Online Communities: How to Use an Online Community to Boost Sales

Online communities are a great way to connect with your current and potential customers. These online communities are being used more and more by brands as a way to grow their customer base, increase sales, build relationships with consumers and even to aid with innovation and customer support.

Online communities have typically been common among hobbyists and other enthusiasts who use them to discuss their shared interests. However, brands have caught on to the value that these communities offer and have begun developing online communities of their own to help grow their business.

Not only do online communities work well for consumers to discuss, rate, provide feedback on and promote products and services but they can also be used to boost sales.

This article will help you discover more about online communities and how you can use a community online to help you increase sales.

Read on to learn more about:

What is an Online Community?

An online community is a group of people who use online platforms like social media to interact, share and have conversations about topics that are important to them. Size doesn’t matter in the case of online communities – it could be just a few members who create a private group online or it could be a larger group of people who communicate on a forum.

Think about your neighborhood group of moms who get together for coffee and walks. They talk about what baby products they’re currently using, which they’ve had bad experiences with and what they recommend. Now, take away the walks and move this concept online – this is an online community.

Examples of platforms on which online communities form include social networks, like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn, as well as forums, e-mail and even in the comments sections of blog posts and articles or on a social network created by the company.

The Value of an Online Community

Online communities provide a perfect networking opportunity. If created and used properly, online communities marketers to directly interact with their target market – a very valuable opportunity!

Online communities offer the perfect place for brands to promote their products in subtle ways without spamming users and driving them away.

In addition to the direct contact with customers that an online community offers, there are several other advantages for both businesses and consumers. These include

Innovation

Social communities are a great place to gather recommendations for product improvements – who better to provide their input than your end-users. Feedback from your customers can also be very helpful in making improvements to current products.

Research and feedback
community marketing example
Sephora's community forum is a great way to engage customers and receive direct feedback (https://community.sephora.com/)

Forums, social media and other community platforms offer brands a chance to really get to know their audience. This information can be used to identify and interact with an ideal target market, improve current marketing efforts and improve your brand and products in general.

In addition to learning more about your customers from interacting directly with them online, you’ll also learn a lot by watching them interact with others. The common issues they face and the suggestions that they provide each other are great sources of information. When talking with other customers, they will be more open and forthcoming – their honesty in these interactions can give you a lot of insight into what is successful and what can be improved.

Content creation

Keeping an eye on what consumers are sharing with each other, the questions they commonly ask and the suggestions they have can provide you with a wealth of information about topics and the types of content that your target market wants to see. Take note of the topics that come up most often and use this to create content that will help address common questions and concerns. Using popular topics can help boost your SEO and increase website traffic.

User-generated content will also result from a community. This is not only a great engagement booster but also an awesome way to get your product in front of new consumers online.

While you can easily start a community free online, keep in mind that building a successful community takes time and effort. Learn more about social media management and whether a social media manager might be right for you in 
 Social Media Manager – 9 Reasons You Need One”

Customer Support

By keeping tabs on your online community and the most common questions and issues customers are having, you can address these problems and questions in a more efficient manner. This can help reduce the number of emails, calls and requests for support that your team receives on a daily basis.

Relationship building

Relationships will form between your brand and consumers, as well as between community members.

For consumers, this is beneficial because they can support one another, share tips and suggestions and meet new, like-minded people who share their interests. Building connections like this will make them feel welcome, accepted and understood.

Relationships with consumers are beneficial to businesses because it allows them to build trust, making their brand more desirable.

Loyalty

Customers are more likely to be loyal to a brand that they trust and one that they feel cares about and appreciates them. When you show your customers that you care by engaging with them online and implementing their suggestions, they feel appreciated.

Organic brand ambassadors will also emerge in social communities. People who love your brand and products so much that they encourage others to take part in your community and purchase your products are very helpful for increasing awareness and sales. In fact, a study at the University of Michigan found that customers spent 19% more on a brand’s products after they joined their online community.

Looking for more ways to improve customer loyalty? Try a customer loyalty program! Learn more about customer loyalty programs and how to create a successful Customer Loyalty Program.

If these benefits aren’t enough to sway you on the value of online communities, it should be noted that 77% of companies see online communities as being valuable to their business – improving brand exposure, recognition and helping them to build trust with their customers.

Ready to get started building a community for your brand? Here’s how you can boost sales with the help of an online community.

How to Leverage an Online Community for Sales

Simply starting an online community isn’t enough. You’ll need to know how to use your online community to gain business and retain customers.

Here are 4 ways that you can use your community to help boost sales:

1. Promote

With the help of an online community you can promote your products more naturally. Subtle promotion through an online community can boost sales by making your products a normal part of conversation. With the help of this tactic, your company doesn’t look spammy and untrustworthy in the eyes of consumers. Having natural and authentic conversations online shows that your brand is genuine and helpful – valuable qualities to consumers.

Online communities can also be used to connect with consumers at various stages of the buying journey. This means that marketers can personalize a user’s experience and the conversations around their product based on where the consumer is in the sales funnel.

2. Improve

By listening to your audience and implementing changes that they suggest or making improvements to aspects that aren’t working well for them, you can boost sales. Not only will your products and services be better and more useful to consumers but your customers will also feel heard and appreciated. This creates buy-in among customers, resulting in loyalty.

Improvements based on consumer suggestions also help brands stay relevant and on top of changing trends.

3. Interact and guide conversations

Interacting with consumers online means that you can guide the conversation and monitor what is being shared about you. If something negative comes up, direct access to consumers will allow you to address the problem immediately – preserving your reputation. This can prevent you from losing potential and current customers and help you gain new customers by showing them that you will be responsive to their needs and concerns.

4. Add value
online communities example

By providing your customers with an accessible community you are adding value to your product. When consumers can contact your brand directly with issues, questions or concerns, this gives them comfort and makes your product a more attractive option over your competitors’.

TripAdvisor does a great job of leveraging its online community for sales. Their genius lies in the fact that their ideal customer is also the type of person who participates the most in their community – a frequent traveler who likes to share their experiences with others.

TripAdvisor provides an online community right on its booking platform. Here consumers can talk travel destinations, tips and more, and once they’re ready to book, TripAdvisor is there to offer them that service.

In addition, by offering community members the chance to share their travel expertise, TripAdvisor makes consumers feel valued. This, in turn, contributes to the development of a long-standing relationship between consumer and company.

Ready to get started creating your very own online community? Want to learn more about how to build a successful brand community? Check out our article on Community Marketing.

Key Takeaways On Online Communities

An online community is a place where people can come together to discuss and share information about a topic that they are interested in. Much like a community in real life, online communities provide a place where members feel welcome, heard and appreciated by others. Members can help one another with questions and problems and provide suggestions to someone who is having a similar experience.

Brands have caught on to the value of online communities. By creating an online community for consumers, companies can innovate, learn more about their customers, discover new ideas for content creation, provide easily accessible customer support, build strong relationships with consumers and develop a loyal customer base.

Once an online community has been developed, brands can use this community to increase sales. This can be done by promoting their products in a natural and subtle way, improving their products to appease to their target market, guide online conversations, showcase their brand in a positive light and add value for their customers.

Vincent Lee

Written By Vincent Lee

The Managing Editor at Advesa, Vincent is a mechanical keyboard enthusiast, a lover of cats, and a purveyor of fine roasted matcha teas. When not writing, he enjoys exercising and biking around his beautiful hometown of Vancouver. He is also a strong supporter of the oxford comma.