The flip side of Friday’s post is the change of environment might open up opportunities to explore new ideas and means for members to engage with one another.
I love Seth’s post as a starting point:
“A standard zoom room permits you to have 250 people in it. You, the organizer, can speak for two minutes or ten minutes to establish the agenda and the mutual understanding, and then press a button. That button in Zoom will automatically send people to up to 50 different breakout rooms.
If there are 120 people in the room and you set the breakout number to be 40, the group will instantly be distributed into 40 groups of 3.
They can have a conversation with one another about the topic at hand. Not wasted small talk, but detailed, guided, focused interaction based on the prompt you just gave them.
8 minutes later, the organizer can press a button and summon everyone back together.
Get feedback via chat (again, something that’s impossible in a real-life meeting). Talk for six more minutes. Press another button and send them out for another conversation.
This is thrilling. It puts people on the spot, but in a way that they’re comfortable with.”
Be sure to read the entire post.
I’ve seen a few communities turn themselves into pandemic action centres. Every discussion, event, and blog post is about the pandemic.
This makes sense, it’s the biggest issue of our time.
But it’s perfectly okay not to go down this route. People still have largely the same needs as before. They still want to solve their problems, learn more about topics they’re interested in, and connect meaningfully with one another.
While they’re aware of the pandemic, do they want their every waking second to be about it? I doubt it.
Perhaps the greatest value your community can provide your members with right now is a place to escape from the chaos around them. Don’t underestimate the value of normality and continuity in times of chaos.
I’ve seen dozens of clients spend countless time roping in marketing, PR, and legal teams to collaborate on a post (or response) few people will ever see.
This doesn’t mean the person didn’t deserve a response (or you shouldn’t make the post). It simply means it’s not a good use of everyone’s time.
If your average discussion is viewed by 30 people and you’re spending hours collaborating on it, that doesn’t make sense.
It’s perfectly ok to reply with ‘this is too complex an issue to respond here, we’ll contact you privately to help’.
The exception is when a lot of people will see it. This means the issue is rapidly gaining traction or you’re planning on sending (or highlighting the response) to your entire mailing list. Then it’s worth spending a lot of time on it indeed.
A few years ago, I noticed nearly every community with a calendar of regularly scheduled content published a lot of content very few members engaged with.
It’s hard to create high-quality, valuable, content for a community each day. The novelty of any idea (e.g. member interviews) soon wears thin.
A far better approach is to aim for ‘big win’ content on a less regular schedule. Five types of content are especially useful to members.
1) Case studies. Instead of interviews, post case studies with members instead. Case studies force members to share something interesting they have done which could be valuable for other members. Any videos or long-form advice articles which highlight specifically how members resolved a common challenge or improved their results are great resources within a customer community (and good testimonial material too).
2) Analyses and breakdowns. Do a breakdown of a customer’s situation along with improvements. This is similar to case studies but highlights areas of improvement as well as what’s not going well. Almost every topic lends itself to breakdowns of member situations.
3) Templates and resources. Members find templates useful. Create templates that let members structure their work, plan out a project, and evaluate their success. This saves members time. You can also create templates to tackle topical events.
4) Surveys and data. Your members want to see how they compare to other members. Create a survey on a topical issue and get quantitative data you can reveal to them. This might include time spent on a project, budgets, salary level or anything that might be interesting. This works well when members can compare themselves to the average or use the data to support their own work.
5) Interviews with a VIP. Better than interviews with members is an interview with a genuine VIP in that field. These work best when the person is well known and respected by most of the audience. If you wouldn’t invite this person on stage at a major conference, they’re probably not a good match. Aim as high as possible.
Throw away your calendar of regularly scheduled content and go for the big wins instead.
I’ve been interested and impressed by Toky Woky’s community platform recently.
Visit Superdrug or Monki and you will see a community pop-up inviting you to ask the community for help or answer questions. This pop-up appears not only on the homepage but in two other important places.
1) Catalogue pages. If you’re not sure which item to buy, you can ask the community and get help from people just like you. This reduces the stress and fear members might have about making the wrong purchase.
2) Product pages. Members can ask specific product-related questions and get answers solely related to that product. When members ask a question from this page, the product in question is automatically tagged to make it easier for others to provide answers.
You can also directly visit the community for a chat-room experience with other customers.
This kind of integration demonstrates the indispensable value of a community in the retail sector. Visitors with questions about which product to buy or the specifics of a particular product will be far more receptive to the expertise of customers like themselves.
When you integrate your community’s incredible expertise into the shopping path, I suspect the improvement in sales conversions and customer satisfaction are easy to demonstrate.
