5 Business Goals An Online Customer Community Can Help You Achieve

“An online community is: Where a group of people with similar goals or interests connect and exchange information using web tools.” Jeremiah K. Owyang, Web-Strategist Blog

Some businesses in non-media industries are (still) asking how using social media, social networks, Twitter, etc. actually impacts their company’s success.   The business advantages of mastering social media marketing are a bit more clear for marketers, PR folks, Web 2.0 companies (those marketing/selling/fulfilling products and services online).

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So, for everyone else (social media newbies), the always-reliable ReadWriteWeb team has put together a valuable information and viewpoint guide that goes a long way toward answering these pesky questions about business results and other pressing issues about adopting social media marketing.

The ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community Management highlights why you’d want your business to engage in social media from the perspective of building an online community around your products and services.  I’ve posted on this topic before here and just found a treasure trove of findings in the May 2009 RWW Community Management report.

The Guide explains many benefits of leveraging social media in addition to its key purpose of explaining how/why to hire an online community manager.  One example:  following your company name, your competitors’ names and your top keywords online (using Google Alerts or other tools) provides must-have insights into what your customers are saying online.

Here are some key insights about goals and a few documented results/ROI from the ReadWriteWeb Online Community Management Report.

One note, the RWW team, among others, has concluded that many of the benefits of an online community are intangible and therefore not easily quantified.

What business goals does an online community built around your products and services help your company meet?

  1. An easier way to communicate, interact and connect with the wide range of stakeholders every business needs:  users, customers, current and potential partners, journalists, analysts, and others.
  2. Enhanced customer service. The well-managed online community functions as another, convenient channel for your business to receive, respond to and resolve customer technical/support issues.
  3. Reduced help center call volumes/costs. The potential to decrease customer support costs by reducing the number of live customer phone calls into your help center.
  4. Additional ‘voice of the customer’ input. Another opportunity to capture in real time the voice of the customer for use in your R&D, product and service development process.
  5. Employee recruitment.  Online communities can assist in recruiting future employees that learn much about your company’s culture and passions from the interactions in your online community.

Per a 2007 article by Joe Cothrel, of online community vendor, Lithium and documented in RWW’s Guide, here are a few published ROI results:

-       In 2004 a Cisco study reported that 43 percent of visits to online support forums are in lieu of opening a support case through standard methods.

-       Customers report good experiences in forums more than twice as often as they do via calls or mail.  (Jupiter, 2006).

-       Cost per interaction in customer support averages $12 via the contact center versus $0.25 via self-service options. (Forrester, 2006)

- Jupiter Research (now Forrester) reported in 2006 that customers report good  experiences in forums more than twice as often as they do via calls or mail.

What are your questions about the value of building an online community around your products and services?

There is much more assistance and insight in this report.  You can download a preview of The ReadWriteWeb Guide to Online Community Management and/or purchase it here.

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Category: Online Customer Communities, Social Media, Social Networking

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Cynthia is always hunting for new ways that you can find more customers using your online presence. Like, thought leadership content, smart social media and client-friendly business blogs. Join my mailing list and I’ll share the newest stuff with you!

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Comments (1)

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  1. Cheryl H says:

    Excellent post. I completely agree that companies using the online community software are finding themselves on the winning end of that particular relationship. In reference to point 3 – there is also a reduced cost in mass marketing, by creating the online community you are able to tap the “word or mouth” buzz which has become so important in todays “1000 choices for every need” market. Thanks again for the great article.

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