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Community-marketing: to apply or to refuse?

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In today's note I want to mention of one more marketing tool which can both to do much harm, and to help the companies with strengthening of the competitive position. It will be a question about application of community-marketing or «marketing to communities».

First of all, we will deal with the concept of community. In a case with a product or service (namely about this will er blog), the community is a group of the active users united by the general interest to the given product. Concept "interest" is wide enough are councils about product use, area of its application, discussion about improvement of fuctions, discussion of products-competitors, resolution of problems with use of a product and other.

The key moment for formation of high-grade community is possibility of communications between its participants, knowingly the word community is conformable to a word "communicate".

In a century of information technology presence of community around your product is capable to introduce essential value in a marketing complex. Let's consider these pluses:

1. Virus marketing
Participants of community around your product, in itself people active, they, as a rule, visit various forums and conferences over the Internet, where they discuss on various themes, including products of your category. Whether it is necessary to explain, on whose party there will be members of your "fan club" at discussion of advantages and lacks of different products?

As a result, your product and news connected with it, will be, like a virus, extended through various Internet channels.

By the way,there is an agency «Latent Marketing» which renders advancement services at forums and conferences in the World wide web by means of "agents". I do not have information on, whether customers are happy with cooperation with "mercenaries", but to us my sight – the shirt nevertheless is closer to a body. The people from the user community are capable to support 90 % of the most visited and "influential" forums of your market, the others of 10 % will not play a key role. Well and if to compare level of knowledge of your product at "mercenaries" and «friends» - that is clear that quality of the information at the first will depend on you, and also your time of reaction for additional questions.

Therefore the question of use of "mercenaries" remains opened if you have an experience of cooperation with the similar companies – I ask to express in comments.

2. A Help Hand
What would not be your Support service, potential clients will be always interested to receive the information on a product from those who already uses it, instead of from the manufacturer. And here, the presence of community of your admirers much more favourably, than reception of the answer at thematic forums.

At a forum different questions on product use, the decision of special cases, news, features, functions are discussed. The Most important thing that on a forum a considerable quantity of users, are still making the decision on a purchase, they ask the questions or simply read, receive answers from active users and moderators. All it helps to incline a bowl of scales in favour of our product.

Such the manufacturer, who takes care of it's own community, is getting notable benefit.

3 Product Advocates
Throughout to the previous advantage, it is necessary to notice that the community presence, to be exact a certain place (a forum or a special portal) where the given community communicates is capable to "recover" your product.

It is especially important for "the intangible" goods which use is not public and "perceived", for example for the software. First of all, any person who faces a new product has variety of doubts, whether including such as «this product a something ephemeral» is, «how much strongly company the manufacturer costs standing», whether «is the visible advantage of a product simply loud advertising» and тд. In case the user sees that round a product the whole community of its fans which discuss its features was formed and the future development – many of these doubts disappear. After all the potential client deals any more with is simple a product – and sees live people, with their emotions and impressions about the given product, thus trust level considerably raises.

Besides potential clients visibility of "real" people is not less important for other participants of the market: your potential partners and journalists.

From our experience I can confirm that the majority of journalists read now and then our forum during preparation of materials about Outpost Firewall. In it is as obviously positive side, and potential threat. Namely, in a case if the opinion of community on the current version of a product at a present situation will be not the most optimistical is will find reflexion in press reviews. In this case community strengthens "effect", be it positive or negative. I was convinced time and again of it, up to coincidence of formulations, as in case of positive estimations, and critical. How it is possible to influence a tonality of estimations at forums, read more low.

Continuing a theme «animations of products» I will note one more utility. Namely, advantage of communities for marketing department. Let, participants of yours community also are the extremely right wing of your target group, but nevertheless their opinion on your product, scenarios of its application, development variants is extremely valuable. Also it is important to make monitoring of problem questions by which users are set. Reading discussions where "beginners" ask questions "skilled", and also answers of the last, you will take the big step to understand logic of your clients. And that as knowledge of the logician of clients will help you to improve your products and their marketing.

