Online communities are increasing becoming a powerful source of word-of-mouth marketing and building long-lasting awareness for consumer brands. The following questions were posed to Maria Sipka, an expert on the subject and CEO/Founder of Linqia – a startup connecting brands, agencies and consumers.
Q: Why should brands engage online communities as part of their marketing efforts?
The simple answer is to get closer to their customers. Close to 1 billion people are engaging in online communities globally and spending a considerable amount of time connecting, sharing, discussing and learning. Mark Zukerberg recently said that “Communities already exist. Think about how you can help that community do what it wants to do”.
Q: What types of approaches do you think work best?
The first approach is to understand clearly what the objectives the brand wants to achieve. Does the brand want to create awareness around a new product? Conduct market research? Increase their sales? The second step is to identify where the people they are interested in reaching are hanging out. At this stage, identifying 5 – 10 communities is sufficient to gain an understanding of what is being discussed, what could be relevant and potential needs of that community. It’s key to determine the level of engagement and validating the community is active and potentially receptive to brands engaging with the members. Narrow the list to 3-5 communities and reach out to the community leaders to schedule a discussion around how the brand could engage with the community. Community leaders know their communities best and can offer the brand deeply insightful guidance on what could work and what hasn’t worked in the past.
Q: How can success be measured?
Initial success is uncovering the vast array of communities that exist and potentially relevant to the brand. Gauging the receptiveness of the community leader will determine what can be achieved including how many members would respond to a survey, view a video, download a report, register for an event and even purchase a product. The key to success is very dependent on how engaged that community is.