While you're in trouble if your senior management team doesn't understand or buy into your online community strategy, does it really matter if they themselves don't participate?
The 2014 State of Community Management report revealed some interesting insight into the importance of executive participation in online communities.
Communities with executive participation were not only more likely to be fully funded and measure value, but also reported an increase in engagement from other community members. While engagement was highest when the CIO participated, CMO and CEO engagement also correlated with an increase in engagement across all types of collaborators, content creators, and contributors.
So, why don't we see more engagement from leaders at companies that provide private online communities for their customers or members?
Most often it comes down to the fact that senior executives have numerous competing priorities and responsibilities that can often push participating in the organization's online customer or member community to the bottom of their to-do list.
How can you change that? Recognizing and understanding your executives' goals and motivations is the first step to getting them to carve out time to engage your online community.
A big part of why your executives aren't jumping at the chance to participate on your online community is that they probably don't understand what's in it for them. Rather than making it something they have to do, show them why it's something they should want to do.
Here are three hacks that I have seen work to get engaging in the company's customer community on the radar of busy executives.
Your executives don't want your company's competitors to have an advantage over them - especially one that's so simple to remedy.
If they see the peers at competing organizations participating in their customer or member online communities, your executives might be more motivated to step up and do the same, rather than risk limiting their stature in the market.
Demonstrating that their competitors are putting themselves out there in online communities lends credibility to your request for participation.
This helps to put a face to whom they're trying to help and connect with. It might be a customer they've had an interaction with in the past, a member of a committee or task force, or someone on the board of directors - regardless, find and highlight people they know and have a valued relationship with.
Direct interaction with customers is a benefit they might not frequently enjoy, given their schedule and status in the company, so they might be more inclined to participate when they see the possibility of strengthening relationship that they value and know lead to achieving core business objectives, like retention of marquee customers.
Many executive debates (read: constructive arguments) are won by the people who are closest to the market and have primary data around what customers and prospective customers need. Given this reality, senior leaders often place a premium on being the smartest person in the room what it comes to knowing the organization's target audiences.
Show your executives how much insight into the market they can gain from participating in the online community. They'll be able to receive front line feedback from customers or members on the challenges they face.
Having firsthand access to this feedback is a great way to build customer satisfaction and loyalty, while also gaining insight into the best ways to be competitive in your market.
In the second part of this series, we'll look at the things that you can do to make it easy for your organization's executive team to participate in your online customer or member community.
Does your executive team participate in your online customer community? If so, what are their motivations? Add your insight and experience in the comments below.