The importance of community

Now more than ever organisations are seeing the importance of building a community around their brand. Whilst the world has been in isolation people have been reaching out to find new and interesting ways to connect with others. This challenging time has proved that location isn’t the determining factor in building a community. With technology at our disposal, it's easier than ever to communicate with others across the globe. 

By building an online community we can:

  • Bring current supporters together to advocate as community ambassadors for your organisation
  • Encourage meaningful conversations with your audience to nurture brand loyalty and customers who come back again and again
  • Listen to community feedback to shape and grow your organisation with your audience at its heart
  • Facilitate a two-way stream of communication with your audience, allowing members to interact amongst themselves

A community of advocates

What better way to instil trust in potential customers or donors than by having your current supporters advocate as ambassadors for you. Word of mouth marketing is one of the most powerful forms of marketing. 90% of people say they are motivated by suggestions from family and friends, online advocacy is also incredibly powerful as 70% of people say they trust consumer reviews online. Within a managed community platform you can elevate these brand advocates, giving them a larger platform to shout about your brand for you. 

Nurture brand loyalty

The IKEA effect says that the more time or effort that an individual invests into a product or service, the more they’ll end up valuing it. Consumers invest time and effort into assembling their IKEA products and so they tend to overvalue the products and brand.

By encouraging meaningful conversations within a community platform you can create an engaged community and ensure users go back time and time again. A branded platform helps to build familiarity and trust with potential customers and ensure your brand is front of mind when they are ready to make a purchase or donate.

Keeping your current audience engaged is just as important as acquiring new members. Users will stick with products and services that are familiar and two-thirds of customers will spend more on brands to which they are loyal.

Understanding your audience

Listening to and understanding your audience is key to an organisation’s success. Brands go out of their way using surveys, feedback forms and face-to-face user research to understand their audience. 

Whilst these traditional feedback methods can provide crucial insight into your audience, they need to be conducted regularly to provide an evolving picture. Combining traditional user research methods with digital feedback can enable us to gain an instant snapshot and even deeper insight into a diverse range of values and perspectives surrounding your brand. 

Online platforms provide a safe and accessible place for people to contribute to the conversation. Online we also have an easier opportunity to hear from marginalised, hard to reach and disadvantaged groups, giving them a space to be freely and fairly expressed and heard.

Utilising community feedback

Now that you have listened to your audience it is vital that you put this information to good use. Take on board your community feedback, their problem space and what they would like to see in the future. Then incorporate this feedback into your development plans. You can use that same community platform to announce your plans and updates and show your audience how they have helped to shape your organisation’s future. 

By empowering your audience and allowing them to shape the organisation’s growth they will continue to become more engaged and invested in the brand. Establishing an effective partnership between service systems and communities results in a greater sense of ownership and greater take-up of services.

How do we build an online community?

Beyond social media

An online community enables more people to have their say, at their own convenience, but your social media community is just the starting point. Brands are now investing a huge amount of effort into their social profiles and advertising through social media. But there are limits to these platforms. The platforms are crowded with plenty of brands vying for attention. Users are also becoming more aware of their personal data security, leaving many distrusting of social media. There are also limits to the ways users can engage with your organisation on social media; often the stream of communication is one way with little in the way of audience input. 

A dedicated digital engagement space beyond the limitations of social media, with strict data protection methods, ensures everyone has safe access to make meaningful contributions to the problem space.

A purpose-built solution

So how do we take that step-up from social media? By using a separate platform away from social media we can provide a purpose-built space which facilitates two-way communication between audience and organisation, as well as inter-community conservation between individual members. A separate platform also allows for more brand customization including brand colours, logos and even perfectly placed calls to action. 

Rather than building a whole new website from scratch, we can use a Drupal distribution. Drupal distributions are out-of-the-box solutions that include Drupal Core, along with additional software such as themes, modules, libraries, and installation profiles. Designed with a specific use case in mind, a distribution can be used to spin up a platform for a speedy, cost-effective website build. 

Open Social

Open Social is a Drupal distribution created specifically for online communities. Using a Facebook-style setup, it helps organisations to connect with their members, volunteers, employees and customers. Out of the box functionality includes:

  • User profile accounts
  • Private messaging functionality
  • Facebook-style activity stream 
  • Groups
  • Events 
  • Reporting
  • Social sharing
  • Bulk emails
  • GDPR compliance

If you are interested in listening to, learning from and growing your online community Open Social is the perfect solution for taking that next step. If you would like to find out more about how an online community platform can benefit your organisation get in touch with the team via [email protected].