building user communities

While both are necessary for business growth, most companies focus on paid advertising instead of building communities within their apps.

Why not leverage both tools together? In this piece, we’ll explore how you can turn users attracted by your ad campaigns into loyal users who can deliver lasting results for your app. 

Paid advertising has been a go-to solution for marketers to capture and target their intended customers. According to Hubpsot, Google ad spending can go between US$9,000 to US$10,000 per month — and that’s only the median spending. 

But with the staggering cost, why do businesses still prefer paid advertising? 

For one, online ads such as paid-per-click ads get you immediate visibility against your competitors. Second, paid advertising also enables companies to control their spending based on the types of ads and how much visibility they want vis-a-vis the costs. 

All costs, all promises?

However, if you want quality ad space, of course, you have to pay more. With over 3.5 billion searches per day just on Google alone, competing and capturing the attention of your intended customers can be a challenge. 

Add that users often reject or ignore online advertising as it affects their overall online experience. Aside from skipping ads, users also use ad blockers, which caused an estimated US$2.12 billion loss for businesses in 2020. That’s quite a lot of money down the drain. 

Staying on top of users’ minds

But let’s say you managed to get the right audience and bring them to use your product. How do you then engage and retain your users to support your brand? How do you make sure that your well-spent ad money does not go to waste after all? 

Also Read: The Unicroach approach: 10 tips on community building

Let’s take a look at mobile applications, for example. 

While marketers can pool thousands of dollars to bring their product to top search results and promote it on app stores, they still need to compete with tons of applications on both Google and Apple app markets. As of June 2020, there are about 2.96 million apps published in the Google Play Store, while there are nearly 4.4 million apps available in the Apple App Store, according to Statista.

But then, aside from the competition, apps still have to make sure that those who downloaded their products will continue using them. The sad truth is, only 32 per cent of users will return to an app 11 times or more after downloading it, while 25 per cent of the users abandon an app after one use.

Using online advertising is indeed beneficial in that it brings attention to your product to eventually convert, engage, and retain users. However, with the high costs and unpredictability of results, businesses and developers should learn to take advantage of their existing users and their communities to ensure their apps’ success.

Building communities is the best marketing strategy

More than the catchy copies and stunning visuals, what makes users stick to a brand or an app is the experience they get from patronising it. People today crave authentic experiences, they believe in companies that support their causes, and they rally behind brands that foster human connections in a world where everything seems disconnected. 

That’s why social media applications remain at the top of the app world hierarchy. In 2020, the short-form video platform TikTok was the most downloaded app worldwide. Among the top 10 top app downloads, seven are social media applications.

It’s no surprise that social media applications are the most downloaded, especially last year. With social distancing measures in place due to COVID-19, a lot of people turned to their social apps to stay connected with their community. 

So, how can you translate this into your app?

Bringing the in-app community together

Apps should then start taking advantage of their customers and the in-app communities they build and incorporate them into their marketing strategies. It is possible that apps already have marketing strategies that include spending on advertising. However, an in-app community could offer the missing link between acquisition and retention. 

Community building can help fill the gap between one-time use and long-term adoption. Think of your current in-app community as your brand ambassadors, bringing in more people to use your app and incentivising them to stay because of the meaningful relationships they’ve built with other users. According to Facebook, 2.7 more users are more likely to stay in-app for a sense of community and belonging. It only shows that in-app communities play a vital role in retaining app users. 

In a survey conducted by the influencer marketing platform Aspire IQ, 92.3 per cent of brand respondents said that the community has positively impacted their brand.

In the same survey, the company also found that 81 per cent of the user respondents agreed that others could affect their brand preference. To them, friends influence them the most, followed by influencers, employees, and experts.

That is why it is crucial to engage your users and their community actively. “Customers [also] provide significant impact beyond purchases, with word-of-mouth referrals to their networks,” the survey revealed. 

Making the experience more social

Communities can take shape offline and online. As more customers want to engage with their favourite brands and influence their community, it is necessary to create a meaningful social experience in your application. 

In-app communities allow you to forge strong connections by bringing users into one place,  letting them interact, and influence others. A social feature like chat and groups can help foster communities in your app, as it creates an outlet for users to talk about the things they love.

And by finding people who value the same things as them, they will feel a sense of belongingness and acceptance among their online peers. Once they feel like they created their virtual community, they will find themselves coming back to your app to connect and share their thoughts among their group.

Mobile performance company Applift says that adding an in-app messaging feature can increase app retention by as much as 3.5 times.

Further, social tools such as likes and comments can generate a positive effect on your app. They can be an excellent and real-time measurement for user engagement and bring people who share the same interests together through their interactions on posts featured on profiles and feeds.

Moreover, social media takes the process of mutual acquaintance to a whole new level by allowing the user to find, connect with and share information with a much broader online audience — even those outside of the user’s circle. 

The role of UGC

On the other hand, user-generated content (UGC), such as product reviews, as well as discussion threads in in-app group chats and feeds, can be beneficial for your app, too, as customers view them as more impactful and authentic.

According to Forbes, 97 per cent of online buyers read reviews before they make a purchase. Further, 79 per cent of people say that UGC positively impacts their purchasing decisions.

Also Read: How to continue community building online amid the pandemic

In fact, Stackla reports that 90 per cent of consumers value authenticity in deciding which brands to support. Most especially to younger consumers — the Millennials and GenZs — they look for authentic and community-driven brands.

So aside from product quality and customer service, positive ratings and reviews are among the top three characteristics that younger consumers look for in a brand for them to support it.  

Relying on your loyal customer base

Having a solid community believing in your brand or app can organically help you bring your company to new heights. It can also create a loyal customer base that can get more people to utilise your product.

And aside from bringing in more users, a positive app experience and brand association can increase app retention by bringing in returning users who simply cannot resist using your app. 

Beauty brand Glossier is an excellent example of a brand succeeding through brand loyalty. According to the company, they believe that 90 per cent of its revenue is due to repeat customers who regularly engage with them.

That is because brands stand a chance to make 60 to 70 per cent profits with returning customers. On the other hand, the probability of making a sale with a new customer is only 5-20 per cent.

It’s what inside that counts

Communications firm Edelman found that fewer people trust advertising, with three out of four saying that they avoid it altogether. With that, we see that paid ads are often ignored, despite the constant visibility and strategic online placements. 

The most important thing is creating authentic, communal relationships among your users— and your app can definitely make these experiences happen. Provide them with the space to reach out to people who value the same things as them. Give them the platform to influence their peers. And ultimately, create social experiences for your users to ensure app engagement and retention.  

People say it’s what’s outside that lures us in — just as how paid advertising can attract users. However, always remember that what makes us stay is often what’s inside.

While targeting the users via paid advertising can be an excellent step to bring in customers to use your application, it’s not always that the consumers will take a bite. What ultimately matters is the user experience you provide and the connections they build through social interactions that happened in your application.

Editor’s note: e27 aims to foster thought leadership by publishing contributions from the community. Become a thought leader in the community and share your opinions or ideas and earn a byline by submitting a post.

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Image credit: Kylie Lugo on Unsplash

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