Is Your Community Strategy Working? If not? Read This!
So, from what I’ve seen, almost every single person in community management, at some point is going to feel like this, that their community is stuck in the mud, that their community isn’t getting any closer to where it’s supposed to be going.
That they it doesn’t matter how much more engagement they get. That’s just spinning your tires and you’re still not getting to where you want to go.
This is the point when you realize that putting more fuel in the tank, getting more resources doesn’t help you to get where you want to go.
This is the point when you realize that changing the technology, having a different car, or any of those things doesn’t get you any closer to where you want to go.
And the reason why this is happening. The reason why almost every online community at some point we’ll get stuck. Is it because we don’t have the right tactics. I think tactically everyone in our industry is quite good. I think it’s because we don’t have the right strategy in place.
I think we’re very good at tactics, but we’re far less good at the strategy behind a successful online community.
Statistically, half of you in this industry today. Don’t have any strategy at all. And the other half of you don’t have a strategy, if that’s good enough, a strategy that’s going to get you to where you wanted to go. And there’s a really easy test to tell if you have a good strategy or not. And it’s whether you’re asking questions like these:
1. How do I get more engagement?
2. What kind of person should I hire for my community?
3. What technology should I use?
All these questions and all the most common questions that come up time and time and time again, feel like they are tactical questions, but they’re not the questions of strategy.
So all of the questions, we have the province we have our problems or the strategy or the community.
And so the reason, and if we want to get a lot better, what we’re doing isn’t to come up with more and more tactics is to get the strategy right.
Because if we get the right strategy, everything improves. And for the last 10 years, I’ve been working with so many different organizations, over 200 organizations. I’ve had over 1000 people that go through our training courses, and we’ve seen so many different types of strategies, and most of them are missing the core elements that they need to succeed. And that’s why I want to go through today.
The first one, and by far the most important thing is
1# A Specific Logical Plan of Action:
Why? Before I go for that. I want to talk about NASCAR racing.
Because a few years ago, a friend of mine took me to my first NASCAR race ever, and I bet if you’ve been to one, but I quickly realized two things. First, it is an amazing experience the sights the sounds the smells are incredible.
For the first 100 laps.
The next 5 million, not so much.
Second thing is that if you are a driver in a NASCAR race, you are never going to get lost.
You don’t need a plan of action.
You don’t need a map.
What you need is just to go as fast as possible. And unfortunately, that’s not all VR. But that’s what a lot of strategies seem to be doing.
Most of the strategies I’ve seen focus so much on how to drive more and more engagement. And there are so many tactics we can use to drive more engagement.
We can have more discussions we can have trending topics we can have more events and activities.
But then this is big, mysterious box with a question box there’s a big mysterious box with a question market.
Then there’s a goals that we want for deflection, retention, customer support, ideation, all these incredible things that we want. And it’s possible that going really fast and drives more more engagement. That’s kind of there. But it doesn’t always happen. And what we first need to resolve with any strategy that we’re creating is what happens in this mysterious box here.
And this is where a specific logical plan or plan of action has to come into place.
So the very first thing is to have a goal.
Everyone here I think is at this level now. Every one of you I’m sure when you go to work in the morning, knows what the goal of your community is.
This is very simply how you benefit from your community.
Once you have the goal, you need the objectives.
This is what you need your members to do to gain those benefits wherever your goal is. this is what you need your members to do to achieve. this should be as specific as it possibly can.
If the goal is to get as much engagement as possible.
If your objective is to get as much information as possible. That’s wrong.
You want to be really specific about this.
Next, it’s a strategy.
If you want people to do something, it means you’re changing the behavior of your members as you if you’d like to change the behavior.
The critical thing to do that is to figure out what is the emotional lever that you’re going to pull to get members to do those things. This is how you’re going to persuade them to do those things.
And then come to tactics. These are the things that you do. And then the action plan where you plan out well when you’re going to do it.
And if you’re missing any part of this, it’s very difficult to escape from that map. It’s very difficult to take your community to the next level.
So an example might be your goal could be reduced customer support cost by 50%. Pretty standard goal.
Then your objectives pretty standard. You get the people that just join the community to ask questions about what they need.
You get your irregulars, people that visit the community every now and then to highlight and write the answers that they like.
And then you need to talk members to answer as many questions as possible. This is really basic, pretty standard, but we should at least be at this level. And notice how specific we’re doing, how specific this is. We’re not telling all of our members to do the same thing over and over again. We’re being really specific about who we need to get to do any of the behaviors that we want.
Then we have the strategy side of this. If we want people to do things they haven’t done before.
What are the emotions and the levers that we’re going to use to get them to do it?
We have three objectives. We need three strengths strategies as well. So for the newcomers, we might think we’re going to create an identity, and it’s smart to ask questions.
It’s smart to get help for the irregulars. We might make this a sense of obligation.
