A customer community is only as good as its participants make it. Without active, engaged users, your online social community is bound to fail.
To deploy a successful customer community – one that influences decision making, drives sales, provides customer service support, and builds customer loyalty – you need to make sure that your site has life. You have to give it a heart and continually work to make sure that heart remains beating.
But what, exactly, can you do to not only bring your customer community to life but also keep it alive and kicking?
5 ways to inspire conversations from your customers
Last week, in this blog post, I explained why companies should no longer be afraid to deploy customer communities. Simply put, the technology is proven, and there are far too many potential benefits to ignore, from connecting with your buyers to resolving customer service issues.
Of course, building a thriving customer community isn’t simple. To realize the benefits of a customer community, you must first attract an audience and then encourage active user participation.
Attracting an audience hinges on the idea of building a customer community that’s viewed as a desirable destination. To achieve this, your site should serve as an essential one-stop shop where users can learn about your products, buy items, and resolve any issues they may have.
Once you’ve established an audience, you need to inspire your visitors to participate in conversations, motivating them to share meaningful company feedback, offer useful product information, and hopefully, advocate for your company and its products to prospective customers.
Here are five ways you can encourage better customer community participation:
- Remove any potential barriers from allowing people to contribute. Some of your users will be incredibly eager to participate in your customer community. Enable them to do so. Don’t require them to register before posting. Making users authenticate their account information through a Facebook or Google account is one thing. Forcing people to go through yet another tiresome signup process is something else altogether. Don’t make it any harder for users to impart wisdom and provide value than it has to be.
- Share useful information. By regularly posting valuable content – be it installation instructions, maintenance tips, or troubleshooting advice – you increase the probability that users return to your customer community again and again. The more regularly users visit your site and benefit from the information you share, the more likely they are to contribute to the conversations, offering their own personal takes on the topics you originally explored.
- Engage with customers who post. If you ignore the people who post on your site, they’ll think you don’t care. By responding to users on your customer community, you’re letting them know that you value their opinions. Answering a time-sensitive question or helping to resolve a customer issue is obviously something you should be doing. But responding to customer feedback with a simple acknowledgement and note of gratitude is just as important.
- Incentivize your customers with special rewards. In a previous blog post, I mentioned how you can offer customers incentives for rating and reviewing your products. You can similarly reward users who post particularly thoughtful or helpful posts on your customer community. These incentives could include offering a product rebate or inviting the user to appear in a simple blog-posted advertisement.
- Clean up the old stuff. Don’t leave your customers to work out if a posting from three years ago applies to the latest version of your product. Refresh old content regularly or archive outdated materials. The worst thing you can do is adversely impact your customer’s confidence in the value of the information you provide, especially if it is clearly out of date or no longer applicable. (This is a lesson the teams at Amazon would be wise to listen to, as I so often find the review I’m reading is not relevant to the product it’s attached to, and then I start to wonder if I should trust any of them!)
Get your customers where you’ve always wanted them
With Amazon and other companies leveraging customer communities with great success, it’s high time your business begins taking advantage of this invaluable online resource.
By building an active and engaged social community, you can finally get your customers precisely where you’ve always wanted them – on a site where you can:
- Communicate with them directly
- Inform them about your company and its latest products
- Provide them with useful information
- Influence decision making
- Drive sales and make it easy to purchase
- Build long-term trust and brand loyalty
I’ve laid out several key benefits of customer communities and provided some helpful tips on how you can bring your community to life. If you’re still not convinced that a customer community is right for you, I strongly urge you to download this free Forrester Research report: Harness the Power of Communities to Improve the Online Commerce Experience.