The Ultimate Guide to Building a Customer Community
People naturally form communities around things they care about. A quick search on popular social networks reveals groups for everything from sports teams and hobbies to customer community of brands and products.
The question is: how can you use this natural desire for the community to inspire loyalty around your business?
Creating spaces for your fans to gather is the answer. And savvy companies are building customer communities users love. These communities help with customer success, brand loyalty, acquisition, and more.
This article will take a deep dive into why your brand should consider creating a customer community. But first, let’s define what we mean by the term.
What is a customer community?
A customer community is a place where dedicated fans interact with each other and with brand representatives. People use them for various reasons, including discussing your product, accessing customer support, and interacting with other users.
Customer communities provide significant benefits to both users and your brand. Members get an enhanced experience that goes beyond just being a buyer. And you benefit from improved customer loyalty and deep insight into how your buyers think.
Central to the community is the platform it’s built upon. While they can form offline, most communities are created online via platforms integrated into your app or as groups on third-party social media sites.
These online platforms allow brands and users to develop deeper relationships wherever in the world they are based.
What are the benefits of a customer community?
At Tribe, we help brands create powerful community platforms. This gives us a first-hand view of how these spaces help the businesses that use them.
Here are some of the many benefits our clients get from their thriving online spaces:
Empower members and offer customer support
Customer communities are an easy way to provide a quality service experience. This typically happens in three distinct ways:
- Community members use knowledge of your product to share information and answer each other’s questions.
- Users can search through the library of old posts and relevant content before asking questions.
- Customers post questions that your support team answers.
Software products benefit hugely from this type of community, as customer problems can often be solved remotely.
The Google Adsense Community is a great example.
People struggling with the product can search through the library of solved problems to find an answer. If they can’t find one, they can sign in and ask their question.
These posts are quickly answered by Community Product Experts or other users who have experienced a similar issue. These steps ensure that users receive a fast solution to their problem.
Similarly, the other examples are the communities powered by popular email marketing solution, ConvertKit. This community is powered by Tribe and empowers customers with useful resources as well as promotes value exchange between members.
Help Your Customer Support Team
Customer communities encourage members to assist each other. This type of self-service problem solving takes away a significant strain from your team.
This is a huge plus if your user base is rising rapidly or if you’re a small business with a limited budget.
Here’s a great example of the former:
Investing app RobinHood was in the news a lot around the time we wrote this article. Its user base was expanding at an explosive rate.
More customers is a positive thing for any SaaS product. But in the short term, it can put immense strain on the existing support team as they try to help new users who are unfamiliar with the product.
Robinhood was lucky because the unofficial Reddit community was there to help.
A quick look through the recent posts shows people asking questions about the app and getting answers from existing users. This means new customers weren’t resorting to the official support channels.
Gain authentic customer feedback
Online customer communities are full of people willing to provide their opinion about your product. Companies can use this to gain rapid feedback on new releases, updates, promotions, and more.
Take Pipedrive as an example.
The product team posts in its Tribe-powered customer community when it wants opinions on a new product or feature. It’s a quick and easy way for the team to test out new ideas and get real-time responses.
Discover up-sell opportunities
It’s typically far easier to sell to your existing customers than new ones. After all, these people already know and trust your business.
But, creating valuable products to sell to them is another question entirely. Developing new ideas takes up significant resources, which can be a problem if you have a small team.
You need a way to know that the product you spend time developing will have the best chance of success.
A customer community helps significantly.
You can monitor community interactions to discover customer challenges. Then create products that solve these products. Or bounce ideas off your community to get instant feedback about whether they think your solution would be helpful. Another option is to simply ask the community what they would like.
The Lego Ideas Community is a brilliant example of this.
The community launched as part of Lego’s efforts to recapture toy market share in the 2000s. The platform allows fans to submit concepts for new Lego sets. Other fans vote on these proposals, and the best ones are turned into real products.
This is a win-win situation for both fans and the brand. The company creates sets it knows people love, while fans get the toys they want the most.
The customer community itself was a huge success, and it now has over a million users.
Build brand advocates
Studies have found that people who have a good experience with your brand share this experience with six or more people.
Customer communities help by providing members with a rewarding experience that builds on the value your product offers. Brand interaction is no longer merely transactional. Instead, it is one of joining an exclusive community of like-minded people.
Who wouldn’t want to share that kind of experience?
A better experience also improves customer retention. This is essential if you run a recurring subscription-based business or certain types of e-commerce stores. That’s because the more people interact with your product, the more likely they will be to stick with your brand.
How to build a customer community user love
While building a community doesn’t happen overnight, technology means it is easier than ever to get started. Tribe’s customers have launched communities within 1-12 weeks depending on the level of customization requirement.
Here are some tips about how to build a community.
Consider why you want to build a customer community
Building a customer community takes significant effort and resources. Before starting, be sure that you have a goal in mind that will make this effort worth it.
In the benefits section above, we listed many reasons you may want to create a space for your fans. So choose the most relevant ones and use this as your guiding light.
