Developing and nurturing online communities can be a powerful way of developing deeper consumer relationships; if done properly. The problem with many online communities today, is that they are only online. They rely on technological solutions to facilitate communication to drive relationships. The problem with this strategy is that online technological solutions only leverage a portion of the brain’s primary communication function.
Humans were designed to communicate using five senses rather than just a couple. Think about it, you walk into the home and your senses perk up when you smell a heavenly meal cooking, hear the happy sounds of children playing and receive a warm touch from a loved one. Each one of these components is part of an overall communication that results or elicits an emotional response.
Online communities currently lack the capability to drive all five senses particularly taste, touch and smell. Digital communication has facilitated the ability to quickly and efficiently send communications. However, it has not been able to truly drive consumer engagement.
The solution is very simple. Incorporate Experiential Marketing into online communities. It makes sense (pun intended). No other marketing form can satisfy basic human desires for multi-sensory appreciation. Experiential Marketing allows community members to connect physically, and establish new relationships and deepen existing ones. It allows greater appreciation for the benefits of products and services and even discover new benefits. Adding Experiential Marketing helps to nurture your online community so that it can grow stronger or deeper relationships with members of the community that will yield significantly higher levels of engagement and loyalty. This should be the objective of all online communities.
The opportunity to add physical/ experiential to the marketing mix may be perceived by marketers as an added expense. Online communities have always been touted as an efficient marketing spend because of the ability to connect with consumers in a low cost manner. However, adding experiential marketing into online communities should be considered as “priceless.” Driving multi-sensory appreciation through experiential marketing is more effective at driving deeper relationships than digital only. Everyone tells stories based on experiences — events provide a purpose for content and give community members something new and fresh to talk about, photograph and share, especially products. Again, this is simple common sense. The more anyone gets to engage with someone physically, the greater the familiarity and the greater the trust. It is only through trust can we develop meaningful relationships.
3 Tips To Implementing Physical Events into Your Online Communities
1. Keep it a continuous cycle. The physical should drive the online and the online should build excitement for the live events. It should be one continuous cycle of consumer touch points.
2. Integrate Always. The live experiences and online dialogue with consumers should be closely related, as such they need to be developed in concert with one another. Consumers don’t want to feel like they have one relationship with the brand online and another in-person.
3. Make the physical meaningful. We all know events and live experiences are costly when compared to social media but they are necessary. To get the most bang for your buck, make sure that the physical experiences are where consumers have deep, personal and educational experiences with the brand that they can not get through online interaction. When supplemented with social and digital these bigger ticket live events bring the depth of experience needed to keep consumers properly engaged.