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How Online Communities Fit Into Your Digital Marketing Strategy

Creating a marketing plan can be an exhaustive process. There are so many channels and platforms to advertise on to reach your target audience. You’re often tasked with deciding where to spend your time, energy, money. Perhaps what is most overlooked is reaching your target audience through online communities.

Online communities are becoming more prominent in a user’s purchasing behavior. Users will often leverage online communities to seek the opinions and experiences of other community members before committing to spending their money on a product or service. Online communities are a prime example of word-of-mouth marketing and present a huge opportunity for many small businesses. Here are some thoughts on how businesses can use online communities.

Why Online Communities Work:

Why are online communities so useful in a marketing strategy? One word: credibility. Users in a community are bonded together through a commonality. In life, not everyone’s opinion is weighed the same. You’ll value the opinions of family and friends and family before anyone else. But for product or service that family and friends don’t know much about, that opens up the idea of getting advice elsewhere, and many people turn to communities. These people are seen as more credible than the average person. And if you have community members vouching for your business, your business becomes more credible.


The 411 on Online Communities:

As a business owner or marketer, you should join these communities to monitor what goes on and seek opportunities to participate in posts. Before joining communities, it’s important to understand how these communities function.

  • Types of Online Communities: Online communities can take on many forms, including websites, blogs, forums, social media groups, hashtags and more. Online communities span across many topics, interests or bonds: they can be about a geographic location, hobby, or just a group of friends, family or peers.
  • Private vs. Public Communities: Some online communities are public, and some are private. For private communities, you may be required to answer a few questions about why you should be part of the online community.
  • Public Admins & Rules: There are public admins that patrol the community. Public admins will set rules to abide by, which often include a rule about posts solely for advertising and publicity for businesses. Be sure to read these rules once you are a member – if you break them, you will risk being kicked out of the group by the admin.


How to Leverage Online Communities as a Business:

We know the importance of online communities, and the role they can play in a purchasing behavior. To understand how to leverage online communities as marketers, let’s dive into how online communities affect purchase behavior. Quite simply, people just want answers. Some will ask for advice, while others will ask for recommendations. In both cases, a community member is asking for answers from other members.

Example 1: A real-life example is when someone asks for a recommendation on the best kid-friendly nail salon to take her daughter to for her birthday in the town’s unofficial Facebook group.



Example 2: When someone recently joins the Reddit group r/woodworking and asks for a recommendation on the best wood finish for heavy resin pine, another member of the community answers and cites a blog post on the topic, created by a woodworking e-commerce company that he has purchased from multiple times, and saw this article shared by another friend on Facebook a week ago.

At this point, you’re hoping that your company is top of mind for the members looking to answer the question asked. Whether or not that happens depends on if community members have interacted with your brand and the level of satisfaction with that interaction. The strongest interactions for your brand come from positive purchasing experiences. These customers will likely vouch for your business in online communities.

Online Communities & Post-Purchase Marketing

To get success from online communities, a good post-purchase marketing strategy must be present. Marketing is not done after a purchase is made, and online communities are a great example of this. If you’re familiar with HubSpot’s inbound methodology, “customer delight” is the term used to turn purchasers into brand promoters. You want to establish brand loyalty, by offering customers value after a purchase.

To build brand loyalty, two marketing channels to focus on are social media and email. Your ideal brand promoters are likely following and engaging with your company on social media and subscribing to your emails. Using these two channels, you can offer value to your current customers to keep them engaged, and promote your content – think newsletters, blog posts, referral programs, discounts, contests, giveaways, and community events. For current customers aren’t following your social channels or subscribing to your emails, the quality of your content or offer should give them a good reason to.

When executed well, post-purchase marketing keeps your business top-of-mind for customers. When your customers turn to promoters, they will freely share positive opinions about your business in online communities. Identify your promoters, make sure they are engaged, and be aware of the online communities they participate in.

Does your business see success from online communities? Drop me a line – I’d love to hear about it!

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