This month we've discussed how you know your customer community is working, ways to grow it and even why communities matter. But are you leveraging the opportunity that communities afford you and your organization?

Customer Community Success

When we take a closer look at what makes a successful online customer community, there are definitely elements that stand out. But there are also more subtle qualities that are just as important. For instance, do you know why customers love your brand or product? Do you encourage them to gripe about what they don't like? Do you maintain a friendly rivalry with competing brands?

A recent post by Jason Falls, founder of Social Media Explorer caught my eye. In it, he says "If you ask the question, “Why do people love our brand?” and you answer with something that is about your brand, you’re not fostering community. The answer will lie in your behavior. Until it does, the only community you’ll ever have is servers full of wireframes and profiles -- hollow containers of what could be." 

Hollow containers indeed. How many of us have joined or created communities with the hope of having it inspire or encourage healthy debate, only to have it empty out into generic posts and self-promotion? If you don't know why people love your brand or company, communities present the perfect opportunity for you to ask and learn.

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Foster the People

Speaking of behaviors, while we can list off the types of things you should do to foster community, no one can really tell you what type of behavior is most appropriate. If it's not authentic to your brand, it's not going to come across as genuine. Yet, there are things you can get in the habit of doing to help you yield insights from your community. Are you welcoming to all members? Do you take time to observe members in action? Little things can often shed light on the big picture, so be sure to pay attention to nuanced behaviors.

Finally, successfully managed customer communities can have a significant impact on your company. Sure it can help drive sales, but it can also serve to help others help themselves. By becoming a hub of useful information about more than just your company, members will consider you a primary source for networking and knowledge sharing, which can position you as an authority online and in the marketplace.

While it's important to pay close attention to the big picture, when building and growing your online community, sometimes the details can provide the big opportunities.