One of the most effective things an organization can do to better engage an online community is to authentically participate as a member of that community. That may sound obvious, but it can be easier said than done.
Many organizations can’t help but carry the full weight of their traditional role into all interactions they have with consumers. They may do it patiently, subtly or even subliminally. But some aspect of their communication will reinforce the belief that the relationship they have to this community is essentially similar to that between seller and buyers.
For instance, they may enter conversations only when they have a need or want something from community members. Or they may offer solutions that exclusively support a specific agenda and otherwise stay silent.
Instead, companies should recognize that their primary purpose within a community is to be helpful—not to sell. Being helpful online does three very valuable things:
· It efficiently provides support for a specific consumer.
· It positions the company as a concerned and interested expert in front of the community as a whole.
· It publishes a solution that will remain online for years, offering the benefits to new consumers with every search function.
While the real time and in-public nature of engaging consumers online creates distinct challenges, it offers amazing opportunities as well. Organizations that move past traditional and transactional definitions of brand and toward a more mutually useful relationship with consumers will benefit in a big way.