How to Get More Out of Your Online Community Without Asking Them for More
First things first
Okay. Let’s back up here.
All of these tips I’ll share with you today come from Richard Millington, founder of FeverBee, author of The Indispensable Community, and one of the most respected names in the world of online communities. He did a webinar with us recently called, The Engagement Trap.
Richard does an amazing job of breaking down some complex ideas into digestible pieces that you can actually start using right now to get more out of your community.
It was this one piece of the entire puzzle that really stood out to me: the idea of getting more out of your community members by just making it easier for them to be who they already are.
Your community’s potential starts with the goals
Let’s establish this as a starting point: what’s the goal of your community? Everyone’s is a little bit different.
Maybe you’re trying to reduce your customer service costs. In an example that Richard gives us in the webinar, he talks about a potentiality in which a business has already reached one of their main goals.
Let’s say that Company B has been working hard at achieving that goal of improving their call deflection rate. They’ve gotten to a point where they’ve now reduced those costs by a whopping 85%. Great job!
And now what?
One of the things that Richard and his team at FeverBee does with their clients is to help them define their goals. The image below demonstrates a situation in which different stakeholders at the company have different goals for community. They have different needs and different problems. Richard says:
Once we know these things, once we know what they really care about, we can align our community goals to match. So let’s say that, from there, they decide that in the first year, they’re going to resolve 50% of their customers questions via the community.
But are they getting all they can out of their community?
Creating activity through choice
Take a look at the image below that Richard uses in his slide deck during the webinar (the link will direct you to a page where you can get the slides).
You can see that Alteryx is giving their community the opportunity to engage with the community—and, ultimately, the company—by making sure that there is something for everyone.
There’s a spot for newcomers to make them feel welcome, and to guide them through the experience of the community. There’s a place for ensuring customer success, satisfaction, and retention in the Academy section.
For Richard, this is an incredibly welcoming community. If we look beyond engagement, we can see the beauty in creating a space where they’re able to tackle so many different goals at once.
And here’s why the top brands do this.
It’s because so many communities are only harnessing a small fraction of their actual potential. They focus just on one goal. They focus on just that one impact that they’re trying to make — like retention in the example that we used above.
Let’s go back to Company B and their 85% call deflection rate. In order to prove that they’re still providing value, they have to increase their numbers. Now they’re spending tons of time, money, and effort in order to bring that rate up just a little bit to 90%.
What they’re missing out on here is the opportunity to tackle all the other goals of their community. As we see in the image below, from the webinar, there are so many other ways that you can get value from your community!
At this point, you could be using your community as a recruitment tool. You could use it to get case studies that your PR team can use to help your sales and marketing efforts. Maybe you’d like to improve your SEO to get more organic search traffic. You might even turn members into advocates. There are so many options!
If you want a community to be indispensable to the company that you work for, it has to be indispensable to several of the colleagues that you work with.
Richard’s prescription is simple: Ambition. The more ambitious you are with your community goals, the better you’ll serve both the community, and the business you work for.
Set goals that help your team members achieve their goals, and use your community for all its worth!
Next Step: Make your community indispensable to your members
Here’s a question that Richard posed in the webinar that’s worth considering at this point:
If you were to think about all of the communities that you’ve joined over the years, how many do you still actively participate in?
Pretty good question, isn’t it? I’ve been involved in online communities for around 20 years, and I’m sure that there are many of you who are reading who have a similar timeline.
And when I think back to all of the communities that I’ve joined, the sad result is that I’m a member of very few communities these days. So then the question becomes, why am I still a member of those communities?
Because whatever it is that I’ve got going on in my life right now, whatever my interests are, those are the communities that I can’t live without. They’re the communities where I feel like I belong. They’re where I feel like I’m getting the information that I need to carry out my job, and to get better at other things I’m interested in.
As Richard says in the webinar, it may seem as though now is a great time to have an online community, just based solely on the massive numbers of people who are online. It’s not a question of whether or not they’re going to join a community, but a matter of whether or not they’re going to join your community.
What makes your community indispensable? How do you stand out? Because none of your community members care even a little bit about what your metrics are or how you’re reporting on them and how they can help you achieve your goals.
What they want out of a community is to be who they are in a place that matters to them. So you’ve got to align your community with exactly that—with what matters to them. They can chat anywhere, but in order to be indispensable, they have to feel that alignment very deeply.
In the research that Richard and his team have done, they’ve found that between 40 and 50% of people who post in a community today will never post again. So if you’re looking for the scariest Halloween costume ever you may want to consider going as a first-time community poster. Terrifying!
Even more frightening is that most community members are done with that community within about 30 days. A whopping 75% of members will never visit that online community ever again. If you’re a fan of horror movies, you’ll definitely want to watch the webinar to get the full details on Richard’s research. But Richard has a virtual stake to drive into the heart of this community-sucking vampire. And it’s as simple as it is elegant.
Help members make their best contributions, not the easiest. Give members the opportunity to be valuable to the community. In turn, they’ll provide value to you and your team.
One of Richard’s favorite examples of this is ProjectManagement.com. We’re looking at a community with 800,000+ members, 14,000 articles, and more than 1,000 templates.
Most of us, when launching a community for project managers would launch a space where they can talk about the topic. Done and done.
But that’s not what this community has done. Instead, what they’ve done is they’ve enabled a space for project managers to share their best resources with each other. It’s an amazing place for them to get real value from other community members.
Sharing templates that provide real value actually takes time and motivation. You have to really put a lot of work into sharing something that provides actual value to other members. And you have to be willing to accept any criticism that might come along with sharing your ideas, as well!
But by doing this, the community members have become indispensable to one another. Not just to those people who came to the forum and downloaded a resource. The poster’s own reputation grows as a result of sharing this information with the community. It’s a kind of perfect symbiosis with everyone getting something out the process that is… wait for it… indispensable!
That’s just one of many examples, but it really helps to drive the point of indispensability home.
There’s so much more to this
This is just a small part of what Richard talks about in his webinar, and we would really love for you to take a few minutes out of your day to get the entire picture.
Richard gets into a lot more detail on why focusing on engagement can actually be detrimental to your community. He also unpacks the means by which you can establish more intelligent goals and objectives for your community. And he’ll show you how to create a long-term road map that you can use to drive your community to true success.
Don’t wait, check out The Engagement Trap with Richard Millington right now by following the link below!