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Marketing channels: Community engagement


Building and engaging a community means more than just involving customers in conversation on social media, although that certainly is a valuable part of it. Community engagement entails reaching out to customers through a variety of forums, both online and offline, to learn more about who your customers actually are, what they like, and what they need and want.

By developing relationships with your customers, you can tap into a deep and ongoing source of customer data that can help you grow your business. For example, you can learn how customers are actually using your product (or would like to). This can be important information, as they may not be using your product the way you thought they would.

In short, the more you know about your customers, the better positioned you are to not only meet their needs, but to exceed expectations.

What are some of the pros and the cons in building and maintaining community engagement?

Pros:

  • Is an avenue for members, especially evangelists, to engage with you and other customers (who have similar interests and needs) to explore, promote and contribute product ideas
  • Is an opportunity for you to interact with customers directly and not only access a wealth of customer discovery data, but build customer relationships and loyalty

Cons:

  • Monitoring and maintaining high-quality online engagement (e.g., through your website or a tool such as Slack) requires ongoing vigilance (i.e., resources) to ensure discussions respect and uphold your community standards.

Can you reach your target customers through this channel?

Think about what you already know about your target customer:

  • How and where you are most likely to reach them?
  • What demographic are you trying to reach?
  • How do your customers prefer to interact? Online or offline? In an informal environment, or one more structured?
  • What are your target market’s interests and challenges? What would engage them?
  • Which social media channels do your customers use (if any)?
  • Would offering a community forum fill a need? What value (educational, networking, etc.) would your customer want in this type of engagement? Can you deliver it?
  • If you’re holding a community event, can you livestream it to reach/include a broader geographical audience?

Tactics and strategies for driving community engagement

  • Find out where potential customers are currently active: When you are first setting out to build your community, check out complementary industry communities that already exist—those members may be potential customers and you may be able to tap into their interests.

  • Stay focused on your target customer and your goals: As you develop your community, keep your customer data in mind so you can target their specific motivations. Make sure the community direction and engagement stay in line with your company’s goals.

  • Be genuine and service-oriented. Engage authentically with your community and show your appreciation for them. Be open with customers, solicit feedback and meet their needs (or explain why you can’t). Get them to love your product and company!

  • Don’t reinvent the rules of engagement: You may need to set some (possibly strict) standards and rules for online community engagement—you can get a head start by looking online to see what other organizations in your industry have found effective.

Key tools

  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.)
    Slack
    Offline events
    Through events and educational programming, startup hubs like MaRS Discovery District and DMZ in Toronto can also help you build your community