For many the role of online communities is restricted to one of acting a Support channel. Many brand communities do in fact start in this manner, but only to soon discover that support is but the lowest link in a much larger value chain that online communities can deliver to their brand.
The future is in the hands of those who can leverage the unmatched amount of user generated content (UCG) that online communities produce on a daily basis. This UCG is both a differentiator and a competitive advantage in comparison to any other online channel, including social media.
There are 3 key ways in which community UCG can be used to increase your online sales:
- As an unlimited source of peer reviews and testimonials
In terms of UCG communities are truly the gift that keeps on giving. On average a mid-size community (around 10,000 members) has already the potential of generating 100-200 pieces of content on a monthly basis. While most support agents may be unable to spot a sales opportunity when coming across one, having a marketing or sales representative roam the community quickly results in no less than a dozen product reviews and an equal number of testimonials. Now, keep in mind this is only for a mid-sized community, because in the case of a large community (>100K members) this one will deliver hundreds upon hundreds of reviews and testimonials. So, forget about focus groups and paid reviews. Thanks to UCG’s influence, a community will always outmatch the quantity and quality of whatever you put against it.
- Product and brand mentions
Many branding and communications team spend a lot of social listening time and budget in getting a glimpse of their brand mentions across a variety of social media platforms. What you see, however, in companies that have a branded community is that most of these mentions occur right under their noses. Online communities have the power to gather and multiply the number of conversations about your product. Whether it is to gather feedback or simply to understand the swings in opinion related to your brand a community will deliver all the insights you need… and most importantly it will do so in the UCG format that Google loves, which takes me to key point 3.
3. Greater presence in search queries
Within a few months customer communities can multiply their organic traffic in way you can only dream of with a website or a blog. UCG splurges across dozens and then hundreds of SERPs, thanks to the hundreds of threads containing literally thousands of search query combinations related to your product and your customer needs--long-tail searches are entirely dominated by a community’s UCG. Thanks to the SEO juice of UCGs, branded content can, in turn, increase it’s own SEO power thanks to the accrued authority of the community, winning in this way a few big keyword searches of its own.
And lastly even an offline offshoot: 42% of consumers search on their phones when they are in your Brick and mortar stores. Can you guess what content they will be keen to find first?
By Daniel Vargas Gomez