Modern technologies have given businesses countless ways to build, shape and support their brands. From paid advertising to email newsletters to regular posting on social media, brands are investing more and more in various digital strategies. But one of the best things you can do to bring your brand to new heights is to tap into something you already have – your target audience. With a social network of your own, you can enjoy all the benefits of a community that’s built around the needs of its customers. No longer does your entire strategy need to be dictated by the whims of mainstream social media and other third-party platforms.
#1. Boost sales
When people are actively engaged with your brand, they’ll be far more receptive to spending money. By contrast, when people are using mainstream social media and other public online communities, they’re less likely to be in buying mode. More often than not, they’re there to keep in touch with friends, and adverts tend to disrupt that process rather than complement it. One of the most valuable benefits of a community social network of your own is that you can integrate in-app purchases and web payments unobtrusively. With the right platform, it’s even possible to generate ongoing revenues through subscriptions.
#2. Build loyalty
Some of the most successful brands in the world, such as names like Apple, Starbucks and PlayStation understand the benefits of a community and are driven by communities of loyal customers. Many people treasure a sense of belonging, and a community where they can connect with others who have tastes and interests provides that experience. If people are loyal to the community, then the chances of activating brand loyalty are much higher. Consider, for example, the fact that many Apple customers see their iPhones and MacBooks as part of their identities and would never consider choosing a competing product.
#3. Empower advocacy
The next step up from brand loyalty is brand advocacy. Advocates are those who are fiercely loyal to your brand, and their influence is one of the most valuable marketing assets you can ever have. Among the most important benefits of community is that it provides a space where you can nurture brand advocates and openly reward them for their participation. You can think of brand advocates as influencers, except they’re not in it for the money – they’re in it because they truly believe in your offer. In an age when online reviews and social media are ubiquitous, just one advocate can bring in hundreds, if not thousands, of new customers.
#4. Provide support
Many otherwise great products and services are let down by poor customer support. No matter how good your offer is, a bad post-sales experience can send customers away in droves. An online community makes distributed customer service possible by giving customers a place to share knowledge without limits. Tried and tested resolutions to common issues will be highly visible thanks to the ability to upvote them, and your support team won’t have nearly as many repetitive service tickets to tend to. That means faster and better customer service and greatly reduced burden on your support team.
#5. Generate knowledge
This is a less known benefit of a community, but successful online communities generate a wealth of knowledge ranging from suggestions and feedback to best-practice guides and support resolutions. This constantly growing repository of information will help maximise customer success by helping people get more out of their purchases. It also provides an ongoing delivery of valuable insights for your product teams, which can draw upon this information to continually improve their offer. Consider, for example, how the Airbnb host community not only allows property owners to connect with one another, but also lets them ask for advice, share stories with the community and receive updates.
#6. Form relationships
One of the key benefits of a community is to build strong relations with your audience. When you’re trying to boost brand engagement on mainstream social media, you have to play by the rules of a third-party platform. And, one thing’s for certain; that’s that Facebook or Twitter don’t have your brand’s best interests at heart. It’s also a lot harder to get heard through all the noise, making building a close-knit community of engaged members almost impossible. A private brand community, however, lets you forge real relationships with a highly targeted demographic. It’s not about meaningless likes and follows – it’s about reaching out to people who actually want to hear from you.
#7. Track behaviours
Every digital activity generates data. By knowing which data to track and how to turn all those figures into actionable insights, you can propel your digital strategy and continuously improve. While data analytics are a core component of almost any third-party platform, having your own community gives you more control over which data you collect and what you do with it. You can also launch polls and surveys to conduct customer research and, since your community members will likely be far more engaged than they would on public social media, there’s a far higher chance they’ll get involved.
#8. Increase control
The problem with conventional social networks is that they’re all third parties who put their own needs before those of their users. Last year, for example, Facebook launched an update to its timeline algorithm which greatly decreased the visibility of organic content shared from business pages. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that the reason for this was to encourage businesses to invest more into paid advertising. This is a perfect example of a lack of control and the fact that just a single update to a third-party platform can necessitate a complete change in strategy. With your own community, however, you’re the one in charge. This is the key benefit of a community for many brands.
#9. Stay compliant
When your brand-building efforts are entirely at the mercy of third parties, it’s difficult to keep control over the privacy and security of your brand and its assets. The fact Facebook alone is currently facing ten major GDPR investigations should tell you all you need to know about how over reliance on third parties can leave your organisation open to a compliance meltdown. By building your own branded social network, you’re the one in control of your community’s safety and privacy. When there aren’t any third parties of questionable repute involved, you no longer need to worry about your and your customers’ data being sold on to others.
#10. Reduce costs
Businesses across every sector are always looking for ways to increase efficiency and reduce costs. Brand communities can help you achieve both by consolidating many critical business operations under a single platform. By having a space for support, feedback, testing and brand engagement, an owned online community can become a critical asset that adds value across the organisation while also costing a lot less to operate. No longer will you have to invest so much into paid advertising and customer outreach programs across an increasing multitude of platforms when your own community takes center stage in your online presence.