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The Community Imperative: Engaging in Conversations Rather Than Disseminating Information

Building Online Communities in B2B

Building Online Communities in B2B What does effective marketing engagement look like? In the common model we see today, it’s something like this: Brands push out relevant messaging, hoping to compel a response or interaction that leads to a conversation (and maybe ultimately a conversion). This can be anything from a comment on a social media post to a chat window initiation. Nothing wrong with that. These back-and-forths between brands and individuals are important ingredients toward building trust and loyalty. The problem is that, as a sole method for driving engagement, the cast-and-wait approach is too dependent on explicit triggers to spark these interactions.   Devising and creating content that drives targeted engagement is hard work. It’s worthwhile, but hard, and sometimes even well conceived plans miss the mark. What if you were able to develop a self-driven engagement engine, which fostered strategic conversations built awareness among your most valuable customers and prospects? Enter: Communities.

Why Communities Matter to Digital Marketers

In his seminal book, Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us, Seth Godin writes about turning scattered groups of followers into a unified “tribe,” which he defines as “a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.” Human beings have long gravitated toward these communal experiences, elevating the collective power of their interests, beliefs, or passions. According to Godin, a group needs two things to become a tribe:

  1. A shared idea
  2. A way to communicate

The internet has taken care of No. 2, making it easy for strangers around the globe to come together via message boards, social media, subreddits, etc. So really it’s about identifying that mutual idea, or focal point, and taking the lead in rallying people around it.

Coordinating Communities for B2B Marketing

It’s not uncommon for tribes to form around a B2C product or service. For example, my fiancée follows several social media groups dedicated to Oreo cookies. People in these communities share updates about new flavors, and where they can be found. Other examples of strong brand communities include Sephora, LEGO, and Starbucks. In the B2B space, this is more challenging. People aren’t generally drawn to, say, cybersecurity software in the same way they are to their favorite coffee or cosmetics brand. But that’s not to say there isn’t a deep level of passion for cybersecurity — it’s a prevalent issue throughout our society, and one that many professionals spend their entire days thinking about. The key lies in hitting the right resonant note and facilitating connections. In the case of cybersecurity specialists, we have to ask: What questions burn in their minds? Which elements of the subject excite or agitate them? Where do discussions among hardcore followers tend to center? This type of empathetic mindset should be at the core of our DNA as modern marketers. Building B2B communities doesn’t always mean trying to create a “brand community” where your company and its offerings are the primary focus; this can be tough to accomplish, and even when you do, you’re unlikely to pull in many members outside of your existing customer base. The more effective approach, from my view, is building communities around interests and commonalities that align directly with what you do. Pinpointing the ideal focal point for your community requires an acute understanding of the people you serve, derived through copious research. We can apply many of the same tactics for identifying best answer opportunities to arrive at data-driven conclusions about the most avid areas of curiosity for our audiences. If your customers are repeatedly asking the same questions to Google, they probably want to discuss them amongst one another as well.

Where Can You Build Online Communities?

Let’s say you’re interested in starting a community around a certain topic relevant to your brand. Where might go about doing so? Here are some popular options:

  • Facebook Groups: It’s the world’s most popular social media platform and a prevalent hub for connecting around common interests. We wrote recently about the value of Facebook groups for B2B brands. And Facebook’s recently announced redesign will put groups at the center of the experience.
  • LinkedIn Groups: Often a better contextual fit than Facebook for B2B social media groups, as LinkedIn is (of course) structured around professional topics. Last year LinkedIn made its Groups feature more accessible by integrating it into the mobile app.
  • Forum/Message Board: The online message board traces its origins back nearly to the dawn of the internet, when it was called a bulletin board system (BBS). Today, these platforms for organized digital discourse remain prevalent and — when well populated — highly active and engaging. This post from HubSpot offers some step-by-step guidance for launching your community in such a fashion.
  • Microsite: A special section of your website dedicated entirely to allowing your customers and audience members to interact with one another. It might be a message board built within your site, or a more customized setup. Whatever the case, you’ll want to make sure it’s easy to navigate and follow conversation threads.

