No worries on a late response. I hope you had a nice Holiday Season, Piper!
To me, it does sound like there is a bigger internal problem within the business at this point. Leadership not empowering (or worse, not trusting) the team to do their job and make the right decisions around best-practices is likely to be a combination of both personality and business-culture issues.
Generally, in these situations, appealing to the business sponsor is the best course of action. If the business sponsor tends to be feckless or is not a position, politically, to put his or her foot down within leadership circles, then finding allies within leadership across other business units (or other business divisions!) is the next course of action.
I might also add that the Khoros CSM and/or the Khoros Account Executive might be another resource to tap. I certainly do not want to send any of my fellow employees into a dysfunctional situation, but sometimes a voice-of-reason from outside the business (and in this case, a voice that represents deep knowledge of both Community platform and Community practice) can help sway opinions....or at the very least, get people to revisit their previously entrenched opinions.
And, lastly, props to you for trying to help the Community (and its team) deal with this. It is not for the faint-of-heart, so I salute you.
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The way I see it, you really have two issues. One is way harder to deal with than the other. Here goes:
1. From the outset, there were no clear rules, guidelines, or standards for the Community team in regards to boards / groups justifying their existence. A stalwart fixture within Community Best Practices is to follow the 'less is more' maxim when expanding Community discussion areas. So this is a huge oversight that it ever got this way. There is nothing more uninspiring than a vast Community with limited activity. If you have ever been to a dead city or a burnt out town that has fallen on hard times, you know how foreboding it feels. If the Community continues down this way, it will eventually fail. However, this is all very manageable. There are plenty of threads in our Community outlining the best practices around Community Structure. Many of them are customer-facing and affable enough as to be convincing. You will need to find those customer-facing threads that make your point and research them. Then, exposing the best of those threads to the Community's business sponsor *could* be helpful (it actually depends on how empowered the business sponsor is, and also how much they are really watching their Community investment)
2. The business is not empowering the Community Management team, and conversely, the Community team is seeking permission to do their job. THIS IS A REAL PROBLEM! It is a problem that the business sponsor of the Community initiative will have to weigh-in on. It is a problem that the Community Management team will have to also solve for the future. And lastly, the business will have to confront the fact that if they have been warned, and if they are choosing to ignore the experts, that they are unashamedly providing a poor customer experience when it comes to people socially interacting, on-domain, with the brand.
There are no 'negative metrics', per se, so I would not use that kind of terminology when speaking with the customer. It should be re-phrased as 'the opportunity for sustained and healthy growth is being hampered by bloat'. Make sure you are clear when you use language like 'metrics', 'trends', and 'benchmarks'. Be even more clear when you start talking about 'KPIs' and/or 'Business Value' too.
I dont mean to come down on you. Please do not take it personally. But anytime I encounter this kind of overt denial of best practices, I am forced to conclude that there is negligence afoot. It is negligent on the customer's part. There is sheepishness on the Community Management team's part, and by virtue of that, it is also negligent. There is no other way to articulate it, even though I know it sounds rather harsh. But please consider how much time and money are being spent on this endeavor. Sobering speech seems appropriate here.
I am sure the customer does not want their Community to fail. If nobody will do anything, then there needs to be multiple escalations across numerous business units. Now is not the time for hesitation or cowardice. This needs to be figured out. Proving the case starts with educating the customer. Sharing whitepapers, blog articles, or other testimonials on the subject of a taut Community Structure may be in order. Diving into Community benchmarks from similar Communities can also make a point. Data and perspective are the levers to use. But you need to use them. You are the Paul Revere here. Ask for help if you need it, but make it happen!
And please let us know how it goes. I would love to hear the follow-up. These situations have a way of either getting much better or much worse. I am, of course, hoping for the former rather than the latter. Good luck and Happy Holidays.
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Is the fact that "community" has become a defined term across many industries is it limiting itself in encompassing more experiences? e.g. "forums" where the thing 20 years ago, but have lost a lot of their hotness since. What'll be following on "community"? - Claudius Henrichs, Dataiku
Hmmmmm.....this is a very good question that takes me into more philosophical waters.
In the old days (1990s) we did not even call Online Communities, 'communities'. They were mostly called boards, message boards, BBS (Bulletin Board Systems), or forums. When Blogs came along (with their accompanying 'comments'), I think people started to loosen their grip on what was called a 'Community' in net speak. When Dell came along with the Idea Storm, I think that was another shot across the bow for how we as a culture, define 'online Community'. Last but not least, KnowledgeBases that allow commenting can be considered 'Community' now.
And to add even a little bit more chaos to the nomenclature; when Brand Communities really started arriving on the scene (as opposed to classic 'hobbyist' communities that were the most well-known), a lot of these brand's already had a concept of what 'Community' meant for their brand and how they defined it on their website...and those definitions of 'Community' had more to do with what the brand was doing to assist struggling. neighborhoods and assisting non-profits.
Language is an ever-evolving thing, and so is the internet. It probably only gets even more complicated when somebody like yourself, Claudius, that speaks 3+ languages tries to make sense of all this. Personally, I regularly clarify with our customers and/or prospective customers from the outset that when I am speaking about Community, I am primarily talking about 'forums', but I am also tangentially including all those other interaction styles I cited above as well.
