Humans are social creatures.
We gravitate toward communal experiences. Community brings us together and validates our ideas. The two elements required to build a community are a common or shared idea and a place or way to communicate. An organized, online community platform offers both essential elements.
People who unite and rally around shared beliefs, interests, and passions can innovate in that shared space, and their communities can generate powerful loyalty. Over the past year, as the pandemic has restricted in-person interaction, online discussion forums have become more important sources of peer to peer support than ever before.
For digital marketers, online customer communities — in the form of industry forums — also offer other practical advantages in support of a broader B2B inbound strategy:
Whether you look at an online community as a way to stay in touch with industry leaders and follow the most critical issues, a way to generate fresh marketing content, or a B2B lead generation forum (or all of those), it’s important that your service and sales teams, once they start, remain committed, engaged, and active on industry forums.
Well-organized online communities provide places where the vast majority of users feel seen and heard, and where they feel empowered to ask and answer questions. While consumer brands move to social media as consumer-focused forums dwindle, specialized industry communities are often deep, authoritative sources of industry knowledge and engaged audiences for B2B marketers. The first important step is to be selective about which platforms are best for your team’s participation.
Depending on your industry niche, building your own branded online community for prospects and customers to engage and share with one another can demonstrate thought leadership and involvement. But this level of effort and investment is suited to only the most committed — because consistent, active moderation is key to success, and that requires dedicated community managers.
That said, a successful branded online forum could evolve over time to include gated or monetized content, along with brand leadership and a consistent flow of fresh, audience-influenced ideas.
Before jumping into an endeavor like that, it’s essential to do your own research to determine whether an unmet need even exists. Start by asking your sales team and technical subject matter experts about which online communities and industry forums they follow. As always, your SMEs are an invaluable source of industry insight, and they can lead you to whole online communities populated by people just like them.
Conducting yourself professionally within an industry forum is mostly common sense, yet there are some unwritten rules of conduct worth reviewing.
Industry thought leadership is earned over time, and the quality of your contributions is your brand’s currency in online communities. Lead generation in B2B forums takes commitment, effort, and time. Our infographic can help your teams better understand the life cycle of inbound marketing lead nurturing, and ensure full team alignment with your lead generation process. Check it out.