Benefits of B2B Community-Building

“Community is important because it brings people together. Community keeps people loyal, makes them feel like they matter. It also lets the company show how much they appreciate their customers,” according to Mary Green, a community-building specialist who shared her insights with B2B News Network. Beyond the overarching loyalty imperative, here are a few other practical advantages to creating an online community:

  • Firsthand audience research. Marketers are always endeavoring to understand what matters most to their audiences. In many cases, this requires considerable guesswork. But by monitoring a community, you can watch conversations play out organically, seeing what impassioned followers talk about and how they talk about it. This can serve as a crucial springboard for your content planning. It might even help inspire new product features or service offerings.
  • User-generated content. “Brands and influencers can make great content, but the phenomenal stuff comes from the discussion. User-generated content is gold,” says Green. I’ve written here in the past about the power of UGC for authenticity, and online communities can be an excellent resource for uncovering it.
  • Finding and cultivating influencers. Within these communities, you’ll frequently see particular experts emerging with strong voices or magnetic insights. These might be candidates to incorporate more deeply into your influencer marketing strategy.

B2B Brands Running Strong Communities

Looking for inspiration? Here are a few companies that set the right example with B2B community-building:

Bank of America

They major national bank created a small business online community, which they describe as “a forum for small business ideas, insider tips, and the industry knowledge you need to help your small business grow.” As you scroll through the links and discussions within, you’ll find that much of it is unrelated to banking or even financial matters, and that’s just fine. The point is that numerous customers and prospects are coming to BoA’s website to talk shop. Bank of America Online Community

Intuit

The QuickBooks Community is basically a public knowledge bank where users can help each other solve problems and learn new things. There are product-centric areas for QB troubleshooting, as well as general business discussions. Intuit company reps are also active participants in the community. QuickBooks Online Community

Jamf

Jamf Nation describes itself as “the largest Apple IT management community in the world.” It’s a perfect example of owning a niche, and mobilizing a community while keeping product promotion on the backburner. Members are welcomed to “Dialog with your fellow IT professionals, gain insight about Apple device deployments, share best practices and bounce ideas off each other.” Jamf Nation Online Community

Find Your Tribe

As marketing emphasis shifts more and more toward delivering holistic experiences, community-building should be a key consideration for practitioners everywhere, especially in B2B where the opportunity is especially ripe. Herein lies the next frontier of digital engagement. Want to learn more about B2B brands that are finding more authentic ways to engage? Check out our post: Flipping the B2B Marketing Script: 7 Brands That Talk to Consumers, Not Companies

The post The Community Imperative: Engaging in Conversations Rather Than Disseminating Information appeared first on Online Marketing Blog – TopRank®.

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10 Crucial Steps for Launching Your B2B Podcast Into the Wild

Hey, friend, have you heard the good news about podcasts? 

Given the most recent stats, it’s highly likely you have. Over half of all Americans over 12 years of age have listened to at least one. Podcasts have well and truly hit the mainstream. In other words, the gold rush is on for brands looking to connect with a highly-engaged, long-attention-span audience.

However, getting a podcast up and running isn’t as simple as publishing a blog. We recently published an entire B2B podcasting webinar to walk you through the entire process, from conception to publication. This post will zero in on the choices you need to make and the steps you need to take to release your podcast into the wild.

B2B Podcasting Launch Checklist: 10 Steps

Sure, you could just upload your audio to your web server, add an RSS feed, and call it good. But if you want people to actually find and listen to your podcast, there are a few extra steps you should take. This checklist will help your podcast find an audience and start building a subscriber base.

via GIPHY

#1: Choose Your Hosting Platform

A podcast syndication platform makes it easy to publish your podcast and get listed in directories. Think of it like WordPress is for your blog — it hosts the files, makes them look pretty, and makes it so people can find them.

Most platforms will also give you embed codes for embedding episodes in blog posts or on a landing page. You’ll also get stats on how many people are downloading episodes, and on what program they’re listening.

We prefer Libsyn as our hosting platform. Podbean, buzzsprout, and Blubrry are also solid options. They all have a free tier of hosting, but you’ll want to pay a few bucks a month for bandwidth and analytics.

#2: Upload Your First Three Episodes

Podcasting is all about establishing a regular cadence (more on that later). But for launch, you’ll want to have at least three episodes ready to go. There are a few reasons for publishing multiple episodes for your debut:

  1. One episode may not be enough to convince people to subscribe. 
  2. Multiple episodes show you’re committed to keeping the content coming.
  3. Most importantly, Apple podcasts requires at least three episodes to qualify for their “New and Noteworthy” section. 

So before you publish, have at least three episodes completed, and be ready to follow up with more at your promised publishing cadence.

