As online communities continue to grow in different business sectors, the idea of offline communities has started to take hold as an important real-world companion to the digital space. The most popular way to build an offline community is for a company or organizer to host an event such as a class, conference, or cocktail party. The event is an opportunity for your community members to get together, learn, or meet each other. And as the importance of community continues to develop, it’s becoming a key for business growth.
Though community members can connect, communicate, and build relationships online, the purpose of these communities is to have events where the members can move their relationships with each other and your brand from onscreen to offscreen. This move not only strengthens the bond community members have with each other, but also solidifies the bond the community has with your brand.
Here are five reasons why offline communities are great for business:
Connect to Real People
When you meet someone for the first time in an online community, it can be hard to judge their personality from a few words or sentences on a profile. But when you meet in real life, you begin to see a fuller picture of that person’s personality, quirks, and their true feelings about topics. Community is about making it so your audience or customers can engage with each other. Offline communities are successful because they turn crowd members who were just a photo and a profile into a three-dimensional human being.
When fellow crowd members meet, they can connect, compare and contrast their experiences. They can also build relationships with each other. And for communities built around customer service, these community relationships can benefit support. Members of the crowd can help each other when they have questions, helping boost the productivity and success of the whole crowd.
More Invested in the Good of the Community
How much more likely are you to stop everything to go help a friend who calls you in need of something versus a complete stranger? Many of us are much more likely to do whatever it takes to help our friends, but with other people we need special incentives to do so. When you have a fuller picture or have learned something about a crowd member’s personal life, you gain respect for them as a person. Maybe one community member is a parent, so you know they won’t be able to be active after 7pm because their child is sleeping. When community members interact with each other they feel a sense of belonging. They identify with other members of the community as being part of the same tribe, which then makes them more engaged online.
Offline Communities Help You Understand Customers
Imagine getting to have a back-and-forth conversation with members of your brand’s community, where you learn what they value from your brand, their frustrations, their desires, and their needs. Whether you run a product or service-based business, when reviews are left they can be one-sided and either very negative or very positive; most people don’t always post a balance of both. And ratings alone don’t show a full picture of why someone did or did not like a service or product. But if you build an offline community, you can discover how they feel about your business, what’s going well, and what can be improved. And if they’re being too one-sided with their feedback, you can nudge them in another direction.
Keep in mind, your community is made up of customers. So using your community to interact with customers is a more personalized way of doing business. Your community members can better understand and anticipate the pain points of other customers.
Offline Interaction Creates a More Engaged in Online Community
If your online community does not already have an offline element, you may think adding an offline community will in some way decrease the effectiveness of your online community, but that’s not the case. Most communities see engagement increase when an offline element is also included in the community. When community members can put a face to a username and get to know people, they want to participate more, and they want to help each other because they know that real, live people are counting on them for help. And sometimes, beyond making money, helping out a fellow member of the community who they’ve met and built a relationship with offline can be the greatest incentive to participating in the community online.
Let Customers Bond With Your Brand
When you build an offline community, interacting with an offline presence can help your customers feel closer and more attached with your brand. Mila has offline events for Friends and Pros, while lodging company AirBnB also creates offline community by inviting their hosts to events regularly. When your customer relationships are strengthened offline, it’s more likely that your community members will become brand advocates who identify with the brand, rather than just participating customers.