Some customers will arrive on your website, place an order, and move on with their lives. But ideally, given the outsize returns of returning customers, your shoppers also have the option of joining a strong community where they can:
- Provide feedback that guides product development
- See how other customers use your products
- Engage with relevant (non-sales) content
- Stay up to date with your brand’s promotions and releases
- Become a fully-fledged brand advocates
Thanks to these customer engagement tactics, a community can lead to better word-of-mouth marketing, referrals, and repeat purchases. According to Gorgias research of over 10,000 ecommerce brands, community building can boost a brand’s revenue by an estimated 6%.
In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into all things customer community management: what it entails, the benefits of community marketing at your company, steps you can follow to create a community management strategy, and tips and tricks to use once you’re in the thick of community management.
What is customer community management?
Customer community management is the ongoing process of building and maintaining an authentic social network among your customers, staff members, and partners. You can host communities in various places: your brand's social media channels, dedicated online forums, or in person at networking events or brand get-togethers.
Two examples of great community management from ecommerce brands include 310 Nutrition and Kitsch.
310 Nutrition sells meal replacement shakes and has a significant member base through their private 310 Nutrition Community Facebook group. There are over 400,000 members that engage in discussions related to the brand but also discuss nutrition and weight loss. It’s a place for like-minded individuals who share a similar goal of becoming healthier:
Beauty accessory and hair care brand Kitsch utilizes a slightly different community management strategy through TikTok. Kitsch has over 45,000 followers on TikTok and focuses on educating about their products, debuting new products, and running giveaways for their loyal fans. The brand does a great job at keeping its TikTok videos authentic and educational, rather than feeling like a salesroom floor:
The many benefits of a sound customer community management strategy
In addition to boosting revenue, a community management strategy can increase customer engagement and happiness, serve as an additional channel for customer service, and provide a platform for your most loyal customers to share their thoughts. And that's just the tip of the iceberg.
So, what other benefits can solid community management offer?
Increases customer engagement and customer satisfaction
If your brand can run an effective customer community management strategy, you’ll start to see an increase in customer engagement as well as customer satisfaction. The more your brand's presence overlaps with where your customers are — especially online — the more you can boost engagement. For example, if you provide valuable content on Instagram and engage with people in the comment section, your audience will see your brand as authentic and committed to customers.
In turn, if customers engage with your brand, they will be more satisfied and will likely return as customers again and again. Even more, for 43% of customers, good customer service breeds more loyal repeat customers — and more brand champions ultimately means more revenue for your brand, thanks to the value of referrals, product reviews, and repeat purchases.
These benefits come at a much lower cost than paid customer acquisition strategies, which require huge investments for customers who might only place one order with your brand — if that.
Related: Our guide to improving customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, one of the most important metrics for long-term brand growth.
Becomes another convenient and efficient customer service channel
Online community management can also open additional customer service channels for your customers that are more convenient than contacting a call center, using your site’s live chat, or sending an email. In the community management realm, this could be chatting with a service rep via direct message (DM) on Instagram or troubleshooting an issue on a public Facebook group forum.
Related: Our list of tried-and-true best practices for ecommerce customer service.
Provides quality feedback about products or services from your most loyal customers
Feedback is vital to your brand’s success, so additional spaces for customers to share feedback can be extremely valuable. You can even encourage customer feedback about products if your community management strategy includes online forums or social media pages like LinkedIn and Facebook.
However, there is some risk in asking for feedback in such a public setting. If you'd rather ease into it, you could create a survey that only shows the results to you and your team. Offer something to customers for their time — such as a gift card or entry to a raffle — to incentivize them to participate.
Collecting customer feedback doesn't need to have a complicated format. For example, furniture brand Sabai uses Instagram polls to gauge customer interest in new product designs:
This kind of customer research is a great way to stoke community engagement and mitigate future customer complaints.
Creates more opportunities for upselling and cross-selling
Community management strategies can be effective sales or upselling channels because they give you the chance to educate customers (and let customers educate one another) about how different or additional products can help their needs.
On top of straightforward product recommendations, you can practice upselling by sharing influencer or user-generated content marketing about new or premium products. Again, the goal isn’t to plug your products directly but incorporate them into content your community might like to see.
A great example of this is Glamnetic’s TikTok about the do’s and don’ts of eyebrow makeup, which features numerous Glamnetic products:
Related: Our guide to ecommerce upselling and cross-selling for higher average order values (AOVs).
Encourages customers to become your best brand ambassadors
Lastly, a benefit of community management is the ability to create brand ambassadors. You can do this organically by engaging with customers with large followings on social media, but you can also do it more strategically through brand ambassador programs.
Brand ambassadors provide a type of advocacy that no paid ads could ever achieve. They convince their friends and followers to try your brand, then those friends and followers convince their friends and followers to try your brand, and the cycle continues. This is also a great way to create social proof, or reviews and testimonials you can attach to product pages and your website.
One ecommerce brand that uses this tactic effectively is athleisure company Fabletics. The brand prides itself on being an inclusive, quality, affordable alternative to other high-end athleisure brands like Lululemon. Thus, Fabletics reflects this in their brand ambassador program, where they encourage real people to apply as influencers regardless of their status. In addition, they also work with celebrity influencers who have a passion for health and fitness, such as Kevin Hart and Maddie Ziegler.
Jaxxon, another brand that creates a community around a niche — chain jewelry for main — capitalizes on brand ambassadors who share content on their own social networks.
A step-by-step guide for creating a customer community management strategy
So, now you have a better understanding of why customer community management has the potential to increase your brand's revenue. But how can you create a community that gets results? Here are six steps to building a customer community management strategy that works for your unique brand.
1) Research social media community management platforms
The first step in developing a community management strategy is to do your research.. Think about where your current customers frequent most when online and where your target audience is. For most brands, the easiest place to gather a group of people will be whichever social media platform you already use the most, whether that’s Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, or another platform. However, if you’re trying to launch a more :
- Discord: A robust platform that lets you host channels, forums, private messages, multimedia sharing, and more
- Reddit: A platform known for authenticity and impressive crowd moderation — be wary of Reddit’s anti-marketing guidelines, though
- Slack: Mostly known for business teams, Slack can also host customer communities
- Thinkific: A community platform that also offers great functionality for educational courses
- Mighty Networks: The top-rated community marketing platform on G2
- Tribe Platform: A community platform best known for its high degree of customization
- A forum native to your website: If you want, you can also try and build community functionality directly on your website
2) Create goals regarding what kind of outcome you’re looking for with your brand community
Next, you’ll want to create goals that align with the outcomes you hope to see from the strategy. Your goals could be tied to revenue, customer service effectiveness, brand awareness, and public relations. Some example goals may include:
- Higher customer retention
- Lower contact rate for your customer service center due to customers finding answers themselves in your online communities
- Increased interest in a new product or renewed interest in an old product
- Better public perception of your brand
3) Get to know your audience
Though you likely have a solid idea of who your audience is at this point, you’ll want to continue getting to know your audience on the platforms you identified in step 1. You may realize you need a slightly different approach when applying your community management plan to TikTok versus a Facebook forum, for example. Though your audience may be similar in both places, folks expect quick, educational, and entertaining videos on TikTok. In contrast, they may want longer-winded discussions with other customers about your brand’s products on a Facebook forum.
One way to stoke community engagement is to try and spark interactions. For National Baking Day, for example, chocolate brand Montezuma’s requested community members’ best recipes instead of just sharing recipes themselves:
Related: Learn how Montezuma’s saves five hours a week and answers customer questions faster with Gorgias.
4) Craft valuable and thought-provoking content
Building off step 3, you’ll want to set up a plan to create valuable and thought-provoking content to ensure your customers come back to the online communities you are building. The type of content you create for your community management strategy should align with your overall brand image, tone, and voice.
For example, let's say you're an ecommerce brand that sells sustainable mid-century furniture. Your community-based digital marketing strategy should include educational content that gives insight into your brand's sustainability: Where your products are made, how you source your materials, what your labor practices are, etc. In addition, you also want to create beautiful imagery (photos and videos) that showcase your brand’s furniture in real peoples’ homes.
For example, fashion brand Princess Polly (and their community members) create outfit inspiration videos that would be independently interesting, regardless of whether you bought the clothes through the brand. Of course, someone watching might also love a particular garment and head to the website:
Related: Learn how Princess Polly helps customers 95% faster with Gorgias.
5) Use tools to measure success and track customer insights
In addition to the actual content that makes up your customer community management strategy, you’ll want to identify ways to measure the success of your program and track insights from your customers. One way to streamline this step is to find a tool that does what you need automatically. We'll highlight a few awesome insight tools below. Keep in mind that a great tool may require more financial investment upfront, but it will save you tons of time in the long run and should eventually pay for itself.
Powerful community management tools to explore
- Gorgias: As an all-in-one customer support solution, Gorgias can be an excellent choice for your customer service team to keep up with both current customers and future customers alike through email, social media, and chat.
- Keyhole: Keeping an eye on what is being said about your brand at any given moment can be a whole job by itself. Using a social listening tool like Keyhole can simplify this process by aggregating all mentions of your brand on social media. You can even keep an eye on your competition this way, which can help keep your brand’s strategy fresh and engaging.
- Tweetdeck: If your brand has a Twitter-heavy strategy, Tweetdeck could assist your team with keeping an eye on specific feeds, hashtags, lists, and even managing your own tweets and messages. The tool also allows for data-driven insights.
- Grytics: If part of your community management strategy relies on running a specific group or online community, such as a private Facebook group, Grytics could help organize your insights, engagement, and overall performance.
6) Assign a community manager to help your community flourish
The last step in creating your customer community management strategy is assigning a community manager. A dedicated community manager on your team will help execute your strategy and ensure the communities you’re building are supported and continue to grow.
A community manager is similar to a social media manager, but there is one major difference. A social media manager typically posts and supports a brand from the inside. This usually means posting from a brand’s social media accounts. On the other hand, a community manager posts as a brand ambassador under their own accounts, not the brand's. The community manager will develop the community as a part of the community. A community manager can also be seen as a brand advocate.
A great community manager would manage your brand’s community with a seriousness that doesn’t jeopardize the brand but also a friendly and personable attitude to keep customers engaged. Specific tasks of a good community manager could include:
- Ensuring customers' questions are answered
- Moderating conflict within the community
- Enforcing terms of service (TOS) policies
- Keeping the community a positive place for customers to interact
Tips and tricks for community management
As you finalize your customer community management strategy and start executing it, here are some best practices to keep in mind to make it as successful as possible.
Always provide a link back to your website
A link to your brand’s website is never a bad idea because each link out there increases the chance of someone in the community going to your website, clicking around, and making a purchase. Even if your community manager can provide an answer with one sentence of text, try to find somewhere to link to on your website, such as an FAQ page.
Check out how Branch’s Help Center links back to the US (and Canada) store at the top of the portal:
Stay consistent with the company branding tone while responding to customers
Customers and even to-be customers come to know certain brands based on their tone. And even if you are new to community management, you can quickly become known if you create a unique brand voice and tone in online spaces and stick to it.
One great way to achieve this is with the help of template responses, which we at Gorgias call Macros. With Macros, you can create and maintain a library of templates for frequently asked questions. But unlike most templates, Macros include variables that automatically populate with information like [Customer name] or [Tracking number of last order]. These Macros accelerate your customer service representatives’s workflows without sacrificing personalization or quality:
Create community guidelines and enforce them
Nobody wants to be the Rule Police, but community guidelines in online spaces are vital for mature, inclusive, and productive discourse. Successful community guidelines will also protect your brand if someone on a forum, for example, starts to get out of hand. Additionally, share your brand’s privacy and data protection standards with community members. 52% of social media users rate their privacy and data protection as highly important, so be sure to let them know how you protect their data.
Ask questions, encourage users to share wins/questions, and find other ways to stoke engagement
Remember that the community isn’t just a place for you to make announcements and sell your own products. Find meaningful ways to get people to talk to one another, share insights, and participate in the discussion.
Always respond to community members in a reasonable time frame
As part of your strategy, be sure to decide on what you and the rest of your team believe to be a reasonable time frame to respond to community members. If a community manager doesn’t respond to a community member’s question for several days, the likelihood of that member using the forum again is unlikely.
Keep content engaging
Even if you are on a forum that uses mostly blocks of text, think of ways to keep the content engaging, such as incorporating photos, videos, infographics, and even podcasts (if applicable).
One company you can look to as a model for great content creation is Casper, an ecommerce brand specializing in mattresses and pillows. Beyond its diverse content on various social media platforms, the brand has the Sleep Channel on YouTube, which includes a 12-part series that features sleep meditations and bedtime stories.
Give back to your community
Lastly, it’s vital to dedicate part of your brand’s community management strategy to give back to your community. This can ensure your brand keeps growing and supports brand loyalty among customers. Ways to give back could include things like hosting contests, giveaways, highlighting user-generated content, and providing other incentives to expand the community.
3 great examples of customer communities
We’ve covered a few examples of great customer communities above, but here are three more that we see as the gold standard.
310 Nutrition’s Facebook Community focuses on education
Though we mentioned 310 Nutrition earlier, the brand is a perfect example of how to run a strong online community focused on education. The fitness and weight-loss brand provides tons of content in its private Facebook group from brand ambassadors who work for 310 nutrition and are experts in the industry, such as trainers and nutritionists.
The brand shares high-quality videos and articles with tips and tricks to encourage community members to stay motivated on their health journey. 310 Nutrition’s Facebook community also provides members exclusive promotions. All of these strategies help 310 Nutrition’s Facebook group attract new members regularly.
Annmarie Skin Care encourages emotional connections
Skincare brand, Annmarie Skin Care, combines its loyalty program (called the Wild & Beautiful Collective) with an exclusive Facebook group only open to loyalty-program members. Connecting a loyalty program to a closed online community can be a great way to give an exclusive benefit to loyal customers without investing too much overhead. In the community, loyal customers get exclusive content, access to the Annmarie team, and promotions.
Oracle offers multiple communities for its powerful software
Even outside of the ecommerce world, online customer communities can be extremely beneficial. Oracle, for example, has different communities to bring together peers who use Oracle products and experts to help navigate the brand’s complex offerings.
Without this kind of interactive community, new and prospective Oracle customers might be confused about the company’s benefits and use cases. The community helps them learn those things without having to talk to a sales agent:
Build a smooth, profitable customer experience with Gorgias
Creating online communities for your customers can take your brand one step closer to improving the overall customer experience. Online community management gives customers a better shopping experience, more avenues to answer their questions, and boosts your company's revenue in the process.
Efficient, helpful customer service and self-service resources like those offered at Gorgias can help you further your community management goals. Sign up and see how our platform can help streamline customer service interactions, automate repetitive tasks so your team members can focus on connecting with customers, and provide customer data to keep you and your team on track. Book my demo.