Councils about community-marketing application

  • Create a platform for community
  • The minimal requirement is the forum, in a case if your product and areas of its application are many-sided, it is necessary to reflect about creation of the whole portal.
  • Examples of such portals can be a site of community of fans of browser Opera, and also similar a portal of fans Firefox.
  • Choose sovereign leaders of community
  • Any community without controls turns to anarchy and falls into decay. Choose the most active and sensible users and suggest them to become moderators of a forum or "chairmen" of club of fans of your product. Give to leaders sufficient freedom in decision-making, differently strong personalities will simply refuse to be your puppets, and completely operated community will be "false" and will not bring to you notable advantage.
  • Support a continuous communication with leaders of community
  • Leaders of your community became those thanks to the activity and level of knowledge of your product and branch. Leaders have a certain power and powers to make decisions on development community, however for strengthening of their position, and also maintenance of their motivation it is necessary for you to provide them «with access to a body». In other words, they should know something that not known by simple users. Considering "sophistication" of leaders, would be an error to reduce all their contacts to the company to dialogue with the regular PR-manager or the employee of Department of Support. It is necessary to give them something more valuable.
  • For example, in our company the operating director regularly communicates and answers questions of moderators of a forum. Quite often, it is "the insider" information on company plans, however regular questions also are mentioned. Besides it, the leading analyst of the company regularly discusses technical questions and the future versions of a product with moderators and beta testers at «the latent forum».
  • Raise qualification of active participants
  • As it has been told above, the community, by means of active participants renders considerable aid, answering questions of potential clients, and also the beginners who have just bought a product. Though the majority of answers true, at times, owing to a qualification lack, there are also incidents. Therefore it is necessary to explain to leaders of "game rule" at once. We will tell, with difficult products some kinds of questions cannot be solved by means of the recommendation at a forum and here it is important, that moderators gave persevering advice to address in the Support service. Besides it, it is important to raise in general qualification of active participants, be made it can also by means of dialogue with moderators at «the latent forums».
  • Consider the opinion of a community
  • Comprehension of that its opinion was considered, capable воодушивить any of us, especially so far as concerns a hobby or hobby. Certainly, it is impossible to follow on 100 % рекоммендациям "fans" of your product and simultaneously optimal to develop company business. At times, the situation in the market dictates changes which can be given a hostile reception adherents of an existing product. However, it is an extreme case, and at maintenance of steady feedback of its consequence it is possible to smooth. In a case with forward development of a product not to listen to opinion of your community it is simply impossible. Simply remind participants community that you – the commercial organisation, and all wishes it is impossible to embody, however the most demanded wishes will be necessarily realised.
  • At creation of the specification of new version 4.0, our analyst the whole month discussed with group of active users variants of realisation of various protective mechanisms in Outpost Firewall Pro. On responses, it has caused weight of positive emotions from all participants.
  • Provoke virus distribution
  • In case of a great number of active participants there is a possibility to provoke various virus actions.
  • For example, at community of fans Firefox the idea to vote for this browser on a popular portal, for the purpose of support of constantly high rating of a product moves ahead.
  • Other actions are possible also, for example, if on what that a forum or in online-article is unfairly criticised your product – it is possible to arrange "attack" on purpose to protect justice.
  • Be ready to consequences
  • Yes! You were not mistaken, after all knowingly in heading of a note I specially have not put a comma. In a case if you «профальшивите», do not execute "obligations", let out frankly weak product or will start to perceive your "fans" as due, they can scarify you totally. As a result all those pluses which have been described above quickly превратяться in minuses. Risk to strengthen "effect" from any oversight and fear to undergo to the fair criticism – one of the reasons on which large sharks like Symantec, try not to advertise the forums where users discuss their products.
  • Mark active participants
  • Besides access to the newest beta versions, the insider information, and also dialogue with employees of the company, do not forget to notice as that, that fact that you appreciate the contribution of active participants of your community to success of your products. Thereupon the phrase is remembered that «not so much gift, how many attention» is important. Send by mail souvenirs with symbolics of a product or that that similar, a trifle, but to people it will be pleasant.
  • So, we have decided to note the most active beta testers and moderators of a forum and have sent them T-shirts-polo with embroidered colour emblem Outpost Firewall, and also certificates of beta testers. On responses, all very much liked this sign on attention.

In quality, a curious illustration to point on initiation of virus marketing, I will result a screenshot from a forum of fans of browser Opera where one of users was disturbed by virus marketing Firefox on and suggests to arrange counterattack:

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