Guest Post: Engagement Matters
Successful online communities can be born from any number of online interactions; a dedicated and engaged Twitter following, lively discussions on LinkedIn or even active online forums. The nature of their conception doesn’t matter, whether it is one or an amalgamation of these factors, but having a successful online community is a brilliant asset for online marketers.
With around 72% of consumers stating that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and the user base of the internet and social media creeping up by the hour, it is time that businesses begin to harness the power of a successful online community.
Developing a powerful online community provides you with the perfect platform to both promote and engage with your customers, providing significant benefits for your business:
Selling without the "Sell"
Invested and engaged customers are a brilliant asset when marketing your business: when you have a new product or service, a site with a successful online community can encourage discussion and debate about the services you offer without having to go for the hard sell.
Answer questions and give advice
When you want useful and truthful feedback on your products, where better to look for people than in your ready-built online community? Ask questions, answer questions, encourage other users to interact with one another and gauge feedback.
In addition to encouraging engagement in this manner, introducing dedicated question and answer platforms or message boards on your actual website is a great way to continually create unique, highly relevant content.
Increase your Content Reach
A successful online community can significantly lower the barrier many online marketers face when attempting to syndicate content; if you have thousands of interested Twitter followers or an engaged and active onsite forum, the possibilities of your content to being seen increase dramatically. In turn, this boosts your chance of gaining vital links and promotion without having to send a single email.
Encourage customer interaction
Communities are inherently social – as the internet matures, social content and social signals are going to become increasingly important.
By their very nature, online communities are social hubs through which to connect and engage with customers in addition to them connecting with one another. The discussions and social proof that can be developed from this are a great way to develop both customer engagement and your social profile.
Long Tail Search Content
Q and A platforms and online forums not only provide fresh content they also help drive traffic to your site from long tail search queries.
A question posted by a community user may often take the form of a long tail search i.e. ‘How do I use promotional gifts at a conference?’ This question will be answered by either another community user or an employee of the company with a relevant, moderated answer.
A long tail search query in this manner will likely be echoed by numerous individuals, near enough asking the exact same question. They will end up on your site, find a highly relevant, useful answer and will likely engage in the community or stay and browse, potentially becoming a future customer.
Fresh content is king; regularly updating the fresh content on your site is essential when attempting to climb up the all important search engine rankings. Online forums or Q and A platforms are extremely beneficial in regards to this; with careful moderation, they will continually provide fresh and relevant content for your site.
Build Brand Loyalty
Engagement in an enjoyable and interactive online community breeds familiarity. Developing this favourable association with your company will increase your customers loyalty and trust.
Online communities are inherently social and all the signs point towards social signals becoming increasingly important in the future of SEO. Having these key social signals already linked to your site and your brand will put you in a very powerful position for the future.
Reviews and feedback
In terms of SEO and online engagement, great content launched into a social community can end up as fantastic link bait with very little outreach.
What form can your online community take?
Online communities can take many guises, but the benefits that they can afford for your business are numerous, making the time and effort to develop your online community extremely worthwhile when forming a successful marketing strategy.
Many people assume an online community must have certain features, such as a forum or message board, but in fact an online community can appear in many guises, dependent upon your industry and where the foundations of your community lay.
Forums and Q & A
Creating an online community can be a significant amount of work and expertise but the subsequent rewards make it all beneficial, here are a few key reasons that online communities can be essential and brilliant for promoting your company and increasing the stance of your online marketing.
Examples of Successful Communities:
Forums: i.e. Money Saving Expert
Question & Answer platforms: i.e. SEO Moz Q and A
Gaming Networks: i.e. Gamers Portal
Author Bio: Lianne Froggatt is a Community Manager with Click Promo Gifts, an online promotional gifts distributor in the UK. You will most likely find her on Twitter @LianneCai.
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