Online Community Building: How to avoid common mistakes
Successful online community building is a careful and considered process where it’s important to start small, measure and evolve. Too many organisations have a vision of monolithic proportion where they believe they can get thousands of members through the doors on day one who will be there months later.
It’s all too common for mistakes to be made that become costly, both in terms of investment and wasted work hours, that derail the potential and create a member and internal stakeholder apathy toward the community.
Here, we’ll look at some of the things not to do if you want to give your blueprint the best chance of success.
Do Not: Assume everyone gets it
This sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? You’ve already been given the green light to get going so why would you need to ask this question?
Here’s the thing though; for a large number of your organisation, they have never actually been shown what an online community is and what it can do. Often, they’ll assume it’s some form of social media (it isn’t) or a flight of fancy from someone out of their pay grade and disconnect from it.
Too few organisations understand the importance of positioning the online community plan with the entire team. By defining what an online community is, explaining how it will help not only customers or members but the team themselves, and giving some examples of how an online community drives value in real case studies you will generate genuine interest and support from day one.
Take a look at this recent report by The Community Roundtable. It shows how a community can positively impact and add value to your entire organisation.
From the report:
“community programs that fall within the customer service department, for example, provide benefits not only for marketing (91 per cent of the time) and knowledge management (59 per cent of the time) but also for the learning and development function (35 per cent of the time).”
Source: Community Roundtable — State of Community Report 2018
Let people ask as many questions as they want. Take notes on particular concerns and capture challenges they would like to solve. Ensure people leave the room fully understanding what this could be for the organisation, the members, but also for them.
Do Not: Drown in data
We live in an incredible age of data. Tools can show per second feedback on what people are doing in your community and help guide your resources and growth.
There’s a keyword in there: “people”.
Data is terrific at giving us a snapshot of what the masses are doing and that’s important. However, the online community grows and succeeds when this is balanced in capturing the stories of real people doing real things.
When new members are looking to join and current members to stay, how many members you have, or what your average daily posting rate last week was like is less appealing than reading a compelling story that emotionally connects with them.
Likewise, when you’re reporting the success of your community back to the internal stakeholders, being able to pull out incredible user experiences is not only valuable for the community programme but can give other departments, like marketing, real-world stories that no competitor has.
Do Not: Ignore the power of your members
These are the people using your products and services on the shop floor. They can help solve problems, suggest improvement and even help identify opportunities for new products or services for your brand. They are the most powerful focus group you have. However…
Do Not: Make promises that can’t be delivered
It’s tempting to say yes to everyone on everything to make them engage and stick around. This quickly creates an expectation and any attempt to alter this will create a feeling that “the team used to listen and now they don’t care”.
Be fair to them. Ensure they know they feel valued and intrinsic to your brand but be clear that not everything can be done. Members like to be treated fairly and will respond accordingly.
Do Not: Underestimate the value of a community manager
This is not a social media manager. It isn’t someone from Marketing who got pulled in. This is a dedicated and highly respected role that has a very defined skill set. Under-budgeting in this area can easily derail a community project and destroy brand reputation amongst members.
A good community manager understands how to grow a community that lasts and can guide you through the content, moderation, engagement and metric challenges that will come.
When building an online community, what you shouldn’t do is as important as what you should. Helping the internal team understand what a community is, showing the effect it can have for the whole organisation and investing in a community manager will cement the foundations for success.
Likewise, valuing what your members can do and understanding that telling the stories, successes, challenges and experiences of real people can set your community apart from those who drown in data.
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