Activity Alone Isn’t Enough To Justify An Online Community

Several organisations let go of multiple community staff members (and friends) in the past three weeks.

Each organisation had previously claimed the community was successful and very important to them. So, what gives?

Two things. First, just because your boss or CEO says they believe in the importance of community, doesn’t mean they do. At least not enough. Community activity is often several layers removed from clear value.

It’s no surprise the most thriving categories of branded communities are those closest to clear value (customer service, employee knowledge sharing, and emotional support).

Second there is a difference between a positive ROI and a positive enough ROI. A positive ROI is >0%. But a positive ROI alone isn’t enough when the budget axe falls. You need an ROI that trumps other departments (HR, sales, customer loyalty etc..) or the axe falls upon you.

Community staff are let go because the community isn’t generating value or the value isn’t believed.

Your biggest priority today is to identify and spend time with each stakeholder to identify what they wish to see from the community. What would make your boss’ boss job easier or make her look good? Stay close and communicate with stakeholders every week. Mapping out stakeholder objectives is critical (and will never be on your job description). This process builds stronger, useful, relationships too.

Second, influence the community behavior towards those objectives. Lots of activity and lots of members isn’t enough to justify value anymore. You need to influence the community towards specific behaviors that matter. Directly connect what stakeholders want (innovative ideas, greater retention, self-identifying leads) to behavior members need to perform.

So begin today mapping out stakeholder objectives and directly connect them to member behavior. Make sure stakeholders also make this connection.

Getting internal buy-in isn’t your boss saying the community is doing well. It’s you getting more resources and surviving budget cuts. Harsh, but true.

Comments

  1. Sarah Hawk says:

    I’m interested in this – especially for CoP’s.

    Those of you that don’t manage internal or support communities, what is the direct value proposition of your community to the wider organisation?

  2. Richard Millington says:

    Outside of customer service, employer communities, and emotional support…the links are often pretty tenuous here. Often they are driven by correlation rather than any real study that has been conducted.

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