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So, you started an online community, now what?
March 16, 2010 - Mumbai

All the experts from online gurus to your advertising agency emphasized that you need to be online and engage your clients and customers on a one-to-one basis. So, in our previous article, ‘The Benefits Of Building An Online Community For Your Business’, we defined Online Community and discussed the benefits of starting an online community for your business such as setting feedback and gaining insights into customer mindset. Now that you have opened Facebook and Twitter accounts, created your profiles and added quality content to attract people interested in your product and services, we will discuss what you need to do to maintain member’s interests once you have gained an avid following.

Once you have attracted an audience, you shouldn’t slack off because you believe your work is done. All social media marketing requires constant involvement from your end. You need to engage your members constantly to keep their interest in your company, products and services alive. An online community is like a plant, you need to nurture it – water it, add nutrients to the soil in order for it to grow and give flowers. Translation, if you want to keep your member’s attentions, you need to engage him to keep their interest. Only by maintaining their interested you will be able to convert this long list of potential customers into actual revenue generating customers.

Ideas to Engage your Community Members
  • Be Focused: Once you have started an online community, it is very easy to lose focus of what was the key purpose of starting an online community ‘Providing members (customers) information regarding a specific product’. For example, if you are a car retailer and you started a community to discuss the latest cars in the market, best features, the best buy etc., if you suddenly start discussing cold medicines, your members will stop participating. When people joined your community, they did so because you provided specific information that interests them. Deviating occasionally from your standard topic is OK, but going astray too often can send people to go elsewhere.

    Also, very importantly, you cannot leave the community or any activity you are conducting unattended. A badly managed community will give members the impression that you are disinterested and this feeling will spread leaving you with a dead community.

  • Be Attentive: When members tweet or comment on your online community, don’t just provide lip service, sincerely listen to what they have to say and respond accordingly. It will make them feel special, appreciated and valued. It will also encourage them to participate more actively.

  • Be Interactive: Once of best aspects of having an online community is that you are not restricted to one-way communication, wherein, you just throw information at the customer without knowing how well the information is received. An online community provides you will an instant communication medium that enables you to interact directly with your members (customer). You can use your online community to learn what members think about your company, products or services. You can conduct polls to find out what type of information and even what challenges they face Instead of guessing what topics interest them. You can even encourage people to participate by asking them what they think. These simple activities will help your engage your members and encourage in-active members to participate. 

  • Be Respectful: When you meet a client at his office, you always put your best foot forward. You use your best manners and you respond to later communication, politely and in a timely fashion. You need to employ these same business manners, when dealing with your community members. So, when someone posts a comment, writes on your wall or re-tweets your message, acknowledge them. This will help you develop strong relationships with your members, which is important for the future of your community and business.

  • Be Active: Depending on your business, conduct regular activities to engage the interests of members. These activities do not have to be complicated. You can have a weekly contest or debate, which will help increase activity and get people talking on your community.
By incorporating these tips, you can maintain the level of activity in your online community and even revive the interest of non-active members.

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