I love great TV.
There are countless well-crafted shows on the networks and on cable right now. However, it can't remember the last time I watched a full television season or even watched a show on TV. What is wrong with me?
I am interested in the topics and recognize the entertainment value, but at some point during the last 10 years, my life has become so busy and my priorities have changed so much that I never catch shows on TV.
Chances are that the target audience for your online community behaves the same way. You could provide the most valuable content, connections, and discussions in your community, but you are still competing with a multitude of personal, work, and online priorities.
The following outlines a way to overcome the realities of serving busy people by keeping your focus on providing value and developing processes for driving engagement over time.
A Simple Framework for Evaluating Social Software
Remembering the frazzled mindset of your target personas is important in planning an online community. Though many decisions play a critical role in the creation of a thriving online community, selecting the right social software platform is one of the most important. If your software can't handle your strategy and community management processes, you could face sluggish engagement, lower customer retention, and even costly platform upgrades.
Let's break down a two-step approach to help your organization select the right online community software platform.
It is really quite simple. Start with these two questions.
Why Will Customers or Members Visit the Online Community?
When selecting online community software, ask yourself, "Does this platform have enough features that will provide value to my target audience?" Generally, you want a platform that has a broad range of options with a great deal of flexibility to roll out features over time or give access to specific social features to only certain groups.
The tools that enable you to make your community valuable to your customers, employees, or partners include:
- Group segmentation
- Forum discussions
- File & video libraries
- Ideas submission areas
- Blogs and content management
- Event information
- Industry tools
In the past 10 years, Socious has seen that providing exclusive access to relevant discussions and interactions is critical to building a thriving online community.
This first step is where a lot of companies and membership organizations put their focus, but it also the place where a lot of organizations fall down, especially those trying to build community using public social networks or basic private social networking software. Your private online community must provide clear and overwhelming value to your busy audience.
However, adding value to your customers' workdays is not enough. This brings us to the other most important question that you need to ask when selecting the best social software for your organization.
How Can I Keep Customers Coming Back to the Community on an Ongoing Basis?
Your online community software's ability to keep customers or members engaged is equally as important as how you can use it to provide value. Just as in my TV watching habits, you could produce the most compelling content and helpful resources in the world, but in your community members' busy lives, you are not top-of-mind.
Built-in tools like the following are designed to drive people back to the community and make it easy for them to participate.
- Integrated forums and listservs
- Personalize email content alerts
- Awards, contests, and leaderboards (gamification)
- An email marketing engines (for segmented email round-ups, new resource announcements, re-engagement campaigns, etc.)
- An online community mobile app
Set up community management processes using these tools to highlight relevant information, useful discussions, and engagement opportunities to your community members.
Keeping members coming back to your community regularly could mean the difference between flourishing customer engagement and a well-constructed ghost town.
Online Community Takeaway
At the most strategic level, there are two components to creating a successful online community for employees, customers, or prospects.
- Create exclusive value for your target audience.
- Keep community members coming back to the community to get that value.
This equation is important in both the business processes you set up when planning your online community, as well as in the online community software that you select. Both are vital parts of your online community's success.
Organizing your social business strategy in this way makes it easier to keep your team focused and identify large-scale leaks in your engagement processes. In addition, evaluating social software using these quick and dirty criteria will help you identify the professional online community solutions faster.