This webinar was an hour that was absolutely packed with great information, frameworks, and anecdotes to understand and implement better engagement strategies.
What is Engagement?
Engagement is the set of actions that people take to solve problems. Specifically, in an online community, engagement is the set of actions that create value for members. It’s hard to directly measure problems solved and customer happiness, so engagement is the key proxy metric that we all use to measure the value of our communities.
That can mean a lot of things, so Rachel and the Community Roundtable team created a framework to help organize the subject.
Engagement is also empowering! People engage when they feel safe and confident. When they put themselves out there, receive positive feedback, and connect with peers they are more likely to help engage with and empower others - creating a virtuous cycle of positive value.
Engagement is Contextual
“ If you brought alcohol to work that would be frowned upon, and if you discussed spreadsheets at a dinner party, that would also make you the party pooper. ” - Rachel Happe
Determining what kinds of engagement you want to increase and measure really depends on what kind of community you want to build. If you are driving for customer support like Cloudera, then you are probably looking for Ask and Validate activities. If you are building an advocacy program, then you definitely want Share and Explore activities.
What is the impact?
This is the bulk of the webinar, so I can’t really do it justice in this blog post. Suffice it to say that Engagement usually has a pretty definable ROI in terms of cost avoidance or value created. For example, every support question answered corresponds to some level of case/ticket/call deflection - which has direct monetary costs for a business. Other types of engagement like new ideas, peer connections, and other posts also have value. I heard another community manager once talk about how they assigned value for blogs posted in a community by comparing it to how much they would pay a freelance writer to create a blog on their website (between $100 and $500).
How to Measure
This was my favorite section, but I am a bit of a numbers geek (it’s the Minor in Math I got in college). Claire and the team at Cloudera are data-driven, and they have one of the most sophisticated and intelligent reporting programs out there. However, the details she gives about response times and engagement across the segments of her community (prospects, customers, partners, and employees) are a gold mine for anyone looking to deliver reports to their executive stakeholders that will earn them a promotion and grow their community support.
Watch it now for yourself!
Or if you are more of a reader - you can get the full eBook on Engagement from Community Roundtable.
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Failure to Plan is Planning to Fail
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.
If you want to find out more - watch the full video now!
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