What comes to mind when thinking about an online community? You probably have some antiquated recollection of a bland, white and grey forum. But, it’s time to update that vision. Businesses are creating and moderating branded online communities as a mobile friendly, online hub for customers to congregate and discuss how they use a brand’s products and related topics.

Branded online communities now have functionalities similar to social media platforms. They’re much more appealing to the eye than their outdated counterparts, too. One of the biggest advantages of creating an online community is that they’re yours; you “own” your member list, similar to “owned content.”

By contrast, if you have a group on LinkedIn or Facebook and those platforms make an annoying change and everyone jumps ship to the newest, coolest, social media platform, you could be left with no community almost instantly. Avoid this by creating your own branded community on your own website.

Let’s uncover other marketing benefits you’ll reap by offering a branded community forum for your customers.

Save Money

Having a place online where users can discuss and applaud your product is a great thing. It allows people to feel like they’re a part of something significant. What you’re selling is no longer just a product to them. When people belong to a group, especially one that’s centered on a product they believe in, they have a natural desire to help other users.

Consider how much you can save by deflecting support calls. Call deflection is measurable and tangible. Most people will consult Dr. Google before calling a support line anyway. If the answer to a question is out there already on your online community, that’s one less call for your support team to handle.

New Leads & Repeat Sales

Building the relationship between your business and customers creates brand loyalty, thereby increasing the chance for repeat sales. Take Big Green Egg for example; by having a place online for their customers to discuss their products, Big Green Egg owners feel like they’re part of an exclusive club. They share recipes, tips and more, further strengthening their connection with the brand.

The other opportunity to generate new sales stems from the SEO benefit an online community will add to your brand’s digital presence. If a buyer is searching on a topic related to your product and your community has a lot of engagement, the chance of being one of the top search results is potentially high. Many buyers may even be drawn in by the mere fact that you have an online community, where they can engage for troubleshooting and discuss new ideas.

New Ideas

It can be difficult to hear all valid mentions of your brand through the constant “noise” on social media. An online community for your customers encourages direct feedback where they can expect a timely response from your brand. It also allows an opportunity for other members/users to jump in and stand up for your brand. This open line of communication can stimulate new ideas. You’ll hear what people really want from your brand.

Ready to start your branded online community, but unsure how to get started? Social Business Journal, Volume 5, The Community Playbook was published in cooperation with Vanilla Forums. This Journal will guide your thinking in how to create and maintain a thriving online community. Download The Community Playbook to gain insight into one of the most compelling differentiators a brand can implement.