5 Reasons why every organisation should build online communities

This is not just a catchy headline, it is a strong statement, that every organisation should have its own online community

Finding out officially that the online community concept has not yet been embraced or considered by everyone, at least in developed markets, is a bit surprising.  According to the latest Greenbook Research Industry Trends (GRIT) report for Autumn 2014, 56% of all respondents said they are already using online communities. Another 26% stated that a community for their organisation is under consideration, 14% said they’ve had no interest to date or that they are not sure, and  4% claim that they will never use one.

DigitalMR has been developing its platforms for social media research since early 2011; one of these platforms is communities247, with version 3.0 currently in use and V4.0 scheduled to be released in production mode early next year.

Here are 5 main reasons why literally every organisation should build and operate private online communities with its stakeholders:

  1. Agile Engagement with stakeholders is hot!
    ‘Agile’, ‘lean’, and ‘energetic’ - these are image attributes that you definitely want your brand associated with. Being able to open a window into your customers’ lives and inviting them to join the inner circle of your marketing department is extremely powerful. This idea does not have to be limited to customers but can also be used to engage with your employees, shareholders, opinion leaders, journalists, and other stakeholders.
     
  2. New online collaboration tools open up new possibilities without breaking the bank
    A few years ago, if an FMCG company wanted to conduct ethnography they had to send a camera team to the households of their consumers in order to observe how they use their products. Nowadays, the video & photo diaries tool enables consumers to easily upload video clips or images from their smartphone, tablet or computer. The benefit of online ethnography (or ‘netnography’) is not only financial; the quality and quantity of information gathered has dramatically improved at the same time. This is due to the fact that consumers can upload multiple video clips during a period of time, whereas previously we could only afford to send the camera team to their homes once. Also, the recording is more realistic since  nobody is intruding in their home to record the video clip.
     
  3. For co-creation and unique insights otherwise not attainable
    Co-creation essentially means, that a company is working with an extended marketing arm by reaching hundreds of customers (or other stakeholders) who operate as motivated employees without having to be on the payroll. The most valuable element that a co-creation community can help produce is digital content to be used for inbound marketing. Connecting the dots by using all possible research activity tools that an online community carries increases the odds  of producing unique insights.
     
  4. To build a brand ambassador programme
    Amplified customer advocacy or systematised word of mouth are only possible because online communities exist. The co-created content can be shared by the same people who created it as well as other product category influencers on social media. A positive comment about a brand is more believable coming from a “consumer like me” rather than in a TV commercial; amplified customer advocacy is a new mass medium.
     
  5. More than half of your competitors are already doing it, they must know something.
    We are well into the technology adoption bell curve. It is no longer only the early adopters that are using communities, not even the early minority; we are looking in late majority territory and you are at risk to be labelled a laggard if you are among the 44% who do not have an online community for insights, co-creation and customer advocacy yet. It will soon be seriously uncool to not have your own online community.
     

To be honest I could’ve easily called this blog post ‘10 reasons why every organisation should build  an online community’;  I will save some reasons for the next blog post. If you are among the 56% of current online community users, please do share your experience. We know there is a steep learning curve and it is not always all rosy;  if one is not careful there can be many pitfalls, and if you know of any or if you have any best practices to share, we are all ears. Stay tuned; more to come on online communities soon.

 




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