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BizReport : Social Marketing : June 12, 2007

Online communities want more brand engagement

Allowing customers to drive conversations in online communities will, in turn, increase participation and brand engagement.

by Helen Leggatt

It appears that user-generated ads are but the tip of a social marketing strategy. Customers want more control. They want to feel involved in a brand's evolution by being acknowledged and engaged in that brand’s decision making. Making ads is just a small part of that engagement.

Recent research by Communispace found that when customers initiate online conversations, they say more and contribute more frequently, leading to higher participation rates.

Communispace found that, on average, 44.1 percent of all activities were customer generated on the 84 private, branded online communities they analyzed. Minimising regulation and increasing the freedom for customer-initiated activity is, they say, key to nurturing a community of brand fans and advocates.

Online communities of customers that encourage customer-to-customer dialogue are key to creating innovative products and customer experiences, according to business writer Patricia Seybold’s book “Outside Innovation: How Your Customers Will Co-Design Your Company’s Future.”

In the book she argues that “the only way organizations can break out of the pack is to open up their entire business to passionate customers and welcome them into every aspect of product and service design. In fact, those companies that bring customers into the innovation process—the ones that innovate from the outside in—will create products that better meet the needs of prospective customers, revolutionize business models and practices, and build fanatically loyal customers.”

Tags: online community, social marketing, social networks

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