You’re well aware that your community can help you engage more deeply and widely with your customers, and reap the benefits of that engagement. A great community can make the all the difference between being a world-class company that dominates its niche, and being an also-ran.

It’s true not every community rocket-fuels the business. Maybe it takes too long to engage your audience, or maybe it attracts a lot of talk but little that converts into a hard return.

If your community doesn’t – yet – deliver world-class value, don’t despair. You are not alone, and there are a lot of simple steps that can help you on your way.

Take a good look at yourself

Some organisations do build successful, profitable communities without pain – but they’re in the minority. Others start off, then find the journey longer than they thought. Their communities may look fine – yet they never quite attract the enthusiasm nor deliver the results that were hoped for.

Are you one of these?

Even if your Telligent community is doing pretty well, chances are there are some areas you could improve on. If you haven’t given it a health-check recently, looking both at the technical performance and the business planning behind it, you may be missing some tricks.

Why isn’t your community flourishing?

Of course there may be technical issues. The content may have a load of broken links, 404 errors. You may be running an old version of the platform, or you may not have the integrations you need to make it intuitive for users. If your customer community doesn’t link well with your website, you’re working with one hand tied behind your back. And sorting this out may be a low priority on your IT team’s roadmap.

But it is just as likely that business reasons are the cause. A few questions

  1. Does your community fit into the overall strategy of your business? Does everyone who needs to know about the community, and its place in that strategy? If your colleagues don’t understand what you’re doing, they won’t help you do it
  2. Has your business changed significantly since the community was planned? A restructure, changes in key personnel, new priorities – they can all leave your community strategy looking like a beached whale.
  3. Does every the customer-facing part of the business understand how the community can help them reach their targets? If not, even the most active community will never be vital to them.
  4. What about the governance – the way the community is run, managed, reported on? Is it clear, understood, fit for purpose? The community needs to be core to your business, not an optional extra.
  5. Have you got the budget and resource you need? If not, it may be because of problems identified in question 1.
  6. Can you market the community effectively to attract and retain your potential audience?
  7. Can you measure how effective the community is in helping the business meet its targets? Identifying the right metrics, benchmarking and reviewing is an endless job.

If you’ve answered “no” or “don’t know” to any of these, then here are some steps to could help you:

  1. Run a sentiment survey. How do your audience feel? What would they like your community to do for them? What are their frustrations? The results will provide great insight – and will give you a benchmark for showing that changes you make have improved things.
  2. Revisit the strategy, values, vision and mission of your organization and check all the ways your community helps deliver them.
  3. Talk to the boss. Does she understand how importance your community is? Is she prepared to support it publicly? Your chances of success will be dynamized by a few deft interventions from the top.
  4. Draw up a value map. How does (or could) the community benefit its members? The main teams in your organization? How does it contribute to achieving the overall business goals? Clear answers will help you develop a community that’s understood and supported by everyone.
  5. People will only come if your community offers something they want and that they can’t get anywhere else. So brainstorm your USP, and make sure that it’s evident on every page.
  6. Build a team of champions, advocates, early adopters. Get them excited, then make sure everyone else gets to know all about it.
  7. Collect case studies of how your community has helped customers. And the same time, collect case studies of how it has helped your colleagues.
  8. Anyone who uses a community needs to feel safe, so review your table of risks and mitigations. Think about the folks who don’t engage. Then publicize any changes you make – so the doubters know that their concerns have been addressed.
  9. Stop measuring sheer volume of activity on the community, and start measuring the ways in which it provides value to the members and to the business.
  10. Promote, promote, promote. Use SEO, social media, newsletters, email, word-of-mouth – whatever. Use community-generated content and community voices. People need to know that they won’t be wasting their time by joining – and the best way to find that out is to see the good stuff that’s posted there.
Anonymous
  • "Talk to the boss. Does she understand how important your community is? Is she prepared to support it publicly?" < this one is incredibly important. Getting executive leadership to understand and publicly back the community is contingent upon communicating the value of community. And it's not just about identifying the success metrics (as you allude to in #2, #7 and #9). It's critical in my experience that your leadership team is aligned with what you think the goals of the community ought to be. If the company's leaders don't perceive  the value you're focusing upon, then you'll have a tough road ahead. Thanks for the thoughtful blog entry Peter!