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Are you neglecting the silent majority in your community?

Lithium Alumni (Retired)

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As a great community manager, you regularly review the visual layout and effectiveness of your community (especially if you are using a SAAS platform like Lithium's which offers new & improved functionality on a monthly basis!).  And, if you have a support community, you also look at the experience on your brand's complementary "help" or "support" pages on the main domain... or if more sales focused, on product reviews and/or shopping pages.  There are many goals, but they mostly boil down to conversion/engagement of one type or another; using online content, participating in peer-to-peer discussions or content curation, sales, etc.

The majority of your time is focused on engaging with those community members that actively participate (and rightly so!), interacting with each other and your brand, making their journey through your ranking structure. And of course your SuperUsers who contribute a vast amount to the health and interaction in your community are a big part of the community's success. However, you should also regularly review the behaviors and consider the needs of your silent majority, those first-time and repeat visitors who are not registered.

The traditional 90-9-1 distribution is often used as a starting point for the conversation around just how many visitors typically participate in a community.  And whatever your specific numbers are, it is a fact that the majority of visitors do not register.

Why should you care about your largest audience when they choose not to interact?

  •  This is your pool of "potentials" - what can you do to meet/exceed their needs and expectations, enticing them to cross the line and participate?  They came to your community for a reason...
  • This silent majority who can find the information they are looking for, whether it be an answer to a technical or how-to question, or opinions on products & services, provides a huge ROI to your business, whether from reduced direct support costs, sales revenue, brand affinity, etc.

 

I'll make a confession; when I worked for an enterprise company and we *finally* received budget and approval for a redesign of our community, I fell into the same trap.  Initially I focused on the home page, excitedly thinking through all the great content, features and interaction we would improve, especially for our active members.  Through a web analytics review, we found that >75% of visitors were coming to the community from organic search (Google mostly) and landing directly on a thread page, deep into our site.  Wow!  Actually pretty obvious, right?  Now how important is that thread and article page?

Put yourself in their shoes - I am a new or infrequent visitor, I don't bookmark your community, but now and then I need an answer or some advice; I use web search, and I land deep into your community experience.  What does this page look like, how does it help me do what I need to get done?

  1. Does it have clear navigational elements, so I immediately know where I am and how to move around in your community?
  2. Does it have site search?  (We realized our thread page did not have search, so visitors were exiting back out to Google rather than staying on the site.  This was a real *duh* moment for us Smiley Embarassed)
  3. Do you use our Recommendations feature, that shows similar content the visitor may be interested in?
  4. What do I see that entices/convinces me I should join the community because it offers what I need/want?


Have a look at a few of these metrics and see what it tells you:

  • Referring Traffic (direct vs organic search vs bookmarked)
  • Top Landing Pages
  • Bounce Rate on top Landing Pages (Bounce Rate is good if the page is intended to provide an answer, bad if the page is intended as a flow to other parts of your community.  Contrast with the Time on Site metric to determine good vs bad)
  • Even better if you can segment your visitors - New vs Returning, or see if you can "mash up" your community ranking classifications with your analytics tool and see specifically what a certain group in your community is doing - do this and you are becoming a true Analysis Ninja.


What discoveries have you made, or what other thoughts come to mind on this subject?

 

Photo by statixcprovided under a Creative Commons license 


Square.jpgBrian Kling is Director, Social Strategy Consulting, EMEA at Lithium Technologies.  Based in Zurich, Switzerland, he has extensive experience managing Social/Community strategy & programs for enterprise Customer Service & Support organizations.  He specializes in designing strategy and services to help brands better connect with their customers, by enhancing customer experiences that also align with business objectives. Formerly a Lithium customer, he joined the Lithium team in June of 2013.  You can find him on Twitter as briankling.

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