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Build Customer Relationships With Private Community Software

If there is one lesson that has held true for social marketing, it’s that you have to learn to rely on customers to drive it for you — they will always have control.

The third party social software space, which includes all the big social networks such as MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc. form a massive platform for people with common interests to get together and start conversations.

If some of those people are your customers and the topic of conversation involves your business, that's a big concern for you ... right? 

This is a big concern shared by many businesses all over the world.

Customers are likely to start conversations around your business with or without the businesses involvement, so the real challenge is "how can a business get more involved in this conversation" and have greater control over their social networks.

Building a community on a social network can be a great way to:

  • Build better business relationship with customers,
  • Build brand advocates from a customer base, and
  • Provide a platform to communicate closed loop marketing

Unfortunately, third party social networks only provide limited control — and businesses may find it very challenging to achieve these objectives without a greater degree of administrative control over their community and content.

Business owned, hosted social networks score over third party communities 

It gives you better control over the content and direction of the conversation around your business — although not complete control over the actual conversation itself (which defeats the purpose of involving customers).

A number of social marketing experts have said that customers are constantly looking for place to discuss their experiences and share views with other customers like them.

With third party networks for a business, even as an administrator, you have just as much influence over the activity and conversation as any other member on the network. It has its advantages in the ease of which it can grow, due to the large size of the parent social network — but from the businesses point of view, it provides very little room to achieve specific marketing objectives and very little control.

While in theory, the business may be termed a "group owner" or "page owner" on a third party website — it's very important to understand that  privately owned and hosted social networks offer a far greater degree of ownership in it's true sense, and from a marketing stand point, that's the level of ownership you need.

So, while investing in a comprehensive social marketing program (while third party social networks will still play a major role), investing in a social customer support software platform offers some clear advantages for marketing to tap into and build those stronger relationships with customers.

They include:

  • Better administrative control over content and conversations
  • More control over the direction of the community
  • Greater ownership and control over the space, which can be used for branding and marketing messages
  • Can be integrated with your other software platforms: CRM, HelpDesk, etc.
  • Can be customized and scaled along with the growing community
  • Communities can be divided in to strategic sub-communities to enable more focused targeted marketing
  • More control over the software also enables the implementation of more analytic and tracking tools to measure the effectiveness of your marketing
  • Allows you to be able to attribute results to specific areas like blogs, message boards, photo sharing, RSS and so on

While both third party and business owned communities are important components of the social marketing mix, if you are looking for a way to control the online conversation around your business, build better relationships with your customers, and take control of the social marketing direction, a community that is managed and owned by your business can help you claim that control.

Tim Eisenhauer
Written by Tim Eisenhauer

Tim is president and co-founder of Axero Solutions, a leading intranet software vendor. He's also a bestselling author of Who the Hell Wants to Work for You? Mastering Employee Engagement. Tim’s been featured in Fortune, Forbes, TIME, Inc Magazine, Entrepreneur, CNBC, Today, and other leading publications.

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