Is your online community everything you dreamed it would be? Members constantly exchanging ideas and advice? Content that is always fresh and inviting? Engagement so high that members can’t stop raving about you across their social networks?

Or are you in with the 94 percent of B2B marketers Demand Metric found are not satisfied with their communities?

If you’re looking for a way to liven up and get more value from your community, the latest announcement from Influitive just might be for you. The company has just launched Influitive Communities, a new platform designed to help businesses use the power of their brand advocates to drive community engagement.

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More Than Just a Support Forum

Unlike communities that exist to solely lower support costs, the new offering – an add-on to Influitive’s advocate marketing platform – aims to help buyers connect and build relationships through authentic peer-to-peer conversations and interactions.

“A lot of companies want a tech support forum, or they want to reduce tech support costs by getting customers talking to each other and solving each other’s problems. Those goals are fine,” said Jim Williams, VP of Marketing at Influitive.

“What we’re looking for are CMO’s trying to surround their potential buyers with social proof and validation to support their value proposition.”

The main concept driving Influitive Communities, said Williams, is using the power of customers who love you to spark, inspire and sustain engagement in your community. The challenge, he added, is getting business leaders to understand how they can use this power effectively.

“Community is an understood space,” he said. “People understand what communities are, and how they work.

“Advocate marketing is the opposite – it’s a new idea, a new concept – people like it but don’t know how it manifests itself. They don’t know how to quantify it.”

In many cases, he continued, CMO’s think that they need to get customers first, and then find their advocates. Williams argues that the opposite is true.

Flipping the Funnel

“When marketers think about building communities, many approach them in the same way they would running a demand generation program,” said Williams. “There’s this giant funnel, and if we invite lots of people to participate in the funnel, then a smaller number of engaging, qualified opportunities will emerge.

“A lot of community marketers think the same way,” he continued. “Get a giant community and prod it along – build forums and add other features, and magically they will show up and start talking.”

For those who can relate to this line of thought, Williams has this advice: Flip the funnel thinking on its head.

“Start with a small number of highly engaged customers – your advocates,” he offered. “What are they looking at? What will motivate them? Do they want to become gurus? Do they want stardom, to build social capital, be viewed as experts, or are they simply helpers?

“Figure out what motivates your most active customers, and then start your community with that group of advocates.”

Community and Advocacy: Better Together

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Williams encourages CMO’s and other marketers to shift their thinking about community from solely a way to save support costs, to a way to increase member engagement, build social proof and drive revenues.

And, he said, the most direct way to achieve this is through your advocates.

“Advocacy is the engagement engine. We built a software program that put psychology and motivation in place to get people to do things – if you put that into your community, you’ll have a higher level of success.”