Companies are increasingly finding that relevant, influential, and engaging content has the power to foster a loyal customer community. By taking a strategic approach to content development, companies can bring people with common interests together in one space to share stories and ideas related to their product and industry.
A successful content strategy will use distinct types of content to connect with customers, leverage community influencers for outreach and publicity, engage users through an interactive blog, and learn from the successful community-building efforts of partners and competitors.
DEVELOP A STRATEGY BASED ON CONTENT TYPE
John Jantsch, author of “The Commitment Engine – Making Work Worth It,” explains that individual pieces of content must combine to form a cohesive total body of work, designed to serve your business community over time.
Jantsch identifies five primary types of content:
- Trust Building
- Community contributed
Trust building content (customer reviews, how-to content) draws in readers and builds loyalty. Educational content (newsletters, FAQs) offers solutions to problems and describes your approach. Community contributed content (guest blog posts, reviews) allows customers to engage with and flesh out the company’s narrative. Filtered content (custom RSS feeds, shared content) aggregates relevant content from across the web to meet your customers’ unique interests. Finally, conversion content (case studies, ROI calculators) helps customers understand the specific value of your product and close the sale.
LEVERAGE INFLUENCERS TO BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY
Leading industry ‘influencers’ can participate directly in content production, provide ideas, helpful input, and help direct traffic to your company via retweets, Facebook ‘likes’, and links on blogs and other websites. Such contributions enhance your SEO rank, while improving content quality and building customer loyalty. Toby Murdock of the Content Marketing Institute, points out that the “world of links, retweets, etc., is driven by relationships and reciprocity,” so it is always important to return the favor by supporting the influencer’s content.
Find influencers by tracking relevant keywords in Google Alerts, searching for authors in industry trade publications, and scanning Twitter. Once selected and prioritized, track and manage relationships with your community of influencers on a spreadsheet, making sure to reciprocate when called for and to reach out when necessary.
Andrew Davis, author of Brandscaping, recommends a sharing system called Social Media 4-1-1 to increase your content output with less money and effort, while building valuable connections to key influencers in the industry. For every six pieces of content you share through social media, four should be relevant content from your target influencers, one should be original education content created by you, and one should be sales-related.
Companies also have the option of creating their own influencers by drawing on the stories of satisfied customers. Dennis O’Malley, CEO of Ready Pulse, explains that storytelling is the best marketing, and customers are the best storytellers. By empowering customers to share their experience with others on a public platform, firms can simultaneously reinforce the loyalty of existing customers while generating accessible word-of-mouth advertising.
USE A BLOG TO BUILD YOUR COMMUNITY
A regularly updated blog provides a unique and dynamic platform to draw traffic to your website. Get the ball rolling with quality content by reaching out to your network of influencers, giving them a chance to pay you back for the publicity and help you’ve provided them while following the Social Media 4-1-1 guidelines. The fresh, well-informed, and relevant blog posts contributed by your influencers will build your content portfolio, develop your narrative, and plug you into the influencers’ well-developed online networks – with tremendous SEO results.
COMPANIES USING CONTENT TO BUILD COMMUNITIES
Several tech companies deliberately focus on strategic content creation to develop a loyal community of customers. Marketo provides automated marketing software to build and grow relationships with customers over time and across multiple platforms, with a focus on social media campaigns. The company also organizes the annual Revvie Awards to recognize customers and partners creating “dramatic business impact with their innovative uses of Marketo’s marketing software solutions.” The awards are helping to generate buzz about their product while reinforcing customer relationships.
HubSpot offers an integrated suite of technical marketing software, including search engine optimization, blogging software, and market analytics. The company showcases “case studies” from satisfied customer on their website, and keeps a daily blog with links to industry partners and influencers.
Salesforce, a provider of cloud-based sales, service, and marketing software, maintains an organized system of community forums for customers, developers, and partners. Each community page encourages users to ask and answer questions, generate and discuss ideas, and read or contribute to the company blog.
By adopting proven methods of content-based community outreach from similar companies, understanding and utilizing distinct content types to connect with users, building relationships with industry influencers, and maintaining an interactive blog, companies can use quality content to develop a community of loyal customers. Properly managed, customer communities can not only help with marketing outreach and content production, but also engage in a dialogue with corporate executives to tailor products and services to meet dynamic market demands.