It Takes a Village: Plugging into Online Communities to Influence Consumers
With the development and widespread adoption of social media and mobile technologies, marketing relationships have changed.
Brands still want to influence consumers and build their trust — but consumers are looking the other way. That’s because consumers have become accustomed to receiving recommendations and advice from their peers, not from marketers, with peer review sites like TripAdvisor encouraging that trend and providing an effective medium for helping people find out what other consumers have to say.
What’s a Marketer to Do?
The place for marketers to connect with consumers directly is through active participation in online communities. Becoming a participant in a community and using it to build long-term relationships with consumers is becoming an increasingly important strategy in the marketing arena. Real relationships with customers are central to building long-term success, and online communities nurture this kind of engagement.
It’s not enough to just join a community and create a commercial presence. Brands have to become active contributors in order to considered reliable sources of information. It doesn’t happen overnight but eventually, by participating actively, a brand representative can start to be perceived as a trusted member of the community, rather than as an outsider.
One Customer at a Time
This type of activity is key for both B2C and B2B communities. In the B2B space, professional networks can also be approached, and they provide an opportunity for brands to become embedded in the consciousness of consumers.
No Hard Sell
Resist pushing your brand’s agenda. The hard sell doesn’t work. Instead, provide information and advice so that you build trust and loyalty. Find ways to help existing and prospective consumers within the community solve their everyday problems. Eventually, the sales will come.
Sometimes You Need to Take Advice, Too
It works both ways. The same tools that give customers direct access to brand representatives also allow customers to provide constructive feedback. Smart businesses integrate the feedback and use them to create better products.
Through honest conversation with real consumers, brands obtain insight into what features or capabilities consumers want, and can tailor their products accordingly.
Grab that Opportunity for Engagement
Companies that jump on the bandwagon will be the ones to succeed over time. It’s a long-term process that involves nurturing real relationships and providing customers with added value through active participation in online communities, which eventually leads to increased market share and a growth in sales.