The Short Newbies Guide to Community Strategy
1. Define Your Business Objectives
Before you begin building a community, you must first understand your business’s goals for the brand. What prompted your company to create an online community? How does it fit into the overall vision for the brand?
By understanding where your company wants to go, you can create a detailed roadmap for how to get there. In essence, you’re working backwards from the end game to the first play.
After reviewing the objectives, consider your community from a member’s perspective. What will they gain from participating in the community? What purpose will it serve in their lives? Once you understand your brand goals and customer needs, you can start strategizing how you’ll ensure the community can meet those targets.
2. Perform a Competitive Analysis
Your competition is a valuable resource. Monitoring and assessing their activity will provide you with vital insight into what works, what doesn’t, and how your community stacks up against the rest.
Start by signing up as a new user. What types of onboarding processes do they have in place? Did you receive a welcome email? If so, what type of content was included?
Follow up by delving into the community content. What types of content are users actively engaging with? What parts of the community are most valued by its members? Understanding these factors will help you learn from other’s mistakes while designing a superior experience for your users.
3. Make a Plan
Every good community manager must have a plan. And after you’ve reviewed the company’s objectives and competition’s activity, it’s time to start building. Collect and read your brand’s marketing content, and ask your colleagues questions about the current practices. You don’t need to reinvent the wheel.
You’ll also want to develop a content and events calendar. This will include everything from new product releases to contests and community content. It’ll keep you on track and ensure you don’t miss a major milestone moment.
Next, set up processes that will ensure quality customer care that’s in-line with your brand’s values. How will you handle customer interactions? What do you do if you receive negative feedback? Making sure you’re prepared for a worst-case scenario will allow you to handle it with ease.
Lastly, define your daily, weekly, and monthly workflows. How will you spend your time? What needs to be completed and what can be put on the backburner when things get hectic?
4. Measure, Track, Report
One of the most intimidating aspects of community management for many community managers is how to tackle metrics and measurement.
What you’ll track will depend on the goals you define in #1, but these are some of the important areas to consider: community membership numbers, community participation, number of questions being asked, response time, and number of customer issues resolved. Take a look at Vanilla Forum’s own analytics to get an understanding on what metrics to track.
Once you’ve determined what to track, establish a baseline for benchmarking purposes.
These four steps will help you create a comprehensive community strategy that supports your company’s business goals. However, it’s important to remember to keep reviewing these processes. Nothing stays the same forever, and continually refining your strategy will make you a more proficient community manager.