As with most of my fellow Web 2.0 marketing colleagues, I’ve been tracking the latest trends on how to interact with our customers through non-traditional channels such as communities and social networking.
As part of a consulting project for a leading technology company in the Bay Area, I have started a deep, detailed evaluation of the top ten service providers of community sites, both commercial and open-source solutions, in order to identify the best choice based on price, features, and time to deploy.
At the core, communities promise a new level of interactivity and collaboration and open the door to new ways to connect with your most passionate customers and enthusiasts. And, a community provides them with a new way to share their opinions and ideas as well as receive needed support. The excitement of communities probably comes from the promise to build brand loyalty, generate new demand, and drive customer-focused innovation faster:
- Increase Brand Awareness: identify brand champions and share in viral efforts.
- Build Brand Loyalty: increase loyalty through a more authentic connection with your customer.
- Drive Innovation: hear the voice of your customers and enable voting on innovation.
- Improve Customer Support: lower your support costs by getting the community involved.
- Generate New Leads: build demand for your product and drive lead generation.
- Promote New Products: upsell additional services or cross-sell additional, related products.
- Increase Web Traffic: drive regular traffic through with an engaging online experience.
List of Top 10 Online Community-Building Platform Solutions:
Ramius Community Zero
Enterprise-class social networking made simple.
People-centric social networking and community solution for businesses.
As a final note, using your customers to crowd-source new ideas and group intelligence is an incredibly powerful and fast new way to drive innovation and make critical decisions about the direction of your product or service. But, be aware that this very same information (transparent) is fully available publicly for your competitors to view and learn from equally as fast as you. It's true you might also learn a little bit about your competition in a community, but almost certainly, your competition will learn more about you and this comes with some risk. And, let me know if you need any help.