To begin, consider that online communities fill a unique space in the tech business world. Finding ways to differentiate and add value by providing thought leadership, demonstrating unique or novel ways to use your solutions, or helping shoppers save time, money and effort, is crucial to stand out.
Learning to scale is also key. Platforms only grow when enough people routinely use them. How do you create enough of a critical mass to attract a crowd and spark user-generated growth? Incentivize early adopters into becoming evangelists by featuring both these individuals and their insights or creations (in the form of online videos, photo galleries, or highlighted profiles for example), and offering rewards, prizes, and special deals or discounts for community membership.
It also helps to grow an online community around a tech brand by encouraging interaction such as live events and programming. A key to successful community management is proactively cultivating grassroots connections.Social Media as a Tool Encourage people to interact with your brand by sharing news, opinions and feedback on the latest trends, fostering discussion, crowdsourcing feedback, ideas or audiovisual content, and asking questions or conducting surveys. However, someone must monitor both community and social media platforms to respond to breaking developments. Customer expectations when it comes to response times are sky high. Be prepared to stay connected and leverage processes, platforms and people that can help you quickly respond to your community.
One important step with an online community is to identify some simple objectives that can help define success. Your goal could be to get customers to galvanize around virtually any topic, from creating better photos and videos to coaxing the best performance from home security or AV systems. Or key metrics used to determine success might include the number of users active in your community, the amount of time they spend online, or the length of their average engagement. In any event, all goals should be measurable and objective and set in the form of numerical hypotheses (get X many users, drive Y number of new leads) that you can test.
To define your vision, ask exploratory questions such as:
- How do you define engagement?
- How quickly do you hope to increase engagement?
- What level of engagement is a success?
Defining a clear vision, creating a profile of audience members you want to attract, and adhering to meaningful metrics will keep you focused as you build your online platform. However, the more you can incentivize people to take part in a community around your brand – whether by sharing their thoughts, asking questions, uploading videos or connecting with thought leaders – the more your community will grow.
By Scott Steinberg