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FROM SOCIAL COMMUNITY TO ONLINE COMMUNITY
Nathalie Pommier

FROM SOCIAL COMMUNITY TO ONLINE COMMUNITY

We all belong to a community of region, interest, information, religion, cause, occupation…

Online communities aren’t fleeting novelties. In the late 90’s, members of “second life”, a virtual 3D community, started purchasing real estate in the virtual economy and offered virtual life much before Facebook existed. Marketers of the past did not see the real people behind 3D avatars and it was only after Facebook that they realized this potential. Today the free marketing ride online is over and opening a corporate blog or a social media page will not reverse this.

With the advent of online open source community software, large companies have found the solution to be opening their own virtual community to move their follower/friends and likes in-house instead of growing groups of followers in third party social media networks.

For a little over 2 years now branded business communities have emerged online (for example Hilton, Nokia, Hitachi, etc), and also many real time communities such as cities Denver as well as online communities formed around good causes (SC4KCharities Services). Many other communities of interest and occupations are striving, and people are joining because they’ve finally realized that Facebook just isn’t that interesting anymore. Worst of all, they are worried about the integrity of Facebook’s  privacy policy.

A GROUP IN FACEBOOK, GOOGLE, OR LINKEDIN IS NOT AN ONLINE COMMUNITY

We have to remember that a group in Facebook, Google, or LinkedIn is not an online community but is just a group of people using the tools of a mega social media network. They can eventually become an online community if they move out and create their own community with their own rules, and more importantly their own management and privacy policies. Online communities are not about tools but about people engaging around common interests. A small community with true engagement from its member is much more valuable than a huge social network of passive members.

BACK TO MARKETING, IS IT WORTH IT?

Online social marketing is about engaging with your customers instead of interrupting their lives with advertising, and the best way to do that is to invite them to your online community and build a trusting relationship. Seeding and building a community takes time and rushing the process does not always work, find people with a common interest, engage with them and give them great online tools to engage with one another. Interest them to visit often by posting very interesting daily content (not viral fluff), reward followers and allow them to voice their opinions on your products. Engage them with reviews, Q&As, R&D to bring innovation and improve products that will be almost pre-sold once hitting the market.

HOW TO START?

The first step before starting an online business community is to think about what you want to achieve, and how much time and resources you are willing to spend.
The second step is to hire a marketing manager or to have one person in your team learn how to become one.
The third step is to choose the right tools/technology and the right partner for content if you do not have a marketing department.
The fourth step is the most important of all: you have to motivate your employees, friends, family, and suppliers to register and use your new online community, as nobody will join an empty community.
Finally, start seeding your online community by inviting your FB, Twitter, LinkedIn followers to join.
The trick after that is to find among them your future brand advocates and influencers, the rest is fairly easy and we can teach you how to do it.

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