Types of Community Strategy

In a webinar session two weeks ago, I asked the audience if they could summarise their strategy in a sentence.

About 75% of people simply restated their goals (i.e. reduce churn, increase loyalty etc..)

Not a single participant could effectively list a clear strategy.

A strategy is the ‘why’ you will achieve your goals (not to be confused with the strategic plan)

A strategy is the unique value you provide your members which they can’t get anywhere else.

A strategy is a statement about what you will prioritise to deliver that unique value.

A strategy is the reason why members will perform the behaviors you want them to perform.

A strategy is how you will deliver better value to your members than any other channel.

You can typically boil this down into a couple of words. Here are some examples:

  • Being the quickest.
  • Least effort to find information.
  • Most reliable/trustworthy.
  • Friendliest.
  • Most exclusive.
  • Most diverse.
  • Comprehensive.
  • Most focused.
  • Targeting beginners.
  • Targeting experts.

These are all very valid strategies which define in a sentence the indispensable value your community provides to members.

The strategy at its very core is the critical decision about the unique value you offer your members. It’s the most important decision you will make. The only thing worse than making the wrong decision is making no decision at all.

p.s. final chance to sign up for today’s webinar; The New Era of Community Building (and what it means for your community strategy)

Push vs. Pull Strategies To Community

The difference between push vs. pull is huge.

It’s the difference between creating a need and satisfying a need.

Push strategies are common in communities of practice and most private groups. You target a group of people who might benefit from engaging with one another and set about persuading them to do it. This work involves a lot of relationship building, outbound promotion, and working at the micro-level to stimulate and sustain the first flickers of activity.

Pull strategies are common in support communities. You have a lot of people with a need they want solved and try to get them to solve that need within your community. If you’ve got thousands of people with product questions, you try to get your community in front of them (typically via search, the homepage, or outbound promotional activities). This work is about scale, quality, and optimization of metrics that matter. It’s about internal relationship building to build the relationships which will make a community flourish.

You don’t get to decide which strategy you’re taking, your audience does.

If your audience isn’t already trying to satisfy an urgent, relevant, need, you need a push strategy. This means a low-budget platform, a heavy dose of relationship building, and fighting for every member.

If members already are trying to satisfy an urgent, relevant, need, you need a pull strategy. This means superuser programs, a premium community platform, and aligning everything to go on day one.

Be very clear from the beginning which approach you’re taking. Everything else hangs upon it.

p.s. It’s an extremely huge shock to go from a community with an abundant source of newcomers to one fighting for every member.

Principles For Better Community Homepage Designs (The Alteryx Case Study)

Community redesigns are always easier from afar.

A couple of years ago, Alteryx had one of the better homepage designs. At a click everyone could get to everywhere they wanted.

The homepage catered to different audiences, different needs, and guided every visitor to anyone they needed to go. The only downside was it buried the latest activity and thus had too many static areas of the community.

A year or two ago, this design was replaced with a new homepage design.

This was much more difficult to navigate and felt amateurish compared with what came before.

Content seemed to float randomly, there was no obvious prioritisation given to different areas, and icons were repeated several times on the same page.

Recently Alteryx have updated this community to a new homepage design.

We can probably all agree it’s a heck of a lot better. It still buries fresh discussions a little too far down for my liking (and it’s mobile version seems a bit suspect), but it does the core things well.

1) It prioritises the key actions. You can tell visitors are first expected to search for information and then either visit the academy, participate in discussions, or browse use cases.

2) It reduces overwhelm by featuring things members should see. The featured content drives members to the key activities taking place in the community at any given moment.

3) Intent-based navigation. The community lets members navigate by use-case based around participate, learn, support, groups & events, and use cases. I’m not always a huge fan of intent-based navigation (compared with navigation by products), but it works well here. The taxonomy is clean and simple.

4) Much easier on the eye. It’s much more aesthetically pleasing than either of the other two homepages. The use of white space works and it feels cleaner.

The homepage redesigns works because it’s seemingly prioritised the needs of members, made crucial trade-offs and (likely) brought in much better designers.

p.s. In my book, Build Your Community, I guide readers through the process of developing an effective community homepage.

p.p.s. You can also get some design support on the book’s resources site.

Spotting Opportunities Early

When another community/tool has grown rapidly and now matches you in size, it’s too late.

