One of the things that takes an app experience from good to great is having a great online community.  This can mean many things, from giveaways of related contents, featuring users of your app, or having a well-documented support portal  Users can then interact with you and with each other, guiding development and being involved in production.

Your company isn’t a logo and tagline – your company is an experience for your users.   Creating an online community, therefore, is about more then social media or forums; it’s about getting out on the internet and helping people all over the world interact with your brand in a meaningful way.  It’s about those people having a good experience with your company.

In addition to making your users happy, an organized community can make you happy.  There are several distinct benefits to you for having an online community:

 

Users Can Direct Development

User are able to offer personal input on your ideas, and point you in the direction you need to be to make improvements.  Users know their own struggles and problems far more than you do, and are able to offer this experience for app development.

This becomes really useful several versions into development, when you have already made your initial features and don’t know what to make next.  Instead of striking out into the dark, you can plan future feature development based on user feedback.

Don’t be afraid to let feedback from your community pivot your entire app model; sticking to a poor one because you’ve already put hard work into it might mean failure when adapting to customer requests will mean success.

 

It Fosters Relationships Between Users

Letting people share ideas also helps to foster a sense of participation, which will get them feeling better about your company and more happy to help.  These users who are interacting with each other can then hep each other use the app, which cuts down considerably on your customer support burden.

Users often come up with solutions using your app that you wouldn’t think of yourself, and a good community enables them to share these solutions with you and each other.  This is definitely something you want to take advantage of, as sometimes these solutions are good enough to be incorporated into your app.

Additionally, people will have a richer experience if they have friends online using your app.  Friends always make something better.

 

Users Can Beta-Test

An active and excited community will want to access pre-release copies of your app, which means you can put together a beta-testing team for free.  This is much more cost-effective than paying people or hiring them just to beta-test your app.

Since users are excited and care about your app specifically, they are sure to do a thorough job and find any bugs liable to come up during normal use.  Instead of just trying to ‘get through it,’ users from the community will use your app because they enjoy it, and will find a lot more bugs and flaws.

 

The Community Will Promote Your App

This one is simple.  Since your app has proven to be a great part of their life (providing them with a whole ecosystem around the solution they needed), community members are sure to evangelize your app to others when they need a solution to the same problem.  The better your community is, the more evangelizing there will be.

 

Case Study:  Starbucks

Take Starbucks – app developers are always so frustrated people won’t buy an app because ‘one cup of Starbucks coffee costs more then an app.’  But when you buy Starbucks, you aren’t buying just the coffee; you’re buying the entire experience of a starbucks coffee shop.

The coffee is worth the money to Starbucks customers because the coffee comes with a peaceful environment, music, and calm – this experience everyone gets when they go to Starbucks is the brand.

Starbucks’ brand continues online, with free pick of the week songs and apps, and a helpful online community (and app) with many cool things to check out.  Being involved in this community gets you an impressive amount of free coffee as well, which makes participating in the Starbucks experience cheaper.

Your brand needs to create this community involvement, because everything is an experience for the person on the other end of the internet.  The experience of your app and brand is something that should keep people coming back (because it’s rewarding, not because it’s frustrating).

Potential and realized consumers should be able to visit your social media and get more then just product information; they should be able to get real value out of it.

 

 

Read More:  Part 2 and Part 3