Branding Online Communities For Customer Engagement

Ana Dan

How Relevant and Accessible Brands Drive Consumer Engagement

The evolution of the online channel has opened up new ways for brands and products to make their way into consumers' lives, even when they are only peripherally engaging in relevant online activity.

What drives customer engagement in brand strategy? An effective messaging campaign will make its way into the lives of their customers through engaging experiences, conversation and referrals. The Web 2.0 environment has provided a powerful platform not just for consumers to take control, but for brands to be relevant and accessible.

Say a consumer is searching for information on a newly diagnosed condition, such as high blood pressure. Through search marketing, a company could lead the consumer toward different paths. Should the path be direct to a company or product?

This has some success; however, today’s consumer easily becomes suspicious of sponsored and branded content. You may not have enough information from the search term alone to lead them to content that would prove immediately engaging.

This path could lead to a non-branded or softly branded site that provides helpful tools and information on a given topic. This is a great way to drive customer engagement and gain trust by providing timely and relevant information.

By providing customers with information, tools and references, the company can gain both credibility and relevance for its brand strategy.

Growing and Retaining Customer Enrollment Through Online Branding and Marketing

The company can then introduce its products as a part of the solution in a gradual way. Of course, the content must be dynamic and drive customer engagement. Part of what makes a site dynamic is an active and thriving community around the site theme.

It takes quite a bit of investment to build and support such a destination site. And it takes investment to grow and keep enrollment. A more economical way for marketers to build these sites is through coalitions. If the destination is built by a number of related but non-competing entities, ROI would increase.

So how do you find such coalitions?

Drive consumer engagement, let the consumer tell you.

Tactical Tools for Online Brand and Marketing Strategy Using Web 2.0

Leverage tools that help you monitor relevant online conversations, browse discussion boards and other social online conversations.

What grouping of products do consumers tend to discuss in interested forums?

For example, in a blood pressure forum consumers may discuss diet, exercise, related conditions, blood pressure medicine and monitoring. It would then stand that non-competing companies that market food, exercise products, products for related conditions and blood pressure medicine could easily pool their resources to create a destination site.

A great way to approach the issue is to look inside your company. If you market a wide variety of products, logically combine your offerings for the consumer.

Ask yourself, is there a correct mix of tools, consumer engagement and community to serve the needs of my customer, or is the site simply a corporate product catalog?

Why Take This Online Brand Strategy and Marketing Approach?

In most surveys and studies, consumers who engaged in online forums and tools specific to a lifestyle or health category are much more likely to consume products in the related category.

If a consumer is constantly on weight loss sites, for example, that consumer’s index for weight loss products is much higher than the average. Your research team might be wondering if there is a causal link…Well, don’t ask if it’s the chicken or the egg that came first—just know that both the chicken and the egg are needed for survival of the species.

Steps to Creating Successful Customer Engagement Destinations Through Online Branding and Marketing

1. Research and understand your target segments interest in other non-competing categories and products.
2. Form a coalition with related but non-competing products.
3. Create non-branded, dynamic content and tools to drive consumer engagement and returning customers to your site.
4. Use experts to lend your site credibility.
5. Use social engagement tools to foster sharing and conversation with consumers on your site.
6. Infuse the site with the coalition products in passive ways and more assertively through banners.
7. Market to those consumers who come to your site and to those that don’t by syndicating out content to other relevant destinations.

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First published on Customer Managment IQ.