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Dynamic Communities Spurs Engagement and Conversation for Microsoft User Groups

Written by Caitlin Struhs | on October 10, 2016 at 9:15 AM

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Dynamic Communities, Inc. is the administrative organization behind professional software user groups such as the Dynamics AX User Group (AXUG), the Dynamics GP User Group (GPUG), the Dynamics CRM User Group (CRMUG), the Dynamics NAV User Group (NAVUG), and more. Formed to ease the burden on the volunteer leaders of these Microsoft application-focused user groups, Dynamic Communities is committed to serving the needs of its members and helping each organization to grow. In total, more than 95,000 members participate in Dynamic Communities-managed user groups.

The Need to Improve Member Networking

In early 2012, Dynamic Communities was continuing its tradition of providing excellent programs, including webinars, chapter meetings and annual conferences, but the team recognized they were very limited in their ability to communicate with members and foster communication and engagement among them.

“We were offering great programming, but it was all scheduled,” said Michelle Lowry, director of community and member engagement at Dynamic Communities. “If members had questions or problems they needed to resolve immediately, there was no way for them to reach out to other members. And while they enjoyed making new connections at our chapter meetings, there was no effective way to continue a conversation between events. As administrators, we also felt frustrated. We sent frequent emails to members, but it was all one-way. It wasn’t a conversation because members had no way to provide feedback or have discussions about our messages.”

Higher Logic: A Hosted Platform for Minimum Hassle

When the Dynamic Communities team first saw a demonstration of Higher Logic, they immediately recognized it offered the features they needed: a community discussion board that was intuitive and easy for both members and the team’s small, non-technical staff to use. Also, Higher Logic offered fixed pricing, so Dynamic Communities would have predictable costs and not have to worry about paying more as membership increased or as more staff accessed the system.

“One of the great features of Higher Logic is the way it allows users to engage very naturally from their inboxes,” said Andy Hafer, CEO of Dynamic Communities, Inc. “When members need to log into a portal to check for messages, they often won’t do it, whether from forgetting or lacking the time. Having messages appear in members’ email inboxes would be a great way to keep us top of mind.”

Dynamic Communities relied heavily on Higher Logic to get the system up and running. “We were a small company at the time, just 15 people, so I took on the community project for CRMUG in addition to my marketing responsibilities,” said Lowry. “The support from Higher Logic was stellar, essentially handholding us through the integration process.”

Once the technology was in place, the Higher Logic team also helped develop the strategies and best practices required to set up a community, get members subscribed, set up a beta group, and execute the launch.

It used to be that we would just guess at topics, or perhaps make hundreds of phone calls to see if we could get some feedback. Today, we can see what members are discussing and develop topics that are of direct interest to them. -Andy Hafer, CEO, Dynamic Communities, Inc.

Dynamic Communities launched Higher Logic for CRMUG in late 2012. To prepare for the transition, Lowry ran a beta period for a number of weeks to populate the site with questions and answers and show a lot of activity. The new community site was then featured at the organization’s annual conference, so a very captive audience immediately became aware of its existence and how to get involved.

“Thanks to the beta period and the ease of use of the platform, members at the conference saw the value of the community and jumped right in with their own questions,” said Lowry. “In fact, we saw such great adoption right out of the gate that we couldn’t get Higher Logic communities launched for our other groups fast enough. We launched our AXUG and GPUG about five months later and our NAVUG about four months after that.”

Dynamic Communities has since merged its user group websites into the online communities to create a single web presence based on community. Doing this has created far more visibility for the online community, and the new sites are designed so visitors see different content based on their subscriber levels.

Maximum Engagement, High-Value Conversations

Three years later, as adoption of the communities continues to surge, three capabilities of the Higher Logic platform stand out:

Open Forum

The Open Forum is the most popular feature of the site, with the groups averaging between 14 and 43 open discussion posts every day. Every member, whether signed up at the free subscriber level or paying for full member benefits, is automatically subscribed to the Open Forum and just needs to log in to start posting questions and comments. Anyone who creates a login is also automatically subscribed to the Daily Digest, a summary of forum posts emailed to members’ inboxes.

The Daily Digest is popular even with those who are not active on the site. “The Daily Digest is a non-promotional way we can show our value to members every single day,” added Lowry. “It also allows people who live in email, not their browsers, to respond to discussions right from their inboxes.”

Digests can also be delivered more frequently to ensure members — and administrators — get the latest information in a timely manner. “Some time ago, Microsoft made a change to a live event that upset a number of members in one of our groups,” said Hafer. “Thanks to the digests, I got wind of the activity right away and saw that a lot of false information was being exchanged. I was able to quickly get a blog post out that corrected the misinformation, which went a long way toward making things harmonious again. Without the digests, the problem may have gotten a lot worse before we were able to address it.”

