Creating digital communities
Platforms like Zoom have empowered community-driven organizations to bring people together beyond geographical barriers and reach a wider audience. But are such digital communication tools sufficient in themselves, in creating value-based online communities? My answer is no.
A mutually-empowering community is a cohesive blend of collective brainstorming, collaboration and shared values. It should exude inclusion and acceptance, hold significance in the lives of participants and serve a common purpose. These attributes, along with a user-centric focus and a disposition to share value, can help moderators and organizations build a sense of community. In turn, every humanized and community-level engagement will foster user trust and, as a consequence, brand loyalty.
But most online community-building practices fall short when organizations resort to self-promotion, without sharing value – for the most part because it is not always clear what qualifies as "value" for their audience. It is, therefore, advisable to identify your audience, value their opinion and be transparent at all times. The thumb rule is this - talk less, listen more.
On the other hand, content strategy is critical to community success. It is important to stay relevant with the messaging, avoid spamming and be pertinent to the purpose. For instance, community-level support content strategy is inherently different to a marketing content strategy. In fact, contextualized content is perhaps one of the most effective means to achieving seamless engagement and reducing churn rate. Finally, effective peer-to-peer learning in virtual communities comes down to one vital aspect: interactive content.
Before delving into the specifics, community creators must get the basics right. One has to set realistic, attainable goals and objectives, and choose an appropriate digital platform to achieve them. Start small, add a layer of exclusivity and foster relationships at every turn. Engage regularly, and spread the word by mobilizing both in-house influencers and respected voices within the community.
Truly representative communities cannot be created using a one-size-fits-all approach. Creative content strategies, relevant messaging and appropriate digital capabilities, help such virtual groups leverage interactive engagement to create consensus. Your online communities are an investment in cluster-based development, building your brand and fostering business relationships based on shared value.
In a nutshell:
- Creating a value-based community takes more than a compact digital platform.
- A mutually-empowering community is built on collectively creating value.
- Contextualized content translates to user engagement and reduced churn rate.
- Community strategies can enable cluster-based development, if they are methodical.
- Sometimes, don’t do all the talking. Offer customers more than just vendor speak.