Recently I’ve become obsessed with knowledge bases. More specifically, I’ve been fascinated with how they get constructed, what knowledge gets included, how they are structured and where the source of the knowledge comes from.
It’s also very intriguing to see how people also use different terms for knowledge base. Some call it Guides, others call it FAQs and a large number of developer and devrel people seem to call it documentation. At the end of the day, the knowledge bases (as I will call it for my purpose) work to be THE place for a company to house and store the knowledge of a company or a service. I wonder however, if sometimes, this knowledge gathering is missing out on a key component. I’ve written enough FAQs in my time to know it was mostly the marketing/content teams determining what would be common questions without actually getting the pulse from the most important audience: the community.
I’d like to take a moment, then to advocate for you on the importance of placing your community on equal footing with your knowledge base. To make my case, I will begin with something fun you all remember from school - a Venn diagram.
There’s a lot to unpack in this, so let’s jump in an examine this a bit closer.
The core of function of the knowledge base is to be the primary location for institutional knowledge. It’s usually technical information written by a select few people within the organization, and is written in a relatively formal voice. It’s the official content of the company. Most knowledge base platforms also allow some way to measure the helpfulness of the content. The content is usually controlled or defined by technical/product teams with the aid of support teams.
For our purposes, we will use a forum as the main online community. Usually this is a place where people will use their own-words (non-jargon) to describe their problems, and in a successful community, self-help is a key component. Answers will come from power users and those who volunteer their time to answer questions. A company can measure and identify those discussions that frequently get page views and also get positive (or negative) reactions from their audience. The community and content is usually controlled or defined by the community team, who usually falls into marketing, but could be found in a support role as well.
In my view, this is where the magic happens. When a strong and successful community meets with a knowledge base, the most powerful combo is created; they are simply better together. When community and knowledge base work together, a number of things are made possible through their intersection:
Amazing ability for Customer Self-Help: People can usually search both the community and the knowledge base at the same time (a.k.a Federated Search). They can select the content that helps best answers their issues.
The combo of community + knowledge base, means you have both customer and internal knowledge covered - and a space to record them both. This is shared across organizations that apply best practices, and as a result, great customer insights get added to the knowledge base.
Usually the nexus of shared responsibility is the customer support/success team. They need both of these tools to empower customer success and satisfaction.
People expect these channels. In recent studies, it’s been found that 70% of people expect a website to have a self-support function.
Did I also mention the amazing benefit for SEO? According to a study conducted by the TSIA, 90% of people looking for help started in Google. How can you not benefit for the maximum coverage of both customer generated content asked in their own voice and your own official answers in the knowledge base?
One other thing to consider. Statistics show that 77% of support-based branded communities also have a knowledge base. Essentially, knowledge base and community work so well together than many organizations have already taken the steps to procure them both.
Next Steps: Taking Action!
Hopefully you see the importance of looking at your current practices and avoiding the silo of your knowledge base team working on their own. There are numerous benefits to adding an online community to the mix. You double up some of the best parts of your knowledge base, but you also now include the voice of your customer. Now that’s a powerful combination which is unstoppable.