In a time of crisis, community matters
In this time of crisis with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, digital engagement has become the primary channel for interactions. This represents a huge shift for many businesses while most employees are also under a tremendous amount of personal stress. At the same time, however, there has been an outpouring of people going out of their way to help their fellow humans n online communities. A brand community is the best way to help your people help each other, and can substantially ease the load on other digital channels.
There are three 3 main reasons why now is the best time to focus on your online community.
Provide the right people with the most accurate information.
A community is an easy way to quickly communicate relevant, accurate information across a wide variety of audiences. In addition, it is notoriously difficult to moderate misinformation on public, non-owned channels . With more granular permissions than public social networks, moderation tools for large scale conversations, and a focus towards collaboration-first, it is much easier to both produce more accurate communication AND control inaccurate information in a brand community . Finally, communities are a better way to get your information found by customers who are searching for answers: about 62% of traffic in an established community comes from SEO .
Communities are live and living
Community content is built around collaboration. This means people can ask questions, contribute information, and live updates can occur. As an added benefit, the more activity a community thread has - the higher the search ranking is! Instead of fragmenting your information, focusing on your community actually does the opposite.
And easy to embed all over the place
With content syndication , APIs, and mobile SDKs, you can link all your various audiences together to collaborate in the community easily by embedding community content wherever you want. Communities are a well-documented way to reduce inbound calls, and that is especially true in times of crisis when the vast majority of people have the same question - and need it answered right now.
Tips for Managing Crises in a Community
There are many things you can do right away to start interactive discussions that have all the outlined benefits. Here are a few practical examples.
Create a dedicated Crisis Space
First, find out if anyone else in your company, like Marketing or Corporate Communications (PR), is creating a blog or news release. You will want to cross-link with this in your key community post, and probably leverage a lot of the same text (but not an exact copy). The best solution is to agree on a single blog on the Community because of the way community posts generate better search results.
TIP: Coordinate internally - if possible in an internal community.
Khoros internal group hub for the current crisis.
With many employees distributed to work from home, now is the time to invest in an internal community, or renew the focus on one.
TIP: Create a set of minimal content for critical conversations
Here are some of the top tactics we have gathered (and implemented) to populate the space and organize content.
Group Hub - create a COVID19 Crisis Management hub in your News & Announcements add a banner to Community Home
Move all related Topics/posts to this group hub.
Search Description, tags, labels, and keywords are very important, so align on a few to start with and try to limit their usage elsewhere.
Product Coaching session available now
Blog - COVID19 Response (Example: Southwest Blog )
The tone should be sympathetic yet concise; focus on the facts.
Recommendations : You may want to turn off comments or direct comments to a separate forum or TKB. It makes it easier to manage large volumes in a single place and Posts are the easiest,
Create a post in question format
Review all incoming questions and update FAQs as needed
Create FAQs and nominate current Accepted Solutions (if applicable)
Promote the Post, Blog, and TKB via promoted search terms
Promoted search coaching session available now
Now, promote the space
Once you have your crisis space, promote it prominently on your Contact Us page, the global home page, banners on digital properties, social campaigns to highlight community as a channel, and/or put community as an option in your inbound call automated responses (IVR).
TIP: Create an announcement and link to the Group Hub
Email once and allow optional updates via subscription (avoid spamming your audience). People may have subscribed to your blog, but they didn’t subscribe to the daily coronavirus updates of 250 companies - which is what we are all getting right now. It makes finding important information harder, and that adds stress that nobody needs.
Product Coaching Session for leveraging the Featured Articles and Announcement components
TIP: Put your community front and center
The community is often relegated to a single word under the Support or Resources section in the footer of the site. Now is the time to change that . You can galvanize customers AND your internal resources by making the community front and center in your own space.
TIP: Pin or float important updates to the top of a page or dedicated space.
This is a popular feature in forums for when solutions are verified, and it can work the same way in a crisis to make the best content also the most visible.
Keep Calm and Moderate On
TIP: Set up a filter and moderation rule to funnel incoming crisis-related questions to one place/person.
Conversations always seem to go better when you give them a little format and control. It is also easier to limit misinformation by using sophisticated Roles. Here are a few examples of flexible discussions you can have on Communities that can make it easier to disseminate information to large groups of people and still enable interactive discussion:
Focus Groups : Everyone can talk, but membership is limited to experts
Q&A Panel : Everyone can watch, but very few can answer, and only a select audience can ask questions (e.g. customers only)
AMA (Ask Me Anything) : Host a expert or two to answer questions, but everyone can ask and also upvote comments or answers
Roundtable: Only the community owners can ask questions or post new topics, and only community members can respond.
Open Forum : Everyone can ask and post responses - this is if you want to open up discussion as much as possible.
TIP: Super Users are your greatest asset in a crisis
What I love about communities are how they are built by people who love to help. You should be tapping into these people and looking at them as an extension of your team early on.
Loop them in early and provide them an early warning checklist
Ask them to tag discussions and nominate Accepted Solutions
Give those that are trusted and have proven their responsibility, permission to move posts into the Group Hub
Give them an internal contact to escalate questions to quickly
AND MAKE SURE TO RECOGNIZE THEIR CONTRIBUTIONS! We have an extensive set of content about this if you want to read more.
TIP: Agents need guidance and proactive content
Provide them a scripted post with instructions to customers and link to the COVID19 blog and then have them tag all conversations with the same tags.
TIP: Relax your normal rules a bit
People are stressed, and sometimes that leads to bad behavior. It’s ok to let it slide a bit for the circumstances. This thread discusses it pretty well.
Conclusion and other resources:
My name may be on this blog, but a ton of people across Khoros have added insights here @ a bunch of people. For me, it has been a practical application of nearly everything I wrote here. We also expect this content to grow rapidly, so stay tuned and subscribe to this group hub.
Other interesting links I found along the way.
Cisco is providing free access/removing usage restrictions on its collaboration and security tools to better support remote workers.
Zoom is providing free access to all K-12 schools in the country.
For those of you who need to help your staff engage people digitally @ The Community Roundtable has opened access (for free) to its Engagement Bundle - resources, reports, and case studies about how to improve engagement. Use the code: GODIGITAL
Airbnb has broadened its cancellation policy for global property bookings in between Mar 14 and Apr 14.
Adobe is giving Creative Cloud free access to students and virtual classrooms:
LVMH to produce free hand sanitizer for French health authorities
Cultura 'offers' everyone super ideas to keep your kids busy while working from home. Community helpfulness at its best!
This is uncharted territory for all of us, and we are still learning. Do you have anything you want to add? Please comment
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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.
You can watch the short webinar here for more insight into how this USAA used Group Hubs.
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.
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The Community Roundtable is conducting their annual State of Community Management survey, which is the foundation for their State of Community Management report that is going to be released later this year.
Benefit: Taking this survey produces valuable advice to address key challenges and opportunities facing community management professionals. The participants will not be identified in the final report, but they can use it internally to build a case for additional resources, executive visibility, and to generally advocate for more investment in Communities.
Take the Survey now!
Please take the survey by February 26th if you are interested!
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