Communities have always fascinated marketers – they allow like minded people to meet, collaborate, and brainstorm; and give marketers a platform to resonate their message. But not all communities are successful in achieving what they were designed for. Failure can be attributed to various reasons but success is generally attributed to well thought out strategy. So before you jump on the community bandwagon, ask yourself some tough questions.
Q1. Why do you want to build a community?
You need to have a clear purpose for building the community. Online communities are developed around a central theme or purpose – people collaborate around that purpose. Examples of purpose for building a community include:
- Build better relationships with the clients, customers, partners, employees – eg. Partner network communities, topical communities
- Create dialogue, loyalty, and or trust for your brand – eg .customer support communities
- Brainstorm and create – eg .developer communities
Q2. What is the business objective of building the community?
If the community doesn’t fit into the marketing map of your product / service then it doesn’t need to exist. A community should be able to either reduce the costs or increase the revenue for the product / service, directly or indirectly. Key business objectives include:
- Generating Leads
- Brand building
Q3. Who will come to your community?
Your audience is determined by the business objective and goal of the community and in turn determines the kind of content you will need to run the community. Two key categories of audience are:
- Internal members: employees and partners
- External members: customers
Q4. What internal resources can be committed to the effort?
Successful online communities demand a lot of thinking and dedicated resources. Before you take the plunge, it is critical to get answers to the following questions:
- Is their management buy-in in the decision in terms of resources spent?
- Will you need tech or marketing support to make your community effort a success? If yes, do you have that support?
- Who will manage the community on an ongoing basis?
Q5. How will you make your community exclusive?
With the entire marketing effort going social, audience today is drowning in a deluge of social marketing messages and therefore using their time more and more discreetly, where they find value. You need to ensure:
- Your community is a niche space
- You have unique content that will entice the end user to join and stay engaged
- You know the needs of your target audience and can cater to them
Q6. How will you get your audience and keep them engaged?
Communities, unfortunately, don’t fall in the ‘set up and forget’ stack of things. They require lot of investment in terms of resources and time and need a well-planned strategy to keep going. Even when communities acquire critical mass and learn to thrive on their own, they need lot of supervision and booster shots in shape of valuable content and engagement tactics.
Q7. How will you measure the success of your community
Management will want to know the return on the investment made in setting up and maintaining the community. You need to define quantifiable success metrics, keeping the business goals in mind.