April 1, 2011

How To Handle Today's Online Communities

Word of mouth is for the most part responsible for the online success of many big names such as Hotmail and the early days of Amazon. Online channels are constantly emerging; LinkedIn, Quora, Facebook and Twitter, all providing easy ways for users to express and share their thoughts about anything. What’s very interesting is that your brand could be the subject for those conversations! 

I've outlined some of the basic steps that would help you make the most of online communities and leverage it to your business benefit. 

There are basically 2 sides when dealing with online communities; the side where you listen, and the side where you interact.

  • Start by using Google Alerts to monitor mentions of your brand online. Enter your “company name” as a search term and Google Alerts will alert you every time someone mentions your brand. Other tools include SocialMention, MonitorThis and Netvibes.

  • In order to monitor the actual promoters of your brand, you need to measure ‘satisfaction’ because this is what drives a customer to recommend your product/service. For example, do not just ask “Would you recommend us to a friend or colleague?” but rather go for “How likely are you to communicate about your experiences?” and give them a scale from 0 to 10.

  • Thank people who would say positive stuff about your brand and reward this behavior. You need to be active in addressing issues that people complain about and don't like.

  • A good way for a company to get consumers to take part in a conversation 'around' its brand is to facilitate a discussion on a branded forum on its website and keep an eye on the conversations happening. Listening to the on-going conversations helps define the emerging trends and future ideas.


  • Make a list of the top 5 to 10 relevant forums/communities to your industry and rank them by their Alexa rank and Google Pagerank.

  • Logon to the chosen forums/communities and start answering specific industry questions to demonstrate that you are an expert in your field.

  • Don’t be a spammer by advertising for your business because then people will lose interest in your posts. You are there to interact and provide useful content, not to sell your products.

  • Submit tips and advice, and people will like to know more and actually refer you to other users.

  • Post on a regular basis, e.g. weekly, to develop credibility and consistency.

  • Manage your time e.g. half an hour every week.

  • Do not buy recommendations by providing incentives to do so. What you’re looking for is ‘earned recommendation’ not ‘bought recommendation’.

  • Always remember to include links back to your website. Search engines are now giving more weight to inbound links from social media.

  • Make sure your links include your main keyword phrases to be optimized for search engines.

  • Your posts in the community should be of value so that people would be interested to visit your website.

In conclusion, online communities if leveraged wisely can provide a very lucrative element to your overall marketing campaign especially that the only cost your paying is time! 

Do you have other valuable tactics for community engagement? Let me know what you think in the comments below.


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