If you’ve been helped in the past, then it’s your obligation to help somebody else. And if you’re a top member, we might try and make you part of our mission.
So we have the strategies in place. And then the tactics. This is the most important part.
One of the things we do when we begin working with most of our clients is trying to get the person running the community to just keep a list of what they’re working on. Just one week, what are you working on?
And what we find time and time and time again, is that they’re working on so many different things at once.
Most of the people that we’ve done this with are working on 15 tactics or more every single week. And it’s really, really difficult to be successful.
When you’re dividing your time into smaller and smaller chunks, are hoping for bigger and bigger results.
What we tried to do is slim down the number of tactics that anyone is working on to around five to seven, the ones that have the biggest impact, the things that are really going to move that needle here.
And whatever those tactics are, they should be the very personification of your strategy. the things that most make your members feel that emotion.
Too many of them just have drive as much engagement as possible and they will benefit from that engagement. and you can structure it in many different ways, if you like, but the whole concept is that you have the goals, the objectives, the strategy, the tactics.
So you want to be executing on as few strategic tactics as you possibly can.
2# You absolutely have to be taken to the community to its full potential:
Most of us, I hope, have some sort of roadmap in place, but what the community is going to achieve each year, And far too often it looks like this, which is year one.
let’s produce a customer support price by 50%. pretty standard.
And then here too, is let’s produce a customer support costs by 75% over 75% of the questions.
Then he has two or three, it’s less resolved 90% of the questions.
And it seems like it makes sense.
But the problem with this approach is that first it’s really easy for the first 50% of questions, go resolving all the easy questions, the questions that come up time and time and time again.
But then it gets more difficult then you’re dealing with questions are quite rare, more challenging to resolve, and more and more to get to the really high level. To start getting to that 90% level.
You’re looking at things like having a large moderation team. You’re good at translating your answers into multiple Lang languages.
You’re looking at your flying and the technologies that members using around the world. and it gets more and more expensive.
And there’s definitely a lot of diminishing returns about this.
But what if we thought about this in a different way?
I want you to think of the value that your community creates. as crops that you’ve You’ve nurtured and most of us far too often focus on just that one crop, whether it’s customer support or success or ideation or whatever the initial goal of the community is.
And even when we’ve gone past that initial stage we keep going down trying to get more value from that one crop.
But in the meantime, all the value that we create is rotting away. It’s going to waste, because we’re not harvesting the full potential of that community.
And so instead it makes far more sense to focus on all the different value that we’re creating.
Yes, a community might have begun with customer support. But then we want to be expanding that maybe the ideation of feedback, maybe want to be focusing on customer success, and having their members share or having a member share their best ideas and their best advice with each other and training each other.
Maybe it’s SEO and lead generation, maybe it’s documentation. Maybe it’s advocacy, and so on, and so on and so on.
And instead of just focusing on one goal, if we really want to get the full value of a community, which I think is the purpose of every strategy in place, we have to be harnessing the full value of that community.
And that means better goals would look like this, where you might begin with less results 50% or support questions, but maybe that 50% is enough. And then once you’ve done that you might be looking at
Okay, let’s reduce that new that newcomer churn rate by 30% or 15%. Let’s start collecting amazing testimonials from our community that we can then use in all of our other marketing material.
Then year three might be let’s start having reviews on the major trust comparison websites and let’s have increasing number of customers our complete training courses, it’s a lot easier to generate more value doing this, and focusing on one goal going deeper and deeper into that.
And this applies to engagement as well. Far too often our approach to engagement is to focus on that one narrow use case of that community, which is less resolve the needs that members have.
If I work for an IT security organization. I might go to that community to ask a question. I want to get help I leave and I never come back.
Unless I need more help. That might be once a day. It might be once a week are far more likely it’s never again.
And it doesn’t matter what tactics you use it you’re not really going to significantly increase engagement unless your product breaks more and more. and that’s an insane way to plan a strategy for community.
Where no matter if you spend more time with your members, You know the questions they have in their lives and in their careers aren’t just about the software.
They’re going to have career questions, they’re going to want advice about many different things. So what if instead of just focusing on that one narrow niche or niche or whatever you say where you’re from.
What if instead, you focus on satisfying as many of their needs as possible both inside and outside that community?
What if you focus on people that have a career issue as well and need help?
What if they have some lifestyle questions they need help with?
You can systematically deliver more and more value to your members by systematically expanding the scope of that community.
So if you want more people to visit more often then satisfy more than needs that they have.
But if you want members to stick around more often, then satisfy their desires.
Yes, I do want to solve the initial issue they have, but what else do they want in their lives? And you often find there’s an external need about this, that people want to get better or what they do, or they want to feel less afraid about something.
And if you can start satisfying those desires as well, you’ll find a level of participation and the retention rate goes way up.
