Community software refers to any software that allows users to interact and share data. It as also known as social software, collaboration software and groupware. It is usually associated with individuals who are not physically located in the same place, but instead work together online.

Using community management software,  can enhance the digital environment for your employees, customers or both. Features such as discussion forums can bring together customers and your team in problem-solving situations, direct messaging can speed up productivity in your workforce and having an easily accessible resource hub can help employees quickly gain knowledge that would otherwise be difficult to access.

Learn Your Average Customers Behavior

When you open up different types of communities, such as discussion forums, to your customers, you get an insight into the way they think. Given a place to voice opinion, ask for help and engage with other potential customers, an organic community will naturally unfold. With your customers interacting in front of you, problems can be resolved openly, insights can be gained and the public will be able to see your business acting as an open, inclusive organization, giving you a favorable reputation.

The omnipresence of social media has forever changed the way we interact—with each other and with the world. For better and for worse, online communities are overflowing with activity from people of all ages. Brands are following the lead of major social networks, creating and moderating community platforms for their customers, in addition to the interactions on social profiles. These communities allow members to find, provide, and discuss information related to the products and services at hand, with access from mobile devices or personal computers.

Brands can communicate directly with their most important customers using this technology. This can mean assigning employees as community managers, offering exclusive content to members, and linking directly to support channels on discussion forums. Users can also connect with like-minded people and form genuine bonds from within these digital communities. A custom community platform can elevate your existing website or be deployed separately, and in some cases can integrate directly with your company’s social media pages or users’ social accounts. Whether serving as resources for complex product knowledge or friendly communities where customers can meet and chat on related topics, the tools in this category can add value for users and improve your brand’s reputation and bottom line.

Key Benefits of Online Community Management Software

  • Designing and hosting a community platform where customers and others in your network can interact and contribute
  • Improving product awareness and mastery through active discussion and privileged content
  • Forming a direct line of communication between company administrators and loyal users of your product or service
  • Collecting valuable data by observing community platform interactions, fostering conversations on specific topics, or sending polls and other questionnaires to community members

What You Should Know About Online Community Management Software

Community engagement is a virtue among the world’s most successful companies. Thanks to modern social tools, you can foster an online meeting place that matches your aesthetic, voice, and values and turn it into a successful community in its own right. Everyone from your core members to brand-new customers can unite with help from these software platforms, allowing for around-the-clock engagement and access to information.

Your in-house team can assume roles as online community managers and moderators, with the marketing or social media team contributing content and interacting where needed. Additionally, your customers themselves can become unofficial brand ambassadors by answering product questions and sharing personal experiences within your hosted communities. Over time, users can collectively contribute to a vibrant, self-sustaining social hub, with simultaneous discussion threads and a strong sense of community.

Picking up where social media platforms leave off, your company can create a beloved customer community that serves as an interactive extension of your brand. By registering as community members, users can solve problems, share solutions, and become friends, regardless of where they are in the world. In the short term, online community engagement can improve the customer experience with your products and reduce the demand for in-house support staff. Over the long term, these communities can become indispensable features of your brand, with users feeling more connected with your product and each other than ever before.

Who Uses Online Community Management Software?

A thriving community platform can benefit your business from all angles, from the sales pipeline to product development. With that said, below are a few specific departments most likely to use this technology firsthand and be involved with your community management strategy.

Community managers — This may seem self-explanatory. The role of community manager is becoming more common and vital to business strategy in tandem with online customer communities. These roles may involve a degree of social media management, but they can extend to other avenues such as in-person group facilitation and direct oversight of exclusive online communities. Community managers are hired for their communication and moderation skills, as well as their ability to keep a company’s best interests in mind while providing a platform to users.

Once your brand’s unique social hub is up and running, designated community managers can ensure they remain on topic and provide the most useful information while welcoming a steady stream of new users. Depending on the product and the community strategy, community managers may be responsible for the initial creation of communities, or they will work alongside members of the product and development team to get things up and running.

Customer support — Your customer support team is the first point of contact for resolving most customer issues. If you open up an online space for your users, it is likely to become a hotbed for product feedback and conflict resolution. Your support team should be administrators of these communities at the very least, able to intervene with comments or direct messages to members when complaints or negative experiences arise. Community managers and moderators can filter discussions and send notifications to the support staff when they observe relevant discussions. In other situations, customer support members may prefer to be active and engaged members of the community, chiming in as an official voice of the company within certain threads or groups. Online communities can not only help resolve issues in a timely manner, but they can generate in-house awareness of customer issues and general feedback that otherwise may have flown under the radar.

