3 Ways to Leverage Digital Communities to Stay Connected to Customers

June 5, 2020

The words “empathy” and “tech” don’t often appear side by side. But as business professionals reach out to a virtual audience in a COVID-19 world, the trait might just make the difference between a sale and a “no thanks.” 

The following Seattle companies are cultivating their digital communities to speak to customers, garner feedback from potential clients and support their industries virtually — all while thinking about what resources get to the root of consumer pain points. 

At technology services firm Affirma, for example, employees altered their messaging around helping clients achieve rapid growth after taking consumer conversations into account. Not only has that content been inapplicable the past few months, but it’s also been tone-deaf. Instead, they’ve been guiding users toward a digital resource center with an emphasis on remote work. 

“Consumers are watching how brands respond to the pandemic,” EagleView VP of Corporate Communications Annette Hamilton said. “They won’t soon forget the brands that appeared to act in their own interests rather than those of the greater good.”
 

Affirma
Affirma
Geri Massengale
Community Program Manager

At cosmetic treatment research platform RealSelf, Geri Massengale said her team has been using surveys and polls to get a better understanding of what type of support and content beauty consumers look for online. The community program manager said the company leverages brand ambassadors to test virtual outreach they plan to share more broadly.  

 

What was the most important strategy you used to build a digital community around your brand? 

Having a strong content and community-support strategy were keys in building a digital community of brand ambassadors. My team was able to craft newsletters, social media posts and other opportunities to engage that directly spoke to what our community members value from a group of beauty enthusiasts. We garnered feedback from some of the most engaged members through surveys and polls. 

Part of my work as a community program manager is also responding to inbound community inquiries. Not only did we implement a response strategy that met consumers’ needs quickly and accurately, but we also monitored inquiry trends to help direct a variety of teams on what consumers want to see. 

 

How have you leveraged that digital community to improve your engagement at a time when physical connection isn’t possible? 

We piloted a webinar specifically for our brand ambassadors. Our digital community of brand ambassadors are some of the most engaged community members on RealSelf and in the beauty space in general. Their feedback from the experience was key in shaping future virtual engagements to share with our broader audience. These webinars allow consumers to get closer to the brands they love from where they are, with other community members.  

Simply make community members feel seen and heard.’’

What has been the most important consideration for your team when it comes to the messaging and tone of your digital content? 

An empathetic approach was the most important consideration in shaping our engagement with our community. Listening to members’ feedback and working through how they navigate our platform allows us to meet them where they are. When you put yourself in your customers’ shoes, you build trust, even after a negative experience. Gratitude for participation also goes a long way. Simply make community members feel seen and heard.

 

Annette Hamilton
VP of Corporate Communications

At aerial imaging technology company EagleView, VP of Corporate Communications Annette Hamilton said cultivating a positive customer relationship is one of the best ways to guarantee a contract renewal. That’s why leadership has been arming employees with tools to target current consumer issues, she said. Among those tools are a series of blog posts that outline how the company’s products enable remote work across the industries they serve.

 

What was the most important strategy you used to build a digital community around your brand?

At EagleView, we know that the relationships between our sales representatives and customers are core to our success. Therefore, our most important digital community strategy is to arm our sales representatives with tools, including content and other materials they can use to demonstrate how our digital solutions help our customers improve efficiencies and drive revenue.

We leverage our website and social media channels to publish blog posts, customer case studies and a variety of other materials that show EagleView’s value and return on investment. Providing our sales reps with these materials and corresponding social media posts allows them to reach out directly to customers, encouraging further engagement and creating a more dynamic dialogue. This consistent communication ensures our brand’s digital community remains engaged and that EagleView remains top of mind.

 

How have you leveraged that digital community to improve your engagement at a time when physical connection isn’t possible? 

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve had to find ways to reassure customers that our digital solutions can smooth the transition to working remotely. For example, our sales representatives shared a post about how EagleView is helping property assessors who work for local government organizations across their channels. They reached out to assessors across their regions, some of whom weren’t current EagleView customers. 

This initiative resulted in many responses, including some from non-customers, requesting additional information about our technology. This digital engagement, which is a critical replacement for face-to-face meetings, is essential so that we can take care of existing customers and bring in new ones.

EagleView prioritizes empathy rather than opportunity.’’ 

What has been the most important consideration for your team when it comes to the messaging and tone of your digital content? 

EagleView prioritizes empathy rather than opportunity. All too often, marketers take advantage of a “good crisis” by building messaging around how their brand’s solutions can help immediately, focusing on how to drive their own growth rather than taking care of their customers. However, consumers are watching how brands respond to the pandemic. They won’t soon forget the brands that appeared to act in their own interests rather than those of the greater good.

We’ve been providing services free of charge if we think they may help our customers weather the storm. For example, in early April, we helped launch a free diagnostic tool to help small business owners determine eligibility for financial assistance through the small business administration and generate an application for the paycheck protection program. Shortly after, we began offering free access to CONNECTExplorer, our virtual desktop application, so government departments could perform field-based inspections from their homes.

 

Megan Tooley
Marketing Coordinator

Marketing Coordinator Megan Tooley said Affirma has been trying to produce content that expresses compassion toward client circumstances. Doing so means striking the right tone online and sharing helpful resources for both businesses and individuals, including software tools employees rely on. 

 

What was the most important strategy you used to build a digital community around your brand? 

Building Affirma's digital community has had its obstacles, as I am sure many B2B brands have. But I am proud to say that this year, we made growing our audience a company priority.

We knew we needed to invest in a stronger content and social media strategy. As we were brainstorming, we realized our most important asset is our employees. We knew we wanted our content strategy to highlight their expertise and unique voices across fields.

Last year, we invited team members to volunteer to write for the Affirma blog in 2020. Each person picked a date and a topic of their choosing, with guidance from our marketing team when needed. Since kicking off this initiative, we have seen significant growth on our social platforms, as well as an increase in web traffic.  

It’s nice to know that we can still create and build meaningful relationships remotely.’’ 

How have you leveraged that digital community to improve your engagement at a time when physical connection isn’t possible? 

We have put a large emphasis on creating content that is relevant yet empathetic. It’s important to us that we focus on helping organizations and communities remain functional during such an uncertain time.

Our content not only addresses current issues, but also provides useful tactics to help companies navigate those issues. For example, we published content that detailed best practices and useful tips for leveraging collaboration platform Microsoft Teams to create a better remote working environment.

Our sales team and account managers also use this content to connect with their clients and contacts. Recently, one of our clients mentioned how insightful our “Teams vs. Zoom” blog post was to them and their employees. While we may not be able to connect over a lunch or happy hour, it’s nice to know that we can still create and build meaningful relationships remotely. 

 

What has been the most important consideration for your team when it comes to the messaging and tone of your digital content? 

When COVID-19 hit, our team had several conversations about what it looks like to continue our marketing efforts while remaining sensitive. Our strategy at the time marketed our services on helping businesses grow. With the current environment, our clients are no longer striving for growth. Rather, they are just trying to stay afloat. 

We recognized that the “growth” messaging was not appropriate. To avoid coming across as tone-deaf, we shifted our messaging to reflect how we can help organizations get their teams set up properly to work remotely while ensuring critical business data is secure. 

We reevaluated our service offerings, and when we did so, we realized that many of our services could provide relief to companies as they navigate the current environment. Our teams focused on how we could provide a smooth transition for our clients into the new normal.

 

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