Is your online community the bridge between your customers and your organization? Meaning, do both groups find shared value within the same platform?
If not, you better start brainstorming ways to bridge that gap -- otherwise your community’s success is at risk.
Value for all
Shared value is the name of the game in The Community Roundtable’s State of Community Management Report 2016 (SOCM 2016). Most community professionals always knew this intuitively, but now we have the data to back it up.
From its surveys and analysis, The Community Roundtable found that if you really want an effective, strong community, it needs to serve both your organization and your members -- not one or the other. And the best way to ensure both groups are fairly represented is to make sure you define your community’s value -- and that everyone can get on board.
Even though defining that shared value is so important for the community’s success, the SOCM 2016 found that only 40% of respondents said they actually did have a defined shared value for the organization and members. Worse still, an even smaller number said they could measure that shared value.
Clearly, many communities struggle to find common ground between the organization’s needs and their customers’ needs. Since so many communities have trouble with this, we know communities often get by without addressing that problem.
But to truly thrive? You need to find those common values, and stick to them -- otherwise the divide will continue growing, completely undermining your community efforts in the long run.
Bridging the gap
So, what if there is a gap between what customers want in the community and what your organization wants in the community? Bridging the gap is an intimidating place, but definitely not an impossible situation. Here are three big takeaways from the SOCM 2016 for minding the gap and bringing everyone together:
Big Takeaway: Success is driven by defining shared value.
Strategy is key for community. But the strategy needs to be more than a plan inside the community manager’s head: 90% of the Best-in-Class communities The Community Roundtable surveyed have a strategy approved by their organization. Best-in-Class communities are also far more likely to document a shared value among everyone involved in the community.
Plus, communities with a clear articulated vision are better at being able to measure the overall value of their community.
Although Best-in-Class communities are usually strategy pros, only 40% of those surveyed had a shared value -- meaning only 40% of all communities’ goals found the middle ground between customer needs and organizational needs.
The fact that so many communities don’t have strong, inclusive strategies is a problem. Communities that understand their value -- and are able to articulate that understanding -- drastically out-perform other communities.
Big Takeaway: Empower members to accelerate engagement and prevent community manager burnout.
You need to empower your community members in real, meaningful ways. This benefits you for two big reasons.
- When members feel like they have a stake in the community’s outcomes, they engage more -- and their engagement is higher quality.
- You can give excited members tasks you would normally do, lightening your load.
Community professionals spend a lot of time engaging members through brand ambassador or advocacy programs, which are important and worthwhile. Those programs empower certain segments of your community, but they fall short of empowering everyone.
To truly engage your entire community, you need to give members a seat at the table and listen to their feedback. Unfortunately, only 30% of the communities surveyed have formal systems of feedback -- but those that did showed stronger engagement and higher overall community maturity.
Also telling, Best-in-Class communities are good at including members on every decision level. The Best-in-Class communities surveyed are far more likely to include members in strategy development and three times more likely to give members a role in the process.
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Big Takeaway: Measure what’s important, not what’s easy
Metrics and data are an important part of community management -- communities are full of information. But not very many people know how to effectively use this information at their fingertips. In fact, The Community Roundtable found that only 19% of communities actually regularly track member behavior and activity -- compared to half of all Best-in-Class communities.
As important as tracking data is, it’s important to track what matters -- otherwise how are you supposed to glean any useful information? Many communities struggle with this. Only 32% of communities say they’re able to measure metrics that help them increase value, while 71% of best-in-class communities are able to do this.
The big takeaway here is that more communities should track member activity. But they need to track the right activity if they want to make an impact on their community.
The Community Roundtable’s primary takeaways should be standard strategy goals for any community, large or small, young or mature. Its data shows how successful communities can be if they implement these strategies, but also how much communities have to catch up on.
In the end, these takeaways shouldn’t be too daunting or intimidating. Measure what you do, invest in your team, enable scale with your members’ help, and remember metrics are both inputs and outputs.