With any marketing investment today, technology is the secret sauce in determining if your idea becomes a dream come true or a total business nightmare. When deciding if you’re ready for an online brand community, the best community platform software is one of the most critical parts of the process.
What is community platform software?
Community platform software is a type of marketing technology that enables brands and businesses to create an online community destination for their audience of consumers.
Community platform software has two parts: the front end and the back end.
The front end of a community platform software is the end-user experience – what your consumers see and how they interact with your brand or business via the community.
The back end, often referred to as the “admin” side of the software, is used to help marketers and business departments manage various community elements. This can include launching community activities, posting updates, delivering tailored messages, monitoring content, collecting zero-party data and analyzing activity to optimize for business impact.
Let’s dive into some of the essential parts of both the front end and back end of a community platform software.
The consumer user experience of an online community platform software
Each community platform software will have different features available for your consumers to interact with, but generally, online communities consist of:
1) connection touchpoints with other community members
2) community activities
3) brand communication & gamification
Connection touchpoints with other community members are a central tenet in ensuring your community is an actual community. Platform-wise, this is anything that allows your audience to interact with each other, whether it’s through a comment section or a robust discussion forum with hundreds of topic threads.
Community connection helps your consumers feel a sense of belonging and kinship, which ultimately will help build an emotional relationship that drives brand loyalty. In a study by Harvard Business Review, they found that emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as even highly satisfied customers. These connection points will quickly translate into real revenue.
Additionally, the conversations that take place are rich with knowledge exchange. They are great for handling trouble-shooting and customer service requests, and fantastic for getting a pulse on trends and understanding what is most important to your consumers.
While community interaction is necessary, it’s also essential for community members to feel a sense of exclusivity and excitement from being a part of your community.
A good community platform software can make consumers feel like they are your team’s special and valued extension. This can be anything from a sneak peek at company announcements to offering feedback on innovation ideas to sampling products or contributing to branded content. Activities foster community participation and will empower your brand or business to mobilize authentic brand advocacy.
The activities you can deliver to your community will vary widely depending on the community platform software you choose.
At Vesta, we believe more is always better. Consumers want to feel a sense of freshness and discoverability each time they engage with your community, and with our platform’s 30+ activities and activations, there are hundreds of fun, interactive and entertaining experiences to be had.
From social sharing activities to surveys & polls, ratings & reviews, eCommerce & digital promotions, and even personalized geo-targeted and in-home events, we provide a variety of ways to interact with a community.
When choosing a community platform software, it’s not just important to consider the different types of activities but also how your consumers are invited to participate. According to a McKinsey & Company study, 71% of consumers expect companies to deliver personalized interactions, and 76% get frustrated when they don’t receive a personalized experience.
We’ve all encountered getting an invitation from a brand that was misaligned. Conversely, we’ve all felt incredibly valued when a brand listens to us and speaks to our individual needs. This could be the key moment when a person goes from typical customer to die hard fan. Don’t miss these opportunities.
A community platform software must build a robust data feedback loop into its technology. This means that when consumers offer a piece of information about themselves, they will receive a relevant community activity.
With Vesta, each consumer accesses a personalized Netflix-style community dashboard with their latest and ongoing community activities.
Consumers are already highly guarded about their data, and offering community activities driven by personalized engagement will build trust.
Brand communication and gamification
All community platform software packages should allow the community owner (you) to communicate and interact with its members at large.
Community postings can be a way to deliver news about your brand, updates to the community, upcoming events, or any other important information regarding their community experience.
Community members should also receive feedback or engagement for their overall participation. This can be as simple as highlighting featured members or showcasing particular community activities.
But a way to make your community shine is by offering gamification and rewards. Gamifying your community provides immediate delight and a lighthearted way to keep your community members engaged.
The admin experience of an online community platform software
A high-quality front-end consumer experience will increase your brand equity and consumer engagement. And a top-notch admin experience will help maximize your investment, deliver the most business value, and generally make your life easier and your job more enjoyable.
A good community platform software will offer four things:
- A way to quickly identify and segment different groups in the community
- A seamless process for creating and launching community activities
- Visibility into community content for monitoring and moderating
- Insight into business impact metrics that are easily digestible
A community platform software should be able to target micro-audiences within your community to drive personalization efforts.
Each community platform software will have different targeting capabilities, some being very limited and some being almost limitless.
Almost every community platform software will require consumers to create or sync a personal profile upon signup. This can be a place for marketers to capture basic demographics like age, email address, gender, and location. Depending on the software provider, they may also be able to sync loyalty card accounts or eCommerce profiles.
With Vesta’s built-in survey capabilities, marketers can go above and beyond basic demographics and start collecting highly sought-after zero-party data and first-party data. This includes more values-based information like shopping preferences, lifestyle behavior, personal interests and passions, and much more.
Using this kind of information, brands can segment and deliver tailored community activities for each individual. For example, you can identify a group of people with a love of photography and offer them a photo contest activity. Or ask a group that is passionate about the environment to spread the news about an eco-friendly innovation coming to market.
