Online communities can provide pre-segmented markets for you to find and engage with potential customers. From Sarah Manley at MarketingProfs, steps for finding your own fans in online communities and converting them to customers.
"Find Your Fans"
Facebook and Twitter are both huge, fragmented communities with short-form content. By contrast, online communities are characterized by longer content, collaboration and deep conversations. The people there are far more engaged with the topic than mere fans. They're more passionate and more likely to become word-of-mouth advocates of things they like.
"Assess the Opportunity"
After you've found the audience you want, have a plan before you wade into the fray. What do you have to offer the community that is unique? Exclusive content? Contests? Make sure you have something that merits the audience's attention.
"Trust Your Shepherd"
A community manager can guide you to the most vocal and influential community members. A good community manager can help you "engage a community in a transparent, mutually beneficial way." Trust community managers to know when to allow the community to self-regulate and when to intervene.
"Foster the Fanatics"
You can host major branded events in online communities with both short-form and long-form content. Add value to the community via content, thoughtful ads and sponsored contests. If the fanatics find it valuable, they will spread the word about it
Some basic rules are always applicable in online communities:
- Honesty - Members are hard to fool. Insincerity will be quickly spotted.
- Sneek Peeks - Exclusivity or early access to content is exciting.
- Simplicity - Encourages more participants.
- Acknowledgement - Give your biggest fans a small measure of community fame.
- Creativity - Use deep content and garner community participation.
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