Having a dedicated online local community is certainly helpful in establishing the presence of a business. However, while it is easy to set one up, maintaining it so that it thrives is no walk in the park. So how do you do that and successfully foster a community of loyal followers?
Understanding the purpose of your online community
Of course, the main purpose of making an online community is to promote your business and its products. However, it shouldn’t end there. Keep in mind that members are not here to simply here about the latest product releases, but also interact with other people who are interested in the products you are offering.
Being an outlet for customer concerns and questions is another important purpose why businesses create dedicated online communities. Here, for members to really stick in, you as the creator of the community need to be able to respond quickly to their concerns.
Setting up the community
Once you have a clear picture of what you intend for the online local community you wish to establish, then it is time to proceed with setting up the infrastructure needed to run it. Richard Sink gives some of the most important resources needed to get started here.
The first resource you need to have is a means to set up and manage all of the member profiles. Many smaller businesses opt to use social media, such as Facebook and Twitter for this purpose, as they are both free and require little work.
Another resource you need is a communication tool to reach out to the various members of the community. A good example of such a tool is Buzz360. This particular marketing platform allows you to schedule posts for particular sections of the online community you are running. The platform also allows community owners to attract and add new members easily.
Note that aside from technical resources, you also need to have the right personnel for the job. Social managers, in particular, are a must have, as they are responsible for ensuring the larger operations of the community, such as handling of new members, are done right. Also, you need to get proficient front end personnel, as they are the ones who will be facing the members of your business’ online community.
Maintaining a positive community
Even with the best set ups, an online community will not last long if it is not run well. As has been said earlier, being able to respond quickly to community concerns is a must. For that, you have to continuously listen to what the members are saying. In case of cliques and disputes, you need to listen carefully to both sides before handing out a decision. Keep in mind that there will be members supporting different sides, so also take into account how the decision will affect them.
However, you don’t simply wait around for something to happen within the community. Instead, you need to be more pro-active in dealing with members. Reach out to them to better provide the solutions they are looking for. And as Deborah Ng points out
“Don’t rest on your laurels. Follow up and make sure that the situation was handled to the other person’s satisfaction. If it has been, wish her a happy day and move on. If it hasn’t, do what it takes again. And follow up. Again. Lather, rinse, repeat as often as necessary until there’s nothing more to be done.”
Do all these and you will have a thriving community at your disposal. Do you have any other suggestions or thoughts? Leave your comments below.