#3:  Register with Podcast Directories

Podcasts are peculiar in terms of content delivery. Your hosting platform makes the files available, but most people will listen to your podcast on their chosen podcast app. Each app maintains its own directory — think of it as a search engine for podcasts. 

Your podcast needs to be listed in their directory, or people won’t be able to find you. I recommend registering with at least these six:

  1. Apple Podcasts
  2. Google Podcasts
  3. Stitcher
  4. Podbean
  5. Spotify
  6. TuneIn

Each of these sites will ask for the RSS feed of your podcast, which your hosting platform will generate for you.

I created a podcast tracker to keep track of all these directories — sign up for the webinar and you can download it for free.

B2B Podcast Tracker

#4: Promote Internally

Gaining visibility on a podcast directory is tricky business. Apple and Google are where the majority of your listeners will be, and each employs an algorithm to promote podcasts in search results and feature pages.

How do you get an algorithm’s attention? Engagement! Start by promoting your podcast to all of your employees. Encourage them to subscribe on Apple or Google, give a rating, and write a brief (and honest) review. What’s more, draft some social messages and encourage everyone to promote the podcast to their networks, too.

That base level of initial engagement will help your podcast start finding its audience.

#5: Activate Your Influencers

Most podcasts are Q&A-style interviews with influential guests. If your podcast includes influencers in your industry, make sure they know as soon as their episode goes live. Give them the tools to promote the podcast easily:

  • Sample social messages
  • Social media images in the correct sizes
  • Embed codes

If your podcast doesn’t feature influencers, it’s worth re-evaluating your strategy for your next season. Influencer content not only is more valuable to your audience, it’s an indispensable channel for promotion.

#6: Publish Blog Posts

The one downside of audio content: It’s not super crawlable for SEO purposes. Granted, Google has started to auto-transcribe episodes and add them to search results, but the technology is still in the early stages.

To truly get some SEO juice from your podcast, we recommend embedding each podcast in a blog post. This example from the Tech Unknown Podcast by SAP* shows how simple it can be. All you need is an introduction, a few pull quotes, some key takeaways, and a transcript.

#7: Add Paid Promotion

As with any content, you want to use every tactic available to make sure it gets seen by your target audience. That’s especially true with podcasts, since podcast search engines are incredibly competitive.

Targeted, paid social promotion can help establish your subscriber base and get your new podcast some much-needed visibility.

It’s also worth considering cross-promotion on other podcasts. Consider both paid advertising and trading guest spots with a podcast that shares your target audience. 

#8: Solicit Listener Feedback

Ratings and reviews are essential to your podcast’s success. They’ll help provide social proof for new listeners and boost your search visibility in podcast directories. 

The best way to get ratings and reviews? Ask for them. Make it part of each episode’s sign-off. You can even encourage thoughtful reviews by reading the best ones on future episodes. You will engage your listeners and solicit more reviews at the same time.

#9: Keep Up Your Cadence

As with blog content, there’s no single “right” frequency to publish a podcast. Some of my favorite podcasts publish weekly, biweekly, or even monthly. The best cadence for your podcast is “However frequently you can reliably, regularly publish quality content.”

Choose your cadence with an eye to long-term sustainability, and tell your listeners explicitly how frequently you’ll publish. Whether it’s “See you next week,” or “PodcastTitle is a monthly podcast that…” listeners will find it easier to make your podcast a habit if you stick to a schedule.

#10: Repurpose, Repurpose, Repurpose

In my last post on the content marketing benefits of B2B podcasting, I mentioned that podcasts are a content machine, and I’ll say it again. It’s easy to finish an episode, publish it, then forget it and move on to the next thing. But don’t do that! 

Pull snippets of audio content for social media. Turn them into short videos, too: Add a still image or a simple looping GIF for visual interest.

Use your transcriptions as fodder for future blog posts, quotes for influencer marketing, or even a stand-alone asset. 

Any way you can reuse that content can help bring more listeners to your podcast. What’s more, putting the content in a different medium can reach an audience who might not be into podcasts (yet). 

Check, Check, One Two

Launching a podcast is a little trickier than launching a new blog, especially if you’re new to the format. But if you follow this checklist, you can make sure your podcast is available on all the right channels and is ready to start attracting an audience.

Need more podcasting help? Check out our B2B Podcasting Webinar. In addition to learning the Four P’s of podcasting success, you’ll see me make this face:

B2B Podcasting Face

*Disclosure: SAP is a TopRank Marketing client.

The post 10 Crucial Steps for Launching Your B2B Podcast Into the Wild appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

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