Simply put; communities exists so that people can share unique experiences or to solve common problems. However in today’s social world there a lot of faster and more convenient ways of getting an answer to your question…..right? Why would anyone take the extra step to join a community? How does an online community fit in with the goals of the business?
From a consumer point of view communities allow me to find answers or post questions about specific issues I am having with a product and they also allow me to share my experiences or resolutions to those issues. It gives me the opportunity to discover best practices that will allow me to get maximum value from a product and collaborate with other customers. Hopefully, if done right, I can give feedback that will be shared with engineering teams and shape new product enhancements.
Communities sound great, right! So where do most companies go wrong? I think it starts with the strategy. A lot of companies think the community should just be a marketing strategy and the reality is the community should be thought of high-level strategy supporting the business wide goals. However, the community doesn’t exist to serve business. The first goal of the community should be to serve the people in it. Your community employees should be building relationships with their members and bring customer insights back to the business. Your community will build loyalty not by driving sales, but rather by helping members meet their needs. Even if you show the value of how your members are:
- Increasing their product knowledge
- Getting access to information on different ways to use products or services
- Learning best practices from other members
- Engaging in product roadmap discussions
- Advocating on your behalf outside the community
How do you quantify how community influences the company bottom line? How can we show that community is more than a place to get your support issues resolved? Some times that is hard right? I mean how can you calculate product and service innovation that comes by being closer to your customers. Understanding your customers’ needs and problems more clearly can make a huge difference in your business. Of course there are the traditional metrics every community has:
- Page views
- Click-through, etc.
However, we all know these things can be misrepresented if not measured correctly. But what about other metrics we tend to forget:
- Measuring traffic along with sales cycle
- Do community customers tend to buy more/upgrade
- How many new customers do you attract
- Reduce support cost
- Ramp up new employees/sales team by giving them access to expertise of peers
- Reacting quicker to crisis and responding effectively
All of these can have enormous benefits to companies, but because there isn’t a hard number attached they are often dis-missed.
What are your thoughts? Do you see the value of community in your job? Does your manager/executive team? If not, what are some of the reasons?