Does Your Business Need Its Own Online Community? The Answer May Surprise You

    • hadfield-bridget-headshot.jpg
    • Bridget Hadfield

      Senior Associate of Content Marketing & Social Media
      Aug 03 2022

Does Your Business Need Its Own Online Community? The Answer May Surprise You

An online community is a place on the web where people with a common interest or purpose come together to discuss related topics, ask questions and receive advice or input. With the right approach, businesses can utilize groups like these to deepen customer relationships and generate growth.

Here is how it’s done.

What Is an Online Community?

If you’re confused by the concept of social communities, it isn’t surprising. Online social groups come in many shapes and sizes. Some are open, where anyone can interact, while others are closed, requiring members to join the community before engaging with other participants.

A common place to find online groups is on Facebook. These social media communities can be related to anything from pets, home, food and travel, to specific business topics.

Social groups, however, aren’t confined to Facebook alone. Apple, for example, operates its own online community through its closed support group. It’s a place where members can ask questions of other product aficionados and get support on issues they are experiencing with their device. The group often acts as a first line of defense, allowing customers to solve common issues without having to contact Apple support.

Companies have also been known to implement online communities to connect employees. In 2020, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, FNBO began an employee Facebook group to provide a place where employees working from home could interact with coworkers. The employee Facebook group quickly evolved into a forum for employees to get to know one another, share proud accomplishments, ask questions, discuss what’s going on in their market and more.

At FNBO, we also use online communities to help our customers meet financial goals. Our Cashology Facebook Group provides financial guidance to educate on topics around saving and spending through high value and engaging content.

As customers engage with the bank and each other, they’re inspired to develop sound financial habits, and they share their success with the bank and one another.

Online communities like Cashology allow businesses to engage with customers in new ways and also make it possible for customers to interact with each other. The level of interaction, however, can benefit the business beyond developing more meaningful and loyal customer relationships.

The Business Benefits of an Online Community

Sixty-four percent of consumers responding to a recent survey want brands to connect with them on social media. Online communities fulfill this purpose, by providing an avenue for businesses to engage in meaningful conversations.

An online community can also be a selling point for new customers. Companies may consider offering groups that cater to specific interests, such as Hello Alice’s Black Business Center, or groups that support Hispanic and military business owners. Groups like these provide customers with a community, fulfilling a customer need in a way that isn’t offered by competitors.

Other examples of groups with sales potential include exclusive communities that provide access to special resources, such as insider tips or educational classes. Other groups provide discounts and deals.

Some private groups facilitate networking opportunities between similar businesses or customers. For example, a grocery store may offer an exclusive group where members can exchange recipes or submit questions for the store dietician. As members of the group interact, the store receives valuable input on how consumers shop overall.

Beyond customer acquisition and sales, online communities also provide input that can help with new product development efforts, service delivery or overall brand reputation. For example, customers may use the online group to voice dissatisfaction with a product or the customer service the company is providing, giving the business valuable insight to make improvements.

As businesses utilize the information gained through social groups to help inform operational, marketing and product development decisions, they’re gaining ground on important metrics. Sixty-seven percent of respondents to a recent survey on social groups saw increases in customer loyalty, while 48% reduced support costs and 47% saw a jump in branding awareness.

Most importantly, by implementing your own online community, you can deepen customer and employee relationships, resulting in a more loyal brand following from inside and outside of the organization.

The articles in this blog are for informational purposes only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations. When making decisions about your financial situation, consult a financial professional for advice. Articles are not regularly updated, and information may become outdated.