Implementing a sustainable social business model can be complicated. When building community into your strategy, you are not only empowering and motivating employees, but relying on customers, prospects, and partners to engage each other and your organization.
Online communities that don't successfully engage customers, help control support costs, or win new business don't fail because of the social technology platform. They don't provide a return on an organization's investment due to decisions that were made long before an online community platform was selected.
Socious co-founder, Paul Schneider, recently spoke to IT executives at a national conference on what it takes to build a successful online community. From that presentation, here are the slides and the major pitfalls that executives can avoid when putting together a social business strategy to increase customer or member engagement.
Trap #1: Improper Planning
Online community software is exciting, but its impact on your organization will come from what you do with that software. Here are a few questions to ask your project team to ensure you're thinking through the planning process correctly:
- Why should customers or members come to your online community site?
- What specific benefits do you want your community to be known for?
- What type of information would be valuable to your customers or members?
If you have answers to these questions upfront, choosing your technology provider and having a clear vision for your community's value will fall nicely into place.
Trap #2: Insufficient Staffing
By having a realistic understanding of current staff resources and what additional resources may be necessary, your online community will have the manpower to succeed and deliver on the value proposition you desire. Here are some factors to consider as you assign staff to manage your online community:
- Listening. It's not just about posting content. This person will be responsible for monitoring what is happening online around your organization, members, and industry.
- Content. This person will need to create a content plan that aligns with the goals of the community. What content should be posted by the organization? Who at the organization will provide this content? How much content will be contributed by users? And, just as important, how will you get customers or members to contribute content? These are just a few of the challenges your community manager will face.
- Learning. The Internet is always changing. The functionality on sites like Facebook can change literally overnight. Your community software provider will be making improvements to its software on a regular basis, as well. Make sure you allot enough time for your community manager to stay up to speed on how to use, manage, and configure the software involved.
Trap #3: Mismanaged Expectations
Organizations sometimes forget that changes in organizational technology require proper change-management processes to be successful. The seven simple steps for managing change management as it pertains to new technology include:
- Get early buy-in from staff, customers/members, board, and influencers.
- Find evangelists, sponsors, and champions fast, and get them involved early.
- Over communicate to all stakeholders throughout the process.
- Listen to what everyone is saying, but maintain a strong grasp on your vision.
- Make success easy for everyone from the earliest stages to post launch.
- Reward participation to all involved, especially customers, members, and influencers that help spread the word.
- Sell your wins. Any victory large or small should be acknowledged.
So, as you consider building an online community, or even if you have a community and aren't getting the engagement levels you'd hoped for, consider these common traps to which many first-time community builders fall victim. You're smart and so are your customer or members, so lean into technology and feel confident creating a private social network that is valuable, meaningful, and relevant.