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Thursday, 29 January 2015

What Level of Community Engagement Do You Expect?

In this modern on-line marketing age, you the business owner, must understand what level of engagement you can expect from your community. Understanding what engagement model your business or organization is best suited for can have a great impact on your community's activity and growth.
Community engagement varies depending on the environment your visitor finds themselves. For example, gaming applications such as Clash of Clans or Candy Crush, requires minimal engagement. Players make brief contact with other players sharing little, while the app repeatedly offers the player the opportunity to purchase addition gaming upgrades. The ever advancing game levels combined with the interaction with other players establishes: rewarding involvement, builds familiarity, and creates a sense of dedication within the player. With all that established, a "single click" is all the game developers need to return e-commerce profit and sustain their community's engagement with the app for extended periods. If only it were that simple for the rest of us.
For the rest of us, the engagement model we choose needs to reflect the nature of your business. 
In the incredibly competitive retail industry we have seen a handful of engagement opportunities evolve and presented to buyers. Opportunities such as: Product reviews, social media sharing, and "Sign up for Our Newsletter" seem to be the limit of the engagement model most retailers have currently adopted. But is this the best model to adopt?
Whatever happened to the "suggestion box"? Stew Leonard's Dairy, which opened in 1969 in Norwalk, Connecticut, introduced a simple suggestion box to engage their customers and gain valuable market knowledge. Stew reviewed suggestions from his customers daily and followed up on many of them with interviews to better understand their thinking. He then implemented those that made sense to him and in turn empowered the suggestion provider to spread the word (social sharing) that "Stew used my idea". This simple engagement model turned customers into advocates for Stew Leonard's and resulted in the creation of the single most successful (per unit) food store in the United States.
Within our modern on-line world, a "suggestion box" like engagement model should be a simple thing to create. Retailers need to listen, respect, and treat their customers as people who have knowledge they desperately need to remain competitive. The question is;
why are retailers not engaging their customers in a more rewarding manner?
Clubs and members based organizations support one of the highest engagement type models. Members of organizations are largely prepared to offer their vote, or opinion on all "club" related topics. They have a vested interest in the organization and are prepared to build upon that investment by participating and sharing. The American Diabetes Association is a prime example of how people with a vested interest turn into advocates for the organization.
Members require an engagement environment that is possibly private and secure, one that stimulates knowledge sharing, and one that allows the coordinators of the organization the ability to easily compile the engagement of members into meaningful results. This ability for organizations to deeply engage with their community makes organizations with modern communication strategies thrive. Unfortunately many members based organizations simply utilize forums and e-mail as a means to accomplish much of this. Problems using this engagement model begin to arise when the organization grows to a point that returning data is typically unrewarding due to the volume of scattered results. The question is;
what do you do when the returning data is too much to manage?
Businesses and organizations need to understand what level of engagement they require form their on-line community to sustain and grow their organization. In this ever evolving 21st century communications and marketing field the businesses and organizations that recognize that community engagement is key to success need to determine what engagement model best serves their mission.

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