3 Steps to Growing an Online Community for Your Business
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a need for social distancing—impacting numerous industries, local businesses and our personal lives. Given stricter health guidelines, businesses that can quickly adapt to this landscape will undoubtedly have a competitive advantage.
That’s why building an engaged community around your business is now more important than ever.
In today’s world, people can instantly find what they’re looking for in just a click. So, how do you compete? By creating and nurturing a community around your business. An engaged community boosts sales, improves customer retention and even fosters brand loyalty.
What is a community?
A community is about the relationships between your customers and clients. Communities are formed by values or interests that align with your business. It’s a space where people meet and interact. Community members feel welcomed, empowered and encouraged to engage with your business and others.
It’s important to stress that the success of your community depends not only on you, but on your members. What you post and how you address/moderate your community is only half the picture. A thriving community requires members to contribute their perspective, respectfully interact with one another and get new members to join.
How do you build a community around your business?
Here are 3 tips building and growing a community that’s true to your business:
Create a Space to Grow
Think of Your Member Journey
Let Your Community Work for You
01. Create a Space to Grow
First up, make sure to use the right tools. You need a platform where you can regularly post, connect and engage with your members.
If you have a business website, start by adding a forum. Forums connect community members, giving them a unique place to share their thoughts and concerns.
In the beginning, engagement could be an issue. Customers may not linger on your site, or even realize you have a community just for them. So it’s essential you get the word out. Use email marketing to reach out to your customer base, or create a social post to engage new people via social media.
If you’re using Wix, you can promote and stay on top of your community on the go. With the Wix Owner app, all your site content, business info, chats between you and your members, blogs and more are just a push notification away.
02. Think of Your Member Journey
From online stores to the service industry, your business’ end goal is to make a sale. Whether it’s a product, service, subscription—you name it. It’s important to keep your business offering in focus.
While the customer journey varies depending on your business, it’s important to understand where your audience is at every touchpoint with your brand.
Ask yourself the following questions:
How do they feel when they first come across your product or service?
What’ll motivate them to buy?
How do you keep them coming back for more?
How do you convert them from casual shopper to active brand advocate?
What are their pain points/needs that can be solved through your community?
Once you have a clear idea of how your customers think and feel when they interact with your business, you can kickstart conversations that address their needs. Doing your research and truly understanding your customer journey helps you shape meaningful dialogues and build rewarding relationships.
Let’s see how this plays out with a real business that sells skincare products. It’s a rare case that people will start a conversation about skincare unless prompted. However, if you approach the conversation from the angle of “staying youthful” you’re bound to get people talking. Even the topic of “staying youthful” can spin off in many directions, or sub-communities (i.e., forever young, neverlanders, age ambiguous)—each with their own goals, motives and concerns. Now, you’re opening up an opportunity to introduce your product in a much more natural, personal way.
Pay attention to the language your community uses when sharing their thoughts and align to them. While you want to position yourself and business as a thought leader, you need to stay true to the customers that actively engage with your products and services. This is the key to grabbing their attention and keeping them loyal to your business.
03. Let Your Community Work for You
When it comes to content, many businesses think content marketing or blogging. Traditionally, businesses take a top-down, authoritative approach to packaging their products/services. Blog topics are often based on what business owners think will appeal to their readers and drive them to take action.
While this expert perspective works well for creating a solid brand voice, SEO and driving traffic to your site, it does little for building a community. Why? Because your community is your content.
Communities are fueled by user-generated content. Members drive the topics and lead the conversations—from product recommendations and testimonials to troubleshooting hacks and multiple ways to wear a certain accessory. Your members’ unique journey with your products/services and how they share these experiences is what will engage fellow members and attract like-minded people.
Let’s go back to the skincare example. You could write a blog post highlighting the benefits of one of your products. Readers will get the info they need to understand the value of your product, but they’ll also get a heavily branded, top-down marketing message.
Alternatively, you could reach out to your community in a forum discussion and ask them about their skincare routines. You and community members could discuss daily regimens, products they use, the difference between day/night skincare, the role of diet and more. Really dive into these discussions and see what topics come up. You may realize that youth and beauty is only the tip of the iceberg. You may discover that health is actually your community’s main concern. Use these learnings to craft your content.
From forum discussions, you can now draft a blog article that offers value-driven content with real input from your community. Content written with this “shoulder-to-shoulder” voice has the potential to make a real impact on potential customers and even your sales.
When generating articles inspired by your community, remember the focus should be about the user’s journey not the product itself. Mentions of your product should be taken as an add-on, something that organically comes up.
One Small Step for Your Community, One Giant Leap for Your Business
Each step you take to building a thriving community, is a giant leap for your business. It’s important to set clear goals and map out a strategic plan. Even with the right tools and mindset, building a community takes discipline, time and lots of hard work—but, it’s worth it.
Join the Wix Partner Community for more tips on creating and growing your business community.
Head of Wix eCommerce
Arik is an entrepreneur and established industry executive with over 20 years experience leading innovative teams in the tech sector. A trailblazer in the early days of eCommerce, Arik now heads the eCommerce division at Wix.com, which powers over 700k online stores worldwide.