Group hubs are a pretty flexible feature. We have ample content in this community where you can read about exactly what they are and how they can be used here and here. What I thought I would highlight today is how they are ACTUALLY being used - which is kinda different from what we originally thought. Which is pretty cool.
What are Group Hubs being used for?
First, the numbers - dozens of communities have already created over 1250 Group Hubs, and many of them are growing rapidly. What’s even more astonishing than this rapid adoption is the variety of use cases that are popping up. Some groups are closed memberships and focused on things like online course instructors – others are open and tied more to public social than the brand community. I tried to categorize them into 3 buckets to better understand what is happening.
A very high level map of broader customer engagement
We made this illustration above to illustrate one of the ways our customers is thinking about their community in the bigger picture of engagement. Specifically, USAA thinks of Group Hubs as a bridge between public social (Facebook Groups) and the brand community. In the above picture, that means a Group Hub lies right on the word "Join."
USAA talked a lot about driving more authentic, peer-peer engagement in their recent webinar with us. Their first Group Hub was designed to complement their existing investment and passion for the Army vs Navy annual football game as well as their Salute to Service partnership with the NFL. As you can imagine, these are both large, highly visible investments for their brand, and they wanted to connect these initiatives more closely to their online community. A Group Hub was the perfect way to do this, and it was also something they could decide and execute within 2 weeks! This kind of flexibility is not usually associated with large, financial service companies, but USAA doesn’t let something like that slow down their drive to achieve their mission.
Our second type of Group Hub is depicted perfectly by a community in France. Cultura - a store that combines hobbies, arts, crafts, and books with the mission to “make culture and leisure accessible to as many people as possible” (disclosure - that is Google Translate’s version) is definitely being innovative with their Hubs. Cultura has created a cool interactive map of their Group Hubs to help people find local book clubs where they can share online and meet up in real life. This cool example highlights how Group Hubs are a way to add value to existing customer activities by hosting a nice space and encouraging engagement through promotion. This is similar to hosting book clubs in stores, but in a way that is more accessible for everyone. I really like how they used the interactive map to help people find the best club for them by region!
Super/Special User Engagement
This is actually something we have been doing here at Khoros for Early Access or Beta product features. We actually created a Group Hub for Group Hubs (meta), and a Group Hub for Syndication. Now, these early tests were NOT resounding successes. I think we raised awareness for a few users, but we did not actually get a ton of participation. We learned a lot about how to make Group Hubs better, and now I want to pass that along!
Conclusions and Takeaways
All in all, group hubs have been pretty positive so far, but we did have a few lessons we learned.
Always have a plan. Groups don’t magically turn into activity just because people have a shared interest. You have to provide a prompt and some triggers. One example is that a Group should never be an “empty room” when you start inviting people. There should at the very least be a welcome post and an interesting image/avatar.
Start small. Walking into a room where 40 people are sitting quietly can be intimidating. Nobody wants to break the silence. A room with a dozen or so people who are having open conversations is a lot easier to walk into.
Be intentional and authentic. Groups are about getting people to talk to each other, not just listen to you. Start by sharing something with a bit of vulnerability. Like a blog about how you tried something and it didn’t work and now you need help from the group. Ahem.
How are you using groups? Do you have any advice to add? Leave a comment.