Marketing Benefits of Online Communities

The evolution of social media platforms in the last 10 years has changed the way we connect and engage with each other. While the vast majority of platforms revolve around the sharing of content, a large portion of social media users now use the platforms as a tool to converse with each other and build relationships. This trend represents a fundamental shift in how we interact as a society and business. It challenges the traditional marketing roles and responsibilities of planners, strategists, and buyers who focus on disseminating content, while the relationship builders and communicators focus on relationship management.

Increased Personalization

Thanks to the ever-evolving algorithms and machine learning that underpin the bulk of the internet, the content available on any given platform has become highly personalized for each user. To give you a sense of how personalized content is changing the way we interact online, consider this:

In the past, if you wanted to read an article on LinkedIn, you would have been presented with a series of general interest articles. Today, due to machine learning and personalization, your LinkedIn experience would be completely different. For example, you might see a recommendation for a software solution or a rehash of an old news story. This isn’t intended to be a negative statement about the value of the content (quite the opposite, in fact), but rather an observation that points to how personalization changes the nature of the content and how marketers need to adjust to fit the new model.

Community-Based Marketing

The term “community-based marketing” gets thrown around a lot these days, but what does it mean? Essentially, it represents a model of marketing where the marketing team works closely with members of the community, particularly those who are most important to the business, to develop a better understanding of the market needs and behaviors. The model then allows the marketer to communicate these insights more effectively to stakeholders, including customers. It’s a more holistic approach to marketing that prioritizes building long-term trusting relationships with customers rather than just selling a product or service. In today’s interconnected world, community-based marketing makes complete sense.

An important part of this approach is bringing value to the table. Just because you have a marketing team doesn’t mean that they have all the answers. By involving the community, you are ensuring that all perspectives are heard and that everyone feels that their input is valued. Too often, marketers put themselves in the role of expert and shut out those they consider to be “stakeholders,” which can hinder the development of cohesive marketing strategies. Even more important, it ensures that the marketing team is actually listening and acting on what they hear. This is how communities make a difference — by providing a venue for stakeholders to have their voices heard and by ensuring that those voices are considered and acted upon by the people who need to be accountable for that action.

Increased Engagement

Thanks to the numerous platforms designed to engage with users, marketers have more opportunities than ever before to connect with customers, build relationships, and engage in conversation. This trend represents a fundamental shift in the marketing field where the emphasis has shifted from just delivering messages to engaging in conversation, building trust, and creating loyalty. The most effective marketers will be the ones who can demonstrate to customers that they understand what is important to them as individuals, and then communicate that empathetically.

This is a difficult transition for marketers because they are used to operating in a content-only world where the only purpose of a website is to disseminate information. However, to survive and thrive in the ever-evolving world of commerce and marketing, these content strategists, community managers, and content creators will need to become a bit more agile, entrepreneurial, and digitally savvy.

More Informed Marketing Decisions

The information that communities provide to marketers is invaluable. It can help inform more educated marketing decisions and the development of more effective marketing strategies, campaigns, and programs. To give you a sense of the vast amounts of information that communities provide, consider this:

In the past, marketers would turn to focus groups, surveys, and analytics to understand customer behavior, sentiment, and interest. Today, with the advent of personalization and big data, those who rely on these types of methods for marketing analysis will only get so far. Marketers will then turn to the increasingly powerful combination of data and predictive analytics that provides an understanding of future behavior and what content will be most effective based on that behavior.

This paradigm shift will be challenging for those in the marketing field, as they will need to adopt new methods and tools to keep up with the evolving world of digital commerce and marketing. Luckily for them, the internet provides an ever-expanding library of personal development and entrepreneurial learning resources from which to draw.