Get in the Community Game: The 13 Key Components You Need, Part 1

Whatever your sport of choice and the format of the game, the general program of a sporting event is the same. Why? Because it works. Generations have attended sporting events in ballparks, stadiums and arenas to watch their favorite teams play. There are a lot of great lessons we can learn about the way a sporting event is facilitated—from ticket sales to the post-game player meet and greet—particularly when it comes to developing online brand communities that use content marketing to recruit, nurture and convert customers.

As we’ve discussed, online communities are a great opportunity to create deeper audience engagements and gain insightful user-level lead data, leading to a more impactful, long-term marketing and sales approach. They leverage content marketing, sophisticated segmentation and user’s desire to interact with your brand to help move your customers through the funnel. These communities aren’t just about housing content, waiting for inbound traffic, and encouraging users to register – there are a number of key components that add up to the great online communities you see today and pulling off a great game day event. In this series, we have 13 in total, but here are 4 key components to kick us off:

First 4 Components of an Online Community

1. Ticket Sales

In order to watch the big game, you have to buy a ticket. Nowadays, there are a plethora of ticket providers—online and offline—making it easy to shop around and find the best deal. The competition is fierce and users are overwhelmed with options. Chances are, this isn’t any different than one of the challenges you face in your own industry when selling your products and services, and it’s not going to be any different for driving traffic to your community: You’re not the only brand with quality content and a community with whom users can engage.

How do you beat out the competition? Create a strong and innovative marketing plan to get in front of your consumers and lead them to your community. Consider a large mix of digital tactics that drive to personalized landing pages, such as targeting ads and PPC, in addition to tactics such as third party acquisition that provide a direct feed to your lead database. Leverage your community content to provide more information about and showcase your brand. Don’t forget to optimize your SEO strategy – this is even more important with content-heavy websites. Contrary to what you learned in Field of Dreams, if you build it, there’s no guarantee that they’ll come.

2. Giveaways

Bobbleheads and t-shirts might not be right for your brand, but it never hurts to offer fans an extra boost of motivation to make it out to the game. Creating an offer to drive users to your community and sign-up for your email list or register for your site can significantly help your marketing efforts. However, not just any offer will do. Consider the following:

  • Find an offer that is right for you and your brand. Ensure that it supports your mission and what value you hope to provide to your customers. For example, a community centered around sports would drive a more appropriate audience with an offer of a chance to win Super Bowl tickets than a free recipe book offer to every member.
  • Consider the right cost per lead for you and your business. After you convert your customers, the cost of your offer will be a factor in your final customer acquisition cost. Make sure you are considering any fulfillment and processing costs, but also that the offer has a high perception of value to your targets. Free pens won’t cut it in the community game.
  • Finally, ensure you have the right measurement and testing mechanisms in place. This will help you figure out which offers are attracting the right leads: those with high community engagement and ultimately the highest lifetime value for your brand.

3. Security

Security teams let the ticket holders in and ensure no one sneaks through the cracks. While your community probably doesn’t need this same level of protection, you do want to ensure everyone provides what is required to get through your website’s gates: their contact information. Content utilized to create awareness and drive traffic should be approached in a unique fashion from that which helps to identify and qualify leads at this security stage. Here is where your gating strategy comes in. Make the strategic decisions to determine:

  • What level of access do you want for visitors to have without signing-up for your community? Will you limit this to the number of pages or types of content they can view, or is sign-up mandatory for all access? Find a balance between proving your content’s value and providing a reason for users to register. Investigating your pageviews per visit or identifying content consumption trends are good places to start.
  • What level of information is required to access the community? Is email sufficient or will your lead nurture and sales contact strategy require more information? Will you allow for a single sign-on social media experience? Balance form length (seen as a barrier to entry) and the user experience with the needs of your business.

Carefully weigh your company’s selling objectives and processes with the user experience and continuously test to find what strategy will get you the most quality and quantity of community members.

4. First Look

Everyone gets an overwhelming feeling when they first enter the ballpark – the people, the vendors and the signage. While the sensation is exciting, these visitors struggle to figure out how to get where they want to go. Don’t let this happen to your site’s visitors. Create a clear and simple user flow that helps draw emphasis on the pages and features that would be most appealing to that audience based on the user’s entry source or past site performance activity (user-level or aggregate). When designing your flow, don’t just direct visitors to the pages you want them to visit, but anticipate their natural user experience and thought process and match it with the site offerings you think are the best fit.

Measure your success by taking a look at your bounce rate, segmenting by site entry source, browser and other factors that might impact the experience. Help to reduce your bounce rate by ensuring your messaging is consistent with your promotional tactics to your community and that your content marketing efforts accurately reflect the on-site content experience.

Now that you’re in the ballgame, there are number of key components that will keep your users engaged with your content, just like the crowd at the stadium. I’ll cover those in the next part of this series. In the meantime, post your questions below and I’ll try to answer those during Part 2. Let’s play ball!

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