Omni-channel marketing: Where does online community fit?

You may have heard the terms omni-channel marketing or omni-channel experience cropping up at your company recently. As consumers continue adopting the panoply of channels provided by social media and mobile communication technologies, it has necessitated a shift from siloed multichannel marketing and communications tactics to fully integrated customer experience strategies that cut across an organization’s internal tracks and divisions. This subtle shift in strategy allows organizations to stay consistent across multi-channel communications in addition to allowing a nimbler approach to changing consumer behaviors. But in achieving a true omni-channel presence, there are challenges and barriers along the way, namely in determining who is charged with what and which department fits where in the strategy’s framework.

While your organization may not have shifted to an omni-channel approach [yet], as a community manager, you’ll be well-served to know how your online community can inform and fit within an omni-channel communication and marketing strategy. The first step in developing this understanding will be to know how your community members fit within the demographic structure of your customer or membership base. Are your active community users the super users of your organization? Are they the early adopters and ambassadors, or are they the support seekers—the ones who turn to the community for answers to their questions? A useful tool for determining where your community members fit is CMX’s SPACE model.

Depending on how your community functions for users, you’ll have a better idea how your online community can inform your organization’s omni-channel customer experience. For example, if your community members spend a lot of time sharing content and ideas (the “C” in the CMX SPACE model), then your community may be a great platform for curating and sharing things like product reviews on Yelp or event photos on Instagram. If your community is filled with your brand advocates, then empower your community to acquire new customers (the “A” in the CMX SPACE model) on social sharing channels like Facebook and Pinterest.

As you explore the concept of omni-channel marketing, you’ll probably find countless other applications for online community within the new web of popular communication channels woven by customers. However, while individual channels will wax and wane, the underlying community around our organizations will remain present—dare we say omnipresent. As community managers, we often have insights into the thoughts and actions of our brand’s audience [though we may have to do some work to recognize these insights] that other departments do not. This will make your position invaluable to those departments tasked with maintaining social and marketing channels for your organization. Be sure to take the time to discover and share your online community’s insights with your colleagues and you’ll find your seat at the omni-channel table.

Has your company shifted to an omni-channel communication strategy? Where does online community fit within your strategy? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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