Additionally, community segmentation also allows you to gain valuable consumer insights that you would not be able to get through third-party “rented” channels. This can help inform messaging, creative, product innovation and optimize advertising investments.
With any software system today, make sure the platform has state-of-the-art data security practices and follows industry best practices in privacy.
Seamless setup and launch of community activities
A community platform software should offer an easy way for admins to deliver activities to the community. One of the best ways to tell if a particular software will fulfill this need is the company’s experience, leadership, and methodology behind the software.
Community building is an art and a science, and the companies with experience know what works and what doesn’t. At Vesta, we’ve spent more than 13 years building and refining our software to be easy, scalable, and measurable for marketers.
And for resource-strapped teams, we offer dedicated community experts who can manage your community activities for you.
Community monitoring and moderating
Every community needs visibility into community conversation. Seeing actual commentary from consumers is one of the best parts of having a community. Beyond that, a community can provide a library of excellent content to reuse and repurpose in other marketing capacities.
Like any other consumer-facing channel, moderation must be included. We offer moderating and monitoring services at Vesta so your community always reflects and upholds your brand’s values.
Business impact metrics & platform integration
Business impact metrics include highlighting and measuring overall activity, engagement, time on site, and participation. But the real power of your community is the army of passionate advocates eager to share your brand with their social networks.
A community platform software can show you external community activity, including social sharing, retail reviews, user-generated content, shared links, and more. Measuring ROI for community platform software is also achieved by gathering loyalty metrics and tracking them over time.
An online brand community is both an immediate problem solver and a long-term business builder all in one. Our brand partners see an average lift of 48% in their Net Promoter Score in just the first 100 days of launch and 73% purchase conversion in the first year.
Backed by Nielsen’s Audience 360 analysis, we’ve seen a brand partner’s lifetime value of a loyal community member grow up to 13x more valuable than other marketing channels. Another client saw an increase in household consumption of 16%.
What are examples of online communities created with a community software platform?
Technology decisions like this can easily swamp you in technical jargon, so we know it always helps when you can see a community platform software “come to life.” Here are a few examples of brands that are getting community building right.
Using a community platform software to “graduate” from Facebook and build a brand-owned relationship
Clio Snacks, a fast-growing chocolate-covered yogurt brand, was no stranger to engaging its audience. Like most brands, they used Facebook and other social media pages as a way to engage but struggled with the ongoing limitations and data gatekeeping of these third-party channels.
They launched the Clio Cravings Club via Vesta’s community platform software and turned their community from Facebook-owned to brand-owned.
Through the community platform software, they could cultivate direct brand ambassador relationships and spread awareness to curious consumers through authentic user-generated content. Furthermore, they could gain predictive insights to drive brand innovation.
As the Chief Marketing Officer from Clio Snacks says, “Our community members feel like they are a part of the development process…we can get so much strong insight while also driving long-term loyalty.”
In the first 100 days of their community launch, Clio Snacks saw a whopping +25% increase in brand loyalty, a +10% increase in emotional connection, and a +23% increase in household penetration. Read their entire case study here.
Using a community platform software to drive targeted sampling trial & generate reviews
Another excellent example of a brand utilizing a community platform software is the premium beauty brand Hero Cosmetics. The Hero Skin Squad was the perfect way to mobilize its customer base’s intense passion for the brand.
Product Sampling is an incredibly effective marketing tactic for any cosmetic brand to drive trial and acquisition. Using Vesta’s audience segmentation, Hero identifies key audience segments within their community to deliver tailored samples and then prompts consumers to share their experiences via their social channels and retail websites.
In addition to their community activities, the Hero Skin Squad has a vibrant community discussion channel, chock full of hundreds of conversations on all things skincare and makeup. Consumers can connect with like-minded people and exchange tips, advice, and recommendations for dozens of topics.
Using its community, Hero gained over 400 retail reviews and a +25% increase in average spend per community member in less than100 days. Hero’s Vice President of Marketing praises the community stating, “we are incredibly excited to see the immediate impact our community is having on our brand. The activities and insights are creating great value for Hero.”
Want to see even more examples? Here are five brands that are winning at community or check out even more case studies here.
What are the best community platform software packages?
We won’t be shy with our bias – we suggest Vesta is the best community platform software out there. Still, you should always ensure the technology partner you choose best aligns with your business goals, budget, and overall organizational fit.
We know how overwhelming it can be to choose the right marketing partner. Why should you pick us? Here’s what our customers tell us makes Vesta best-in-class.
Building a community around your brand is one of the best ways to give consumers value at every stage in their journey, generate new cost-effective customer acquisition, increase customer lifetime value, and provide valuable market resilience.
Do you want to see what a community can do for your brand in just 100 days? Let’s chat.
Interested in more?
Debunk some of the common misconceptions about brand-owned communities with our eBook.