Insights|A COVID-19 CX Trend: Online Communities Come of Age

A COVID-19 CX Trend: Online Communities Come of Age

Consumers are rapidly changing the way they interact with established social networks. Organizations that have their own dedicated communities could reap the benefits

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by Martin Wilkinson-Brown March 31, 2020 - 2 MIN READ

Whether it’s political ads, misinformation or phishing scams, thanks to controversies surrounding the major social networks, customers are beginning to think twice before posting or sharing. Even though social media use is up 45% in the U.S. over the past four weeks as a direct result of coronavirus, positive sentiment in the major platforms are slipping. 

According to research compiled this month by GlobalWebIndex, just 14% of U.S. consumers are happy about the way social networks have responded to COVID-19 and 50% believe they should be actively screening and verifying posts regarding the outbreak.

Even before COVID-19, long-term studies into social media use were pointing towards a steady decline among existing users, particularly in the U.S. According to both the Pew Research Center and to eMarketer, over the past 18 months, U.S. Facebook users have reduced the amount of time they spend on the platform every day.

New ways to be social

This doesn’t mean the end of social media – quite the contrary in fact. People have never had a greater need to connect, engage and converse but increasingly they are looking for a defined or verified social space in which to do so. And this growing trend for social filtering is why the branded online community is really starting to come into its own.

This is a space where people can come that are united by a shared interest, where ‘trolling’ is avoided and where – thanks to careful moderation and community management – the experience is both positive and rewarding.

Consumers crave community

Brand-built and managed social communities are not a new idea. But thanks to the explosive growth of social messaging apps – Facebook Messenger has 1.3 billion users worldwide and WhatsApp boasts 1.5 billion –  creating or belonging to groups and communities around topics and interests has become part of most people’s normal behavior. They’re actively building communities and often around your brand and unless you can join that community, you’ll never gain the insights you need to understand your customers.

If you let someone else create the space where your customers can go to engage, this activity becomes dark social (shared but impossible to monitor or leverage).

There are a host of clear benefits to creating a community. By encouraging its members to generate content and share their expertise relating to your products and services, you’re actively creating self-help content for other customers that will help deflect low-value live interactions from your contact center.

A focus group and a fanbase

These exchanges also highlight potential issues with products and services that can inform upstream and downstream processes and of course having a committed focus group on call, means you always have a responsive testbed for developing new ideas.

Likewise, your biggest fans can also help you in promoting your company. As the community grows, so will their influence and their reach to the point where you will find it easy to identify brand ambassadors who can market your company effectively and authentically to potential customers while strengthening your band promise with existing customers.

Build trust

But perhaps considering the current environment and the increasing focus on transparency and honesty, the most valuable aspect of a community is its ability to build trust with its members. With a well-managed and moderated online community, you will create new relationships with your customers, all of which will boost your CX.

From establishing online branded communities and training community managers and moderators to optimize content for call deflection, Sitel Group’s experts help your brand build a self-help portal that boosts customer engagement and satisfaction and that can help inform every aspect of your business from marketing to product development.

written by Martin Wilkinson-Brown Chief Marketing Officer
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