How can Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and the like drive traffic and revenue for consumer brands? The social marketing hubbub is exciting, but it drowns out the quieter but much larger impact private online communities can have on business-to-business firms and their customers. In these intimate online venues, customers and companies can convene to plan and build for the future, collaborating in ways that will never happen in the public eye.
Private online communities offer secure spaces for customer intimacy programs, product innovation summits, and peer-peer idea exchanges. Small groups of people with common interests come together to share information and support complex decisions, such as who are the best lawyers in a specific legal niche, or the proper steps for installing and rolling out a complex H.R. software package, or where to train employees on presentation skills. Key benefits for their sponsoring organizations include generating ideas and information that fuel business innovation and customer satisfaction. As businesses and individuals discover the strong operational returns they can get from these communities, they are creating a quiet but powerful social business revolution.
A small, focused, gated online community yields returns to members and sponsors that a larger public social network couldn’t match. Private online communities can sustain ongoing customer engagement and avoid gaps between contact points, helping an organization reach scale while staying customer intimate. That is not a job for public networks.
The reason is straightforward: Meeting customer needs is the core value for all successful private online customer communities. To thrive, they must accelerate a business process or make possible some activity, exchange, or collaboration that wasn’t feasible before. The appeal of privacy coupled with the strength of affinity leads to high levels of peer-peer and peer-firm engagement, just as in the offline, face-to-face world.
As public social networks such as LinkedIn and Twitter continue to grow, additional small affinity-based social networks will also keep emerging. Why? The growing population of public social network participants will result in an ever-larger number of people who need and want to participate in private communities, if only to turn down the noise and tune out the clutter of the public networks.
It’s easier than ever for a specialized online community to convene a group of like-minded professionals. And professionals, thanks to their familiarity with public networks, now have the skills and experience to use online communities effectively. Individual decision makers with special interests and affinities can find and connect online with others who have the same experiences. In these smaller, quieter private communities, the voice of a single customer can be heard.
That’s where we at Town Press Media come in. With years of experience with private social networks, with the features you would expect from the likes of Facebook, we can implement custom and private concepts, from your local church groups to your large businesses that want to create an internal platform for all their employee communication.