Yesterday we overlooked something important.
The real decision for members isn’t whether your audience uses a community or an information site, it’s whether they use your community or another social destination to achieve the same goals.
Have you noticed your members posting the same question on your community, on social media, on other communities, and elsewhere? They don’t care where they get answers as long as they get good, quick, answers. This is becoming a more difficult challenge by the day.
Your members can probably find answers faster by searching Google.
Your members can post questions in social media and get good responses from people they know and trust. They can post questions in similar communities and can get help from a totally independent group of experts.
Your members can build their reputations by creating their own blogs, posting on LinkedIn, Medium, and other aggregation sites.
Your members can find a stronger sense of community by creating their own groups on Slack, Telegram, WhatsApp, Facebook, and only inviting people they like.
Each of these can (and probably will) peel away your best and most enthusiastic members until you’re not left with much.
Worse yet, each platform has benefits you will never be able to match.
You can’t be as much of a habit as Facebook, you will never offer as much information as Google, and you can’t match the sense of community felt by a few people hanging out in a private group with their friends.
Far too many brand communities don’t find a way out of this problem and slowly watch their community enter a terminal decline. Worse, they often try to mimic competitors along the way.
Don’t compete on another platform’s turf. You’re going to lose. Instead, if you want to build a sustainable community, bring to bear the full armament of your resources to build a community no-one can match.
You might not be able to compete on speed, depth, and quality of questions, answers and expertise shared. But what you can do?
In the Indispensable Community, we write how the best brand communities do precisely this. They use their natural unfair advantages.
Your best assets are:
- Scale – You can reach more people. You can ensure the best content in your community reaches more people than ever. You can include it in product material, support discussions, and link to it throughout the community. You can ensure any post in your community reaches more people than any other site.
- Access – You can give members unique access and exclusive information they can only get from being a great contributor to the group. You can award them with early trials, introductions to key staff members, superior product support, and anything else.
- Influence – You can take their feedback and use it to develop better products. You can make them feel like partners working to create something fantastic. You can set challenges, competitions, and give them interesting problems to solve.
- Prominence – Your PR team can turn top members into quotable superstars. You can put them on stage at your conference. You can give them recognition, badges, and prominence. You can help them gain work.
- Verified – You can be the judge, to determine what’s verified and what isn’t. You can anoint the people who really know their stuff and distinguish them from those that don’t. You can be the ultimate arbiter of what’s good and what’s bad. You can approve the people who are doing the things that most help the community.
The key is to take the psychological benefits from a community and use your unique advantages to turbo-change them.
Because if you’re not going to bring something to the party, something only you can bring…and only you can offer…why bother having a party at all?
If you want to build an indispensable community, you have to offer something no-one else will ever be able to match.