The importance of the community builder within an organization has grown tremendously. Community builders are expected to be the shepherds, content creators, marketers and social media experts, help people advance their thinking, answer any tech questions and think up new features – sometimes all in the same day.
Studies show that these “knowledge workers” have a burn out rate that’s 40 times higher than most other white collar professionals. So how should these community builders broaden their success, improve their methods and ultimately keep their online communities thriving? Growth hacking will help.
Growth hacking is defined as optimizing or creating modifications to help get to an end stage, without cutting corners. This growth isn’t focused on size or how flashy the community’s opening day was – community is a powerful sales tool and membership benefit. It should attract new members, offer smooth onboarding and persistent attention, and ultimately embrace marketing tactics like great content, campaigns and social media outreach.
Every community needs to align with organizational goals and set up a strategy for scale and efficiency. The basics include a welcome program and onboarding process, programmatic outreach, access to support documents and a robust FAQ section.
One example of a successful community launch that has sustained its momentum is the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE), which launched its community in May 2015. NSBE was founded in 1975 and has around 30,000 members. In anticipation of launch, the community project manager covered a lot of ground by establishing a taskforce:
The community’s success hinged on everyone at NSBE getting involved – the team even required every staff member to moderate the community for one day, to better understand the community’s inner workings and how important it was as a member benefit.
There is a wonderful Swahili saying that fits well into this community team work: “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go with others.”
Every community’s growth path is different, but here are some member engagement hacks to test out:
Any community, whether it’s new, old, large or small, needs trust and trust building strategies for success. Community members will always find value and improve peer relationships if they have trust. This can be attained through social capital, perhaps a stodgy, academic term that does hold weight for community success.
Harvard is credited with defining the essential premise of social capital: a network only has value based on the intelligence and collaboration put into it – in other words, the more information and exchanges there are, the better the network gets. It’s the rule of reciprocity and it directly relates to trust.
Every member matters in a community. If members share and collaborate online, their expertise and skills will eventually benefit others and bounce back to them. This is trust building, and it takes time to evolve. An example of success through knowledge-sharing is the popular board game, Settlers of Catan. This game is built on collaboration and cooperation, where players win by sharing and exchanging resources. Certain game tactics can be applied directly to online community:
Community should be simple: members and organizations working together to solve a common puzzle. This power to convene will continuously improve if the community considers its growth strategy.
About Vanessa DiMauro
Vanessa DiMauro is the CEO and Chief Digital Officer of Leader Networks, a research and strategy consulting company that helps organizations succeed in social business and online community building. She is a popular executive advisor, author and speaker. With over 20 years’ experience in social business leadership positions (Cambridge Technology Partners, Computerworld, CXO Systems), Vanessa has founded and run numerous online communities. With Leader Networks she has developed award winning social business strategies for dozens of the largest and most influential companies in the world.
Vanessa’s work has been covered by leading publications such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNBC and Forbes. She was recently named one of 40 top social marketing masters worldwide by Forbes. She sits on several boards including The Society of New Communications Research (SNCR) and Social Media Today, teaches at Babson and Columbia, holds both a B.A. and M.A. from Boston College and blogs at http://www.leadernetworks.com/blog/. Find Vanessa on Twitter @vdimauro.