The Impact of Online Social Communities on Your Business
By Michael Cohn
When it comes to online social communities, people naturally gravitate toward them. Humans, by nature, are social animals. They are comfortable in groups and they feed off of each other's energy and they like to bounce ideas off of each other (among other things).
Being Engaged and Engaging Is Essential
You definitely need other people to succeed in business. In fact, without them, you will not have any business at all. You need them to eventually buy what you are selling. For that reason, online social communities work well for many things, including giving each other what the other wants and needs. You want your relationship to be mutually beneficial.
Whether you start an online social community or you join one that has already been established, your approach will be the same (minus some possible administrative responsibilities that you may have if you establish the community). It is important to remember that you are not in it by yourself no matter what. A community is a group of people who share one or more common interest.
Social media is the backbone of online social communities
Social communities are very important to the success of most businesses. It is a classic case of one hand washing the other. Businesses need online social communities to help them to fortify the social aspect of their institution. On the other hand, online social communities need businesses because they need to live and grow somewhere. Businesses can provide just such a forum and a platform for those online social communities to do just that. It is very important for you to remember that online social communities are not just for personal use. They are extremely beneficial to businesses as well.
From the marketing perspective, combining online social communities with business is truly a marriage made in Heaven. Those communities are the power behind successful marketing efforts on the part of the business. Some of the positive results that come out of that alliance are that the online social communities allow businesses to:
A wide variety of online social communities
- Develop solid, enduring relationships and networks that are built on trust
- Bring people together who can share a mutually beneficial relationship
- Participate in active, successful engagement
The online social communities that you choose for your brand/business will depend on the goals that you have in mind. Those goals will drive you to pursue certain groups and certain people. You certainly have a great deal of communities from which to choose. Your chosen communities can go a long way to satisfying your business' marketing needs.
Now that you understand how online social communities work (more or less), it is important for you to understand that engagement is an essential part of the successful functioning of those communities. You should keep in mind that even though the communities are social in nature, that doesn't mean that your business will not benefit from them in the ways that you want them to. In fact, there are many effective tools that you can leverage in order to get what you want out of your engagement in those communities. Interestingly, there may be aspects of your communities that are not obvious (or even apparent).
For example, if you are a member of a community that has 2,000 members, you may still find that only 50 of those members are actively engaged in discussions and other interactions. The truth is that not every member has a desire to be heard. Some people only have enough of an interest to listen and learn, which, of course, is okay too. However, you still need some people who are more vocal than that. Otherwise, nobody would be interacting about anything. You will want to encourage as many group members to participate in the discussions that occur but you don't really have too much control over it in the end. There are many different ways to engage other people in addition to leaving a comment or a thought-provoking question. You can put out a survey (with three to four questions) or run a contest with an incentive (a discount on your products and/or services, some sort of prize, etc).
Participating in online social communities doesn't happen by itself
Undoubtedly, you understand clearly that online social communities are about people. The platforms and forums that are used are helpful (you might even go out on a limb and say that they are essential) but they are still not as important as the members of the community. In fact, the choice of platform and forum are not nearly as important as the people. Many platforms/forums can be used by communities simultaneously. One added benefit to being a part of an online social community is that it gives you the support that you may need to embrace what your competition is doing and to gather some really valuable competitive intelligence.
The effectiveness of your online social communities depends, in large part, on the community members and their ability to act as effective resources. In turn, you (and each one of the members) will help each other to get what is needed and wanted. After all, you are all part of the same community (think of it as a family) and that is what families do. They help each other whenever it is needed. You can use your online social communities in many different ways, including discussing products and/or services and gaining valuable feedback, which will help you to bring your business to the next level.
Michael Cohn is the founder and Chief Technology Officer (CTO) of CompuKol Communications. He has over 25 years of experience in IT and web technologies. Mr. Cohn spent a significant amount of time at a major telecommunications company, where his main focus was on initiating and leading synergy efforts across all business units by dramatically improving efficiency, online collaboration, and the company's Intranet capabilities, which accelerated gains in business productivity. He also reduced company travel and travel costs by introducing and implementing various collaboration technologies.
His expertise includes business analysis; project management; management of global cross-matrix teams; systems engineering and analysis, architecture, prototyping and integration; technology evaluation and assessment; systems development; performance evaluation; and management of off-shore development.
Mr. Cohn earned a Master's degree in project management from George Washington University in Washington, DC; and a Master's degree in computer science and a Bachelor of Science degree in electrical engineering from Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ.
Mr. Cohn is a member of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).
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