Last week, we shared advice from four of our community managers about challenging scenarios you might encounter in your community (and their recommendations on how to solve them).
This week, Lindsay, Will, Annie, and Emily are back to share their answers to 25 questions on topics like increasing engagement, finding an expert for your Q&A session, and encouraging lurkers to participate.
Sound like fun? Let’s go!
Starting a Community
1. Do you have general recommendations for starting a community from scratch?
- Lindsay Starke: You need to have a good idea that differentiates you from the rest of the competition. If there are already multiple communities doing what you want to do, figure out a way to make yourself different by courting a different segment of a market or doing something new. Since communities have been around for a while now, you need a way to set yourself apart from market.
- Will Machin: You’ll need to put in a lot of time upfront. You can try to cheat the system and buy members or have them sign up through a contest, but you won’t see real longevity in your growth. You’ll see a large spike and then a decline in engagement, so put in the work to create real, organic growth instead of choosing the easy route.
- Annie Moncure: Be ready to pivot on what you decide to do. Once you get users into the system and hear what they want, it might be completely different from what you expected their needs to be. Keep your ear to the ground. Stay flexible. Keep your mind open. Stay focused on what your big goals are. Don’t get too focused on doing the hundred things on your list – instead, focus on the two big needs users have expressed (and try to leverage their feedback to meet those needs).
- Emily Stamm: Know your goals and work from those. Track the things you do throughout as you’re building your plan. Measure your steps and develop documentation along with those steps, so you can revisit and see what you did right and repeat it. Be flexible with that plan and keep your overall goals in mind.
2. What are the best demographics to ask for up front during the application process?
- Lindsay: Honestly, I keep the application as short as possible. Demographics are great, but too long of an application can push people away! Gather data later on by nudging them to fill out a profile (which you can easily do by setting up an automation rule).
3. Where do the community resources typically sit in the org chart?
- Annie: This is very dependent on your organization, but I see it most frequently under customer success, membership retention, or marketing. Most importantly, align your community’s owner with your business goals.
4. How much of a marketing lift should we anticipate as we onboard our members onto the platform?
- Annie: There will be a significant lift during the implementation and launch. You will need to beta test, gather and post seed questions, create welcome messaging etc.
5. Do you have any tips for managing an international community, where the members may speak different languages?
- Will and Annie: We worked together on a community with international users. We set up a Google Translate plug-in (find a step-by-step guide on HUG, the Higher Logic Users group). You can also create user communities for the different language segments so that users can chat in their own languages.
- Lindsay: If you’re using English as the primary language for onboarding materials, there are lots of great resources to help you ensure you’re writing in plain language. This might include things like not using contractions or figures of speech. For example, if English isn’t your first language, you may not understand that “onboarding” means welcoming someone into community. I recommend going through everything from the basic welcome message to your help text to make sure it’s accessible for everyone.
6. How can we increase engagement in a Q&A based forum as opposed to a discussion forum, where the questions don’t often lead to discussion?
- Lindsay: Try highlighting unanswered questions prominently on the main landing page. This can encourage users to get involved.
7. How can you make your online groups more about collaboration and advice sharing, rather than a replacement for the traditional customer support channels?
- Lindsay: Through behavioral modeling! If you have an “early release” of your community, you can coach a smaller group of founding members on appropriate behavior. I’d also recommend placing seed content in the community at launch that is collaborative/discussion-focused. Your goal is to get users to see this behavior in the community and mimic that.
8. What’s the best way to encourage people to join and participate in your community?
- Lindsay: You can take a few different routes. Some companies preload with customers in database. They want to convert folks they already know into community lurkers or posters. Some companies will convert people from the public into users, where they grow it from scratch. But my never-fail answer? Always make your community really useful. Have resources there that aren’t anywhere else. They’ll come – because you’re just too great not to join. That’s your goal!
- Will: One tactic you can focus on is making the sign-up process as smooth and simple as possible. If you have them do too many steps, you’ll see a lower conversion rate.
- Emily: You can create an ambassador program, where you have your most engaged users and MVPs promote your community.
- Annie: Know where your target audience is on each channel. Don’t just throw a nut out and see who comes in – be specific and targeted in your marketing.
