When it comes to deciding whether to build a community for your organization, it’s easy to immediately think of the negative.
- What happens if the online community fails?
- Will it waste our time and resources?
- What if our customers don’t find the online community valuable?
- Why can’t we just do this on social media?
Thinking about why you shouldn’t build a purpose-built community is easy, but this year’s TSIA World theme “Envision” got us thinking. What if you flip that mindset and envision what community can do for you instead of what it can’t?
- Community allows you to be efficient and do more with less.
- Community positively impacts your business – from revenue growth to brand awareness to customer retention.
- Community gives you the opportunity to invest in your customers, an invaluable ROI.
The impact a purpose-built community has on your business outcomes answers the question of “what a community can do,” but now, let’s talk about how to build a community that will drive those outcomes?
First and foremost, you should create a plan prior to launch and to do that, you should remember the acronym C.A.R.G.O. – – Concept, Acquisition, Retention, Goals and Outcomes. The CARGO framework I created for building a community plan is the idea that you must answer these five questions before you launch:
- What is the concept for your community?
- How do you get people to participate?
- What will keep them coming back?
- What are the main goals that matter to internal audiences and how do they translate to external audiences?
- What are the specific outcomes that will define your community’s success?
But, before diving into the CARGO framework, we want to point out that you should spend some time in discovery. Talk to your potential audience and ensure that your idea has stickiness or interest. There is nothing worse than launching an online community that no one sees as necessary. Ensuring you understand your community members is key to your success.
DETERMINING YOUR CONCEPT
Before you build a community, you must determine your concept. What is the subject of your community? The good news is that during the discovery period, you have an opportunity to get input from your potential audience. Questions to ask include:
- What would be helpful to combat their daily struggles?
- What are their personal or business problems?
- What kind of resources would be helpful?
Asking these questions allows you to incorporate feedback from your audience, but you also want to tie the community back to your business goals. To find that healthy balance, you will also want to ask your organization’s stakeholders a series of question such as:
- What’s the purpose of this community’s existence?
- What are your organization’s goals?
- How will this community help advance your organization’s goals?
- Who’s the target audience, and who’s not the target audience?
- Would members find the community helpful, and why?
There is a reason this step is first. If your concept misses the mark, then your community will never be successful. So, take the time and have the conversations needed to build your community around the right concept.
Acquiring Your Community Users
A community isn’t any good if no one participates. So, now that you have a concept, how will you get people to care? What are the emotional triggers you hope to evoke and what do you want people to experience when they join your community?
One idea I like for acquiring users is one that Richard Millington has identified – work on emotions and tie your concept to them. Specifically, there are three big emotions to consider when building your community: excitement, fear, and frustration. They will manifest themselves as inspiration, validation, and resolutions.
- Excitement and Inspiration: Focuses on best ideas, advice and encouraging repeat visits.
- Fear and Validation: Works by focusing on fear, and the validation people can get from the community, where the people of your community can compare how they are doing against others and get validation on their choices.
- Frustration and Resolution: Mostly support communities fall here and focuses on what happens when X isn’t working.
The biggest thing to remember, regardless of the emotion you choose, is that you must tap into why people should care in order to get them to participate.
Retaining Your Community Users
Building on acquisition, you must ask yourself “what will keep my members coming back?” Without retention, your community won’t last long-term. To build retention you must keep the community top-of-mind. To do that, you need to create opportunities for customers to consistently engage with your community. Some ideas to build retention include:
- Reaching out to key users to get their expertise on a specific topic
- Create a weekly or monthly newsletter with key content
- Solicit feedback within the community
- AMA with senior individuals in your company
- AMA with experts in the field
- Offer intrinsic rewards where more contributions lead to more access to content/staff
Focusing on these experiences will organically create value for your customers, which in turn leads to retention.
Setting Internal and External Goals
When identifying goals for your community, you should keep in mind that you have both internal and external stakeholders. As you talk to your internal stakeholders and identify their main goals, ask yourself “how do we translate these internal goals to our external audience?”
From there, make sure your goals are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely) goals. If a goal isn’t one of these things, then it shouldn’t be on your list. Speaking of your list, keep in mind that you don’t need a laundry list of goals, but they do need to be impactful. And it’s the short-term to mid-term goals that will help propel your community success, so focus on those when planning.
Identifying Outcomes that Equal Success
You can’t measure a community’s success without knowing what outcomes equal success. You ultimately want to focus on community being an integral part of your organization – something it doesn’t feel like you can be successful without. Go back to the conversations you had with your internal audiences and ask them flat out what success looks like for them, focusing on the long-term outcomes that will have the biggest impact on your organization.
One thing to keep in mind… Your business outcomes might change and that’s OK. If they are not looking achievable or don’t work after an agreed upon time, have a frank and honest conversation with your internal stakeholders to modify your outcomes to things you can deliver on.
Now that you have started to envision what community can do for you and how you can use CARGO to launch your online community, it’s time to get started. And if you are joining us in Vegas for TSIA World: Envision, schedule time with me to connect in-person and envision what community can do for you with Higher Logic Vanilla.
Head of Community
Adrian Speyer is the Head of Community at Higher Logic, and has over 10 years of experience building communities. By combining his passion for digital marketing and community, Adrian works to create beautiful and functional online communities to help brands connect with their audiences around the world.
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