Because they are designed to encourage conversation, communities are incredibly effective at increasing transparency.
Online communities offer brands a platform for engaging consumers both pre- and post-sale. Leading brands like Sonos, TomTom, and T-Mobile use their communities to connect people with their peers for advice on what to buy, or guidance on how to use what they’ve already purchased.
They also help boost transparency—something that today’s consumers increasingly expect, due to the wealth of information and reviews that are available on the web. Unbiased opinions are in demand, according to software firm Trustpilot: 80% of consumers say user reviews are somewhat or very important in their purchase decisions.
What should you do on a community to maximize transparency (and, in the process, boost customer satisfaction)?
Engage new members
Getting people to sign up for and use your community is the first step to building a pipeline of unbiased content. A community is only as valuable as the content that it contains, so it’s critical to make sure people are creating profiles and posting actively.
One time-tested approach for increasing registrations and boosting engagement is to welcome new community members in a dedicated topic. If you require an email address on signup, it’s also worthwhile to email new members periodically. Email newsletters are one of the most widely used marketing tactics for a reason: Email marketing has an ROI of 122%, according to the Data & Marketing Association.
Community management is an art and a science. Gamification—in which user activity is incentivized with ranks and badges—is a science-based means of increasing community engagement. Gamification awards trigger the same neural systems as getting a friend request on a social network, or a notification on one’s phone.
On the art side of the ledger is encouraging discussion. Here, the community manager or moderator acts like a dinner party host—circling the room and interjecting when appropriate to keep the conversations flowing.
What should a moderator do to stimulate discussion? Creating new topics can help, as can contributing to existing discussions. Marking answers as correct is one of the moderator’s most important tasks, as it not only helps community users get the information they need but serves to reward the person who posted the right answer.
What a moderator shouldn’t do is be too active—that is, act too quickly to delete potentially objectionable content. While you need clear community guidelines that lay out what does and doesn’t constitute acceptable behavior, you don’t want to err too far in the other direction and limit discussion and debate.
It’s precisely because communities invite genuine conversation that they’re so valuable for consumers. Sonos, for example, invites its customers to share their speaker setups on the Sonos community, so others can determine what components work best for their space.
If Sonos’ moderators only allowed posts that recommended the most expensive speaker options, that might serve Sonos’ goal of driving sales on its ecommerce store. But it wouldn’t help speaker shoppers—and soon enough, community visitors would be repelled by the lack of authentic advice on the platform.
The challenge for moderators is to keep conversations positive, preserve the integrity of the brand, and maintain the authentic spirit of the community.
Modify section headers and topics
One smart step a moderator can take is to edit topic titles and section headings as needed. When a community user creates a new topic, that shows that they have faith in the community’s ability to answer their question. But users will often title their posts incorrectly, or fail to create a title that’s optimized for easy searchability.
The moderator’s role is, therefore, to keep post and topic titles consistent. This simple step not only helps people surface answers more easily but juices SEO.
Already, search engines reward community content—it’s text-heavy, user-generated, and up-to-date. Inserting keywords as appropriate, and matching titles to what a person would use in a web search, can enhance SEO even further.
Make community content easy to find
Why does SEO matter? Increased organic search visibility is one of the best reasons to adopt a customer community. Consistently, we see organic search traffic make up 60% to 80% of a community’s total traffic.
That reflects 1) how frequently consumers turn to search engines when they need information, and 2) how effective communities are at drawing traffic from web searches.
What makes a community such a strong traffic driver is that the content (if edited correctly by a moderator) matches what people naturally search for. When a person can find their exact question on a community, it saves them time and energy—particularly if the answer has been marked as correct by a brand representative.
This speaks to the value of having moderators who serve as content editors. As part of this editorial strategy, it’s smart to infuse community content into FAQ or device-help pages. T-Mobile NL does this with their community, and it’s paid major dividends in engagement. Today, 65% of the questions on the T-Mobile community are answered by T-Mobile customers.