Let’s be honest, it’s tough to socialise nowadays because of the pandemic. There has never been a more uncomfortable time for extroverts who thrive in social interaction and believe us when we say that even introverts are getting tired of being in lockdown.
So, where do we go when we can’t go out on the streets to mingle? If you’re anything like us, you are probably seeking the refuge of online communities. This rampant dispersal to online communities gives weight to the importance of community marketing during this time. And brands and customers are both here for it.
The Importance of Communities Online
Community marketing can be a little daunting. But this doesn’t stop many brands—big and small—from wielding its power to their advantage. It’s because communities online connect brands to their consumers. It affords people a sense of belonging and connects people to like-minded individuals who help us deal with challenges, like the pandemic.
Usually confused with content marketing, community marketing can easily be defined as a form of marketing that centers into the needs of an existing market or group of consumers. While created with different end goals in mind, every community marketing initiative zeroes in on growing and cultivating a community that is collectively attracted to a brand’s philosophy, products or services.
The (online) literature about the types of online communities say that these usually do the following: campaign for social change, identify consumer trends, offer product tips and support, gather high-quality feedback, entertain audiences and provide valuable information to customers. In a more general sense, we can split all Community Marketing initiatives into two main types: Organic (driven by customer engagement with little or no brand intervention) and Sponsored (with direct involvement of companies, brands or organisations).
Even social media giant Facebook is doing its bid to enhance online community engagements since the pandemic started. They offered courses that ran from May to September, complete with notable speakers who discussed how best to do community management during a crisis.
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Communities online afford people a sense of belonging and connects people to like-minded individuals who help us deal with challenges, like the pandemic.
Why Market on Online Communities Now?
Martech Today collected inspiring stories from marketers in April, which focused on their initiatives in building or strengthening communities during the pandemic. All the pivoting brands have to do comes down to being in service of their panic-stricken and stressed communities. The challenge right now is in providing valuable support to customers AND staff alike, whose normal lives are disrupted by this overwhelming situation. The best way to do is by being exactly where everyone is spending most of their time around—online.
What online communities do best is extend a level of intimacy by providing brands a chance to show people their more humane side. This strategy is especially beneficial for start-ups who are struggling to compete with the bigger fishes in their industry. Here, they bank on the power of customers to keep the conversation going, which allows them to do at least one (or more) of these things: grow loyalty, get valuable feedback and show their authenticity.
But right now, with health protocols to follow and certain regulations in check, more and more people are seeking refuge in online communities. So this is more about what you as a brand can do for your community, not what you can get from them. Studies surmise that this virtual trend is irreversible and that it would stay on long after COVID-19. So making sure you’re there to anticipate the needs of your community in a time where uncertainty permeates is important.
What People Expect From Online Communities
Right now, with tensions high and uncertainty permeates and expands outside one’s personal life, people expect online communities to extend both rational and emotional support.
Useful, informational content. Most brands that already have a solid community online thrive by letting their audiences spark conversations. Since everyone’s navigating an unchartered ground, everyone’s insight into their own situations is valuable. In an example posted in The Guardian, a charities telemarketer shared that calls often veer towards more worrisome topics and that to better serve her clients, she turned to a Facebook group for support. This group is filled with useful content that helped alleviate the more practical, pressing concerns of her clients.
Help and aid. In some parts of the US and Australia, online communities popped up for the sole reason of helping the more vulnerable cohorts in society make sense of and live in the midst of Coronavirus. For example, young people use these groups to reach out to the elderly and the sick, helping them with their groceries and running essential errands for them so the latter groups minimise contact with people outside.
Fun and engaging conversation starters. Majority of the people who spend their time in online communities often do so because they want something to distract them from their realities. An escape to the daily struggle. But remember, as a brand, you’re competing with a multitude of content that can otherwise drown yours. Keep in mind, however, that the drive to churn out content doesn’t have to mean saturating your audience with just about anything. It all must end with whatever would be helpful to your audience and community members.
Aside from promoting your branded content, online communities provide a sense of belonging that people need at this crucial time.
Because of this, communities’ online success is often measured by how well it improves overall customer experience (CX). Depending on what your online community is made for (issue resolution, networking, campaigns), the framework must always put your audiences’ needs on top of your own. Especially during a time where everyone’s clamouring to make sense of their situations and manoeuvring a new normal.
Community marketing can be a breeze with the right digital marketing support. Drop us a message today and let’s plan your strategy today.
For more information about the latest updates on Coronavirus, visit World Health Organization’s (WHO) website.