ATLANTA -- Online communities are becoming more strategic and valuable to business strategy, said expert Vanessa DiMauro of Belmont, Mass.-based Leader Networks, a consultancy that helps companies develop their digital social strategies. Online communities are helping companies extend their message to their constituents to cultivate conversation, crowdsourcing for complex problems and greater brand loyalty.
"Communities are having massive impacts on everything from customer care straight through to relationship, engagement and brand awareness," DiMauro said, "so they are considered a lot more strategic than they were before."
DiMauro said that while social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook can provide the initial draw for companies, building online communities can provide a more lasting relationship with an organization's constituencies. Companies need to think about cultivating communities by developing their own forums to develop conversation and more.
"There is a growing need to bring customers into your fold. Marketing brings them to the door and community brings them in. They benefit from having more intimate and long-standing conversation."
DiMauro said that companies that are trying to measure efficacy of online communities and tie these forums to ROI should look at their weaknesses as starting points. These areas can become foundations of measurement and self-improvement.
"Look for a point of pain," DiMauro said. "What about your processes or operational efficiencies aren't working or could be working better or differently, and that's where the most powerful measures of success can be found. If you can streamline a process, enable a different kind of interaction ... those are powerful metrics."
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