In the first half of this two-part series on blogs in online communities, we discussed the reasons why your online customer or member community should include blogs.
Along with providing an uncomplicated way to help your business or membership organization provide exclusive value to your target audiences, the inherent social-ness of blogs promotes comments and participation in your online community.
The importance of blogs in customer or member communities is illustrated in the following infographic, as well as actionable tips for getting started.
Your online community’s blog or blogs can be written by anyone in your community. Your online community software platform provides an array of options for using blogs to add value to your community in a way that makes sense for your company. These include:
- The option of giving a blog to every customer or members.
- Choosing to restrict the ability to start a blog or contribute an article to only your organization's staff or specific customers or member leaders in your community.
- Blogs published by groups and sub-communities in your ecosystem, such as product advisory groups, committees, or chapters.
It is well-documented that exclusive content and resources are an important part of creating a sustainable online community that your customers or members will visit and return to often.
The struggle often comes down to execution, stemming from questions about time commitments and what you should write about.
Let’s look at ten type of blog posts that will help you build community and turn new visitors into established participants. These posts can each be in separate topical blogs or in one main blog depending on your customer community strategy, size and structure of the community, and available resources.
10 Types of High-Engagement Blog Posts to Include in Your Online Community
Type #1) How-To’s
Advice on how to do things ranging from a specific technical task to high level goals is among the most popular content on the web. Providing useful and actionable guidance has a long history of attracting people to communities, websites, or organizations.
Type #2) Community Tips and Tricks
To increase adoption and ongoing usage of your online community, make it easy for your customers, members, employees, and partners to get value from their participation. Tips and tricks blogs provide clear and consistent tips for getting more from your online customer or member community.
Tip: You can also turn select tips articles into regular columns in your customer newsletter and other customer communication.
Type #3) Executive Insight
A little transparency can go a long way. Your customers, members, or partners want an honest look into your company’s thinking behind decisions and future direction. This type blog post plays into your target audience’s need for reassurance that they have a relationship with the right organization and enables them to anticipate future company and product changes.
Tip: Opinion pieces, such as ‘Why the Legislature Needs to Hear From You’ or ‘Why Traditional Learning Management Software is Dead,’ are also great opportunities for articles from executives.
Type #4) Hot Topic Round Ups
Create blog posts that highlight the latest activity or most active areas of your online community for each customer segment or member type. Driving community members to relevant information and discussions can spur participation, as well as be used in email communication to bring your target audiences back to your community on a regular basis.
Type #5) Product Updates
Blogs written by your product management team are a great way to bring your customers and partners into your product development process in a secure environment. Product managers can get better insight into their market and create stronger customer advocates by providing updates, getting feedback, and validating assumptions.
Type #6) Company News
Create a central place in your online community where members and customers can stay up-to-date and engage around news about your company, programs, and products. The comments from members in these blog posts can be especially insightful for executives.
Type #7) Idea Testing
Organizations that solve their target markets most important problems are poised to grow faster and develop long-term customers. However, market-driven solutions don't grow within the walls of conference rooms. The come from testing and adjusting ideas based on real market data.
Blogs in your online customer or member community give your organization the opportunity to securely present and discuss product or service concepts. Testing ideas in a disarming and transparent way strengthens your organization’s partnership with its customers and opens up a dialog with specific community members in the comment threads.
Type #8) Industry Insight
In industries that are facing significant change, your members and customer are looking to your organization for guidance, reassurance, and advice. We've seen this recently in the financial, healthcare, and marketing arenas.
Providing insight and interruptions positions your organization as a trusted advisor and an invaluable resource during turbulent times.
Type #9) Curated Content
Make your online customer or member community the hub of your industry for your target audience. Set up a content curation program where you systematically find and evaluate content from around the web for inclusion in your online community.
Articles with a title like, ‘7 Higher Education Technology Articles You May Have Missed,’ both shows that you have the pulse of your market and can be an easy way to pump insightful content into your online community.
Type #10) Tips from Partner
Partners are a great source of insightful content and tips. As part of your online community’s vendor partner program, grant partners access to contribute one educational article a year or a quarter. This will both give your partners exposure among your customer base and help you provide original and insightful information to your community.
Get Started With Blog Post Formats that Keep Customers & Members Engaged
Even for people who are very knowledgeable about a subject or industry, getting started with business blogging can be daunting. Break the ice with these handy blog formats that will get community members’ attention and provide a basic template for your content providers.
Why something is happening or why your audience should do something.
Explain how to do something that will help your audience accomplish their goals. Tip: Provide a deep dive, rather than high-level advice. Granular step-by-step guides are more valuable to readers than obvious common knowledge.
What You Need to Know About…
This tact cuts through the noise to provide a comprehensive quick hit of information to busy customers or members. By saying, “Ignore everything else, here is the info you need.” You are getting your audience’s attention, showing that you value their time, and positioning your organization as an authority.
People to Follow…
Spread the love by highlighting people that add value to your community. Members tend to engage at higher levels around the work of peers. They may also double down on their participation in the community in hopes of being recommended as someone that people should follow in the future.
X Reasons…, X Ways to…, X Tips…, X Lessons…
Identify a step-by-step process that will help your community members reach their goals.
There is little debate that blogs play an important role in growing and managing private online communities. Blogs in your online community help your organization ensure that your customers or members are receiving exclusive high-qualify information in exchange for their attention and time.
Blogs in online customer or member communities are also an effective way to promote idea sharing and personal brand growth inside your platform.
However, including blogs in your online community takes a change in mindset from other community-building activities.
While you can’t ignore the other aspects of growing an online community, providing a consistent stream of original and insightful blog content, takes you from being a watcher of conversations or a monitor of community management processes to being a publisher.
The tips and templates in this article will make it easier to include compelling content in your online community plan.
Tell us about your experience with blogs inside private online communities – either as a community manager, content contributor, or member of the community.