This is the 3rd post in our Strategic Community Management series.
Around 90% of the strategies I’ve reviewed don’t contain any genuine strategy at all. Most contain a bucket list of tactics to spur more engagement.
Most of the problems come when we convert objectives into strategy. There are a few principles to get right here.
Principle 1: You Need One Strategy Per Objective
Each one of your objectives here needs its own strategy.
You would use a different approach to get your top 200 members to send detailed reports from getting regular members to share their biggest frustration. Each audience has different motivations and will feel differently towards whatever you want them to do.
Principle 2: A Strategy Is Not A Strategic Plan
A strategic plan begins with your goals, and then objectives, and then strategy, and then tactics, and then an action plan and then measurement and improvement.
We can break this down.
- The goals are what you get (e.g. reduced support costs).
- The objectives are what you need people to do to achieve your goals (e.g. get people to ask and answer questions in our community).
- The strategy is the emotion you use to get them to do that (e.g. amplify pride in answering questions others can’t and frustration in finally getting your questions resolved).
- The tactics are how you make people feel that emotion (e.g. give members badges and rewards they can be proud of).
- The action plan is when and how you will do it (e.g. Mark will sketch designs for the badges on Thursday) etc…
A strategy is just the middle part of a strategic plan.
This is important. Most ‘strategies’ don’t actually contain the strategy part. They jump straight from the objectives to the tactics. This leads you to test a collection of tactics without any strategy to guide them. There is huge scope to improve your strategy here.
Principle 3: Strategy is About Emotions (not facts)
Strategy is the persuasion part of your work.
Strategy highlights the emotional levers you’re going to pull to get members to do the things you listed in your objectives. A strategy shouldn’t explain what you’re going to do, but what you want members to feel.
Think about all the levers you can pull to get your best members to share detailed reports with product engineers. For example:
- A sense of power (“I can influence the product!”)
- A sense of frustration (“I can finally fix the problem that’s bothering me!”)
- A sense of jealousy (“other people can contribute to reports, why can’t I?”)
- A sense of feeling respected (“I’m one of a few people who can send reports!”)
There are plenty of emotional levers you have access to, the challenge is finding the right one.
Until you can answer why members will do the behavior you outlined in the objective, you shouldn’t even be thinking about tactics.
Most people decide the tactics first and then crowbar in a strategy around them. It doesn’t work that way.
A great strategy makes all your tactics more effective.
Principle 4: Don’t Guess What Emotions Work, Do The Hard Research
Create two lists. On one list add people that perform the behavior already. On the other list add the people that don’t.
Now interview people on each list in person (or on skype) and ask them why they do or don’t perform the behavior.
Ask how performing that behavior makes them feel.
Most people will say what they think at first (“I think it’s great to share knowledge with the engineers”). That doesn’t help, you need to ask them how it made them feel (“Um, well, it made me feel important…like my opinion mattered”).
Keep notes on the specific words they use to describe how they feel about the behavior today. Also, keep a rough sense of the intensity in which they express the emotion.
Principle 5: Look For The ‘Best Performing Cluster’
Not everyone will pinpoint the same emotion. Some will struggle to express the real emotions (like pride, jealousy, fear). So look out for the emotions which either appear the most often for each group or those which are expressed with the most intensity by members. This helps you prioritize the emotions you will use.
It’s an iterative process, but by this point you should be able to have a clear emotion for each objective. For example:
These are just examples, but you get the idea.
Strategies are often very personal to the specific group. For example, fear of being scooped among subject matter experts. By this point, you should have a clear strategy to achieve each of your objectives.
Principle 6: Telling an authentic story (that’s true!)
Your strategy is essentially an authentic (true) story you’re going tell to members through your tactics.
(This is a lesson I learned from my internship with Seth Godin many years ago).
Those tactics must be authentic. Let’s imagine your strategy is to make members feel an exclusive sense of importance. You won’t succeed just by telling members how important they are. You have to genuinely make them important.
You need to give them things that make them important, like a direct line to your engineers (a tactic).
Likewise, you can’t tell members to feel good about sharing their frustrations. You have to create that story where they can easily collaborate to share frustrations and know they will be resolved.
What you do is far more important than what you say.
Your strategy is that story, based upon an emotion, that will guide every tactic you try to execute.
Strategic Community Management Course
If you want to up your strategy game, I welcome you to sign up for FeverBee’s Strategic Community Management course.
It’s the best course we’ve ever created and has great reviews from almost every participant who has ever taken it.
The course will help you
- Set the right goals.
- Win internal support.
- Establish clear objectives (and KPIs).
- Identify the right strategies for your audience(s).
- Select the best tactics.
- Develop your action plan.
- Measure and improve the results.
If you think you can create a better strategy, you should sign up.
The fee for the course is $675 USD and enrollment closes on October 9th (or when all places are taken).