9. How do you incentivize participation in communities?
- Will: If you’re going to incentivize participation, you have to be careful about doing it the right way. Focus on rewarding quality, not quantity, and don’t make it a constant thing (unless it’s a gamification program). If people get rewarded all the time for specific behavior, they’re less likely to do it. Use rewards to build a behavior.
10. As someone launching the community’s function for the first time, how do you create a culture of active discussions right away?
- Will: Utilize seed questions before you launch to show that there is activity. Try promoting the community and its intended purpose. Many times, people are simply nervous about participating or being the first person to post something. Create a culture that appreciates community engagement, regardless of the level.
11. How do you deal with members using different resources to communicate when that data is not captured in the community? (Slack, Chat, etc.)
- Annie: I see that come up quite a bit, especially if you’re using it internally for your employees. You can try saying something like this: “Those are great resources, but they’ve got a different goal than what we’re going for in the community. No one wants to get emailed/Slacked the same question from 10 different people, and when we use the community, we are compiling knowledge in one spot and can direct people to look their first.” Slack is great for unique questions, but when you need a shared resource, direct people to the community.
- Emily: Another great aspect of the community is resource-sharing. Someone forwards a resource to everyone internally, but then 30 days later when you actually need it, you have to go through and find it again.
12. We have a lot of members who are heavy Twitter users. Do you have any suggestions on how to bring them back from Twitter or social media into the community?
- Emily: Your community offers something that is not available via Twitter or other social media platforms, and you can help users see that by drawing them back in. Here are some ways I’ve seen community leaders successfully draw people from Twitter (or other platforms) back into the community:
- You could choose a hot topic from Twitter and schedule a real-time discussion in your community.
- Use your active Twitter feed to market the community and express the value.
- Get involved on social! Post yourself or have some of your active community members join the conversation and point to useful resources/discussions in the community that would relate to the Twitter conversation.
- Throw out teasers on social media to bring people into the community, like announcing a release of a video or document that relate to the hot social topics.
- Survey the members on Twitter to gather information on what they’re looking for and their overall awareness about your community.
Tips for Moderating
13. Do you have any standard resources that we can use as a baseline for community moderating?
- Lindsay: We put together our own code of conduct, and that’s what we deploy as a starting point for all our clients to build theirs. Some key things to focus on:
- Frame your terms and conditions/code of conduct in positive language.
- Cover the main things you’re focused on.
- William: Also, as a community manager, you need to trust your gut. If it seems wrong, it probably is. Members can help you with community by flagging questionable posts as well.
14. How does putting a user on moderation work?
- Lindsay: In the Higher Logic platform, if a user is on full moderation, they’ll be moderated in all discussions and libraries within your system. You can also manage moderation on a community basis. But when it’s an individual, it’s all or nothing – you’ll want to review everything they attempt to post.
15. How do you identify a lurker? What information do you want to know about them? How do you find out if customers are finding value in your community, or if they’re lurking?
- Emily: I use data sources to identify lurkers. I look at whether they’re downloading and using items from library. They’re silently satisfied. You do want active participants, but having people come and get what they need can be just as important.
- Also, on the Higher Logic platform each member has an engagement score. The organization can determine how to weight the various engagement types (such as viewing a website, library entry, discussion posts, blog posts), and members and admin are able to view the engagement score and the factors that contributed to the score.
- Annie: Lurkers are people that visit your site relatively often but do not post or comment. My typical threshold for lurkers is people who have logged in 5 times in the last 60 or 90 days but have not posted anything. They’re logging in and obviously finding value because they continue to log in, but they’re not quite there yet on posting in the community itself.
16. What’s the best way to get community members who are more observant to participate?
- Lindsay: These are classic “power lurkers” who love the community content but don’t necessarily want to post themselves. First, recognize that there are some people who will never become active participants. These lurkers are still getting tons of value from the community.
- Second, I like to use a little smart automation to find people who log in a lot but don’t post, and then reach out to them personally in a non-invasive way. I say that I noticed in our logs that they logged in a lot, and ask if there are any other topics they’d find interesting. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say, and dig deep.
