We are adding a special area for our customers who have invested in our certification courses. There are almost 1000 who will be added when we go live, with this area, those who have active certifications, and we want to reengage with them.
We will also want to invite new folks in at the start of their certification course and enable live instructors to add content and drive new members into this area. For many of those, it's their first time experiencing the community.
In the past we've found that there are some challenges with maintaining activity in an area like this, as well as clarifying the difference between discussions that should go in the broader public forums vs this area. Folks will post general questions that should be in the public area of the community, they won't see much engagement, since this is a more select group, and they think the community isn't very active.
We need to make clear this is a special area for class members and folks who have invested in training. We want to make them feel special, to feel a warm sense of community here.
My question is, have you had similar goals? What community tools did you use? Did you use a category? A group? A Group 2.0 (new version of groups?) What made your area successful and what challenges did you face?
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, we'll keep updating on what we do here and how it goes!
I think these areas of the Community *can* be important and *can* be successful, but I always remind a brand that members of the Community come to the community to talk about what THEY WANT to talk about (not what the brand wants them to talk about). This can sometimes be a tough pill for people working within the brand to swallow.
Generally, these types of scenarios (that you're describing) work well if that section of the community is the only place that they can successfully communicate about the subject matter. To wit; email lists, other collaboration tools such as Slack, Yammer, Sharepoint, Facebook Groups, etc - should not compete with the community.
Khoros has had a longtime customer that base their business on running focus-groups and studies for other big brands. This means they are setting up tiny communities that are shortlived in order to have that location be the central repository around everything that is happening in the Focus Group for the people participating in it. But in a case like theirs, they are paying the participants to participate. I mean, it is a classic 'focus group' after all.
So one of the first best practices that I often suggest for the scenario that you are describing is that "all roads lead to this little sub-section of the community". It is a classic variation on the foundational element of Community Management, Promotion! So the certified instructors, the documentation that the participants are studying, the follow-up survey emails and/or confirmations emails upon registering for the course all NEED to be directing the participants to this sub-section of the Community.
And once they get there (as you have realized), it becomes hand-to-hand combat with getting them to continually engage. You need to require that they subscribe to the board or group so that they are continually alerted (via email) whenever there is any activity. Sometimes this hand-to-hand combat means that the brand itself may need to start topics too.
Khoros has historically been hesitant to work with customers that solely want to run a small community this way (and yes, I do understand that this is not the single facet of your community). We were content to let Jive do internal communities that competed with the likes of Sharepoint, Yammer, etc. They were successful up to a point. Community is a numbers game and big brands with large customer bases make for the type of Community Success that we like to see. Not that you cant have what you are asking for (indeed, I believe you can), but your expectations and your management's expectations should be modest with these types of smaller micro-communities within the larger community.
I think our current Groups feature, or alternatively, a classic forum 'Board' would do the trick. However, our upcoming Groups 2.0 feature (which has an extremely strong Jive "collaboration" pedigree built into it due to our acquisition of their external Community business a while back) would be even better. Still, I would not wait on that. If you want to do this (which I think you should!) then get after it either using a private Board or a private Group.
Just be aware that your Promotion tactics will have to be very focused, and that the brand's willingness to constantly steer the specific folks there has to be agreed upon across the organization. Lastly, measure it often, but do not drive yourself too crazy at the beginning. These things take time to get a head of steam. If you do have a timeline in which you judge success or failure, do not be afraid to cut bait if it is not working (or, at the very least, honestly re-evaluate your Promotion tactics to see why people are not joining and/or participating).
Let us know how it goes. I always like to learn as much as I can about these smaller micro-Community endeavors that sit within a larger Community.
Salesforce did, maybe still do this for their cohorts as they come out of training, been a while since i did my admin certification but as a "customer" being on the other end i found the whole experience a little flat.
They gave the recently certifyed users a "community" just for them, only most of the users didnt use it, nor did salesforce do anything to actually moderate or seed discussion, from my point of view I was left asking, whats the point of this so called community?
I guess the point i'm trying to make is that, as @JakeR has said people will talk about what they want too and so giving a scope/purpose too narrow and you wont get any engagement. I think it's also really important that you have a clear purpose for the area making sure users get something out of it as well as you achieveing your goals. Be open about the whole thing, it may not actually work, but thats ok, whats works in one community maynot in another.
I've created several private areas, using groups and boards with different sucsess, my own personal preference is a private board as you have more flexability to do stuff like private TKB content, custom pages all within a category but groups do give you a somewhat easier level of admin without having to mess about with roles, some things that i think are key to sucsess, will be more but here are some of mine:
I just can echo what Jake and Stephen already said: The most successful areas in a community are those created to fulfil a need your customers/members have. I'd suggest actually creting a mini pre-focus group focus group 😄 Just ask 5-10 out of the 1000 that recently passed the certification and ask them what they missed in the certification experience. Maybe you are already surveying them and you can carefully plug an additional question that polls whether they prefer more 1-on-1 exchange, 24/7 discussion group or teacher exchange. This way you can gauge if the direction you are heading is the right one.
Regarding choosing the appropriate interaction style I would like to point out one benefit of using groups: members by default will be auto-subscribed and be notified about all new content posted there. For a normal discussion boards you would need to encourage members to subscribe (or create custom functionality that subscribes them).