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Friday, May 15, 2015

Building a vibrant online community for your business

Online Community Manager is one of the latest and hottest job roles in the online marketing world since last couple of years. Going by the most common job descriptions, an online community manager is responsible for building and managing online communities of users, followers or prospects of a brand, product or firm.From an online marketing perspective, building an online community is of utmost importance from the following perspectives -
  1. Building Loyalty. Having a vibrant community of users is what any marketer/business will be eager to have. It shows loyalty, and in turn benefits a business from network effects
  2. Market Research. A vibrant online community can be considered literally a test bed. Research, surveys, prototypes all will have better reach if a business has vibrant community.
  3. Improving Engagement. Customer/Prospect engagement is the most suggested success mantra for any business. Social media and online channels have made that effort easier to achieve.
  4. Creating a Knowledge-base. With a vibrant community of users and knowledge-sharers, you are building the knowledge-base of your product, service or brand. This in turn is a good starting point for content marketers to build their content strategies.
  5. Technical Benefit. Day by day, search algorithms are improving to take into account the quality of your web pages and how many users are actively mentioning about your brand/web pages had become and important factor for Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Now let's shift the gear to focus on what an online community manager should do? How to build a vibrant and effective online community for your business? I would like to put the steps in creating a good online community into three pillars.

1. Creating quality content
Content is the king and will remain the king. Unless you have something useful to share to your customers or prospective customers; nobody will follow you; it's that plain and simple. Check out these two known-secrets that you need to re-learn to make your content fly. Similarly, it's important to give due diligence to your branding artifacts - logo, background images, designs and so on.

2. Identifying and engaging with the right audience
There are hundreds of social media channels today that you can't keep track of all! It's important you choose the right set of platforms to mine for the users you are targeting. Generally, if you are B2C firm, Facebook has to be included. Twitter is more in lines of both B2B and B2C segments. Finally LinkedIn is more suited for B2B segments. Having said that, there are plenty of other channels that you need to consider depending on what's your focus area? For example instagram or yelp may be an important channel if you are retailer/chain-store. Similarly flicker could be a possible platform if you are catering to the photographer community. Not only is choosing the right channel important, it's also equally important to whom you are following - how active those twitter/Facebook users; how influential they are in the case of LinkedIn; how vibrant/profile is the LinkedIn group and so on. Identification is only the first part. Engagement is the second part. It's important that you are genuinely caring the user community. An online community manager needs to take utmost due diligence to keep a look for conversations on both the product and associated themes (like if you are a spreadsheet plugin vendor - are you keeping a track of all conversations related to modeling best practices?)

3. Maintaining consistency
It's important to keep analyzing how the community is doing in terms of vibrancy, users and sharing. It's important that the content is of high quality; it is also equally important to make sure whether it is aligning with the overall online marketing strategy - is it for brand building? is it for creating a knowledge-base, is there a requirement of call to action?

Here is a great and elaborate illustration from Moz blog post from mackwebsolutions on How to Build an Online Community for Your Business.


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