Communities are becoming a staple for healthy organizations to reach and interact with their customers and members, but they can be hard to navigate.
To help guide your community building efforts, two of our 2020 Community Movers + Shakers sat down for a webinar to share advice in response big community challenges that attendees were facing.
Before we dive in, get to know the experts.
When Higher Logic Chief Community Officer, Heather McNair, began her career, there wasn’t a lot of information about community out there. She had to learn on the fly and implement her own best practices. For the past 10 years, Heather has been sharing her knowledge with customers of Higher Logic to help them launch their communities and make them successful.
Josh Slyman, Community Manager at Higher Logic, is on the front lines with customers every day. He lives and breathes communities and is helping customers create integrated strategic approaches to community and automated communications.
Advice from Community Experts on 3 Common Challenges You May Be Facing
Let’s find out what the three challenges are and dig into the key advice Heather and Josh offered.
1. Where Community Fits in My Organization
Community used to be just an appendage at many organizations, but today, it’s become a big part of a healthy organization and its operations. A community can help to drive every area of a business forward and provide valuable data and business intelligence, allowing businesses to grow and thrive.
Learn more about this in The Community Roundtable’s annual report, The State of Community Management.
That being said, it’s often hard to decide where your community should live within the organization. It’s not clearly defined, and there may be a lot of opinions at your organization about “Who owns this?” and “Where does this fit in?”
During the webinar, we did a poll to see where communities are fitting into organizations. We found that:
- About 50% reported their community sits under a membership department (for membership-based organizations, i.e. associations)
- 30% said they house their community under marketing
- 15% said community sits in customer success
- 13% said it’s part of a support function
- 7% had their community under product
You’ll notice there was no definitive answer for where communities live. Why? It all comes down to the goal of the organization, and why you’re building a community in the first place.
For example, associations tend to make community part of their membership strategy while corporate companies use community as an extension of marketing.
Keep this exception in mind, though: Heather does warn against housing a community in IT. She hasn’t seen this approach work well. Why? When housed in IT, the platform can become just another piece of the tech stack, missing out on the nurturing and strategic guidance that communities need to survive.
The most important piece to figuring out where your community fits is getting buy-in from senior leadership. Heather and Josh both agreed that you have to be able to show the value that community will have and get executive buy-in before moving forward or you will be fighting an uphill battle.
2. Personalizing the Community Member’s Experience
Personalization is key in a successful community, but it has to be well-executed. Keep these considerations top of mind when planning your personalization strategy:
- Ask only for the data you need.
You want to be hyper-personalized and relevant to your members without crossing a line. Make sure the data you are asking them for makes sense, and don’t ask for things that you won’t need. Leverage the relationship you have with them to collect their necessary data. By joining the community, the customer or member has a level understanding of what info you need, and it is important to only collect things you’ll use.
- Timing is everything when it comes to automated messages.
Some things that work in lead generation marketing don’t work in automated community outreach. For example, if someone fills out a form to request a whitepaper, they expect it immediately. However, when you’re observing or tracking what someone is looking at in the community, you need to build in space between when they are looking and when you acknowledge it. This helps make every interaction authentic. You want the member to feel as if someone was spending time gathering information and then crafting a personalized message to them.
- Differentiate your personalization strategy for non-customers or non-members.
You may be able to attract new customers or members by giving them certain levels of community access for free. This way, they get a feel for the value that the community and your organization offer.
Segment out high-value content so that you don’t give away too much, but still allow them a glimpse of what they would get if they convert. Here are some ways to do this:
- Host webinars on non-member pages and allow them to register
- Allow them to see a certain number of content pieces before purchasing, but lock them out after they’ve hit the limit
- Offer limited trial memberships where they can fully join the community for a certain amount of time and then revoke their access until they purchase
3. Attracting and Engaging a Younger Audience
Attracting a younger audience is something that many organizations, particularly associations, focus on and struggle with. They struggle to effectively use their own technology and clearly communicate membership value.
Heather said that one of the biggest mistakes she’s seen in organizations trying to attract younger members is creating dedicated “young professional” groups or sub-communities.
Why? The younger generations are already connected with people in their age group.
The biggest pull to get them into your community is giving them access to more experienced connections that will help them to expand and grow in their careers. Invite them into the larger community, and help them communicate and connect with seasoned professionals.
Heather and Josh shared a few more tips for engaging a younger audience:
- Tap into the digital chops that younger generations have to make your community better.
Millennials and younger generations tend to be very comfortable in the online world and are experienced in engaging and interacting with other people online. Encourage them to share their expertise, and give them opportunities to participate.
- Build an environment of mutual respect and trust.
Millennials tend to be very focused on transparency within an organization. They are willing to give you more if you’re willing to give them trust. As an extension of this, invest in understanding their motivations and lifestyle. Adapt your offerings to their wants and needs to keep them engaged and feeling valued within your community.
- Invest in personalization.
A personalized experience will help you create loyalty with a generation raised on Amazon and Netflix. You have to be able to develop and deliver the content that they want, and present it through the channels they’re most interested in.
Take your community further with more expert insight, below.
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