customer_community_engagement_ideas_tbThere’s a dirty little secret about customer communities…

Most of them fail.

According to Gartner, 70% of online communities fail—mainly due to lack of engaging content and programs.

One reason this happens is because companies make their community all about them, or let it turn into a boring tech support forum.

Customers don’t join an online community to talk about your brand or report product bugs. They join because they want to interact with their peers and learn from each other.

The more your customers interact with you and each other, the more everyone will benefit.

For example, your customers will meet their peers, get more value from your products and have the opportunity to showcase their thought leadership. Meanwhile, you’ll gain access to tons of customer-generated content that you can use to attract leads and shorten your sales cycles.

But first you need to get customers to engage with your community.

5 ways to boost community engagement

We recently ran a beta for our new Communities product.

During the beta, we analyzed what types of community content did and didn’t work when it came to engaging our B2B customers and advocates. Here are the five that generate the most engagement in our communities:

1. Asking for introductions

customer_communities_engagement_ideas__1It’s amazing to see how much engagement you can get simply by asking folks to introduce themselves to fellow community members.

Putting a face on your community is something that many advocate marketers overlook. However, your customers want to learn about the people—not the corporation—they are engaging with. We’ve found that advocate marketers can get hundreds of replies, likes and comments simply by introducing themselves.

2. Helping advocates get more value from your products

customer_communities_engagement_ideas_2bPosts about products also generate loads of engagement. Instead of trying to sell your products, help your advocates and existing customers get more value from them.

For example, you can ask your advocates to share their best tip. You can also ask what features they want to see in a future release. Your advocates are your power users and can provide you with valuable feedback.

3. Satisfying their curiosity

customer_communities_engagement_ideas__3You can use your community to figure out what your customers need help with or are curious to learn more about. Encourage them to ask questions about your product or industry. If you can answer them promptly, your members will be appreciative and more likely to use your community as a go-to resource for information.

One way to do this is to host an “Ask Me Anything” (AMA) through your community with someone your advocates would love the chance to chat with.

You can also ask them for questions to use in your other marketing initiatives. For instance, you can tell your advocates that you’re interviewing an industry expert in an upcoming webinar. Then, you can invite them to submit questions through your community. The bonus? Your advocates will be more likely to attend the webinar if they know the expert will answer their questions.

 4. Gathering opinions

customer_communities_engagement_ideas_4 copyYour advocates and customers will welcome the opportunity to share their opinions. While you can ask for feedback on your products, you should also ask their opinions on a variety of topics. Here are some questions that brought our customers loads of responses:

  • What apps do you use every day?
  • What is the best blog post that you’ve read on X topic?
  • Where do you hold your annual conference?
  • What is the biggest marketing challenge you face in your industry in 2015?

5. Planning real-world meet ups

customer_communities_engagement_ideas_5bOne of the top reasons why customers join advocate communities is to meet and learn from their peers. This means your advocates may want to take their networking offline and have a local meet-up.

While you can organize a meet-up, we’ve found that advocates often plan their own events. For example, they may meet for drinks when they attend the same conference or networking event. Support their early initiatives by sending them goodies like branded notepads, stickers and pens. If you reward advocates organizing local events, you’ll soon see your offline community flourish on its own.

Think of your online community as a one-stop shop where your customers can learn, interact with each other and grow as advocates. Using these five ideas will help your customers with all of the above. They’ll also boost your engagement and bring you more value from your community.

What types of posts are you finding work best?  How are you keeping your community fresh and vibrant?

bp-coverFree eBook: 5 Ways Brightpearl’s Advocate Community Drives Customer Success, Engagement and Positive Word of Mouth

Learn how Brightpearl used their advocate marketing program to uncover hidden advocates, drive customer engagement and increase positive reviews.

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