You've done your research. You know the business benefits of launching a private social community for customers. You have selected your online community software platform and you have your senior management on board.
Now, you must take your social CRM strategy from a plan to a reality.
Typically, it takes 90 days to implement a business-class private social network. This is a very exciting time for your organization. We guide our customers through the hundreds of decisions that they need to make to bring their strategy to fruition - including planning member or customer segmentation, creating content, integrating backend systems, or importing historical customer discussion data.
For some organizations, this can seem like a lot, especially if your team is executing your social CRM strategy while simultaneously maintaining their other roles in the company.
What do you need to know to make the implementation go as smoothly as possible?
Socious' senior vice president of operation, Scott Balthazor, has implemented private social networking platforms for over 100 for-profit and nonprofit organizations. He says that there are three main pitfalls that companies encounter during the implementation process:
Tip #1) Share Your Vision with the Rest of the Team
Implementing online community software means that customer or member engagement staff from across your organization have to come together to make decisions €“ from your marketing team to your technology department to your event management professionals. If all of those groups don't have a comfortable understanding of the strategy, know how the initiative will benefit them, and feel empowered during the planning process, you are going to have problems.
It does not matter how great your plan is, how ready your customers or members are, or how powerful your online community platform is. If the people that you rely on to embrace your social CRM strategy during and after its implementation don't share your vision, you are going to experience delays and confusion as you take time to wrangle and re-educate your company on the strategy and tools while the actual implementation is going on.
Tip #2) Make Time to Tell Your Vendor Partner What Your Business Wants
Most business-class private social networking software companies provide the services to do the full technical implementation for you. For instance, Socious ensures that all of our customer's online communities successfully go live with the best configuration for their goals and in their specific time frame.
However, knowing the software platform and doing the implementation for your company is only part of the equation. There is an array of both big and little decisions that your organization has to make during the implementation process. These range from how you want to integrate existing customer or member data, to which online groups will initially be set up, to which custom fields you want to track in your online community to get more rich insight about your customers.
While your online community provider will do the work, businesses and membership organizations run into trouble when they don't have the time to tell their platform provider about their goals, customer relationship management structure, and what they want their online community to do.
Implementing an online community is like managing any large project. Most companies can overcome this pitfall by first understanding the homework load upfront so that people can plan accordingly and appropriately set expectations around the organization. Your online customer community can potentially be launched in less than 30 days, but know that the onus is on your organization to have all of their ducks in a row. Secondly, assign a project lead that has the access and clout in the company to lean on people when decisions need to be made.
Tip #3) Ensure Your Organization Maintains Institutional Systems Knowledge
For businesses and nonprofits, like associations, that are planning on integrating their online community with backend systems (e.g. CRM or AMS software) or are planning on pre-loading their thousands of members or customers into their new online community platform, it is critical to have someone available who understands, has access to, and can extract that legacy data.
We see organizations in both the corporate and nonprofit arenas that have their strategy and planning process in order, but can't access their customer data in a way that is usable in their online customer community.
If you do lose the person or people in your organization who understand your backend systems and data structures, make sure that you begin finding a replacement resource or consultant to meet that need very early on in the online community planning process. If you neglect this fundamental step, the implementation of your private social network can grind to a halt for weeks while you try to figure out how to access your own data.
Private Social Networking Takeaway
Many organizations focus on the strategy and the community management, but neglect to plan for the implementation. However, the implementation process needs just as much focus as the other stages of creating an online customer community. It takes people, dedicated time to think things through and make decisions, and serious deadlines. Start with the tips above to avoid major delays and see the fruits of your labor much sooner.