Wondering how to best approach generating online community engagement?

According to Metcalfe’s Law, the value of a network increases with the number of connected users. By the same logic, the value of an online community increases with the number of connected and engaged community members.

But community management and moderation – that is, connecting with and engaging community participants – is often easier said than done. Developing online community engagement can be challenging, particularly when companies are faced with language differences, varying degrees of subject matter specialization, geographical distance, content creation, and dissemination.

How can expertise and community become value adds that help retailers compete? Tune in to our podcast, The Ecom Edge!

If you’re facing any of these challenges while building your community engagement strategy, you’re not alone. For instance, Boomi, one of our customers faced a similar challenge surrounding community engagement and relevance. Here’s how they revamped their customer community, supercharging engagement – resulting in a 300% case deflection increase in just 3 months.

Community engagement that’s driven by relevance – Boomi

Fortunately, there are five easy-to-implement solutions that can increase online engagement in no time. But first, one question…

What are the Benefits of an Online Community?

You might think building and maintaining an online community is a lot of work – and you’d be right. But community building is an effort that pays off in the long run – in many different ways.

  • Robust feedback mechanism: One of the benefits of having a solid online community is that your active and new members provide continuous feedback about your product and services. In the process, you generate and hear about the real excitement your customers feel about your product or business.
  • Build strong relationships: Community activity goes a long way to building stronger relationships with your customers. By soliciting and encouraging participation, you’re cultivating a conversation with your most important audience – the people who are already giving you their money.
  • Inspiration & collaboration opportunities: Your online community strategy should be inclusive of all your stakeholders – including your partners. Partner communities are similar, in that you can foster new collaboration, develop ideas, and potentially reach customers you might not have otherwise been able to.
  • Convert customers to brand advocates: Your online community can also turn potential customers into zealous advocates for your business. Your community doesn’t just act as a customer acquisition magnet, it also plays a big part in customer retention. People are more likely to stick with a group that they feel connected to and a part of. Why can’t that group be your business? And these days, when so much of ecommerce relies on user-generated techniques like social proof, you’ll want those customers in your corner.

So now that we know online community engagement is important for business growth, what can you plug into an effective community engagement strategy?

How Do You Build Engagement in an Online Community?

1. Unified Search

Unified search is a powerful capability for deriving maximum value from your online assets to the benefit community members. You may have articles on your blog, case studies on your website, discussion threads, and video tutorials on your community platform, but without unified search, “ne’er the twain shall meet.” A community’s success is significantly hindered without unified search, because without it, a person needs to leave the community to find assets that aren’t surfaced in the community engagement platform. This causes friction in the customer experience and takes a toll on overall customer satisfaction.

With iTalent Digital’s unified search and recommendations solution delivered in partnership with Coveo, customers can surface the full value of their assets, which are dispersed across multiple platforms, with a single in-community search. Built-in artificial intelligence allows the search engine to understand users’ intentions and deliver an even better match of queries to content (plus recommended related articles) over time.

2. Cross-community collaboration

On the flip side of unified search is cross-community collaboration. Driving – and realizing the full value of – effective collaboration across the enterprise is challenging when there are separate communities on different platforms or disconnected from one another. Historically, contributed content could only benefit the members of the specific community in which it was published.

Not any more: iTalent has developed a cross-community connector that enables forum posts, blogs, articles, and other assets to be seamlessly surfaced in different communities as if it were published directly in each community. Moreover, if existing members within the “target” community reply to a thread or a post, it will automatically appear in the “source” community, and vice-versa. This allows content to be easily and seamlessly amplified to all relevant communities.

Suppose your organization has multiple communities and repositories that support different products or capabilities. In that case, cross-community collaboration can not only drive value for your community members, but it creates visibility for your products and services that members may not even be aware of, potentially driving topline revenue for your company. Your best prospects are your existing customers; let the community help amplify and drive awareness of your organization’s capabilities to the entire installed member base and prospects.

3. Dynamic translation

iTalent Digital has overcome the language barriers between community members through a proprietary online tool that enables dynamic translation either between members in a community or between members of different communities.

To create a truly global community, it is critical to support multiple languages. As a case in point, English speakers accounted for only about 25% of internet users in 2017. In order to reach 80% of the world’s internet users, more than 10 languages are needed.

Imagine the exponential increase in value for the whole community of having all the content available in multiple languages. The real-time discussions would also be much more dynamic if everyone could understand what each other was saying, no matter their preferred language.

The beauty of a dynamic translation connector lies in allowing members to read and write content in their language of choice, and have it dynamically translated into the preferred languages of all the other members, so they can have near real-time interactions.

4. Gamification

Simply put, gamification is a way of turning a desired behavior into a game or competition to stimulate participation. Gamification also enables you to positively reinforce desired actions through rewards and recognition.

Gamification can be as simple as allowing members to upvote or downvote content. This not only rewards relevant content through upvotes, it also makes the most popular and relevant content more visible and easily found by users.

Gamification can also be more complex by assigning points, levels, badges and other status-granting privileges to users, depending on the type of activity you want to encourage. Granting privileged status (SuperUser, MVP, etc.) based on the level of contribution drives a greater degree of participation.

5. Recognition

Content contributors can also be rewarded through special recognition. Beyond the badges or special status automatically assigned by the gamification mechanism described above, members can be recognized through being amplified on other platforms (for example, their tutorial in your community could be featured on your blog), or you can create a special platform for star contributors such as a member hall of fame or winner’s circle, whose exclusive group of members are selected based on pre-defined criteria. Another way to think about recognition is a celebration – this is a way to celebrate your members and involve the community in doing so.

Fostering connectivity and engagement of your members are the most important factors in the success of your online community. When members are empowered to self-serve and are equipped to help others self-serve, and are rewarded for doing so, they become motivated to contribute to the group, thus raising the value of the community for everyone.

Dig Deeper

If you use these five simple steps to optimize the accessibility of your content, increase the relevancy of your assets and drive greater participation, you will super-charge your community and increase the value for every member exponentially.

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About Fred Walters

Fred Walters is Chief Innovation Officer and Partner at iTalent Digital and leads the company’s digital transformation efforts. He leads strategic and transformational practices in enterprise collaboration, big data and business intelligence, mobile and cloud, along with business development.

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