It’s almost a no-brainer to invest in a forum for support. It’s like allowing your most helpful clients to join in to assist those struggling with your software or services. People start to find their own answers for obstacles, and your support team should see a decrease in new tickets allowing more time for accurate documentation.
But as much as a support forum helps the company, there’s still a lot of room for a community to make a difference.
Done effectively, a community under your brand can help with market research, beta testing, design issues, user feedback, support, sales, and marketing initiatives and promotions, website traffic, customer success improvements, and revenue.
To get these benefits you have to jump from a focus on support to a focus on solving niche problems with a community endeavor.
What’s this look like?
Recently, Square was hiring for a Community Lead and I liked what they were trying to do so I created a presentation to show how I would take their current support focused community and turn it into a small business focused community.
See, Square already has many support members who are active, and millions of users they could invite to their new, or extended, community.
So what’s involved with this kind of transition?
Start with a topic that matters to your audience
The first and most important thing is that it must make sense for the members. The topic for your community needs to assist them in success with using your product/service. This must be an investment into them, a customer success initiative.
It was simple for Square to choose a topic, their users are small businesses and there are countless obstacles for small businesses that a community could help them answer.
Get support from within your company
Second, there has to be buy-in from important stakeholders, which means building relationships, understanding what is important to each one, and getting the results and research to prove how successful this endeavor could be.
I initially included the number of small businesses in the United States, and around the world, along with the popularity of small business communities on sites like Quora and Reddit in the presentation above but deleted the slides for brevity.
While there are already many small business communities already on the Internet, having a company like Square build one would not only not over-saturate the market, it would promise a certain level of quality that is synonymous with their name. Members would know it would be done with the utmost excellence to help their users succeed.
Additionally, companies are jumping on the community bandwagon every day as more and more community evangelists and experts prove the ROI for investment to be much more beneficial than sales alone and worth the investment to own their own platform for their audience.
Be prepared with an educational, useful content plan
Third, and possibly the most important for the success of your new expansion in a community is Content. The community will need content that educates, encourages participation, and enables them to make progressive growth in their business.
Square is definitely capable of providing adequate content here. There are so many avenues they could follow to provide this from questions and answers with Square’s own team, or with experts the community recognizes, to weekly article contributions, shares for helpful content from Youtube and other sources, the list could go on and on.
For your own transition, you’ll want to make sure you have thoughtful content planned for the first couple of months. People need to see you taking steps to provide an environment of education that pertains to their interests.
Gather your founding members
Fourth and often overlooked, a community needs at least a base/foundational community to get started. A community manager alone is not enough, more members need to be active.
This often falls on the community manager to get others active and this post has a few of the ways you can do this, but it comes down to at the very least having people on your team who will participate like they are members. That means asking and answering questions, being active regularly, and building relationships themselves.
Connect With Marketing & Plan Promotion of Updated Community
Your next step in this journey is to, again, work with your internal relationships to share the new community initiative with your users/members.
You can start with a small cohort of people to test acceptance of the idea and to build up content with more participants. Or, you can jump into sharing the new community with everyone, it’ll be up to you and your team to make this decision.
Finally, Listen to Your Members
Now that your new community is open, it’s time to connect with your members. You want to get their opinions on the content being provided, what makes them want to participate more, and the experts and answers in the community.
Every community should be testing to see what keeps members revisiting the community. You’ll work on your metrics, to find the ones that most accurately measure your success, and you’ll stay in touch with members and stakeholders to keep everyone up to date while your community progresses.
Want help with your community? I’m available to hire, contact me here.