This is one of the most detailed guides we’ve created.
It breaks down each step of the strategic process we cover in our course and hopefully equips you with some ideas to help you think strategically about your community.
About Mayo Clinic Connect
Mayo Clinic, a nonprofit academic medical center, launched Mayo Connect in July 2011 as part of a bigger social media effort.
The community was initially a success (I blogged about it in 2011), but activity later slowed, priorities shifted, and the community soon became a ghost town.
By the time Colleen Young took control in 2015, it was well on its way to the internet scrap heap.
Before joining the course, she had already begun creating discussions, ensuring every post received a response, and helping members connect with one another. This led to an uptick in activity, but it wasn’t sustainable.
There are only so many hours you can work in a week, only so many discussions you can create created (and respond to) and only so many members you can greet.
To get to the next level, Colleen needed to drive not just more participation, but the right kind of participation. She needed a strategy to get her members participating again, rebuild support from her colleagues, and drive the clear results Mayo Clinic needed.
This led to her joining FeverBee’s Strategic Community Management Course.
STEP ONE: ESTABLISHING GOALS
The first week of the course covers community goals.
During this week, Colleen needed to speak to her colleagues and understand their challenges to set her community goals.
Using our interview questions templates, she discovered she wasn’t alone, she had allies who felt patients would be much better at coping and recovering from their condition if they could build relationships with others going through the same challenges as them.
Colleen’s discussions with colleagues revealed the community goal should be to improve the health and wellbeing of members (not just patients, but the anyone going through what she calls “a health journey” today — this is important).
These discussions also revealed wide differences in the purpose and value perception of the community that Colleen quickly addressed.
Once her goal was established and understand throughout the organization, Colleen began receiving interest from healthcare practitioners eager to recommend the community to their patients too.
They could see the community was valuable because they had told Colleen it was valuable. It’s a lot easier to gain support for a community when you begin with something the organization already supports.
Colleen’s next step would be to turn these goals into specific objectives.
STEP TWO: SETTING OBJECTIVES
Colleen could have done what most people do and try to drive as much engagement as possible. But this is a terrible strategy.
Instead Colleen needed to be clear and specific about the behavior she wanted. She needed objectives.
If goals are what the organization gets from the community, objectives are what members need to do to achieve these goals. They are the beloved key performance indicators (KPIs) of a community.
If members are performing these behaviors often, the community is on the right track. If they’re not, it’s a problem – regardless of how much activity takes place within the community.
Our course forces every participant to translate their goals into very specific behaviors for members.
As the table below shows, there are plenty of behaviors to choose from for almost any goal:
Every tactic and every effort to engage members should be designed to drive the greatest quantity of these behaviors.
Colleen realized her members wouldn’t suddenly begin managing their diseases better or following treatment plans unless they were asked to do something specific.
During the second and third weeks of the course, participants use our scripts and go through the interview process with members.
Through this process Colleen came up with two specific objectives:
- Objective 1: Get members to set their own goals for improving how they manage, cope, or recover from their condition (and report their progress back to the community).
- Objective 2: Get members to use their experience and expertise to answer questions from other members. Experienced members should be sharing their experiences with newcomers in the group.
But did Colleen’s members have the time, talent, and motivation to perform the behaviors they’re asked to do?
It’s a common mistake to treat the community as a vast, homogenous, group with identical needs and motivations.
A key principle of the course is to build unique segments based upon a member’s level of time, talent, and motivation to contribute.
This is where we can thread the needle between what the business needs and what members want.
Using the knowledge covered in the objectives week of the course (week 3) Colleen divided her community by the level of activity.
She then set two unique objectives for her two main groups of members; her super users and her newcomers.
This then enabled her to set two specific objectives below:
(Notice now she’s targeting specific sub-groups of members
to engage in very specific behaviors)
Colleen isn’t asking them to engage or join the conversation, she’s asking them to do very specific things which drive value for both her organization and her members.
Once you boil your objectives down to something this specific, it becomes a lot easier to build out the rest of the strategic plan.
STEP THREE: DEVELOP EMOTIVE-DRIVEN STRATEGIES
Now Colleen needed a strategy to achieve each objective.
Community strategies, like all strategies, sit in the middle between objectives and tactics. They take the behaviors members need to perform and provide the motivation to perform them.
The FeverBee course shows how strategies are about the emotions we need to amplify to move people to action.
Facts can convince people to hold the right kind of beliefs about the community, but emotions persuade people to participate.
It’s at the emotional level where members get the indispensable benefit from being a part of a community.
A good brand community alleviates frustration, helps members feel connected and part of something special, and gives people joy from helping others.
During the course, Colleen needed to identify the precise emotions to amplify to get members to perform the behaviors she needed.
Again using our interview scripts, the emotions wheel, and her own considerable expertise, Colleen determined two key emotions.
The first was pride.
Members felt pride in achieving their goals. She needed to make her members feel proud (or be motivated by the prospect of feeling proud).
But Colleen also realized this would exclude members who fall off the wagon, stop exercising, or give up on their treatment plan.
What happens to the people who most need the support of others?
Colleen created a different audience focused on making members feel accepted if they fail.
Not all strategies need to harness positive emotions.
Negative emotions are as valid as good emotions for a strategy.
Alleviating a sense of frustration, fear, and loneliness is as indispensable as making members feel pride, joy, and a sense of belonging.
Amplifying negative emotions might even be more powerful than amplifying positive emotions.
No-one rushes to the store to buy vitamins.
Emotions like jealousy or fear of losing social standing can drive people to make extraordinary contributions to any community.
