The strength of your community is critical to the strength of your business. A strong community will produce loyal customers and will help create awareness for your brand.
Learning how to engage your users will help you strengthen your community and drive traffic and sales.
Here are a few effective things you can do to engage your community:
Identify a Real Need
You may need to get more customers and make more sales, but that’s not what your customers care about or need.
You need to identify a real need for your customers by asking yourself questions like, “What goals do my customers have?” or “What concerns do they have?”
You then need to offer information or solutions that address these needs. That’s a basic rule for a successful business, but it’s also what you need to do to build and engage your community. You may need to create articles, tutorials, videos, or even online courses that address these needs.
Fresh content and offerings are needed to continually re-engage the members of your community.
One of the easiest ways to find out what your community needs is to just listen.
Instead of trying to manage the conversation happening on your blog and social networks, sit back and find out what you can learn from the dialogue. What are your customers talking about? What do they seem to get excited about? What are they upset about? What are they saying that they want?
Don’t pass off idle chatter or venting. They both provide opportunities to better understand your community and what they need.
Put Time into the Relationship
Think of your customers like you would your friends and family. You can’t take the relationship for granted — you have to put time into to make it strong and healthy.
Relationships are about give and take. You are essentially taking by promoting sales of your products and services. You are getting something you need. You then need to find ways to give back.
Not only should you be finding ways to address their needs and make it clear to them that you are listening, but you should also find ways to help them celebrate. You can do things like send coupons or discount codes on their birthdays or customer anniversaries. You can provide special, members-only content, and you can publicly recognize members who are making special contributions.
Offer Face-to-Face Time
One of the easiest ways to engage and strengthen the relationship is to spend one-on-one time.
Of course, it’s a little difficult to meet with your customers face-to-face when you are operating an online marketing campaign. However, you can create opportunities with online meetings, webinars, and even Skype calls.
It is also prudent to implement traditional marketing techniques for an integrated campaign. These can include community events, attendance at trade shows and festivals, and even in-person seminars and workshops.
Even a basic meet-and-greet can have a big impact. If customers have the opportunity to put a face to a name, they will feel more connected and will be more engaged.
Offer New Venues
Think beyond your blog and social networks when engaging with your community.
Create new venues in which customers can engage with each other and your brand, such as a dedicated forum or chat room. You can also create private groups on social media that are only accessible to your community.
These venues are not only valuable resources for your community, but they also give members the chance to get to know each other better and feel more engagement around your brand.
You can also participate in these venues as a member, allowing you to get better feedback and to actively work on maintaining your relationships with your community.
Turn Members into Ambassadors
Your community is your best source of advertising.
Find was to turn your members into ambassadors to not only make them feel more engaged but to also get free exposure for your brand. An easy way to get community members to be ambassadors is to host contests and giveaways and ask them to share links in order to get more entries.
You can also make customers ambassadors by hosting a forum and asking volunteers to be moderators. They will feel committed to the mission of the brand and the forum and will share their passion with others.
The more engaged your community feels, the more they will promote your brand totally on their own. The best advertising they can give you is their referral. Make it easy for them to give it by giving them great service and great products.
An engaged community is a powerful tool for your brand, but it takes time to build. You need to think about the needs of your community and how to naturally encourage their passion for your brand. The rest will take care of itself.