In a recent article on the online community blog, we highlighted the importance of getting members of your senior management team to engage in your online customer community or private member community. According to the 2014 State of Community Management report from The Community Roundtable, participation from the c-suite leads to higher levels of engagement from all types of community members.
As easy as it would be to show your executives this data and have them immediately begin actively engaging your online customer or member community, we all know that isn't likely to happen. Executives are busy.
Since your executives have many competing priorities at any given moment, you want to make participation in your online community as easy on them as possible. If what you're requesting of them is less of a hassle, they'll be more likely to step up to the challenge and fit engaging your customer or member community into their schedules.
Here are three tricks, that I have had work, to make participating in your online community as easy as possible for your executive team:
Trick #1) Provide a Content Schedule
Since it's good to have a content calendar in general for the exclusive content you'll be pumping into your online community, you should be able to easily provide your executives with an outline of what's expected of them.
However, while you'll want to lay out the plan and give them as much context as possible, you also don't want to make it too overwhelming. Set a time line that works for both of you and get them to agree to it upfront so expectations will be clear.
For instance, you might have a topic for the CIO to address every other week for six months. On the weeks the CIO isn't providing content, the CMO can step up to the plate.
By staggering executive participation in your online community and spreading the responsibility across multiple people, you can help lighten the burden on any one executive and set your leadership team up for sustainable engagement.
Trick #2) Don't Make Them Think Too Much
Even though your executives are probably more than capable of coming up with their own topics to address, they already have a lot on their minds. Develop a system that lays out the specific question or topic that needs addressing each week.
While you don't want to swamp them with too many topics at once, you do want to give executives enough time to process and produce answers.
The trick here is hand-feed blog topics and discussion questions in small qualities (1 or 2 at a time) to your organization's leaders. By keeping your system simple and helping your executives know what to expect, you'll see a higher rate of ongoing participation.
Trick #3) "Coffee with the CEO"
If the idea of physically writing a blog post or answer to a question posed in your community's discussion forums is too much for your executives, see if you can set up a time to interview them instead. Assure them that you only need 10 minutes of their time”or, quite literally, ask them to meet you for coffee"”and then pose a few quick questions for a discussion or blog post.
Record their answers (or take good notes) and then transcribe them into content you can post in your community. Of course, you'll still want them to sign off on it to make sure everything is accurate and their voice comes through.
"Coffee with the CEO" is a proven approach to getting busy executives and subject matter experts to provide content. They can just talk while you get all the data you need.
Takeaway for Increasing Executive Participation in Online Communities
The results of the 2014 State of Community Management report highlights the importance of executive participation in your online community.
While there can be some hurdles to executive engagement"”lack of interest, busy schedules, or difficulty communicating"”both informing your executives on the benefits they'll see from their own participation and making it as easy as possible to participate can help ease the complications.
Some simple planning ahead, like providing a content schedule complete with topics and scheduling some "coffee breaks" to catch a quick interview, can help keep everyone on the same page and your processes running smoothly.
Plus, as your executives continue to regularly participate in your online community, they'll begin to see the benefits it brings to both them as individuals and your organization as a whole. Before you know it, leadership participation will just be part of your community routine.