Colleen now had her first two strategies, making members feel proud and accepted, but she also needed strategies to get members to answer each other’s questions and share their expertise.
In her interviews, two unique viewpoints kept coming through.
The first was members who had been helped by Mayo Clinic truly wanted to give back and help others who had been in the same situation.
They felt joy in helping others (and possibly guilt if they didn’t).
The second was these same members often didn’t feel they had the right level of knowledge and expertise to help one another.
They didn’t feel confident in being able to help other people.
Now Colleen had her strategies:
She would make members feel a sense of pride in their progress, acceptance if they fail, joy in giving back, and feel confident in having useful expertise to share.
Each strategy targeted a different segment of members. Now she needed her tactics.
STEP FOUR: TACTICS
A tactic isn’t designed to get members to do something, but to make members feel something.
It’s these feelings, these emotions, which are the fuel for the behavior we need.
A community which provokes the right emotions is the one which gets members to make the right kind of contributions.
There is no shortage of potentially terrific tactics to engage members.
From funny jokes to live interviews with celebrities, brands have tried everything.
But the real success comes from selecting the tactics which have the biggest possible impact and most help members feel the emotion that drives the right actions.
Almost every brand community manager is trying to do too many things with too little time. Many are trying to execute on over twenty tactics a week.
When one tactic isn’t working, they add another, and another, and another. They divide precious time into smaller chunks while hoping for bigger results.
FeverBee spends considerable time cutting the number of tactics our clients are executing from dozens to just a tiny few (usually 5 to 7).
The results always improve.
It’s always more effective to do a small number of things extraordinarily well than many things badly.
The challenge is knowing what to to do (and, just as important, what not to do).
The fifth week of the course covers the process for picking the biggest impact tactics. This helped guide Colleen to the core few tactics which would have the biggest impact.
Some of these are more subtle than they appear.
For example, she’s made over 4000 posts in the community. A typical post reads:
This post doesn’t seem especially strategic, probably no different from millions of other posts on the web.
But a deeper look shows Colleen is amplifying the emotions she wants members to feel.
By introducing members to another, she’s helping members feel accepted (strategy 2).
By asking a follow-up question, she’s helping them feel confident (strategy 3).
By tagging in other people, she’s making them feel confident they have knowledge to share (strategy 3)
By giving them the opportunity to experience joy in helping others (strategy 4).
Colleen isn’t randomly responding to feel busy, she’s deliberately executing her strategy.
Most of the 4000 posts is part of her strategy to get her members to feel the things she needs them to feel.
Her posts are just one of the core few tactics she’s using today.
Colleen also setup badges and levels to appear on their profiles as members hit each target.
This visible progress helps foster a strong sense of pride. Members can visibly see their progress. It’s a simple, but effective, win for everyone.
Next Colleen wanted members to feel confident and joy in sharing their knowledge and expertise.
She created the Mayo Connect Mentor program.
Each mentor is invited to tell their story and reach out to people whom are struggling.
This program provided members with not only a sense of exclusivity, but also made it easy for members to feel joy in helping other members.
But making it easy for members to share their story is only one side of the challenge, the other was to make them feel confident enough to do this.
For this, Colleen reached for a common tool for community builders, she helped them find their superpower.
A popular concept shared in the course is known as Asset-based Community Development (ABCD).
Instead of looking at a community through the prism of a problem to be solved (e.g. crime), ABCD looks for what attributes members can contribute for the benefit of the group (i.e. members are treated as assets).
Every member has something they can contribute (time, skills, knowledge, resources, passion), Colleen’s work was to help members identify their superpower.
As she explains:
“We have a mentor who is a former journalist, he’s our researcher. Someone else works in customer support, he’s often the person we call upon when someone is having technical difficulties.
Another mentor is particularly insightful and empathetic with people facing mental health issues. All have different assets, not necessarily the reason that brought them to Connect, and now it’s a badge of honour for why they come to Mayo Connect”.
When people identify their superpower, their confidence goes up.
The more confident members feel, the more likely they are to help others and share their own stories and expertise.
Now Colleen can plot her entire strategic plan into a simple template below:
Colleen’s tactics are simple and effective.
They all take place at the micro-level, the very level most brands take for granted.
Every post and update brings the community close to achieving its goals.
In another pair of hands, Mayo Clinic Connect would still be a ghost town.
The best strategies in the world fail without someone like Colleen doing the hard work of forging a community at the most minute levels.
In the past few years, the level of participation has risen exponentially:
The subtle, yet critical, work Colleen does each day is all part of a strategy.
It all ties back to improving how her members feel emotionally and, eventually, a huge impact for her colleagues.
The impact the community has on it users and her colleagues becomes ever more obvious with each passing day.
Today Colleen says she doesn’t “have enough hours of the day to answer all the requests and meet with all the different departments and clinicians who want to get involved with the community now.”
The FeverBee course isn’t just about developing a strategic plan, but about the skills of thinking and behaving strategically to have the biggest possible impact over your community.
In a short time, Colleen has turned Mayo Connect into a buzzing, indispensable, community for the organization and members alike. You can see the the community and check out the results for yourself.
It’s a place, Colleen explains, where members are constantly sharing their own amazing stories:
“When people post their stories of success, like wearing a smaller pant size because of the support of the community, or getting through cancer treatment with less anxiety, it’s incredible”
We created the FeverBee course with people like Colleen in mind.
We wanted to attract people who wanted to treat their work professionally, take their community to the next level, and recognize that chasing meaningless engagement metrics is a fool’s game.
Colleen is just one over almost 200 people who have graduated from the course and seen incredible results from the community.
If you want to join us, click here and sign up.