AT&T’s online community for small businesses stands to benefit both customer and provider

October 7, 2014
4 min read

AT&T launched its online community, Business Circle, to facilitate connections between its small business customers, creating a space where they could meet each other, share stories, glean advice, and find tools to build their businesses. The platform hosts numerous small business stories, articles, workshops, and online events. By encouraging its customers to participate, and then sharing small business success stories, Business Circle not only provides customer case studies for AT&T, but also offers support and publicity opportunities for its business customers. AT&T has used customer communication channels, and in some cases acquisition efforts, to promote Business Circle and encourage participation amongst its small business customers.

Business Circle has become a standard piece of AT&T’s email communications with small business customers. When communicating through email, AT&T typically includes a footer reminding customers of Business Circle, which it describes as “stories and tips from real entrepreneurs to help grow your business.” Additionally, AT&T invited individuals to “Discuss the Ins & Outs of Running a Business. Join our Biz Community!” in paid search ads. Both the email footers, and paid search ads drive traffic directly to the Business Circle page.

In addition to promoting the community itself, sometimes AT&T has featured specific events or workshops hosted via Business Circle to encourage participation. In addition to workshops, live Q&A opportunities with experts, and business profiles, Business Circle features articles on wide-ranging topics such as: staying connected during business travel, how to find and follow your career passion, mobile marketing, social media tips, and technological solutions to help boost productivity. Recently, TV host, digital lifestyle expert and entrepreneur Mario Armstrong hosted a series of workshops, which AT&T featured in mobile ads. Plus, AT&T featured the event in emails to customers, and on social media sites.

Business Circle doesn’t just offer businesses a community for learning from each other, but also includes the possibility of free publicity for participants. AT&T invites its small business customers to share their success stories for the chance to be featured on the Business Circle page, as well as in marketing efforts. For example, in the spring, AT&T chose Tastemade, a global community of food lovers, as its featured business, and posted a video profile of the company on YouTube. In August, AT&T promoted Tastemade’s story in an online profile on the Business Circle page and in customer emails. In a September catalog mailer, AT&T included a quote from Tastemade’s founder Joe Perez to highlight how technology helped the company provide a service to tastemakers.

Similarly, AT&T recently featured CheekyChicago, a digital hub for women in the Chicago area. The small business success story was also promoted on AT&T’s small business Facebook page and Twitter feeds, as well as in an online profile on the Business Circle page. Not only has this helped the business get its name out, but it has also provided AT&T with its own marketing opportunities, such as a co-sponsored event with CheekyChicago at AT&T’s flagship store on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

While AT&T’s Business Circle is relatively young, having launched in April of this year, the provider has made consistent efforts to promote it, particularly to its customers and social media followers. Posts about Business Circle comprise most of the content on AT&T’s small business page, which has nearly 73,000 followers, and are also central to AT&T’s small business Twitter page, which has 49,000 followers. By fostering a community that exists primarily to inform, rather than to sell to, existing customers, AT&T adds value for its business clients, ultimately giving them a chance to get something more than service from their telecommunications provider. It also gives AT&T an opportunity to partner with featured businesses to reach new audiences and incorporate the stories into its own marketing strategies.

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Emily is Mintel Comperemedia’s Telecommunications Thought Leader, specializing in competitive trends across wireless, TV, Internet and home security industries.

Emily Groch
Emily Groch

Emily Groch is Mintel Comperemedia’s Director of Insights, Telecommunications, providing omni-channel marketing analysis and competitive insights to telecom providers.

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