Thanks to Higher Logic, we are delivering greater value to our members every day. Meanwhile, we are able to continue to grow our communities at a rapid pace without having to constantly grow our team. This is an excellent return on investment. -Michelle Lowry, Director of Community & Member Engagement, Dynamic Communities, Inc.

Chapter Communities

Separate chapter communities, a site feature implemented using Higher Logic’s sub-group capability, fosters greater engagement by enabling members who belong to a regional chapter to keep in touch with those they meet at the chapter events. Chapter communities also enable Dynamic Communities to give the local chapter leaders more responsibility. For example, chapter leaders can now use the community to discuss dates, topics and speakers for their upcoming events, and they can set up and manage their own meetings, reducing the burden on the Dynamic Communities staff. Chapter leaders can also send email, develop reports, and welcome new members to the chapter.

Library of Webinar Recordings

Each Dynamic Communities user group hosts dozens of webinars each year, and the Dynamic Communities team uses Higher Logic to make webinar recordings available to paid members of the sites. Today, members have access to hundreds of hours of content on how to solve problems and achieve goals, enabling them to find the answers they need when they need it, without having to contact Microsoft or another service.

Other highly valued capabilities of Higher Logic include:

  • Automation RulesAutomation rules are a great way to improve community management without the need to add staff. For example, Dynamic Communities has automated a welcome email for new members and a thank-you email for a member’s first post. For active members who have gone silent, Dynamic Communities automatically sends a “We Miss You” email after 90 days, inviting the member to come back. “We’ve seen a 26 percent conversion rate with the campaign, yet it involves no effort or cost to implement,” said Lowry.
  • Special Interest Groups – Dynamic Communities also utilizes Higher Logic’s subgroup feature to set up special interest groups (SIGs) to enable members with similar interests to focus on relevant topics. For example, CRMUG has a SIG for technical users interested in the details of administering workflows, as well as a SIG for sales and marketing professionals who are interested in higher-level business issues.
  • Event Microsites – Higher Logic makes it quick and easy to spin up microsites for the annual conference and other events. Each microsite can be based on a previous site for easy setup, but also have a different look and branding.
  • Topical Discussions – The discussions in the Open Forum and SIGS make it easier to develop high-value webinar topics. “It used to be that we would just guess at topics, or perhaps make hundreds of phone calls to see if we could get some feedback,” said Hafer. “Today, we can see what members are discussing and develop topics that are of direct interest to them.”

Increase Growth and Efficiency 

The Higher Logic online community platform has opened a world of possibilities for members of Dynamic Communities’ user groups, creating a place where they can share ideas and build relationships. Anecdotally, enthusiasm for the communities is extremely high, and this sentiment is borne out by the numbers.

Growth

The online communities are currently experiencing 28 percent year-over-year growth, and the increase in participation in the communities has outpaced this. Since launching the communities, Dynamic Communities has seen an overall 84 percent rise in discussion traffic. These numbers demonstrate both that active members continue to find increasing value in the community and that new members are getting involved and asking questions. General web traffic to the site has also soared. Since each group leaves some of their discussion boards open to the public, search engines like Google and Bing can crawl them, revealing the valuable conversations taking place. This has led to an enormous boost in organic site visits — an amazing increase of 1,319 percent across all the user groups — without any investment in SEO.

The online communities are also an important new source of registrations for each group’s annual user conference, helping to drive strong revenue growth. Since launching the online community, Summit, the CRMUG annual user conference, has seen 33 percent year-over-year growth in attendance. Across all the communities, the year-over-year growth has been 22 percent.

Automation Rules

In addition to making the Dynamic Communities staff more productive, automation rules are having a significant impact on the community. For example, the “We Miss You” email has been running only since November 2015, but it has already brought back more than 525 members across the user groups, a nearly 23 percent effectiveness rate — all without any staff effort.

For more advice and case studies on automation rules, check out our eBook with FeverBee.

Chapter Program Growth

Since 2012, across AXUG, CRMUG, GPUG and NAVUG, Dynamic Communities has seen an increase of approximately 140 percent in attendance at the in-person chapter meetings. While Dynamic Communities doesn’t attribute all this growth to the Higher Logic platform, chapter communities have certainly played a significant role by making it easier for chapter leaders to plan and promote upcoming events and for participants to connect between meetings.

“Thanks to Higher Logic, we are delivering greater value to our members every day,” said Lowry. “Meanwhile, we are able to continue to grow our communities at a rapid pace without having to constantly grow our team. This is an excellent return on investment.”

About Dynamic Communities, Inc.

Dynamic Communities, Inc. (DCI) is the supporting organization behind the Dynamics AX User Group (AXUG®), the Dynamics CRM User Group (CRMUG®), the Dynamics GP User Group (GPUG®), the Dynamics NAV User Group (NAVUG™), and more. Dynamic Communities is independent from Microsoft; however, its close working relationship positions its groups to be a collective voice to Microsoft on user concerns, needs, and requests. Learn more about Dynamic Communities online at dynamiccommunities.com.

Topics: Engagement, User Group Communities

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