Month: November 2016
In a support community, the community manager shouldn’t be dealing with spam or regurgitating information from one place (published product information) to members of the community.
Cheaper moderators and machines can do that.
A community manager should participate if they can only add remarkable value. That might include:
- Taking the time to truly understand the problem. This means asking additional questions, clarifying the problem, getting to the core problem and ensuring your solution will uncover it.
- Ensuring the poster feels they are treated as an individual. This means empathizing with them, being specific to their situation, and responding personally to the information they have shared and not situations ‘like this’ in general.
- Closing the loop. Ensuring that the person with the problem had their problem resolved. That means checking in that the solution worked and there aren’t any additional problems. It means ensuring that any promises made are kept.
- Escalating the issues that matter. Knowing how to take the information being shared and identify trends or escalate problems to the right people to get a resolution.
If you’re not going to take the time or effort to do
any all of the above, it’s best to let the moderators and machines do the work instead.
A tale of two stories from clients in the past few months.
One had achieved organization-wide internal support. The other hadn’t.
The client that didn’t gain support had reached out to key members of the organization, set-up numerous meetings, and put forward a strong case showing a clear business impact. At best, they got acquiescence on a project.
The key stakeholders might not stand in their way, but they weren’t rallying to the cause neither.
The organization that did get the support they wanted began 6 months earlier.
They had their staff members ask if they could attend meetings of other teams. They invited others to their meetings. They had regular lunches or post-work drinks with them. They systematically offered help to other departments without any expectation later on.
They took the time to really understand the unique goals, motivations, and (most importantly) the constraints of each group.
It turns out when someone feels you have taken the time to really listen and understand them, they are far more willing to help you (later).
This also lets you be smart about who you ask for support from, when you ask for support (not during major project deadlines!), and how you ask for support.
The great irony in many discussions about getting internal support is we know all of this. We know better than most the value of building positive relationships to getting things done. Yet still, over and over again, we wait until we need something important (often on a short deadline) before trying to build a relationship.
Believe me, people are very good at sussing out people who are only building relationships when they want something. It doesn’t feel good.
iTunes crashed any time I tried to download a purchased song.
I filed a support ticket and contacted Apple. The account rep sent me a link to their community with a solution from a member. It reads like this:
Open iTunes > click parental controls > disable access to the iTunes store (but enabling access to iTunes U).
Restart iTunes > click parental controls > enable access to the iTunes store.
Restart iTunes > click downloads > and download songs.
Not exactly a Jobsian solution is it?
Communities can help identify problems the organization isn’t aware of and develop solutions that might be tricky for the organization to suggest officially.
The trick is providing the customer support team with the permission to use the solutions developed by users to help other users.
Far too many organizations refuse to do this. They ignore the immediate solution in favour of a quicker response…perhaps an update in a future software patch.
Few people care about official solutions, they just want a solution. A workaround today is better than an official update next month.
The biggest wins in community management are not ‘sparks of genius’ moments you will have in the shower. The biggest wins come from following and refining a process.
The better the process, the bigger the win.
Our goal in the Strategic Community Management program is to teach you that process.
This process matters. This process stops you getting sucked into day to day minutia which keeps you very busy, but doesn’t move the needle.
A Great Example Of A Big Win In Community Management
One of my favourite examples of a big win is from Riot Games (also students on our course). Riot Games (like everyone in the video-gaming sector) faced a difficult harassment problem.
Most organizations respond to these problems by hiring more moderators and using learning management tools to identify and remove posts incrementally faster. This is classic routine thinking behavior. Riot Games did something completely different.
Riot Games stopped trying to remove content a few seconds faster and instead changed the psychology of harassment among members. In short, they stopped members wanting to harass each other.
The results were remarkable:
“[…] when abuse reports arrived within 5–10 minutes of an offence, the reform rate climbed to 92%. Since that system was switched on, Lin says, verbal toxicity among so-called ranked games, which are the most competitive — and most vitriolic — dropped by 40%. Globally, he says, the occurrence of hate speech, sexism, racism, death threats and other types of extreme abuse is down to 2% of all games”.
The answer itself (sending a timely reminder in the right colour within moments of the negative post) isn’t revolutionary. Any of us could implement that idea within a few weeks in our community.
The magic is zeroing in on that one specific intervention among the thousands you could test to solve the problem.
To zero in like this you need a process that combines data and psychology. Very few people do this today, yet it’s your best source of your biggest wins.