Challenging times present opportunities to unite members in a community.
As more people are forced to work from home, you might initiate discussions like:
- Working from home? Share your routine here.
- What does your home office look like?
- What are your best home-office hacks?
- What are your tips to work from home and not be distracted?
- Healthy home-work habits – any advice?
- Do you do housework while working from home?
The information will naturally be useful, but even more useful will be members feeling better connected to one another.
If you don’t know why members came to the site and whether they got the outcome they wanted, it’s very hard to improve the community experience.
The first survey question is good for this:
Only a small percentage of members will complete the survey, but the data will be tremendously useful.
The second question asks if they satisfied their goals by visiting the community.
The third question asks what they would have done if they hadn’t achieved their goals in the community. This is tremendously useful if trying to calculate call deflection.
The fourth question asks how satisfied members are with the community.
And the final question calls for any other feedback and recommendations from members.
Once you have data like this you can create simple archetypes and determine which groups you’re satisfying at the moment. You might be surprised just how valuable it is to know why people are visiting your community and whether they are achieving their goals.
Even if you can’t do a pop-up survey, there’s no excuse for not dropping similar questions into SurveyMonkey, Typeform, and Google forms and sending an email to your members.
Create a category or discussion thread inviting members to share reviews of the products and services they use.
Reviews are incredibly valuable to other members. They tend to increase conversions and encourage members to purchase other products too.
Sure, members might say bad things about your products and good things about your competitors’ products. However, if they’re visiting your community they probably compare you favorably to others. It’s good to show that in a public place.
Reviews also guide newcomers in what products to buy and avoid. They give people confidence in their purchases and provide members with a unique sense of influence and input. If you have the ability, you can also use tools like BazaarVoice to show reviews on product pages.
If you’re looking to escape the engagement trap, you need to focus less on the quantity of actions and more on the quality of actions. Reviews are one of the few tangible things you can point to from the community.
In the glossary of wrestling terms, a ‘Smart’ is someone who has inside knowledge of the business.
They want to feel like insiders and gain access to exclusive information. However, they will also use this information to attack the company publicly if they feel upset.
Large customer communities tend to attract Smarts too. These are people who know the history of the community, know how the company is faring and might be privy to insider information or disputes from current or former staff members.
They can easily cause the most grief by sharing negative (trusted) opinions about the community and its progress.
If you want a good example of how to communicate with smarts, read this update from StackOverflow. If you want to know what happens if you drop the ball, read the comments.
Our course participants know I dislike vague terms like use, share, update, collaborate etc…creeping into community strategies.
Get specific with your verbs so you, your colleagues, and your members know exactly what you mean.
- “Sharing best practices” might become “publishing blog posts which we will send via our email newsletter to members on our newsletter mailing list”.
- “Collaborating with each other” might become “Create time-limited groups and posting a detailed challenge for other members to solve by sharing their best solutions and editing the solutions of each other”.
- “Welcome new members” might become “Send a direct message with a bullet point list and personal message to get started in the community”.
A lot wordier for a marketing message, but a lot clearer for everyone to understand what these vague terms mean.
It’s a good idea to guide new customers into a private community group where they can set goals and get support from mentors and others to achieve their goals.
This doesn’t just work for fitness, it works in a business context too.
When a member joins the community, encourage them to set a specific goal (ideally on their profile) which is shared with other members.
You can then connect them in your newcomer group, provide the exact advice they need to achieve the goal, and set a reward if they do.
If you want members to get familiar with your product/software fast, this is a good way to do it. Better yet, they can do it together.
Typically we begin a new client project with an on-site workshop where we aim to get all the key people in the same room (and then on the same page).
Some useful questions to ask:
- What does each person hope to get from the community and what do they fear about it?
- What are the problems the community can solve, why haven’t they already been solved, how else could they be solved, and why can the community solve them better than any other method?
- What problems will the community tackle in 0 – 3 months, 3 to 9 months, 9 to 18 months, and 18 months+?
- What does success look like? What is an ‘ok’ outcome, a ‘good’ outcome, and a ‘fantastic’ outcome from the community?
- What metrics matter to each stakeholder, what will we track, and what is the best means of sharing success?
- What are the behaviors of our audience we need to change and what currently influences or drives those behaviors?
- What are the most valuable behaviors each segment of our audience (visitors, lurkers, irregulars, and top members) can perform for us to achieve our goals?
Add and remove the questions as needed. But if you can get your colleagues aligned on these answers, together you will be doing far better than most.