5 Tools to Build Your Own Online Community, and Why Every Business Should

by | Oct 12, 2022

Online communities can prove to be a highly effective tool for marketing. The ROI that these communities can generate is immense. Businesses can utilize these communities to increase their brand awareness, build trust in the business, and ultimately get people to convert into paying customers. Furthermore, they also enable brands to control the narrative about their products and services, thereby ensuring that their brand value doesn’t suffer as a result of misinformation.

There’s no shortage of community-building tools available to businesses. Whether you’re just a startup with a limited marketing budget or a well-established organization, there are plenty of tools that make it much easier to launch community-building initiatives that help elevate the status of your brand.

5 top tools to use for online communities

1. Community forums

Some of the largest brands in the world, across multiple industries, operate their own community forums. The forums serve as a sort of meeting place for fans of the company, who can learn from the experiences of others and ask any questions they may have about the products.

Community forums are also great for troubleshooting since members often help each other out and provide tips on extracting the most value out of the products. Discussion forums also happen to be one of the oldest community-building tools. Back then, forums were only text-based, without any multimedia functionality. Now, you can choose from a wide variety of discussion forum tools that provide excellent usability with the option to add videos, emojis, GIFs, and more.

2. Live streaming on social networks

Live streaming

Live streaming has become an incredibly popular tool for building communities and keeping members engaged. Video content tends to perform very well online and customers are now increasingly making purchase decisions based on livestreams. The numbers speak for themselves. Live streaming saw over 8.2 billion hours of content consumed in the third quarter of 2021. This number is only set to grow even more.

The great thing about this platform is that it doesn’t require any investment in additional tools. The largest social media networks like Facebook, Instagram, Twitch, and YouTube, are free to use and they’re also the leading live streaming service providers. Simply set up a free page for your brand on any of these services and start live streaming.

3. Email marketing tools

It’s easy to believe that perhaps email marketing doesn’t have the relevance in 2022 that it did before but this couldn’t be further from the truth. Email marketing remains one of the most popular ways to build a loyal community. The ROI on email marketing is also considerably higher compared to other methods.

There are popular tools like MailChimp and ConvertKit that can supercharge a brand’s email marketing efforts. They make it possible to capture emails through opt-in and lead generation pages, which is a great way to grow the email list. Similar tools also make it possible to segment and tag subscribers and set up automation for email campaigns while also providing detailed stats to help you get the best out of email marketing.

Email marketing tool

4. Facebook Groups

This is another great option for businesses that may not be able to spend much money on their marketing efforts. Facebook is free to use, even if you’re a business, and Facebook Groups are a powerful tool for creating communities of highly engaged members. Since this happens to be the world’s largest social media network, the groups on Facebook tend to see a flurry of activity. Recent figures have shown that over 1.8 billion people use Facebook Groups every month. The potential here is endless.

Make the loyal fans and customers who join your group feel valued. They will be the most vocal advocates for your products. Use the group to provide them with exclusive access to the company, whether that’s true interactive sessions with key decision makers or sneak peeks at new products. Businesses can get far more reach for their posts in groups than they can get for their pages.

5. Dedicated app

While this may be better suited to more established businesses, given the costs involved in creating a full-fledged app, a dedicated app is one of the greatest community tools with an incredible growth potential. There’s far more control over the user experience in your own app compared to that of a social network.

The business can provide features and functionality that it deems most appropriate for its community. For example, the app can also be used to provide exclusive deals and discounts on products not available anywhere else. This ensures that customers always purchase directly through mediums provided by the company, instead of going through a third party. A separate app can only include more social commerce features that fully tie the customer into the brand’s ecosystem.

Why every business should build a community

There are benefits to communities beyond customer retention and increased sales. People inherently want to be part of a community, of a tribe. They appreciate the feelings that it evokes. In the case of businesses, it makes them feel that they have a voice and can influence how the company they love to patronize operates.

This provides exceptional growth potential for a business, as long as it’s able to tap into the community effectively. It’s not just about increasing sales or keeping customers coming back for more. Businesses must also listen to what their community is saying. Whether it’s pushback for a marketing campaign that wasn’t well received or feedback that can genuinely help make their products better.

It’s supposed to be a two-way street. Take the guidance and criticism you receive from community members in your stride. Ensure that they feel heard and that their legitimate concerns are addressed. Learn from their experiences to see how your products and services can be improved. Keep communicating with them so that they remain engaged and feel the product of supporting a company that they feel emotionally invested in. Such potential is difficult to replicate through any other medium.

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Clarence Fisher