How to Foster Online Community Relationships Offline
You’re indebted to the members of your online community. They talk to you about your brand, share feedback, and do some word-of-mouth marketing for you. Why not reward them for their evangelism with some fun offline events?
Meetups and parties give them a place to let their hair down and carry on a discussion beyond the limitations of a web platform or social network. When members sit down together to share some chat, food, and drink, they become more than a community; they become friends. Some people even form close lifelong friendships.
Meetups are like mixers or parties where people don’t necessarily know one another personally, but enjoy getting to know others face to face. Tweetups are similar to meetups except that they’re planned via Twitter; most of the people in attendance are people who communicate via that network and are looking to take their relationships to the next level.
Meetups and tweetups also create renewed fondness for the brand and are great marketing tools as well, because your members take to social networks before, during, and after meetups to thank you and your brand for bringing everyone together. In fact, your members may even write about their experience in their blogs.
When members feel good about being part of the community, positive things result:
Sales: When you host an event for your community, and it turns out to be a positive experience, members want to show your brand the love in return. Not only will some of them want to buy what you’re selling, but they’ll also want to recommend your community and products to nonmembers.
Interest: Meetups, tweetups, and other events put together for online communities are rarely private affairs. Most are open to all, and most are discussed on the various social networks. Members post pictures on their Facebook and Google+ accounts and offer updates on Twitter and their blogs. Nonmembers wonder what all the fuss is about and investigate. Don’t be surprised to have new community members after meetups and tweetups.
Brand evangelism: When a meetup or tweetup goes well, members feel great about the experience, and a spontaneous marketing campaign happens as they talk online about their experience.
Community renewal: You may notice a surge of traffic in the days following a community event. Members want to keep up the good vibe, so they come back to the community networks to share stories about their experience.