It’s not just something your parents would say when you wait until the night before your project is due to start working on it. It was definitely the #1 message from this panel of experts – if you don’t take time to plan a strategy and roadmap for your community, then you will not achieve good results. It’s really that simple.
However, it can be challenging to find the time and space to actually think about a plan, write it down, and then create momentum with key stakeholders. This one hour recorded session includes some stories and advice on how to determine your strategy, create plans, and set metrics to keep you on track.
Communities can go deep or wide
Everything that is done in a community should be done with the objective of solving customer/member problems - not solving your own business problems. That being said, there are many members with many different problems. In general, communities can grow through two different philosophical approaches:
Solving more problems for existing members; AKA “Going Deeper” for the existing audience
Solving the same problems, but for people who are not members; AKA “Going wider.”
Going Deep: Upwork
Upwork is the largest community and marketplace for professional freelancers. So it is unique in that not only is it a place for people to connect and answer questions, but they are also basically auditioning for work through the community. Community is actually one of the four Core Values for Upwork, and Jennifer Sanchez has been at the forefront of building an extremely valuable community. In this session, she shared a lot of information about the growth of the Upwork community, but the strategy they followed from day one was to be focused on solving more problems for their members.
For Upwork, this meant focusing on advocacy and success for their members in all forms - from feedback about their work to childcare and career advice. One of the big trends in our society today is the incredible growth of the “gig economy.” Upwork has been leading the charge to advocate for fair treatment of the original gig workers for years now, and it is very interesting to see how their community has grown thanks to a well thought out strategy that focuses on helping their members.
Going Wide: Microsoft
Microsoft has built a strong base of users for their PowerApps family of products by focusing on the similar audiences that each product in the group has. They started with a Support-centered community for their first PowerBI product, and quickly started connecting the dots across their other products by syndicating content across each community.
Now, super users can help select which content gets promoted into other communities, and many of the community members have become experts on multiple products. This helps Microsoft grow, but it also provides the members with powerful skills in adjacent spaces that help them provide more, better data to their businesses. And everyone knows that data is now the most valuable commodity in business today.
Getting Started on your Strategy: Feverbee
One of the biggest challenges that Richard sees in Community Management today is being trying to “fly the plane while serving drinks.” Almost a third of communities are run by one person. This makes it really hard to take time off from moderation and interacting with members to figure out what you want your community to be in 3-5 years.
If there is one thing to take away from this session and this blog, it is this:
TIME SPENT ON STRATEGY IS WORTH IT!
When you focus on a strategy that is just about answering more questions, faster - then you end up with increasing costs for decreasing returns. Creating a strategy to go broader or deeper for your audience is how you scale the value of your community.