- Annie: One thing you can do to encourage more participation is to set up an automation rule that asks them to fill out more demographics in their profile. This can help you learn more about them without pushing them to post.
Collecting Feedback Through the Community
For this section, refer to Will and Annie’s scenarios in Part 1 of the webinar recap.
17. How many people do you invite to the focus groups and how many do you want in them?
- Annie: I always suggest inviting about three times the amount of people you want in the group, hoping that a third of them respond yes. If not, you can always send out another round of emails. I like focus groups to be around twenty users. I find that this is enough to give you both good variety and keep it from being repetitive. You’ll send about sixty emails on that first try, and continue to send those emails if you need more participation.
18. Do you leave the focus groups open or keep them private, and do you engage with them on social media?
- Annie: I set these focus groups up strictly in the community. It’s a value add to people who are in the community and relatively active. I wouldn’t suggest opening it up to your Twitter feed because that audience is too broad, and you might get more than you bargained for.
19. Do you separate out different type of members for the focus groups?
- Annie: I typically don’t, but if you have very specific questions for your focus group that wouldn’t apply to everyone, you could separate members. I tend to be surprised by who chimes in on the questions, so I like keeping everyone in the same group to get the most possible feedback.
20. What is the suggested amount of time each day/week to log in and go through the feedback you receive from your focus group community?
- Annie: I would suggest you spend an hour or two a week while you are actively collecting feedback. You’ll want to take notes on what are the popular responses and decide on the action to take.
21. Would this approach also translate to gathering company-wide feedback?
- Annie: I wouldn’t suggest having more than 20 people in a focus group, as having more members becomes hard to manage quite quickly. For company-wide feedback, I would suggest a poll, or if this is something ongoing, you can check out our ideation module.
22. How long do you leave a poll up?
- Will: This really depends on your situation – you don’t want to make it too short because you want people to respond, but you don’t want to let it linger too long and look stagnant. In this situation, we left ours up for a month because the community was using the poll as a promotional tool. When you’re just asking a simple question like “what topic should we choose for a webinar?” you could leave it up for a week.
23. How do you handle community management with a company who wants to listen to feedback, but isn't able to act quickly to feedback/suggestions?
- Annie: If you’re seeking feedback in a focus group, you could tell them that it is something you are working on, but it will take X months. Usually, when you’ve got a group that small, they’re happy if they know what to expect and if they feel like they’re being heard. An honest answer that isn’t ideal is better than no answer. These members can also help answer questions from other members in the broader community.
Finding Experts for Q&A or AMA sessions
24. How do you find experts for Q&A or AMA sessions?
- Emily: You’ve got a few options:
- Ask someone who spoke or presented at a live event to host an AMA after the fact. This is a great way to have people return to the community after an event, and you might be able to get new people from the event to join in and participate in the community.
- Identify members as experts through their community activity. Maybe you’ve got members who answer lots of questions about a specific topic. Try asking them if they’d be interested in leading an AMA session.
- Utilize your ambassador group. Ask them to participate, or see if they can help you identify experts, either users in the community, or outside of it.
- Try releasing an article series to your members, and have the author host an AMA after members read the series. This can help create anticipation for the session and give members a reason to return regularly to the community for new content.
25. What do you think about using digital badging to identify experts?
- Will: It’s a great method! You can assign badges for people who have participated in an AMA, your top contributors, users who are subject matter experts. You’ll want to do these two things to ensure success:
- First, let people know when they receive a badge! Set up an automation rule so that they receive a notification when they get a badge.
- Second, if people fall off the leaderboard, take away the badge. That way, you’ll encourage them to keep participating.
- Lindsay: Make sure you base your badging system on quality, not just quantity. Try giving out badges to people whose answers have been recommended as the best answer multiple times. This can help incentivize high-quality content.
Have More Questions?
There you have it – 25 community questions, answered. These questions might have sparked other questions in your mind. If so, feel free to comment on this post or Tweet to us @HigherLogic, and we’ll get back to you.
We’ve also put together an implementation guide to walk you through the entire process of starting a Higher Logic community. Check it out below (no email address necessary).