The momentum is with them and you have no obvious resources to compete.

This is why it’s useful to frequently scan the ecosystem for potential new opportunities (or threats) you can incorporate early into your community.

This might mean periodically engaging a handful of members with questions like:

  • What new tools are you using recently?
  • Where else are you engaging with other people in this topic?
  • What other groups excite you?
  • What’s new in your industry at the moment?
  • What are you excited about in the sector at the moment?

This doesn’t mean you should overreact to every conceivable threat. But it does mean staying vigilant. Many of the answers might lead nowhere. But a handful can identify value your community should be offering members but isn’t today.

Launching ‘Build Your Community’ Resource

To complement the launch of Build Your Community, we’ve recently launched our resource site:

www.feverbee.com/buildyourcommunity

This site contains dozens of templates, guides, tools, and resources to help you build your community. My plan is to continue curating an expanded list of resources over time.

If you’re looking for surveys to use, benchmarks to follow, methods to analyse your community, this site will definitely help.

Get Your Community Into Your Audiences’ Calendar

A few weeks ago, we hosted a private workshop event for members of a private community.

The community targeted elite members in a highly technical area. While activity had been ok, it wasn’t accelerating to the critical mass point and it was time to adapt our approach.

Alas, due to unforeseen circumstances, we had to reschedule the event at the last minute and reschedule the date for two days later.

Yet, amazingly, the event was still a great success. More people showed up and participated in an event than had been active for the past month in the community discussion areas. Better yet, since the event, the level of participation has begun to accelerate to the critical mass point.

There are two powerful takeaways from this.

The first is members who claim not to have the time to participate in a community will participate in an event (especially an exclusive event). In many spaces, events work because they set a fixed, limited, time to visit and participate. We’ve since decided to incorporate regular events as part of the community effort.

(p.s. sending out calendar invites to engage in a community at a particular time seems especially powerful)

The second is the more you can engage members in designing the solutions to the community challenges, the more they tend to take ownership of them (and thus the community).

FeverBee is Hiring A Research Analyst ($500 referral fee)

FeverBee’s mission is to help great companies build thriving communities of customers, employees, and members.

Over the past decade, our clients have included many of the world’s most successful organisations including Apple, Facebook, SAP, Oracle, Google, etc..

The foundation for our successes is deeply understanding both the needs of our clients and their audiences. We spend a vast amount of time reaching our audiences (and their environments) to determine how to develop indispensable communities.

To support our work, we’re now looking to hire a community analyst to join the team.

If you love working with large organisations, diving deep into community data, and helping some complex problems, this role might be for you.

(p.s. If this job isn’t for you but you recommend someone we hire for 3 months, you receive a $500 referral fee).

Objectives

  • Help clients deeply understand the needs and desires of members.

Responsibilities

  • Undertake qualitative and quantitative research of audiences to develop detailed member needs and personas.
  • Gather and analyse macro-level data to identify broader sector trends to effectively position our client’s communities for success.
  • Review existing communities against established benchmarks to identify and prioritise areas of improvement.
  • Develop and improve the systems through which FeverBee gathers, analyses, and uses community data to develop successful community strategies.
  • Present data to clients and other external audiences in compelling and persuasive ways.
  • (potentially) Build measurement frameworks to help clients continue measuring and evaluating the success of their communities.

Skills And Experience

  • Past experience gathering and analyzing qualitative data is critical. You should be comfortable undertaking interviews with a wide range of individuals.
  • Strong analytical skills are essential. Experience as an industry analyst, UX researcher, economist, or statistics might be beneficial.
  • Proficiency with statistics and dataset analytics (using R, SPSS, SAS, or Excel) is a plus. You should be able to run tests of significance on normal and non-normal data.
  • Intermediate data-visualisation skills. You don’t need to be world-class, but the output needs to look polished and something you would happily share with clients.

Location

  • This is a remote position. However, you should be in a time zone that allows for communication with clients in Europe and North America.

How To Apply

  • Send an email to [email protected]. Including your resume/CV can help, but examples of your work would be even better.

Salary

  • £40k to £45k GBP ($54k to $61k USD)

To apply, contact [email protected].

You’re Invited to ‘The New Era Of Community Building Webinar’

I wrote Build Your Community because I believe a new era of building communities has begun.

This new era is defined by five major forces which are already having a huge impact upon your community.

