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A vibrant and valued community can carry your brand through hard times and lift you even higher when you are on top. Here are three concrete ways that your organization can show the community that they matter.
Without them, your organization will not stand a chance -- they are the die-hards, the true believers, the early adopters. In short, they are your community, and they believe in what you do. Indeed, today’s consumers want to identify themselves with enterprises that are aligned with their beliefs.
We’ve all heard by now that purpose is the new profit and it is no longer adequate for an organization to simply state, “We are here to make money.” On a list of consumers’ reasons to believe in a brand, you won’t find “profit” anywhere near the top.
However, I would counter that purpose alone is not enough. The purpose is merely the first step in building your brand. Your vibe attracts your tribe, and stating your purpose clearly will go a long way in assembling a strong community.
However, once that community starts growing, the real work begins. You want to keep your people close, and the closer they are, the more loyal they become. How can you ensure that your community stays active, involved, and interested, long after the glow of purpose has worn off?
There is increased pressure on brands and organizations to be present for their communities. This presence can take many forms. The trope of the witty content writer with a gift for comedic Twitter clapbacks has become a modern classic. The fast-food wars of the last decade are just one example, but brands with personality are now a fact of life.
Being surprisingly sassy was a nice corrective to decades of bland, corporate copy, but if you want to nurture a truly engaged community, your organization needs to listen as well. Two-way communication can take many forms, but one of the most effective ways is to build chat forums and other areas where members meet -- or to encourage your community to create such spaces themselves.
From the organizational perspective, the benefits of community forums are numerous. A forum can become a place where organizations learn about complaints, problems, bugs, and blind spots before the problems spread to the wider world.
Your community can thus serve as your brand’s early warning system and the first line of defense in a crisis. Find out where your people are talking and get active on those channels! Nothing legitimizes a public forum like the presence of a brand representative. Get to know your people through whatever forums they use, listen to them, and respond whenever you can, even if just to say thanks.
Two-way communication could also take the form of replying to reviews. Take the time to understand what people are saying about your products and services. Address reviewers directly, whether it’s to thank them for a compliment or to validate a criticism. Keep track of all of these direct points of contact. When the time comes for future product releases or updates and improvements to your organization’s services, bring up these correspondences in your official release announcements. “You talked; we heard,” gets people’s attention and appreciation, especially if it’s true.
When you look for new hires, consider drawing from your community first. This may sound like unconventional advice in the era of robust recruitment services and endless LinkedIn networks, but hiring from the community has several advantages.
If you’ve been active as a brand representative in your community’s forums, then you should be well-acquainted with the talented people who are passionate about your brand. This knowledge is tremendously valuable when you start growing your team. You are already aware of the variety of personalities and insights that make up your community, and this experience gives you a fine-grained understanding of which community members might be a great fit for a given role.
Hiring from the community carries with it an element of inherent passion and commitment to what your brand is accomplishing. This kind of alignment is truly priceless, as loyalty cannot be bought.
Hiring from the community creates a virtuous circle of loyalty: Your organization reaps the commitment of self-identified believers, and the community gets a jolt of motivation and excitement, knowing that the borders between community members and team members are porous, and the community’s wants and needs are personally represented in the company’s structures.
Regardless of our social status or the number of digits in our bank statements, we all have 24 hours in a day and a limited number of days on this Earth. There is hardly any resource more valuable than time. Donating some of your time to your community on a regular basis is the most generous offer you can make, and they will be sure to repay you in kind.
We live in the streaming age, so there is nothing difficult about carving out a little time each week for a live update from company headquarters. You do not need to go overboard on the production, either. Just make sure the audio and video quality are appropriate. Show your community your appreciation by talking to them face to face.
If you are comfortable thinking on your feet, incorporate an ‘Ask Me Anything’ segment into your live sessions. Address viewer comments, questions, and suggestions; interact with your people without a filter. Monitoring and writing on forums are all good and well, but nothing says you care like putting yourself on the spot and interacting with your community face to face.
In the spirit of valuable time, make sure that these live updates contain information that your community craves and appreciates. It is tempting to save major updates and new product details for the press in order to grab headlines and earn top coverage with all the benefits it brings. Giving that precious information to your community first is infinitely more valuable.
Opening up about your plans and goals forges a bond and instills a sense of trust and belonging that no press placement can match. Headlines fade away, but your people stay.
Appointing a team to monitor community forums, identifying hirable talent from within those forums, and donating your time and most valuable insider information to your community first may sound a bit radical when summarized in one breath. Keep in mind that community enrichment is not an all-or-nothing game. These are long-term strategies and goals to pursue, and every milestone in the journey is meaningful.
It’s been a long time coming, but the era of corporate social responsibility is in full swing, and that’s great news. Enterprise leaders need to start identifying their milestones now to stay relevant because putting your community first is good business. Markets go up and down, fortunes come and go, but if you treat your people well, they will always be your people.
Written By: Dominik Schiener. Dominik is the Co-Founder and Chairman of the IOTA Foundation, the non-profit foundation building the digital infrastructure for the Machine Economy. IOTA is a revolutionary distributed ledger technology for the Internet of Things and is one of the largest cryptocurrency projects in the world. Dominik has made strategic investments in credX and Xayn, where he is also Co-Chairman.
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