Whether in your case it’s obvious or not, every business potentially has a community. Don’t confuse it with an “Audience”. While the community technically is part of the audience, here, there is a two way conversation. A community is a living, breathing thing. Extremely interactive and can even grow on its own. As a business grows, so does its community and more importantly, as the community grows, so does the business. It is thus vital if you’re a business owner, you learn about the many benefits of online community building for your business growth. The following are a few of the benefits:

Customers get more value from their products and services

Through online communities, customers get to interact with each other, therefore understanding the products and services they avail from you better. Your organization will be part of the interaction too, thereby providing accurate information for everyone to see which can be understood and further discussed by the community. As a result, a considerable amount of customer service expenses is cut down by the process of online community building because a lot of information can be seeded into the community portal directly by the company instead of individually calling the customers. Struggling users can search those resources any time, asking questions in discussion forums or finding answers in videos and blogs. This leads to increased levels of customer satisfaction in the process.

Enhanced customer acquisition

Communities with public sections contain SEO-optimized discussion forums, articles, and updates that are indexed by Google. When prospects search for solutions to their problems, your community will show up in results, increasing brand awareness. Peer-to-peer support forums, easily-accessible documentation, help guides, and other support content reduce the risk of new purchases. As long as the word is positive, customers will choose to opt for your products and services. This translates to increasing customer acquisition, solely thanks to your online community building.

Improves the way you can modify products and services

A community is a giant focus group. Through online communities, organizations can learn more quickly about the things their customers wish they had from their existing products and services, rather than waiting for the annual customer conference or satisfaction survey. It’s real time feedback. The products and services can be enhanced exactly according to the customer’s desires within reason and strategy.

More effective marketing and selling

Communities can be the perfect place to bring pre-sales leaders and potential customers together. There are two sides of a sale. One which is a result of calculated strategy and the other being a result of potential customer’s freewill and necessities. When both sides are in a conversation before the product is even constructed, the accuracy to which the satisfaction of both sides meet is significantly greater. That’s where the online community building proves itself to be indispensable. Researchers can learn and marketers can sell.

Monitoring and maintaining a brand reputation online

Through online community building, you have a place to intervene on any sort of confusion and misinformation being spoken online. You can actively monitor the conversations and intervene in places you think your company voice is needed. Thereby, you can ensure there’s no misunderstanding about the products and services you offer saving your brand reputation at the same time.

Communities are where brand ambassadors are born:

Some customers will be so excited about your community that they’ll get other friends to join. They’ll talk about your brand with their networks on and offline. They’ll ask how they can help. They might offer a blog post, ideas, user testing, or to even go to events on your behalf. The options are endless. Having a customer wanting to shout from the rooftops about you is priceless. Besides this, community building drives thought leadership.

Community drives retention:

Your customers are more likely to stick around if they have a community they feel tied to. If there’s any doubt whether a community will generate a return on your investment, consider this:

1)      Increasing customer retention rate by 5% can increase profits by up to 95% over the long-term (HBS)

2)      Increased engagement on community sites can result in up to 25% increase in revenue (MSI)

3)      Friend recommendations are the number one influencing factor in purchase decisions (Brand Advocates)

4)      It costs 80% less to retain a customer than to acquire a new one

Discussing the larger issues

Online community building facilitates communication about issues unrelated to the company’s products as well, like socio political discussions and awareness raising of important issues that need to be known by the public. There’s often a need for people to voice their observations, and online communities provide the perfect platform for this. Also, it allows businesses to speak about the larger purposes they stand for.

To end this, here’s some advice on community building from Peg Fitzpatrick, Head of Social Strategy at Canva:

“My advice for community building is to be giving, supportive and helpful without the expectation of a return. I feel if you are kind and giving that people will remember it and do the same for you when the time comes. People who spend a lot of time asking other people to share their content via direct message have failed in their community building and could be damaging their future community. This is especially true of those who DM things to share that don’t even interact with the person they are asking. Respect and reciprocation are earned bonuses from your community.”