Successfully Building an Online Community.
Looking Beyond Your Internet Business Websites!
Your internet business is peculiar in many ways...
For customers, engagement seems distant and impersonal at first...
That's why building an online community of loyal customers is crucial in marketing efforts and for your
Their first interaction is probably through your website that they've happened to discover...
Not a person or a voice... just words on a webpage!
If they like what they see, then they'd like that experience of value developed further...
They don't want it to be "mechanical" or impersonal...
They want to get to know you... and they'll take whatever actions are necessary if you've succeeded in providing
that special initial experience.
Customers Want to "Stay Connected"...
A desire to "stay connected" is natural if they've had a great first impression.
It's natural for customers to look deeper if you've excited their curiosity...
This is what developing experiences to maintain customer interest is all about. It's something customers look
Take social media and its role in marketing an internet business...
It's "customers staying connected", above and beyond any "commercial" relationship.
Creative internet entrepreneurs use social media to drive value.
Customers Want to Belong...
Wanting to belong has to do with being a part of a community with a common direction.
Customers like to know that their not your only customers... they'll want to interact with others, and compare
It's important that you provide the means for them to do so...
Again, social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc.) is great in that respect.
You'll not only be driving value for customers looking to do just that, but you'll also be expanding your
internet business's presence on the web.
Customers Want to Be Part of "Something Big".
Everyone wants to be part of something that is uniquely outstanding...
Being part of "something big" is important because of brand value and the quality perceived from it.
Relationships you foster with customers and how you communicate with them defines how your brand, as well as its
inherent value are perceived.
Maintaining that "link" with customers is not only necessary to promote brand value, but also in staging
experiences that guide customers through your conversion process.
Customers Want to Contribute.
They want to take part in the "conversation"... they want to hear from you, and they want others doing the
With blogs, forums, e-mail, and social media revolutionizing the way businesses look at their marketing
processes, internet entrepreneurs have found that they can also communicate more intimately than ever.
These give customers the perfect opportunity to make their own inputs known and to "co-develop" their own
Building Customer Relationships Over Time...
Securing customer relationships is work... they're built on engagement and exposure.
Fortunately, the web provides effective vehicles to gain exposure and facilitate engagements...
Take e-mail and RSS for example, they provide great opportunities to keep in touch with customers with
"reminders" of marketing messages and offers of value.
These are just two examples of the most commonly used "tools" to develop customer relationships.
I like to think of them in these terms...
Internally Hosted Vehicles...
RSS, e-mail, forums, blogs, help desks, etc. are all vital in generating exposure and engagement. They help in
staging unique experiences for customers, as well as in building community and fostering interaction...
They're all "hosted" internally within your internet business...
Every RSS feed you create or e-mail newsletter you send out, is part of the internal architecture of your
business... the same goes for any forums, blogs, help desks, etc.
You run and manage them as part of your own business.
And although you may have to use an external service to put them in place, they're still internally hosted...
you're the developer, not the user.
Take blogs and forums as an example...
Blogs help you publish dynamic content to the web and are a fabulous complement to any static content you may
have on websites. They also provide a means for customers to interact and respond to that content with comments and
You may also want to consider hosting a forum to provide customers with another outlet where they can interact
with each other in a more direct and "personal" way.
Externally Hosted Vehicles...
The internet also offers entrepreneurs many opportunities to build community and interaction beyond those
Social networking services like Facebook, Twitter, etc. and social bookmarking services like Del.icio.us, Digg,
and StumbleUpon are such examples.
Social media is being used successfully by internet marketers and entrepreneurs to not only expand their
internet presence and promote their brands, but also as a means of communication, relationship building, and "live"
The difference here is that you're just a user like everyone else... and because you're not the owner of the
"conversation" everyone has their own particular experience in that interaction.