Thanks for the question, and thank you for attending, Claudius. Always great to cross paths with you. 🙂
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Have you developed a successful model for measuring ROI for a super user program? I've just launched our new super user program and want to track the ROI for the business moving forward. (I have a couple ideas but wanted to hear your POV) -Austin Grimes, Flexera
It is easier to track the ROI for SuperUsers (in some form or another) if the business is either B2C High-Tech and/or Retail. However, with your company, there are different challenges for you because have a B2B High-Tech Community. One thing that tends to be almost always true is that Community SuperUsers spend more. This is relatively easy to prove in B2C High-Tech and Retail oriented Communities (well, easy to prove if the Community is integrated into the CRM system), but these additional 'spend gains' are not so easy to prove in B2B High Tech.
Here are the the Value Levers I would start looking at within your B2B High-Tech SuperUser group (in no particular order):
1. What do the SuperUser's accounts look like? Has there been any upsell or cross-sell activity for their account that seems to correspond with all the activity out of the SuperUser (i.e. - were they inquiring about a product or service in a thread, etc)?
2. It can sometimes come down to the win/loss reports that a Marketing or Sales Operations team sends out when a deal is closed. Asking the question, "Did you explore or consult with our Online Community to help inform your decision to purchase our software?"
3. Sending out very specific / custom surveys or even running focus-groups for the SuperUsers can be helpful in determining whether their participation and engagement in the Community was influential in an upsell / cross-sell
4. Though not a 'hard ROI' finding (indeed, we call them 'soft benefits'), you may want to look a bit more closely and the CSAT or NPS of your SuperUsers. If your business is already able to monetize improvements in CSAT or NPS (and BTW - I do find it uncommon for businesses to have a good handle on measuring the actual monetary yield when there are higher Satisfaction scores), taking a closer look at the higher CSAT or NPS of SuperUsers can be a good way of looking at the ROI of the group
5. Referrals! Another thing that a SuperUser group can be for B2B High Tech brands is a potential new group for customer testimonials, panelists and/or speakers at a Customer Conference, or even the more intimate customer-to-prospect calls that can be arranged by the brand. This, again, is much more challenging to translate into 'hard ROI', but there is certainly value there
Hope this helps! And thank you for attending and asking this question, Austin.
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The concept of ‘wealth’ from one person to another tends to change very little.
Most people equate wealth exclusively as the accumulation of money and/or assets. But there are some of us who think that the deeply personal things in our lives (family, friends, etc) are also part of our ‘wealth’. In my opinion, things that we are grateful for should be classified as wealth.
That broad way of defining ‘wealth’ (i.e. - 'things we are grateful for') conveniently emerges as my own way of talking about 'wealth' as it pertains to Online Community. In our world of measuring Online Community, it is imperative to measure both the quantitative and the qualitative. Community wealth is not just about saving money or making money, Community wealth is also about those things that we cannot conveniently monetize, but that we are nonetheless grateful to have received.
Speaking of something we cannot conveniently monetize, lets talk about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
Now here is something that definitely has money associated with it. Just ask any employee of Google, or better yet, just ask anybody in Marketing that has ever had anything to do with a Search Engine Marketing (SEM) budget.
The challenge that our Business Value Consulting (BVC) team runs up against here at Khoros is when we’re asked whether or not a Community’s SEO value should be classified as a ‘savings’ or a ‘yield’. It may sound cowardly, but I always let the brand decide. If they want to cut their SEM budget a bit because they are getting lots of search engine referrer traffic hitting their Community, and then that traffic subsequently spreads out to the rest of the brand’s digital properties, well, that is their choice.
But I also will tell brands that it might serve them best to not even think of those valuable SEO hits to their Community as a monetary savings or a yield, but instead to (temporarily, at least) value those SEO hits as a ‘soft benefit’ until the business can figure out how they want to calculate the value.
‘Soft Benefit’? What the heck is that? A ‘soft benefit’, my friends, falls into that concept of wealth that I mentioned earlier. It is something personal that we hold dear that can not easily translate into a dollar figure, but we are certainly grateful to have it. Probably the most boorish (but adept) way of articulating a soft benefit is to use the words of Gary Vaynerchuk; “What is the ROI of your Mother?”
Here are the most common Online Community ‘Soft Benefits’ that I like to explore with brands:
Increased Customer Satisfaction
Amplified Positive Sentiment
Real-estate to place advertisements / offers for additional products and services
Helps to establish trust and fellowship among customers
Increased Customer Insights
Each of these items above might be measured in dollars, but it could be a stretch to get there and in some cases the credibility of the figure would be dubious. The wealth that you yield from your Community should be measured first in dollars. On that point I do not compromise. But it is foolish to think that wealth begins and ends with just money. We do not measure wealth that way in our personal lives, so why pretend that we cannot do it in our professional lives?
Benjamin Franklin was the son of a candle-maker that had 17 children.
He grew up extremely poor and started working when he was 12 years old. I started this series of two articles with his maxim, “Early to bed, and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise”, because it makes perfect sense to look at both the health and wealth of an Online Community.
However, I learned more about Franklin on the way and also gained greater exposure to a long list of his proverbs, two of which have stuck with me because I like to keep an open mind whilst simultaneously staying laser-focused on my goals.
The first, “Your net worth to the world is usually determined by what remains after your bad habits are subtracted from your good ones”, is something that we can apply to our personal lives as we strive to do better.
The second, “They that will not be counseled cannot be helped”, is something you and I can apply to ourselves when reading the works of wise people throughout history. It is also a perfectly appropriate observation to consider when reading my blog articles as well.
Read Part 1
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