I’ve recently helped my wife setting up Facebook page and groups in some online community site to reach audience that could engage well with one her company’s site/brand. What we did should not be limited to what we discuss in this article, and it is definitely not the limitation of capabilities available through online community and social networking sites. This is simply to share some of my learnings from this experience.

To give you a little background, the community we wanted to reach was very niche and sub-cultural. The target audience is very unique, so we thought leveraging the community site on various domains would be interesting. Here are several points I’ve noticed and thought were interesting. It may not be interesting to you, if you practice marketing through social media or online community already, but if you’re new and wanted to try it out, you may find these information encouraging for your future online marketing tactics.

Communicating with the community
I was surprised to see how quickly communities could be built. It depends on which site you used in creating the community, but for Facebook page, it was nice to see the “fans” increase from 3 to 50 in one day.

In terms of communication with the fans in Facebook page, it would allow you to directly send a message to your fans. This is one great CRM strategy you can put into your CRM tactics.
Being able to communicate with your community is a very important feature you need to be aware of, and understand “what to” and “how to” use the site’s features in executing communication would be critical.

Depending on the site or community you create, you wouldn’t need web analytics tool because the number of members/fans joined would be clearly stated. That would be equivalent to your database filled with user who opted in for your communication.

Community interactions and its effectiveness
Depending on the community or social media/networking sites that you’re participating in, user interaction or involvement with the community would vary. For my wife’s account, we uploaded several photos of new products and special offers, and seeded messages to promote what was happening with the brand at that time. On other site, it was a simple text notifying the special offers at that time. Other possible ways of interaction with your audience under your community:

  • Send messages to the group
  • Create polls and surveys, and learn about your audience/community
  • Utilize site specific features such as apps, ads, pokes, etc.
  • Share links and information
  • Tag product images with brand names, to make it searchable, etc.

To measure how effective these interactions and community participations would vary on the objective, but it is important to keep your community live and active. At the end of the day, higher positive feedbacks or comments from your target audience translate to better brand awareness, and it could possibly increase your brand or product advocacy.

For my wife’s account, we instantly saw several transactions (product purchases) from one of the community site in Google Analytics’ referring sites conversion. Note: eCommerce tracking was activated in Google Analytics.

We’ve also saw an increase in product testimonials and interests for the products/services. These points of actions and conversions should be your metrics to gauge along with your KPIs.
Just like media campaign running impressions to assess brand or product exposures, your user activities and interactions within those community sites could translate to positive and effective user experience with your brand. It would also be a great place to address negative comments and concerns amongst your community as well. Now, that’s some stuff that could be highly effective.

User loyalty and retention
It would be unlikely to use your web analytics application on these sites (Obviously, it is nearly impossible to throw your tracking code on other sites), but there are many points of data within those sites you can translate into metrics. Example: no. of fans, no. of comments, no. of positive/negative testimonials, polls and survey participations, etc. It is imperative to utilize those metrics to gauge the activity within your community.

You definitely have the choice to promote your community by actively promoting those communities, but I believe the value of those social networking pages and communities is its capability to retain and promote user loyalty and retention.

We typically measure retuning traffic to the site and come up with strategies to promote return traffic, loyalty, and retention. However, these community and social networking sites are purposely built to bring back people to communicate and interact with others. Therefore, leveraging such nature of those portals would make sense, than just using it to acquire traffic to your site.

Summary
I think it would be important for my wife’s account to understand that building user loyalty on those external sites would increase overall user satisfaction, loyalty, and retention with their brand. So looking beyond the property of their own site, and expanding their reach into other properties would be an important online strategy going forward.

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