online communities

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81% of large and small companies have online support communities. 60% of companies own a branded online community with 15% more saying they want to add one in the next 12 months. Is your company participating and benefiting from this trend? If not, here are some choices to consider and some ways to take advantage of building your online communities.

Types of Online Communities

Tyler Douglas, Sales and Marketing Officer at Vision Critical, identifies four types of online communities businesses are using.

  1. Social Communities. Currently the most popular. Think Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
  2. Support Communities. Members talk to each other and help each other with product information and tips. Very specific but very beneficial communities for the consumer and for the company seeking information and recommendations about product performance.
  3. Advocate Communities. Companies can use these communities to mobilize their current customers to advocate for their brands.
  4. Insight Communities. Quality feedback and insights from a group of highly engaged members.

How do you choose which type of online communities to start?

  1. Determine your business goal. Do you want to improve brand recognition? An early warning sign for unhappy customers? Build customer loyalty? Test the viability of ideas and new products? All worthy goals but choosing one goal per community will help you more successfully engage and grow that community.
  2. How much and how deep of customer feedback can you handle? Social networks tend to be dominated by a small but loud minority meaning you won’t get a complete picture of customer preferences and attitudes. Insight communities allow reliable feedback from a group of highly engaged customers.
  3. Choose the right, complementary mix of online communities. Vision critical offers a chart to show what needs are answered by which type of community. Even though insight communities seem to fulfill all needs, each community can provide different information and support different customer needs.

How do you effectively engage your online communities?

  1. Figure out what your customer wants. Survey through twitter, instragram, video to get specific.
  2. Solve your customer’s problems. Don’t try to do everything. You can’t be funny, entertaining, informative and share your personal life and also answer what your customer wants. Do one thing and do it well.
  3. Create content your customer wants. You can communicate online three ways: written, audio and video. Analyze your demographics, average view time, social shares, engagement, etc. to figure out what’s working and create more content in response to that.
  4. Engage, engage, engage. Reply to every comment, follow people back, answer people’s questions, share their content, etc. etc. etc.

Want to part of these exciting developments in market research? Contact Smith Hanley Associates’ Market Research Recruiter, Lindsey Bartlett at [email protected].


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