A Case For Branded Online Community

Mike Moloughney

Facebook is no longer a viable option for companies looking to foster a strong online relationship with their customers and prospects. In a previous blog post we discussed the diminishing reach of Facebook for companies trying to engage their users and grow their businesses. The natural next question will be – “Great, so if Facebook isn’t working, what is the solution?” Increasingly, companies are creating their own branded online communities.

Branded Online CommunityReturn on Investment (ROI) will be a factor to consider, as with any business decision. Building a community will take time, resources and money so a company will need to see a return on that investment. There are a variety of factors that can be measured depending on the focus of your community. For example, many companies establish a support community to reduce support costs through call deflection. In fact, in a recent survey conducted by Inversoft, 46% of respondents indicated they consider ‘reducing support costs’ to be a major benefit of forums. If the focus of your online community is increasing your sales, how much more business could you gain by having your customers participate in your own branded online community versus a 3rd party platform like Facebook?

Branded Online Community ROI Examples

One example of a support community adding to a company’s revenue is the tax services provider H&R Block. With their H&R Community, they not only secured 1.5 million unique visitors, but also saw a 15% increase in revenue as compared to the time frame before creating their community.

The Harley Owners Group (HOG for short… possibly the best acronym ever!) boasts over 1M members and is a great example of a brand successfully leveraging its online community across multiple ROI factors. Harley Davidson owners are well known for their passion for the brand, so Harley leverages its community to cross sell custom parts and other products to members. To foster a stronger connection still, Harley has created various membership levels and subgroups within their community. Not only does Harley win by selling products to their customers, they deepen the connection further by getting them to sign up for additional benefits within HOG. The Harley community is so large they now even have discounts and tie-ins with other major brands like AT&T and Best Western. This added value of community reinforces Harley owner’s affinity for the brand.

We’ve given a couple examples of how online communities can add value for your business, but there are many others including customer satisfaction, innovation insights, brand awareness and Search Engine Optimization to name but a few. See this guide from Oracle for a detailed overview on how to measure many of the various ROI components that an online community can affect.

So Many Prospects

2015 is the year of the branded online community. The decline of Facebook as a platform for companies to engage their clients is now well documented. The prospective business objectives for an online community are many, as outlined in the guide from Oracle. And, there are many examples of companies like Harley leveraging a branded online community to deepen their relationship with customers, cross sell products & accessories and increase revenue.

Inversoft created Gather to help companies safely build and engage their community so they too can experience the added value other companies have attained. Feel free to reach out and ask us how we can help you!


Tell us about your experience by leaving a comment below. Has your company built an online community? What has the ROI been? What major factors have affected your ROI?