In almost every single goal you have for your community right now (getting more people to join, participate, share knowledge, answer questions, take action etc…) there are big wins like this waiting to be uncovered.
If you follow the right process you can unearth these big wins.
It’s far more exhilarating to work towards big wins that move the needle than the next piece of content in your calendar.
Thus far 53 people from around the world have joined us on our Strategic Community Management course to learn how to do that. They want to ensure they are spending their days working towards a big win that matters.
I hope you will join them and us on the Strategic Community Management course.
My team and I would love to work with you.
It took you about two seconds to notice every headline and description has been chopped off.
The community team are so used to the problem they barely notice it anymore. They’re working on going mobile, engaging members, and doing everything else.
Most regular members might be used to it too. They’re going to visit the community out of habit.
It’s the newcomers you need to watch out for. It might be worth spending a few minutes with a few potential newcomers to ask what they don’t like about the site. What do they notice that you haven’t noticed in a while?
The answers but might be very obvious and easily fixable.
This drives me crazy.
The very top section of your community is the first thing every member sees every time they visit your community. This is the most valuable real-estate your community has to offer.
You need to fill this section with the most valuable action that members can take right now.
For most communities, this is a search box. Members begin typing a question and find the solution (or ask a question).
For others, it might be the latest discussions. Or it might be a prompt to ask a question or answer unanswered questions. Or it might be featuring a member. Or you might have the latest upcoming event or recent community creation.
Whatever you fill this with, make sure it’s not a static, useless, graphic that has no impact upon members.
Many communities (like this one) are a valuable information and support. They can change the lives of their members and support them in moments of critical need. Make sure you are tilting the scales entirely on helping as many of your members get the support they need as quickly as possible.
Don’t waste your best space.
p.s. If your community covers a sensitive topic, feature discussions on sensitive topics at the top to ensure every newcomer knows this is the place where they can ask sensitive questions.
A friend spotted this in the changing rooms at Gap.
This is a classic example of a brand not thinking strategically about its community efforts.
Gap sell products which aren’t interesting for most customers to talk about (with some notable exceptions), but they know they should be doing something with their customers during or after the purchase.
Back in the old days, this would have been a coupon on their next purchase. Then it became a link to join the mailing list. Then a link to join a branded online community. After that, it was to ‘like’ a page on Facebook. Now it’s a link to use a hashtag and to follow the brand on Twitter.
Once someone is trying on clothes or has purchased a product, what is the most valuable action the brand can take next? What is the most direct route to achieving that outcome?
1) Repeat purchase. Include a limited-time offer to buy something else. Have people sign up to a mailing list to claim a special offer. Encourage people to take photos of the link to get the offer.
2) Refer a friend. The customer can refer a friend. This can be with a coupon they can share or by talking about Gap to their friends. In this case, add a discount code they can claim and share (for online purchases). Add the code (or hashtag) to the mirror in the changing room. Every image now includes the discount code by default. This is so simple to do and will encourage people to share more photos with their friends.
3) Give honest feedback. Make this simple. Ask customers to share one-sentence feedback on Twitter or Facebook. Invite those that do to join a customer panel to collaborate on feedback and speak on behalf of customers.
4) Conversion. Encourage people trying on the products to buy them. I’d create an app ‘buy or not buy’ which lets people take photos of their clothes while trying them on with a snap-poll feature which asks friends whether they should ‘buy or not buy’.
Notice that all of these involve some user to user, member to member, interaction but we would not refer to any of them as a community alone. This is because a traditional community just isn’t suited to most companies. But elements of the community can be used in many different ways to drive positive outcomes. This is a little more nuanced than community is the future of every business, but probably far closer to reality.
Spend a few minutes to read this article.
A lot of sites are about matchmaking. A buyer/seller/recruiter/expert/someone wanting to get noticed is looking for the right partner.
Most suffer from the same fatal flaw. Too many of one group are flooding too few of the other group with too many (poor quality) messages. This ruins the experience for everyone (Hello LinkedIn).
The ideas aren’t revolutionary, but are worth refreshing:
1) Limit the number of messages one group can send. This can be done either by absolute numbers (e.g. 50 messages), charging per message, setting a limited number without a response, or limiting messages within a given time period (e.g. 24 hours).
2) Filter messages that are received by one group. Create a filter that removes messages from people with low ratings, where the message has limited content, or where it gets caught in a spam filter.
3) Set a form that must be completed. If most messages are low quality, change the template of the message. Ensure that a user has to complete certain details, provide more information, add links etc…
4) Allow only the minority (in demand) group to send messages. This removes the problem entirely and forces the majority group to optimize their profile as best possible to be noticed.