And then at the very highest level of all of this, the most valuable thing that you can do for all your members is give them a sense of identity. And when you start really mapping out what your member needs or desires are, you will always find out that you can deliver far more value to your members.
So if you want to increase engagement, don’t come up with, more tactics that just spinning your wheels in the mud.
If you really want to get more engagement, then expand the scope of the community to satisfy more than needs and desires of your members.
And this affects everything you do the content you create the discussions that you have.
It changes when you’re just focusing on the need to when you’re focusing on the desire. And it changes when you focus on the desire to giving people a sense of identity. When it becomes about them and the other people in that community.
It changes everything. And so depending on where you’re at this map, depending on what kind of value you’re trying to create for your community, changes their discussion to content, the activities and everything you do and that’s the most powerful way to get unstuck if you want more engagement and expand the scope of that community.
4# Cost and Resources:
By far the thing that annoys me most of the strategies I’ve seen, if any of you seeing Ryan Ryan’s Toy Review, I’m not from here but I want to be mean to a child. I’ve I’ve never disliked a child more.
Especially one that makes $22 million a year from unboxing toys.
Yeah, you can look at it as best as I can tell. Ryan wants all the toys. And why wouldn’t he? He never has to worry about the cost.
Unfortunately, we are not Ryan, which means we have to worry about the cost and get serious about our work.
Because far too many of the strategies I’ve seen, don’t even consider the cost is any mention of what any of this will cost and every single thing you want to do has a cost with it.
So you’re not serious about your community. Unless you’re serious about the cost of your community. You absolutely have to be serious about the cost of your community.
So every single tactic that you are planning to use, everything you’re planning to do has a cost in terms of time.
How many hours a week is it going to take?
every single tactic that you’re planning to use has a financial cost as well.
And what I want you to be thinking about is really mapping out every single tactic that you use,
How much time and how much money is it going to take?
And then you can get really realistic about whether what you’re doing is actually going to work or not. You get really realistic about what your priorities are.
And this is an incredible win because it changes the conversations you’re having as well. And typically what we do is your one. Is this what you can achieve your resources today.
And years one to two are typically what you can achieve with resources, maybe a 10 to 25% increase.
And then year three is what you can achieve with a significantly greater number of resources.
And you’ll find you get much more support internally, if you’re serious about the cost.
Far too often. when we want more resources. we say well, the level of engagement has gone up.
So therefore I need any more resources to manage that. Why would anyone do that?
It’s a lot easier to say, well, this is an opportunity. we’ve achieved this so far we’ve resolved 50% of support costs from an extra 20k 50k 100k Whenever, these are the other goals we can do these other testimonies we in fact this is how we can reduce the churn rate as well.
So when you get serious about the cost of your community, you’re forced to get really serious about your, your value to that community as well. And what you’re offering the people internally.
5# Mitigating Risks:
So many people I know, has spent months working on a strategy, and they finally got it done, then something will suddenly change. And then the whole strategy is thrown out and never use again.
Before any slight any journey people tell you what the risks are, to make sure it something really bad happens. There’s a plan for it.
And one of the best things you can do at an event like this is helping to have a plan for what can go wrong.
Because there are so many things that can go wrong. If it’s in your strategy. You don’t have to throw out the strategy when something goes wrong, you have a plan.
If you’re not getting the level of engagement you want, you can have a plan for that for what you do next.
If your boss changes if the priorities change, you can have a plan for that for what you do next. So begin with the possible causes.
You want the best you can do this event the day is off each other.
What do you wish you knew when you began this?
What went wrong for you?
What did you learn from that and build up the biggest list of issues and things that can go wrong possible?
And you can build it up for your peers, PR, legal financial, and everyone else, then quantify what that risk is?
How likely is that to happen? And then look at what the impact if that happens, and then make someone responsible for it.
If no one is responsible for mitigating that risk, this whole process is a waste of time and have a serious plan to mitigate that risk.
If you can get this in place, if you know what you’re going to do when things don’t work out first time, your strategy becomes far more resilient.
And you’re far more likely to get things right over time than what you are to get them right the very first time. And that’s a great strategy, I think.
So if you don’t plan for failure, it’s very hard for your strategy to be a success.
And strategy takes time. It takes a huge amount of time. It takes three to five months for us.
And far too often we tried to do a strategy that’s where time and it’s really hard to fly the plane. If you’re still serving the drinking habit.
You have to figure out where’s your time going to come from?
Where do you get outside help whether you have someone else do your job, whatever it is, it’s going to take time to do all the interviews and the process and everything else you need to get a great strategy.
And it’s not just a case of creating a document, but actually implementing that getting support for it and that takes a huge amount of time.
So a really great strategy should take you to the next level. It should take you above the level you’re at the moment. And if your strategy at the moment isn’t doing that it’s time to change.
It’s time to think about what’s been missing in that. And that’s how you take your community to that next level.