Should You Build Your Own Branded Online Community?

Mike Moloughney

Is Facebook Doing the Job?

When many businesses think of establishing an online community the platform that comes immediately to mind is Facebook.  With well over 1 billion users, that seems to make a lot of sense!  But how many of those people can you really reach?  Even if you get a million people to “like” your company’s Facebook page do they see your content?  Recent research: Has Facebook become too big for its Branded-Online-Communityboots by throttling organic reach?  – shows that you may only be reaching 4% of your Facebook fans.  That has to be a very sobering thought for any business.

So is Facebook really the place you want to put your online community?

Branded Online Community

An alternate solution is to create a community on your company’s website. Your own branded online community.  You can still do all of your regular social media interactions to engage with your community (e.g., Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest,…etc).  Rather than including a link to your Facebook site, replace that with a link to your company’s website.

Now, when your users come to your site you can control the information they see.  You can have a help section for customers who need support.  Put up polls to see what new features or products your customers want.  Cross-promote products to existing customers.  Create a forum where your users can post comments, pictures, and videos of them using your products.  Pretty soon the customers that know your products best will be able to answer questions from new users.  They’ll move from just being customers to being advocates, or maybe even evangelists, for you!

Monetization

Maybe you can even create a special VIP section of your community.  To enter, users must provide you with their contact information, and possibly pay an annual fee.  In return, they get exclusive rewards or discounts.  Now you have a huge database of people to target to expand your business!  And best of all, it’s totally under your control.  No more hoping that your Facebook posts reach your audience.

Always ROI

And before you think “I’ll just move my community over to another free social media outlet”, do you think these avenues will continue to be free?  These companies all have investors and shareholders who want to see a return on their money.  The only way to do that is to charge users for their service.  Even more reason to create your own community.  You already have a website, a marketing team, a social media team and a tech team.  Why not have them focus on driving your users to the best place they could be…your own branded online community!

Here are some other helpful resources to help you understand the importance of branding your online community.

Online Community: Why Community is Essential in the B2B SaaS World

Entrepreneur:  5 Examples Your Brand Can Follow to Build an Online Community

The Online Community Guide: How To Harvest Value From A Community