Here are some examples of why Tribe customers use our software:
- CRM Pipedrive uses its solution to improve customer success.
- Education company MindValley powers course discussions from within its existing web and mobile apps.
- Convertkit empowers its customers to help and inspire each other.
- IBM launched several communities for different uses. These include improving employee engagement and helping with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
And these are just some of the potential uses. There are plenty of other ways to use a customer community.
Porsche has an app that lets users swap their favorite routes and connect with other drivers, the SAP Community Network is a space for business consultants and experts to learn and network, and the Mozilla Community Portal is a place where the software non-profit’s fans can work on their own development ideas.
Your goal will define the type of community you plan to create. If you want a simple place for customers to connect and provide occasional updates, then creating a group on a social media platform may fit your needs.
If you want to build deeper relationships or implement your community into your support workflow, you’ll be better off using a dedicated solution.
Look for existing communities
Try to find people who are already connecting around your product. Look at what they are talking about to guide the formation of your community.
Facebook groups and Reddit communities are two places where groups may already exist. Use the search bar on each platform to find out if this is the case. LinkedIn groups are another excellent place to look, especially if you run a B2B product.
Even if you don’t find a dedicated group, people may still be discussing your product. Search on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, or TikTok to find out what they are saying. Use these results to guide your community-building strategy.
Provide a reason for customers to join your community
Customers will only join your community if they have a good reason for doing so. Think about what you can do to encourage sign-ups.
High-quality customer support is an obvious incentive. If customers know they will get faster answers to their problems as members of your community, they are more likely to join.
Providing access to new features and Beta updates is another good incentive.
The Windows Insiders program is a great example of this. Those in the program get access to the latest builds of the company’s operating system before it is released to the public.
It’s a win-win situation for all involved. Fans gain access to the latest features while Microsoft gets to test them out on a relatively small number of people before releasing them publicly.
When thinking of your reason, consider who your most loyal fans are and develop an idea they love. A targeted offer is often better than one aimed at your entire customer base.
Let’s go back to the Windows Insiders example. Around 1 billion people regularly use Windows 10. However, not all of the users will be interested in joining a community.
But by focusing the Microsoft Insider program on a particular group of power users, the company created a popular community that has long surpassed 10 million members.
Choose a platform
Choosing a platform is one of the critical parts of building a community. Your choice will define the features you can offer users.
Creating a group on a social media platform is a way to get started easily. But you should be aware that you won’t ever own the community when it’s created on a third-party platform. This can spell trouble if an algorithm change limits visibility or functionality. Also, there is no control over the member data and customizability. Apart from that social media sites are inherently distracting with notifications from friends and family as well as advertisements.
A hosted solution gives you control over your community. Products like Tribe allow you to easily create branded communities for your users that you have complete control over.
Check out this guide to learn how you can evaluate various community platforms based on your requirements.
Drive engagement for a better customer experience
Once you have your first users, you need to encourage interaction. This may happen organically. But in small communities, you may need to take steps to stimulate customer engagement.
The easiest thing you can do is ask people from your company to join in. Assign someone in your team as the community manager and have them start discussions around industry topics, create polls, or share interesting articles.
Many community platforms provide tools you can use to increase engagement. At Tribe, we give customers the ability to:
- Automatically send welcome emails to new community members. These typically contain information about how to get involved as well as moderation rules. Learn more about community member onboarding here.
- Create questions and request answers from certain customer groups. This is a great way to encourage people to share their expertise.
- Provide badges to the members in your community that are most active or provide the most value.
- Enable notifications so that members are alerted to new community activity.
- Create bot users to improve the sense of engagement inside your community during its growth stages.
Listen to your community
Community communication must go both ways. You get value from your customers, but you also need to give a lot in return.
Consider what your customers use your community for and look for ways to improve this experience. Then implement changes where necessary. This could involve putting on webinars, running AMAs with experts from your team, or even organizing in-person meetups.
Be aware that as your community grows, people will join with different needs. This may make it harder for people to get what they want from the group.
To stop this from becoming an issue, consider creating different groups based on industry, location, or product type. These let people access the information most relevant to their needs.
Ultimately, by focusing on what your customers want, you’re more likely to build a successful product that customers love.
Measure and score community success
The harsh truth in business is that everything is driven by ROI (Return on Investment). This applies to communities as well — a community project might shut down if the success of the community can’t be proved. Although the idea of community is utopian, it depends on the budget allocation and business goals.
The head of the community should spearhead the communication and showcase the value delivered by the community. This ties in with the community objective (the reason a brand decides to build a community).
Learn more about the key metrics you must measure for your brand community.
Learn more about launching a customer community
Launching an online community is easier than ever because of the democratization of access to community platforms like Tribe. However, the software is a small component of the equation. The success of the community is more about the execution of the strategy. It depends on finding your members, researching how to provide them with immense value, and then developing a community that fulfills these needs.
We have produced a guide that details the exact steps you need to take to build your community. You can access it by clicking here.