5) Limit the number of each group who can join. Only allow 1 side of each group to sign up in the first place. Have a waiting list. Until there is a match, don’t allow the user to join.
6) Let users signal when they want to be reached. I receive 30+ emails and LinkedIn messages per week from people offering SEO help. There are times when we will hire consultants to help our clients on their SEO. Sadly most messages are pro-forma, at the wrong time, and (frankly) just terribly written.
You can probably come up with 20 more ideas. The key here is to think about the problem from the perspective of game-theory (or collective action theory).
Try some member completion exercises.
Reach out to 10 members of your community.
Ask them about challenges they have faced in the last week.
Then ask how they are trying to solve them now.
- Do they ask a friend? (Who/Why?)
- Do they search Google? (What terms do they use? What did they find?)
- Do they ask in the community? (What exactly does their journey look like?)
Make sure the people they ask know about your community and the information it provides. In a smaller B2B community, a large amount of valuable traffic can be driven by very few people. Encourage these people to answer the question in your community. Find out why these people were approached and used similar reputation signals for top members in your community too.
Go to the links that show up in Google and see if the authors can link to your community discussion that also helps answer the question. Consider a webinar or interview with these authors too that they can link to from that page. Use the exact same terms in your online community to discuss and resolve the problem.
Look at the journey members follow in the community. How can you help people find the solution faster? Could you create a separate page to resolve the problem? What percentage of them find the answer first time? Could this be included in a ‘common questions’ or a ‘featured answer’? How can you shave off a few minutes (or even seconds) in this process?
You might be amazed just how effective this simple process can be.
Now repeat the process again with a different group of members.
The No Child Left Behind Act essentially punished failure.
Data was collected from every school, universal standards were established, schools that didn’t meet the standards had to follow a step by step plan to get back on track. Failure to follow the plan caused an escalating scale of punishments until control of the school was passed on to someone else.
Race to the Top essentially rewarded success.
States competed to win prize money in multiple areas based upon a points ranking system. Those that gained the biggest improvement were granted additional funding. The goal was to let the best and most innovative ideas rise naturally.
This isn’t a political post.
Every day you set incentives for your members. You can reward success or punish failure. Punishing (or motivating) those that fail is inclusive but can also be demotivating. Rewarding success can drive innovation but can kill collaboration. Those who don’t feel they can win often (and did) decide not to participate at all.
I am incredibly proud, excited (and slightly anxious) today to launch our Strategic Community Management resource.
This resource includes 40k+ words of advice, case studies, and templates to help you build and (most importantly) execute your community strategy.
Our goal is to help everyone working on any type of community to make sure they’re spending their time, money, and energy on the tasks which will move the needle.
Most of the routine tasks we do today don’t do that. We each have enough data points to know that. This resource will challenge many of your assumptions you have about building communities. If you ever wondered about the kind of work we do for clients, read the resource.
My hope (or dream) is that we move community closer to the science it should become. Huge thanks to everyone who helped research this, test the material, and provided data-points for us. And to Salesforce Community Cloud for sponsoring the project.
You can access the resource for free here:
If we can ask one favour, please share the guide if you like it. It took us months of work and thousands of dollars to put together.
p.s. Now you can see what the material looks like, sign up for our Strategic Community Management Program.
Having a newcomer thread on a customer support community doesn’t usually work well. Neither does asking members how they’re doing, what their average day is like, or their plans for the weekend.
That’s because the community is functional. 99% of people just want to resolve their problem in the quickest possible time.
Trying to build a sense of community on a customer support community doesn’t work well (I’d argue these are communities in name only, but smarter people might disagree).
A big challenge today is to honestly recognize the type of community we’re dealing with and adjust our actions to match. More of us manage functional, customer-satisfaction style, communities than we might believe. For many, building a sense of community is less important because people just want the quickest possible answer to a question.
This doesn’t mean you can’t take a small 1% of the audience and build a sense of community around them in the hope they answer questions others are asking. But understand these are two entirely different things which should be undertaken in two entirely different places.
This leads into two natural goals for most of us then;
- How do we ensure everyone that has a problem is either searching or asking for an answer in our community?
- How do we identify the 1% and build a powerful sense of community around them in a different location?
Don’t try to act like a community organizer when the audience wants a plumber to fix their problem. There’s nothing wrong with being a utility, just don’t be confused. Be the best-damned utility you can be.