand.