Social Media Vs. Expert Community: Which Makes More Sense For Your Business?

Online communities are growing in popularity, ushering in a new era of collaboration and connection for people worldwide. What was once only possible when people were able to meet face-to-face is now possible with nothing more than a device and internet connection.

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85% of marketers believe that online communities increase brand loyalty and trust. But if you’re still wondering why an online community matters, look no further. Let’s take a closer look at online communities and how they can help not only your organization, but your customers too.

Why you need to build an online community

1. Host virtual events

Online communities offer multiple ways of hosting virtual events. While this can be done without the use of an online community, building one around your events makes it easier to reach your audience and ensure a strong turnout. 

Building a community provides you with a core group of people who are more than ready to jump on when you mount live webinars, virtual conferences, or even small workshops. Moreover, this group will typically be the first to invite their peers and friends as well. Communities are the perfect way to strengthen your virtual event attendance and help get the word out about your organization.

2. Increase the customer lifetime value

Studies show that retaining just 5% of your customers will lead to a 25% increase in long-term profit. Building a community, especially among your existing customers, increases the chances of keeping them for the long term. One of the best-kept secrets of companies that thrive in the long-term is to build and maintain trusting relationships within a tightly-knit community. 

People don’t subscribe to ideas, movements or brands for the product alone. Another factor that comes into play is the community they become a part of. When customers feel valued, they become more likely to continue supporting your business. 

3. Connect with like-minded people

One great example of the networking potential of online communities is the TED Talks community, which boasts one of the biggest networks of post-event attendee cohorts and online circles following its conferences and training programs. The TED community offers a place for many of these people to connect and collaborate on various projects in the future. 

There are many other community platform examples that have connected like-minded people. Some communities are smaller than TED, but they remain meaningful nonetheless because of the level of camaraderie it builds and the ideas that come out of them. 

Moreover, online communities also give people the chance to connect with people regardless of physical distance. We meet people with the best degrees and most innovative ideas from our immediate vicinity all the time. But what online community building has done is stretch our network to beyond our cities, states, and regions and open us up to the world and learn from other cultures and perspectives in the process. 

Advantages of expert communities over social media

When we think of online communities, the platform that quickly comes to mind is social media. People build communities on Facebook, LinkedIn, Reddit, and so on, all the time. Though social media may have its benefits, there are some limitations to its community-building capabilities, especially when grouping together thought leaders or niche communities. Here are some advantages of building online communities over social media. 

1. Highly-engaged audience

Whether you’re engaging a pool of customers or a club of professionals, the exchange between members of a community is what brings value to the online exchange. Without it, the conversation simply becomes a one-way street.

Having a dedicated online community outside of social media can provide greater engagement for a number of reasons. For one, there are fewer notifications and distractions, allowing for longer uninterrupted conversations with like-minded people. If you’re trying to gather doctors to share best medical practices, authors trying to publish new books, or coaching clients who want to grow their finances, getting these people to interact with each other should be your first metric of success. These exchanges can occur more frequently within a dedicated expert community.

2. More customization

Online community platforms on Facebook or LinkedIn allow for some level of customization, such as a custom cover image or unique name. But beyond that, there is a real lack of flexibility where it comes to branding. If you’re an exclusive business club that wants to brand a community portal by applying your organization’s colors, elements, and logo to various parts of the dashboard, building a community platform from scratch might be a better solution.

Platforms such as Zapnito allow you to mirror a brand’s overall look and design in a custom layout by changing the dashboard’s fonts, colors, and many other elements.

3. Data privacy and ownership

The big challenge with social media is the level of privacy and data ownership that organizations want to have. 46% of consumers feel that they no longer have direct control over their data. It’s not a secret that social media platforms have pulled user data on numerous occasions. 

Social media is not without its benefits - but when looking to deliver exclusive content like closed webinars or give members more data privacy, it’s better to create an online community outside of a social media platform.

4. Add premium to the community

Starting an open community on a social media channel is a great place to start. But if you’re looking to add more premium content to the community in order to monetize it or attract a higher-tier group of experts, creating an exclusive community outside of Facebook or LinkedIn could be a great strategy. 

Having a separate and white-labeled community provides a high additional value. On top of that, the higher level of customization could help you provide more events and activities that would not normally be available on a social media-based service, such as a learning management system for on-demand courses and webinars. 

Community as a way to harness collective intelligence to solve problems

Through online communities, companies and organizations are able to harness collective intelligence and solve problems together. It is through this kind of collaboration that start-up ideas come to life, movements begin, and initiatives take form. 

Traditional modes of online networking can be useful in a variety of ways. However, the value that online communities can offer to organizations spanning many industries and causes demonstrates the merits of owning a customized platform where you can cultivate those ideas and drive them to implementation.

Henry Burt

Marketing Executive, Zapnito

Comments

Go to the profile of Chris Sprenger
17 days ago

I love this article Henry, and I actually see our customers taking advantage of both. So maybe the title should be more like Social Media + niche private community. 

The strategy is to farm users from big open networks into their more trusted branded space and from there loop them into becoming a paying customer for example. 

Great food for thought in your post either way.