On July 29th, I’m hosting an open webinar which will identify each of these forces, why they’re becoming increasingly important, and how to adapt your strategy to thrive in the new era of community building.

At the end of the webinar I’ll also share some resources you can use to plan your community efforts to thrive in this new era.

Develop Three Different Community Approaches For Three Different Customer Tiers

I’m not an enterprise level customer for most of the software I use.

It wouldn’t take much to turn me into an unprofitable customer either.

If I’m paying $500 a year for a software product and each support call I make costs the company $13 (for example), my value as a customer drops precipitously with each call I make (or ticket I file).

It’s not uncommon for the costs of supporting lower-value customers to exceed the revenue generated by the customer.

This is where organisations increasingly rely upon communities to fill the gaps.

At the top tier (enterprise plans/customers), customers will always expect a support representative on-hand to resolve any problems. The speed and quality of response is often detailed in the contract. But organisations increasingly rely upon communities (notably Q&A discussion forums) to support lower-value customers.

This makes sense. If lower-tier customers can answer each other’s questions, the cost of supporting each new customer approaches zero as time (and activity) increases. This is where a typical Q&A platform approach comes into play.

But this doesn’t mean community approaches are only valid for lower-tier customers. As we can see in the pyramid diagram, community approaches can still provide tremendous value to all tiers. But they have to be catered to each tier.

For example, premium customers may not have traditional support questions to answer, but we’re noticing they still want to connect and learn from each other. But they need you to provide a private, facilitated, space for that to happen.

The sense of privacy and freedom to exchange tips / learn from each other is critical here. Enterprise customers can join this as well, but they also seem to value exclusive meetups and invites to engage directly with key staff.

To simplify, the basic Q&A forum is probably for basic-level customers. Beyond that you may need to create private, facilitated, places to support customers to proactively exchange ideas.

Read Books About The Results You Deliver

It’s great to read books about building communities, but there’s also a danger in only reading books about building communities.

If the goal of your community is to improve customer support, you should be reading the best books and following the best blogs about customer support.

If the goal of your community is to increase customer success, retention, loyalty, and innovation you should be reading the best books, blogs, and articles about those topics too.

The more you become an expert in the area(s) where your community delivers results, the better you can fine-tune your community to achieve these results. Better yet, you can speak the right language and understand the bigger picture.

The great thing about this is for $100 or so you can become up to speed in almost any topic.

Getting Members To Join Isn’t Enough

I’m following two private communities of practice on the same platform launched at approximately the same time.

Neither had a big audience to begin with.

One community manager has been initiating a new discussion once or twice a week and then emailing 15 to 20 members to reply to it. He also reaches out to people talking about the topic on social media and invites each person to join with a personal, private, email.

Every new member receives a personal private email that aims to begin a discussion. It’s absolutely draining work – but over the past month, the number of posts has risen from 5 to 10 organic posts per week up to 60 to 70 organic posts per week now (and it’s really beginning to accelerate). The community has around 150 registered members.

In the other, the community team initiates a new fun discussion each day, publishes fresh weekly content, and looks for more opportunities to get members to join. This community has 400+ registered members but attracts only 3 to 4 organic posts per week (from 2 to 3 active members). This number has declined since the launch.

The lessons here should be clear. Registration means nothing without discussions. And the way to get discussions isn’t to pack a community with members, it’s to create discussions that can solicit useful information for others and then work hard to get people to reply to them.

Small Rewards In Public Trump Big Rewards In Private

If you buy a new car and then a week later your neighbour buys a better model of the same car, your satisfaction level with your car plummets.

If you get a pay rise and then a week later your coworker gets a bigger pay rise, your happiness has been turned to anger (perhaps fury).

After the Grenfell fire tragedy in London, I remember listening to a radio show where callers in the nearby area said they were disgusted by the idea survivors might be given new homes in their building. Apparently, callers had “worked really hard” for their home and it wasn’t fair.

Much of the anger and satisfaction we encounter in managing communities is based upon members comparing themselves positively or negatively to other members. The absolute value (points, rewards, punishment) is of lesser importance than how members relate it to the points, rewards, and punishments experienced by other members.

We once ran an interesting (if rather uncontrolled test). We gave top members in one community a big reward in private and top members in another community a much smaller reward in public. It wasn’t even close, the latter group engaged far better (and appeared far happier) with their small reward announced in public.