First of all: why would you want to improve community relations in your company?
We have already told a little bit of this in another article: communities are all around you. They are a valuable resource, in terms of market research, marketing, sales, brand awareness, human resources and much more. They can become fundamental stakeholders (and your current stakeholders often belong to a community and actively participate in it). So you should seriously consider improving your business community relations.
But how? Here it is:
1. Get to know them better, participate in their business, talk listen to them
The best way improve community relations in your company, is to be part of the community itself. It’s also the easiest and cheapest way, usually. All communities have a place to meet. It could be a website, a forum, social media, a physical place… Find your way in, participate in discussions, get involved. Ask them stuff, listen to them talking, check what they like and what they don’t. It’s a mix of the usual business networking strategy and an analysis of customer behavior. You will learn a lot about the community and its members and, more importantly, they will learn about you! They will build trust.
Also, considering that the communities you’ll want to get involved in are probably in the same category as your business, they’ll hold valuable information that you want to exploit.
2. Be involved in their events by participating or by sponsoring them
When communities decide to meet, events happen. These are some of the best times to get the full attention and participation of members. If you think you have something valuable to share with those people, this is the best way to do it. You can:
– Join as a member (see point 1) and it’s a good way to start, to understand the environment and to plan the next steps.
– Join as a guest, a speaker or a content maker. This means people will see you. They will understand that you are not just another person:You are someone who holds valuable information. They will want to talk to you.
– Become a sponsor. Maybe even the main sponsor. In the eyes of a member, you are someone who enables the event. You are the one who lets that passionate person follow his passions. That means a lot for them.
3. Involve them in your own community
Mix things up. If you have a community, start engaging them in the same way you are involved in their community. Join forces to create events. Invite them to participate as a community in your events, with their stands, their spaces, where they can invite other members. They won’t take people out of your community. Instead they will act as stakeholders, adding value to your community and to your members.
4. Ask their opinions, interview them and take surveys
A good way to build a relationship with a community is to gather information through them. This way you will ensure that you understand them better and possibly get to know them personally. It depends on how you collect the information. But pay attention to the way you do it: it is different to do interviews or polls. Talking to leaders or individual members produces different effects and relationships. If you want to make sure you are remembered, do a lottery among the survey participants. And doing it during an event will be even better.
5. Use them as testers and show them that you trust them
If you treat a community like a group of early adopters, they will recognize this sign of trust. It is a common practice, for example in the gaming world (but in other too), to involve communities as early adopters through Discord groups. They are somewhere between critics and beta testers and give important feedback before the game is released. After that they are often the ones who become the most passionate users. They recognize the trust that is guaranteed to them and pay it back well!
6. Consider them as a pool for human resources
Communities are the place where enthusiasts and experts come together. They are the ideal place to go and ask, “Hey, do you know people with this profile, who might work with us?”. Normally there will be someone who raises their hand and says “I can”. But even if it doesn’t, communities will surely know where to direct you. And this step will create a strong bond with the community! One of them got a job thanks to your business. There is no better example of relationships with the business community.
7. Show gratitude and be generous
A great way to improve community relations in your company is by exchanging gifts. If you have excess product or merchandise, communities are a great place to distribute it. Giving gifts to communities pays well! Everything branded pays off by becoming brand awareness. And if you offer the community an exclusive product in advance, you ensure its positive publicity. A community is an important reference for those interested in the sector (even if they are not part of it). So when its members say that a company or product is good, they are heard by many!