Every Product Needs a Community
A great product needs a community, or let me put it this way, every product needs a community to help sustain it. In this day of instant access to social media and news, the only way to leverage the power of word of mouth for a product may be through its community, and it’s time organisations start building communities around their products to propel it to a path to success.
“A community is a social unit of any size that shares common values, or that is situated in a given geographical area (e.g. a village or town).” -Wikipedia
In the world of virtual connections, online communities are the platforms for brands to nurture product-centric conversations and build a great reputation amongst the customers. Working as an instant source of information, online communities these days can be built by brands to encourage their users to comment, discuss, advice or collaborate on their user experiences around the product.
Brands Need to Proactively Nurture Communities
Says Gary Vaynerchuk, an author, speaker and a social media expert, in Go Big on Community Management, “Community management goes way beyond customer service and crisis management. Making human connections is absolutely crucial to the success of your business. There is no avoiding it.”
Why a Company Needs To Create and Manage a Community
While nurturing a community may not be what every organisation indulges in, but what no organisation can deny is the fact that there does exist a community of people behind every brand, whether the brand can identify it or not. This community is made of the company’s customers, and their loyal supporters, and may be their detractors as well. These are people who find the company products useful, and would like to engage with the fellow users of the products as well. It depends on the organisation to set the pace on how they would like to herald such people together, offer them a discussion platform and listen and learn from their conversations about the products.
How a Product Community Differs From Any Other Community
A product community differs from any other online forum or community only in its less tolerant approach to any other discussions, except on the products itself. These communities are more focused on customer support, product related queries and discussions on every other aspects with existing users of the products.
How to Build a Product Community
It is not easy to build a product community. It takes concentrated effort from the organisation is creating, promoting, and nurturing a community over a long period of time, before customers begin troop in to join into discussions centring around a product. While the Internet is forever buzzing with communications surrounding the product, channelling all that communication into a single platform may seem difficult, if not impossible. You cannot simply force your customers to come to your company simply because you want them to. As a brand, you have to develop a face and an environment of trust in your community, where customers can say everything they wish to talk about your brand. Most important community development happens when a brand engages with the customers actively, in listening and solving actively the customer issues voiced in the platform.
The Role of a Community Manager
A community manager plays an important part in adding a human face for the brand in the conversations on the community, as well as listening and moderating the discussions on the platform. He/she is the person who develops an environment surrounding the community, develops a coordinated way of answering on behalf of the brand by all the brand representatives, address the customer concerns raised in these platforms, and mitigate potentially disruptive situations that may arise out of any heated discussion.
Using Owned versus Existing Platforms
Should you use an existing community platform like Facebook or Quora? Is a social media platform a better place to create a product community than an owned platform? What can be the pros and cons of the platforms? Says Patrick Groome in ‘Product Community vs. the Social Community: Which Is Better?’, ‘There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach that is guaranteed to work for your company, and there are a few things you should consider before deciding what kind of community you want to have.’ While owned community can give you greater control over the conversations, and allow you to do a hard sell, organisations will still have to be careful in setting the right environment, or may run into trouble from the word ‘go’. Social media platforms, on the other hand, offers an existing space to develop a community for almost non-existent expenditure. And yet efforts to build a community on both the platforms remain almost as much, especially if your brand is struggling to establish an online identity.
Have a different thought about building online communities? I would love to hear from you. Do share your thoughts in the comments section.