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Online communities facilitate and encourage your customers to interact with each other and your company. This has wide-reaching benefits for your organization—reducing support tickets, increasing customer retention, and enabling product ideation to name but a few. Take B2B software provider Infoland as an example: they have managed to vastly improve customer service and deflect a massive 40% of their support tickets using their community.
It’s critical to define the business case for your community before launching an implementation plan. Defining the community’s strategic function helps guide planning and rollout, maximizing the return on your investment from the first day the community goes live. Remember, the plan doesn’t need to be complex, just clear.
The objective describes the long-term vision you have for your community, while goals are measurable targets on the road to realizing that vision. Strategies outlay how you expect to achieve your goals. Defining these components—and identifying how you’ll measure your progress—helps you start strong and stay focused on KPIs as your community grows.
Who will own the community? How will it be managed on a day-to-day basis? Align internally and answer these questions to ensure the community rollout goes smoothly and you’re set up for future success.
The community concept is what you want your community to accomplish for users. Like Infoland, you may opt to make support its primary function. Other communities are focused on product ideation in order to drive innovation, while some focus on creating brand ambassadors to increase customer engagement and retention. Defining the desired user experience will guide the design and layout of your community.
There are three critical elements when it comes to building a successful community strategy: driving traffic, encouraging content creation, and activating new users. Linking to your community from your website, email newsletters, and social networks can boost visits and incentivize customers to become community members. For more tips on how to drive traffic to your community through integrations—download our free eBook on essential community integrations. Finally, optimizing your community content for SEO will greatly help customers find your community organically.
Make sure your moderation staff is familiar with both the front- and backend of the community. Browse your community vendor’s knowledge base—or attend their training sessions—to educate your moderators on engagement best practices and familiarize them with moderation strategies, such as private messaging.
It’s essential to involve key community stakeholders in this step. A good launch plan will typically involve members of an organization’s support, customer success, product, and IT teams. Align these departments on messaging to make sure you maximize traffic to your new community.
Integrating your community with your ticketing system, such as Zendesk, and your CRMs like Gainsight and Salesforce unlocks a wealth of data about your customer. These integrations give you a 360 view of customer engagement, happiness, and help you predict churn. As the community grows, the stakeholders identified in the previous step should be kept up to speed with regular reporting. Make sure you define what KPIs you’ll report on (for example the number of community members, most liked posts), and set a calendar so there is a regular cadence of data flowing to the departments that rely on the community.
Leverage gamification to encourage participation among community members. Badges can be awarded for answering questions, voting on others’ posts, crafting verified answers, and more. Best of all, the gamification system itself typically serves as sufficient motivation for more people to get involved, because people value the status that gamification offers to users.
Using your gamification statistics and other engagement metrics like post field analysis, identify your most active community members. These are the super users who show a natural inclination for helping to advance the community’s goals. These users can be rewarded with special perks, like access to hidden categories, to acknowledge their contributions. Some high-performing communities even assign moderator roles to super users.
There you have it, your 10 steps towards a successful online customer community. Always remember that true community success requires careful planning, correct implementation, and efficient community management. For more information on how to run a successful online community, check out our Ultimate Guide to Community Management here.