Online communities can define any place online in which people share and engage with a common interest. This could mean a forum, a Facebook page or group, a Twitter hashtag, anything which brings people together. And the beauty of online communities, particularly ones built on social media channels, is the ease of communication and reach. But there are far more benefits for businesses in building online communities than the sheer reach. In this article I will highlight some of the main benefits that businesses can gain from building an online community using social media.
Customer Service 2.0
One of the greatest benefits, and downfalls if you allow it to become on, is that customers no longer have to sit on hold on the telephone for hours to get through to a company representative if they have a query or more importantly an issue that needs resolution. They simply take to their keyboard or mobile device and post a direct comment or Tweet to the company in question. This closes the gap between large corporations and tiny voiceless consumers, meaning they finally feel they have a level playing field on which to stand up and be heard and noticed as an individual customer.
The downfall is that angry customers can publicly post about the issues they have with your company’s product or service, and many companies fear this. But in reality, this gives you a brilliant opportunity to show how great your customer service skills are by publically resolving an issue.
Content Is King…
…And social media is its kingdom. Sharing your blog posts and website content on social media is a great way to keep your community engaged, and encourage new people to join the community. People like to ‘Like’ or ‘Follow’ companies on social media that they know will give them something interesting and often, whether it be a video, image or traditional content in the form of a blog or news post. Engagement from your community will open up your reach to their friends and followers, and the more engaging your content is, the more your community is likely to want to share it, opening your reach further still.
Reach More People Than Ever
It’s a fairly simple and obvious benefit of social media communities, but it is surprisingly often over looked. As of May 2013, Facebook has a user count of 1.11 billion worldwide, Twitter has 500 million users, LinkedIn has 225 million users, and Google+ has 343 million users. Now let’s estimate that the person has around 250 friends, followers, connections, per account. That means for every one interaction per social media channel, there is around 250 people potentially seeing your company’s name and post. 1 interaction per post, 4 posts per day, that is 1000 people potentially reached every day. But the more engaging your post is, the more people will interact, and the more people you will reach. If you can get a better reach than that with any other marketing strategy I will eat my metaphorical hat!
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