All too often, brand communities get developed in a vacuum—as siloed initiatives that bring together important stakeholders too late and too little. Within this model, the consequences are many, and the benefits are few. Breaking out of these silos—and collaborating early and often—can lead teams to discover ways for their community to serve as a Center of Excellence for the entire organization. One way to get there is through a diligent content strategy.
Developing content—from ideation to creation to proofreading to hitting Publish—can (and, ideally, should) be a cross-functional process. Many community managers put together a monthly content calendar and execute everything independently. What if, instead, community managers viewed each month’s or quarter’s content as the starting point for collaboration with teams who share similar goals?
In one of my recent posts for Higher Logic Vanilla, I shared the seven types of content and programming for communities. Combining these content categories with expertise from across an organization begins to connect the community to customer experience, marketing, and can even create a thoughtful bridge to sales teams.
Communities can amplify all kinds of impacts across an organization. They can generate high-quality sales leads, increase retention and decrease churn, improve customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, and promote advocacy. Content and programming are the vehicles through which we can unlock these myriad outcomes—especially with other departments or organizational functions as our allies.
Let’s look at how three of the key community content types can work cross-functionally to unite our organization and fuel goals that everyone cares about.
Educational content and programs
These content and programs help participants grow toward deeper mastery of a subject. They can be used to educate your community or, in some cases, to move sales prospects from “uncertain” to “ready to purchase.”
Consider the departments in your organization that care about achieving these goals—particularly sales, customer service, customer experience, and marketing.
- Source ideas together with customer service. Work with your customer support, service, or success team to determine the questions and topics customers need the most help with. Where are they struggling? Is the problem solvable through clearer community documentation? Through a process you can teach in a user group? Through a multi-day event? Collaborate with your internal teams to find the best educational solution and then deploy it via the community, allowing these other teams to share what gets created indefinitely with others who ask similar questions.
- Present alongside marketing and sales (and their selected advocates). When it comes time to present a process in a webinar, workshop, user group session, or conference, you don’t have to do it alone. Instead, work with your marketing or sales teams to co-present the education. In some cases, your marketing team may also be able to suggest an advocate within the customer base who can co-present, lending the event further credibility while giving that advocate something to brag about or put on their resume.
- Plan with customer experience. More than likely, there are gaps in the current user experience that may or may not be fixable by your customer experience team. Instead, work with your customer experience department to identify gaps in the journey that the community can fill. Are customers having trouble with onboarding? Consider a welcoming event in the community. Are customers having trouble with specific features? Consider highlighting community-created answers and education in the community that users can be sent to when they first learn about a new feature and consider its use.
Remind or introduce your community to the story of how the community came to be and who the people are who are important to its foundations.
Story-related content and programming often appeal to marketing (especially advocacy) teams and sales teams.
- Leverage advocates to tell stories. If your organization has an advocacy program for its customers, consider working with the team or individual responsible for this program to select advocates for spotlights in the community. You can then use these spotlights to share more widely on social media or your company blog.
- Create sales enablement tools with these stories. One of the most effective ways to connect with your sales team is to create resources that will help them tell the story of your product or service through the eyes of real customers. You have access to dozens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of them—so you have a superpower! Collaborate with your sales team to learn where they need more context in prospect discussions. Perhaps they need more stories in a specific industry or with a specific product. Then go back to your community to find experts in these areas, and build deeper relationships with them, asking them to lend their expertise to toolkits that your sales team might use and share with others.
Celebration and recognition.
In any community, it is important to celebrate and recognize the achievements, changes, and milestones of members and your community as a whole. When you do this, you create valuable opportunities to share this celebration outside the community in ways that benefit your marketing and customer experience teams. Consider how you can:
- Connect your celebration and recognition ideas to your existing marketing strategy. Post celebrations happening in the community into your marketing channels. Extend spotlights to a wider audience through social media and newsletter updates. This helps your community feel even more respected and acknowledged. In return, post select marketing updates consistently in the community (just make sure marketing content does not outweigh all the other valuable content and programs in the space!), and, crucially, tie these marketing updates back to what the community has done or taught the organization.
- Leverage your relationship with marketing to raise the community’s profile. Many communities offer annual awards and formal recognition of members. Sometimes this is done informally through the community through badges or announcements, but what might be possible if you expand these recognition efforts with the support of your marketing team? You might be able to afford physical awards, to host an in-person gathering, or create custom swag for your members. Your marketing team is likely resourced with design and budget that your community team may not have, so see how you can join forces to create something even more impactful. In return, you can brainstorm ways to leverage the collective brilliance of your community to benefit the growth of the entire company—potentially through having them create video testimonials, provide detailed case studies, share their awards and experience on social media to raise brand awareness, or spread the word about what you’ve created in other creative ways.
Connecting Cross-Functionally Through Content
Through exploring various collaborations with marketing, sales, experience, and support teams, you’ve seen how content brainstorming and creation can fuel cross-functional goals and tie your efforts deeper into organizational success. This list will get you started thinking through the next steps. Now it’s up to you to forge relationships with these teams and collaborate. Like any community effort, you may be surprised how much more fun and exciting this process becomes when you bring others along for the journey.
Interested in learning more about Carrie Melissa Jones’ thoughts on Community? Preorder your copy of Community Predictions 2023 here!
Online Community Strategist
Carrie Melissa Jones is a community leader, entrepreneur, and community management consultant who has been involved with online community leadership since the early 2000s. As the founder of Gather Community Consulting, she consults with brands to build and optimize communities around the world.
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