Higher Logic Blog

Getting Buy-In: 5 Objections to Online Communities that Are Holding You Back

Written by Julie Dietz | January 23, 2018 at 1:30 PM

Everyone knows getting buy-in for a new project can be frustrating. There are concerns, objections, other priorities that need to be addressed before you can move forward. It’s often a long process.

Getting buy-in for an online community is no different. You’ll likely face questions and concerns even after you present your team with details on how an online community can improve acquisition, retention, and revenue. Being prepared for those concerns will help you address them and move your project forward.

Here are five of the most common objections you’ll face and how to overcome them.

1. We Don’t Have Enough Staff

Like many other objections you’ll hear, this is a valid concern. Running a successful online community takes at least one part-time staff member, if not a full-time community manager. Without the right person running your community, it may not be successful.

You have two options for dealing with this:

  1. Hire an additional employee. Having a community manager involved in set up, strategy, and engagement tactics from the beginning will give your community a strong start and help you meet business goals in the future.
  2. Community management services. These services are offered by third-party agencies or online community software providers. They give you access to experienced professionals who know how to set up communities and nurture their members. You can use community management services part time to fine tune your strategy and set up your site, or you can opt for a full-time community manager who acts an extension of your in-house staff.

Expert Tip: No matter which option you choose, remember that community is an organization-wide initiative. Get your entire team involved in the community with small tasks like posting blogs and answering questions. As your staff explores the community, they’ll likely find information that helps them do their jobs better.

2. We Don’t Have Budget

All new technology comes with costs, but budget usually isn’t as big a concern as it first appears. Online community software is only a fraction of your yearly operating budget, usually just one to three percent. That will increase slightly if you hire a new full-time community manager or use community management services, but it still won’t make much of a dent.

You can also recoup a lot of expenses by using your community to generate revenue. Advertising, sponsorships, event registration, paid education courses, and other revenue streams can increase income. We’ve seen some organizations make thousands of dollars a month on sponsorships alone, enough to completely pay for their community software license.

Analyze your budget and how an online community could influence your revenue streams. Chances are, the investment will not only be less of a strain than you thought, but could even put you in a better financial position.

3. We Already Have Similar Tools. Do We Really Need All This?

It’s easy for your team to assume you already have community tools. Social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn offer groups, while association and customer management platforms offer community add-ons. In some cases, you can use these tools to effectively engage your members, but they may also put you at a disadvantage.

Social media, AMS, and CRM communities offer very few features. You’re restricted to limited profiles, discussions, and file sharing that make it difficult to meet business goals. On top of that, engaging your audience on social media takes away your content ownership. Everything you post is at the mercy of the site’s fine print.

Dedicated online community platforms alleviate these concerns and are more likely to help you achieve business goals such as growing your organization. They have all the core features of social media, CRM, and AMS communities, along with additional engagement activities like learning management, mentoring programs, event tools, and volunteer management. Top platforms even have automation rules that help your team get more done with less work.

Take a hard look at your business goals before choosing a community tool. Do you want to increase revenue? Retention? Pick the platform that’s most likely to meet your goals, not the one that’s most convenient. You'll be more likely to create a successful community the first time, instead of putting effort into a project that doesn't have what it needs to succeed.

4. Our Members Won’t Use It

Working with customers or members who are older? Less tech savvy? Not interested in interacting in an online community? In most cases, these are misconceptions that are hurting your business.

Social media has already proven the online community concept – Facebook alone had 1,870 million active users in 2016. Imagine what that number is now. And older generations? They’re more connected than ever. Four in ten seniors now own smartphones, a number that’s doubled since 2013, according to Pew Research Center. People of all ages, from every walk of life, are interacting online. That will only increase over time, so it’s essential that you engage your audience online as well.

If you or your team is still concerned about use, look up statistics for your audience. You may be surprised at how many are adopting Facebook or Instagram. For instance, do you think that women truck drivers are prime candidates for an online community? Probably not, but the Women in Trucking Association's online community took off from the very start.

Expert Tip: To further assuage concerns in this area, look for an online community that’s user-friendly. Platforms that let people import profile information from LinkedIn, reply to discussions via email, and subscribe to notifications for their preferred content are good choices. Find a platform that’s easy to use, populate it with useful content, and promote the space well, and your audience will use it.

5. It’s Not a Good Time – We Have Other Priorities

Don’t we all? It’s definitely hard to prioritize sometimes. But are you taking a risk by not looking into an online community now?

Yes, for three reasons:

You’re losing control of conversations about your brand.

People are already talking about your business or association. Without a community you’re on the outside of that conversation. You can only react, not be proactive, and even that is usually done in public over social media. It’s harder to contain and defuse situations.

In an online community, you own content and conversations. You can proactively post announcements and address concerns in private, outside the watchful and sometimes harsh atmosphere of social media.

Your communication and content are becoming less effective.

In the late 1990s, it wasn’t unusual to get an 80 percent open rate on an email campaign. Today, that would be astronomical – numbers are closer to 15 or 20 percent. Even social media isn’t very effective. Moz found that the median lifespan of a tweet is only 18 minutes. Facebook is better, but most of the engagement with your post will be over and done with in just five hours.

Blogs, discussions, and connections in online communities last far longer. Discussions can stretch out over weeks, and we’ve even seen older conversations revived years later when customers search for a question and run across an old post. A community is a knowledge base that increases the effectiveness and lifespan of your communication and content.

People expect a community.

Seventy percent of consumers expect you to offer a portal or self-service aspect to your website. The kicker? That number comes from back in 2013. What do you think the percentage is now?

A good time to look into an online community was back in 2013. Now it’s past time. Waiting to make an online community one of your priorities will likely do more harm than good, even if you have other projects in the pipeline.

Encourage Conversation about Your New Online Community Initiative

There will always be objections when you discuss new technology and ongoing projects like an online community. That’s okay. In fact, it’s healthy. You should encourage discussion around an online community platform, the features you need, and how you’re going to ensure it meets business goals. Ironing out the kinks from the beginning will make you more successful in the long run.

Go into your conversations with these objections in mind and have your responses ready. The resulting conversation will only make your future community stronger.