How Businesses Establish Consumer Trust with Online Branded Communities

Posted by on November 5, 2013 in Business Management, Internet Marketing, Marketing, Startups [ 0 Comments ]

Online branded communities can help business establish trust with consumers.Your customers are far more likely to trust other consumers and their acquaintances than any other channel for information. Meanwhile traditional ads, like those on television and in newspapers, garner lower levels of trust. Who do you turn to for advice? Be honest, you’re probably not asking Mark Zuckerberg. The latest data from Nielsen indicated consumers are looking to their family and friends first when seeking recommendations for products or services. Another 69 percent use branded websites, while nearly an equal number use consumer opinions online.

Where do we go from here? Curating your online branded community through a social networking site is the foundation. But you can’t simply create it and then expect people to come. This isn’t Iowa, and it isn’t a magical baseball field.

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Rules of Engagement
First, look at what’s drawing the majority of consumers to these communities. According to a recent Wave 7 study conducted by the global media agency UM, nearly 33 percent of consumers confirmed they joined an online brand community to earn discounts, coupons or a product trial. Without a doubt, consumers are swayed by offers that help them keep more money in their pockets, which is an excellent way to provide incentives to join.

Related: Figure out your online marketing strategy

What Can You Offer in Return?
Keeping this in mind, you then need to decide whether to charge your customers to join the community. Remember, the point of creating an online community is to develop a trustworthy source of product or brand information, not simply to raise revenue. If you do charge a fee, you need to make sure you’re offering something in return that members will recognize as valuable. For example, if you’re providing a forum for customers to view and discuss new products before they reach the marketplace, it’s less likely consumers will want to pay a fee to join. However, if you offer events, webinars or seminars, these represent added value for customers and often require additional expenses.

Related: 5 Easy Steps to Building an Online Community Around Your Brand

And these offerings play into the reason why consumers join online branded communities, as nearly one-third of respondents in the UM study indicated they joined to learn more about a company. Slightly fewer consumers joined to get advanced news about products, but the data paints a pretty clear picture of the reasons why consumers want to participate. The relationship can be mutually beneficial, as more than 80 percent of branded community participants in a July 2012 Get Satisfaction and Incyte survey indicated they’re willing to become brand advocates.

With a larger number of advocates and consumers turning to online sources for recommendations, it’s important for brands to develop the channel to support these kinds of interaction.
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