External Communities: What They Are and How to Build One

Amara Lennon

An external community is a group of customers or partners who engage with a brand, discuss common interests, and provide feedback and support. Building an external community can benefit businesses in several ways, including:

Increased customer engagement and loyalty: An external community for your brand allows businesses to interact directly with customers and build long-lasting relationships. When customers feel valued and heard, they're more likely to remain loyal and become brand advocates.

Improved customer support: An external community for your brand can serve as a platform for customers to ask questions, receive help, and provide feedback. This can reduce the workload on customer support teams and increase customer satisfaction.

Enhanced customer experience: An external community for your brand can provide customers with a wealth of information and resources. It can also serve as a platform for businesses to gather feedback and improve their products and services.

Increased brand awareness: An external community for your brand can be a source of word-of-mouth marketing, helping spread the word about your brand and attracting new customers.

What are External Customer Communities?

Customer communities are online communities where customers can engage with a brand, get support, find answers, and discuss the brand with the company and other customers. These communities can be hosted on various platforms, including social media, forums, and dedicated community websites.

These communities serve the customers who are passionate about your product or services. They love, support and talk about you. They're also willing to advocate for you, defend you and spread the word about what makes your business special.

In short: brand community members are your brand's biggest fans – and they can make all the difference in whether or not people decide to buy from you or one of your competitors (or neither).

Why You Need an External Community

Building an online customer community for your brand has many benefits. Most importantly, it allows you to connect deeper with your best customers. Customers want to feel like they're part of something bigger than themselves. When you give them that opportunity through an online customer community for your brand, they'll respond positively by engaging with your brand in ways that can increase sales and customer loyalty. To fully grasp the value of an external community for your organization, consider consolidating a list of community use cases.

Define the Goals For Your Online Brand Community

Once you've created an online customer community for your brand, it's important to understand its goals clearly.

  • Customer support: Your community can serve as a place where customers can ask questions and get answers from people with similar interests.
  • Client/partner/ecosystem collaboration space: You can use your online customer community for your brand to share updates with partners, vendors, or even employees at all levels in the company hierarchy (from hourly workers up through executive leadership). This allows everyone involved in creating your product or service, whether internal employees or external partners, to stay informed about what's happening behind the scenes at your company.
  • Brand research: If you're building an online customer community for your brand as part of market research efforts (and why wouldn't you?), then this is where those results will come from!

How to Build an Online Customer Community for Your Brand

Building an external community requires a strategic and multi-step approach. Here are the key steps to building a thriving brand community:

  • Identify your target audience: Start by identifying who your target audience is and their needs and interests. This will help you determine the best platform and approach for building your community.
  • Choose a  customer community platform: Several top community platforms are available for building brand communities, including social media, forums, and dedicated community websites. Choose the platform that best meets your needs and the needs of your target audience.
  • Define your goals and objectives: Before you start building your community, define your goals and objectives. This will help you measure success and make adjustments as needed.
  • Measure and evaluate: Regularly measure and evaluate the success of your brand community. Use this information to make improvements, ensuring that your community continues to meet your customers' needs.
  • Foster engagement: How do you engage community members? Encourage engagement by providing valuable content, responding to questions and feedback, and creating opportunities for customers to connect.

Tips For Building An External Community

Building an external community is like building a house. You need to lay the foundation, put up walls and windows, and install plumbing and electricity and then decorate!

When building your community online:

  • Make sure it's focused on your brand. You won't get very far if you start talking about movies or sports in an attempt at cross-pollination; instead, focus on creating conversations related directly to what makes you unique (and awesome).
  • Make sure it's a place where people can talk about their experience with your product/service/company the good and bad. This will help other potential customers learn more about whether they want more information from you before making purchases (which is exactly what we want). It also helps build trust between businesses/consumers since there’s no point in having an anonymous forum where everyone talks trash behind each other's backs all day long--no one wants their name associated with those kinds of things anyways!
  • Make sure you choose a community platform that supports discovery capabilities such as searchable tags/keywords so users can easily find answers without having prior knowledge beforehand.

How to Measure the ROI of Your Community

Measuring the value and ROI (return on investment) is essential if you're considering building an external community.

There are many ways to measure the value of your brand community. Some brands use surveys or focus groups and ask their members what they think about their experience with the brand. Other brands look at customer behavior: for example, how often do people visit the website? Do they buy more products than non-members? 

Ready to Build a Customer Community for Your Business?

The best way to build an online community is by listening to your customers. You can create a better product or service by discovering what they want and helping them achieve their goals. This creates loyalty among your customers and increases the chances that they'll recommend your brand to others, leading them to become repeat buyers.

If you're looking to build an external community, partner with online community consulting experts like Social Edge Consulting to achieve direct, impactful results. Social Edge Consulting has the expertise and tools you need. We focus on delivering straightforward strategies, effective implementations, and tailored developments to ensure your community thrives.