Marketing — Social media specialists are a modern breed of marketers that came about in the last decade or so. If you have a designated social media team, their expertise surrounding social channels can make them natural contributors or moderators of your unique social community. Even without a designated social team, your marketing department could benefit from getting involved with your community platform. Active online communities are an ideal location to measure a brand’s reputation among users and transmit brand messaging to the most valued customers. Your marketing team can choose to leverage these platforms for a number of reasons, from testing out different ad strategies to shaping campaigns based on specific conversations or feedback. By closely following these discussions (and in some cases, directing the conversation), marketing experts can keep their fingers on the pulse of an organization and understand the target audience inside and out.

Online Community Management Software Features

The products in this category offer diverse sets of tools for creating and moderating online forums and other social communities. Below are some of the common features you will encounter in these solutions and descriptions of their functionality.

Discussion forums — Another way to think of online communities is to picture them as large rooms where your customers can discuss your brand. Organized online forums are the centerpiece of online community management. With forum software, you can create a structured system for online conversation. If your customers are interested in joining the community, they can register new accounts to receive access to forums and post queries or comments. Conversations on these forums can be organized by subject matter, and members can sort themselves into different groups that focus on specific topics.

A moderated forum can quickly become a wealth of information with a personalized touch. As customers help one another with troubleshooting or discuss different use cases and personal experiences, conversation threads can become walkthroughs and guides of their own. This content can not only be useful for members but can provide invaluable data to community managers and companies as a whole. A hosted forum can provide businesses with an exclusive form of market research as they observe their real customers talk about the product, the industry, and their own relationships with the company.

Access to content — When discussing your product or service in the discussion forums, your customers may potentially resolve issues or improve their experience based on the input of others. With a number of products in this category, you can go the extra mile with members-only content repositories. You can offer exclusive guides, tutorials, blogs, podcasts, and videos to community members, sending them alerts when new content is available. This community can also be the ideal audience for the initial run of company news and product updates. Because of the lengths that users go through to register and contribute to an online community, they may be the most enthusiastic audience for new content or other updates.

Collecting feedback — You can leverage your brand’s community to solicit feedback on marketing campaigns, new features, or the product in general. Community managers or forum administrators can ask questions to specific forum groups or the community as a whole and quickly receive trustworthy input from your base. Depending on the product, you may be able to collect reviews and ratings of products that can be made visible on product pages or e-commerce sites.

Products in this category may also offer features of or integrate with audience response software or survey software and allow you to distribute polls or other questionnaires to select groups or the community as a whole. In this way, your online community can be a reliable market research panel and offer a diverse set of opinions that can benefit your organization. Any data that is collected through these platforms can be immediately communicated to the most relevant people in your organization or uploaded into an analytics software platform or other storage platform.

User-generated content — One of the many byproducts of social media is the resharing of customer posts as marketing materials. This process, known as user-generated content (UGC), is a way for brands to showcase their products during organic use cases, with the added value of relatability thanks to the personal touches of users. Online community management applications may offer features of or integrate with user-generated content software. These features may allow admins to group member media uploads or social mentions by keywords, hashtags, location, or other details and request permission from the respective members to reshare as UGC. Depending on your product or audience, your online communities may be swarming with quality content thanks to the unique contributions of your members.

Gamification — It never hurts to reward your users. Gamification features of certain tools in this category allow you to enhance forums with badges, points, or other bonuses for active discussion and popular responses. As users receive more accolades, you can choose to offer them increased permissions or privileges within the forums. Certain products may allow you to create contests and integrate them into your online discussion forums. These features can be an effective way to engage your audience and build excitement for your brand while inspiring a slew of new content on your forums.

While in-person community management is vital and can be accomplished with town halls, socials, in-building signage, and planned activities, the ability to also use digital methods to engage and manage your community can be both scalable and measurable. In addition, these online methods can be complementary to driving residents to in-person activities and events.

Multifamily property social media community management should include utilizing popular platforms (primarily Facebook & Instagram) to provide residents with general building updates, maintenance schedules, photos, events, and more as a useful mode of communication for residents. You may want to consider a private Facebook group as it is important to remember that prospective residents will also see this content, and posts about community rules and maintenance updates may not be appropriate for these audiences.

If you have a larger multifamily property, you may find a need for specialized community management software as well. These platforms are specifically focused on organizing tasks, events, renewals, maintenance tickets, and more for community management. The software often includes social media management, an email campaign platform, in-depth analytics, online member portals, and tools to create community engagement.