“How do I get buy-in for my community?”
A variant of this question comes up at every speaking event. It’s difficult to answer. It varies with every organization.
At one organization, the community manager might be very confident, have a strong relationship with their boss and other staff members, a great track record, and might just need to show that other organizations are doing it.
At another, the community manager might lack confidence, have terrible relationships with their boss, be relatively new to the organization, and need to prove not just the benefits of online communities but that they are the individual capable of pulling this off.
At others there might be a specific objection/concern to tackle, or a single individual that’s holding everything back.
Broadly speaking, you need to overcome at least these five hurdles:
1) Your own self-esteem/confidence. If you can’t confidently explain the benefits and sell the idea of the community, you’re not going to get buy-in to build one. This is probably the most common problem.
2) Your relationships with the decision makers. If they don’t know you well, it’s going to be hard for them to give you money to make something happen. You need to build an internal community keen to make the external community happen. If your vision is to schedule a meeting, meet the decision makers for the first time, pitch an idea, and be given a stack of cash…you’re going to be disappointed.
3) Your reputation/track record. It helps if you have a good track record of getting things done at the company. You want to be a heavyweight at the company. This makes things much harder for lowly-paid and new community managers. If you’re new, you need a sponsor that has the attributes above and can explain the below.
4) The benefits. You need to connect the community to greater profits. That means increased revenue or reduced costs. Demonstrate the clear link with studies.
5) The urgency. Why do it now? Why not wait until a better financial year or when things are a little less busy? (hint: never).
This isn’t comprehensive. There can be internal politics (that money has to come from somewhere) and a range of other problems.
Sadly, there is no uniform answer to the question.
This is why amateur community professionals, those that build a community for their hobbies, are often terrible when building communities for their organizations. This is also why you might want to be careful about who you hire to be your community manager.