Do you have an online community that’s open to more than just your customers? Is getting prospects exposed to the high-value conversations happening in your online community a goal for you? Are customers using your community less than you’d hoped?
If the answer to any of these is yes, then building an acquisition or marketing strategy for your community should be a priority for you.
Sure, your customers or prospects might stumble on your online community organically, but you don’t want to leave it to fate when you know how valuable your branded online community is.
There are many ways to drive traffic to your open community, and it’s something to think critically about whether you have an existing community or if you’re starting from scratch.
We’ll walk through my four top tactics, plus a few bonus ideas, to help you drive that high-value traffic.
1. Develop a good SEO strategy for your community.
A good search engine optimization (SEO) strategy for your community is one of my top recommendations for driving more traffic. You want an SEO program that gives you the opportunity to create great, fresh content at all times. Always think about what your user is interested in and create it.
Work in tandem with your marketing team or whoever owns the keyword list to help plan your community content calendar. It will help you boost your community’s rankings in search along with your company’s website. (This is another way to prove your online community program’s value!) A lot of SEO traffic goes to online communities because they tend to be filled with good solid content.
Take this one example of how communities can boost SEO. The Educational Theatre Association’s online community is open for anyone to join. Community members’ conversations have increased the amount of quality of user-generated content, all of which is indexed and ranked in Google, leading to 1,400% more organic keywords, 309% boosted monthly clicks, and a 900% higher search ranking.
Pretty good stuff.
Creating a strong SEO strategy for your community goes hand-in-hand with quality content.
2. Content is queen – invest in it.
As Brian Oblinger might say, and I’ve adopted the saying, “Content is queen.” You really can’t create too much content. To get users to your site, you want to create a lot of content. (And that content should be driven by that good SEO strategy we talked about.)
But what does it really mean to create good content?
Primarily, you need to create content that will engage your users, and that requires knowing your users and keeping in mind why they come to your community.
For example, if you work on a product support community, you want to create content that helps your community be better product users.
I work at a company called Reltio, and we provide a master data management product.
What we want to do with our community is create a place where customers can connect, create content that will help community members use our products better, help them understand the features and functions of the product, and get them to continue adopting the product. These goals for the community guide how I plan what kinds of content we’ll create.
A support community should be designed to encourage customers to adopt the product and increase their engagement with your product. We know that when they do that, they will buy more. And they will become advocates for the product.
Creating content that’s the right fit for engaging your users will help you get them there and help you achieve those great results.
3. Support self-help efforts.
Creating an environment that assists users in finding their own help is one of the most effective things you can do for your community. It may not always be possible, but as much as you can, I like to encourage customers to rely on the community for peer support (strategic and tactical) as well as self-service. In a support community, there is a lot of self-directed, digital information available – I call it the “Digital Self-Help Customer Experience.”
Many companies have all these digital self-help portals, but the systems are disconnected. What happens is that customers have to create a new login for every portal, and they are not getting the help they need from all the systems, quickly. This creates a poor digital customer experience.
If you have a community, support portal (like Zendesk), Ideation portal, or documentation portal, make it easy for your users to log in to the entire site through single sign-on (SSO). Generally, you can make this happen through APIs and other technical setups. Adding some form of enterprise or federated search also allows your customers to look across all your platforms for help.
If your organization is hesitant because of the cost, you can build a rather good case around the returns you’ll get from that investment. People get frustrated very quickly when they need to create 12 logins to do something, so building toward that digital, self-help customer experience is key.
Helping your customers have a better digital experience will also make it more likely that they’ll spend time in your community and enjoy getting help that way.
4. Get the word out.
Make sure your users know that you have an online community – and then give them an easy way to join it. Think creatively about how you can spread the word. I suggest adding community links and/or banners to your existing digital sites to drive traffic to your community. For example, my community is Reltio Community “community.reltio.com,” and we can add that URL to the reltio.com home page because a lot of traffic goes to our main site. Put your banners on pages that get a lot of traffic and where it makes sense content-wise.
Add the links to your support portal and your academy portal if you have one. If customers logged into your SaaS technology product, thought of something they’d love to ask another customer, and then saw a link to your online community, how awesome would that be?
Bonus Ideas for Driving Traffic to Your Online Community
While I’ve covered a lot of topics, I’ve really just brushed the tip of the iceberg. There are lots of ways to increase your community traffic. Here are a few more:
- Add your community info to the bottom of your company email signatures. It’s not likely to grab a lot of traffic, but it will get you some! Add a line that says, “Join our community!” with a link.
- Create an in-product experience that links the user to the community – this is a golden goose in terms of driving traffic. Adding a “Need help? Ask our community!” link in the product doesn’t really take the customer anywhere, but from a customer experience standpoint, it does provide assistance, as well as introduces them to the community.
- Use RSS feeds that are already built into your platform. Sometimes you can take these feeds and put them on different website pages. For example, if you have a documentation site and there are certain questions specific to a page, you can add an RSS feed with product questions and existing answers from the community.
- Don’t forget the power of partners promoting your community by adding it to their sites, particularly if they are big fans of your company. Any time you can get a third party to display your information, the extra traffic will help.
If you want to take away one big idea from this post, leave with this: The most important thing you can do to drive traffic to your community is to build engaging content that resonates with your customers, partners, and/or employees. The more you can understand what your users want to engage with, the better. Test different online community engagement tactics to create community content users want and need.
Community Program Manager, Reltio
Chris Detzel is a versatile digital Community Strategist with several years of experience. He owns community vision, strategy, and execution at Reltio. He is responsible for leading the development and execution of community engagement programs, creating compelling content for customer communities, and acts as the voice of the customer. He is skilled at building the “Digital Self-Help Customer Experience” when thinking about how his customers and partners get self-help. He believes that data should drive decisions as it is the key element of any long-term successful strategy.
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