6 Steps to Building an Engaged Community

You know that the holy grail of social service channels is an engaged community, where customers help one another as much as you help them. You know that this has immediate value for your brand, your business, and the customers themselves…and you don’t know where to start.

You’ve embraced social media, you’ve implemented your steps to turn complaints into opportunities …and your stakeholders are asking you that heavy, inevitable question: “What’s next?”

You know that the holy grail of social service channels is an engaged community, where customers help one another as much as you help them. You know that this has immediate value for your brand, your business, and the customers themselves…and you don’t know where to start.

Fear not – we’ve slogged through this terrain, and found that a few simple guidelines can get you firing in the right direction.

What IS a community?

An online community is a group of people with common interests who use the websites and social media to communicate, work together and pursue their shared interests over time. For the business community can come in many forms, from traditional consumer forums to crowd support software owned by organisations. For social media, your community is your greatest asset and the aim is to engage and encourage them to participate, to ask questions, to support each other and to become loyal advocates of your brand.

Why do I want to build my social community?

Customers now expect to be offered the same levels of service via social media as they would over the phone, if not more. And for business, social customer care offers amazing possibilities to interact with your customers in exciting new ways, to increase advocacy and to reduce your customer service costs. A large community allows you to spread your message further, it allows you to interact with a large group of people for relatively little cost, increasing your marketing reach and reducing your cost to service.

However, the key to achieving these outcomes is by having an active, passionate community that are willing to interact with you via your social platforms. There are a number of key steps you can take to build this.

Key steps

1. Educate your community

You need to tell your community you are there to support them online. Initially this is as simple as showing your customer service hours via your social sites. However, the best form of education is action. Responding to customers quickly and consistently is key to helping them choose to return to this channel. If you offer a slow response or cannot resolve the interaction via the customers chosen channel, they may not return. Once established you will see people returning to your community, becoming actively involved and helping other people.

2. Match your response times to your service

Different industries and service types need to set different expectations about how fast they’ll respond. We run social customer care services in a range of industries and across them all customer expectations have changed. People expect more immediate responses than ever before so keep this in mind when choosing the service level you will aim to meet. In some industries, like travel and transport, the fast paced, fast moving nature of the business requires more immediate responses; a transport customer who has missed a plane or train would not appreciate a two-hour response to an issue. A customer with an enquiry about an event that is three months away however might think that two hours is absolutely fine. The key to the success of meeting your service level is selecting the right tools. A tool which can filter through noise to find the most important and urgent requests is essential, as well as a tool which can measure your performance.

3. Provide information that is valuable to your customer base

As well as marketing material, it is key to provide meaningful and helpful information to your community. This is not only an additional way to engage with your customers, but also increases the amount of people following your social services. Offer information that can help customers help themselves, avoiding calls into the contact centre and providing a one-to-many broadcast service of valuable information. Also, choose the relevant social platforms based on your desired outcomes; for example, use Twitter for real time disruption management information services, and Facebook for community building content.

4. Provide outcomes back to the community

One of the golden rules of social is to provide meaningful outcomes to the community. As previously stated, if customers choose to interact via these platforms and aren’t able to complete their enquiry they will not return and you may even lose them as a customer. Set your team up with the skills and tools to provide real outcomes to customers and ensure your customers have a positive experience each time they reach out via social.

5. Look for content within your organisation

Often companies do not provide enough engaging content to their community, which results not only in slow growth but customers getting bored and moving on. In every organisation there is a mass of interesting information, which can be turned into engaging content to be shared. This can include positive stories of the work being done by the company, plans for the future and human interest stories. This can increase engagement with the brand and creates a more human face to your organisation… which is what social media is all about. The Public Sector has had great success in creating more personalised and interesting content to previously robotic and sterile brands. Just look at the ATO, ABS or regional police Twitter feeds to see the amazing content being produced. In our social services we create content frameworks where the people living and breathing in our clients’ social spaces provide ideas and content that they know the community will respond well to. These are the people on the frontline who have the best view of what is going on… use the skills and experience of these teams for best results.

6. Trust your community members

Once established your community often become your champions, answering and making recommendations for each other. Once this starts you want to encourage these interactions and set up processes to allow community support, which only requires moderation and less time crafting responses to customer enquiries. This is when your social community becomes a living, breathing part of your organisation and this should be fostered and nurtured as part of your strategy.

Watching your community grow is hugely satisfying, and you can tangibly trace the growth back to the actions above. We have had amazing success building communities for our customers following this process; for one customer we have increased the size of their social community by 250% by simply offering an engaging, consistent service and providing real time information that is relevant and useful to its members. It’s easy, requires little investment and the results create a loyal, engaged community, promoting your brand in a very public arena.

About The Author

Stefanie Cutrera
Stefanie oversees the internal communications strategy and execution within our business, managing all communication platforms and setting the gold standard in getting information disseminated to the right people.

When she’s not devising clever new ways of opening up communication lines at Stellar, Stefanie loves to travel.

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