Heather is Higher Logic’s Chief Community Officer. She was the first to hold the position at Higher Logic and one of the earliest to hold the title in the industry.
I’ve been involved in community management for around 13 years. When I started, I didn’t even know it was a profession, and I was flying solo.
I think a lot of us started that way in the early years.
The techniques that we developed back then and refined over the years were based on gut instinct, combined with marketing techniques, behavioral psychology, and trial and error.
We accomplished many amazing things this way, but fortunately, we now have data that proves what we’ve always known: What we’re doing is worthwhile.
The Community Roundtable’s annual report, the State of Community Management, is one of the biggest data sources grounding the community industry and the community management profession.
Their research helps us power the things we do with data-driven decisions and enables organizations to feel confident about adopting communities.
And what does the data show? Change is happening because of communities.
For example, in their 2020 report (available below), The CR highlights return on investment (ROI) for communities with an approved operational, measurable strategy, identifying a positive dollar value for both members and organizations.
That brings me to the future: Where is community engagement headed?
The Future of Online Communities and Community Engagement
This year more than ever, The CR’s State of Community Management Report demonstrates the impact of community, making it undeniable that community is a must-have.
Organizations have historically seen communities as having a siloed use case like deflecting costs for customer support or product innovation.
That viewpoint is still reflected somewhat in the research, but the data also indicates that many are starting to realize the true value of communities: Revenue growth through customer or member loyalty.
Based on the top five use cases for external communities, as listed in this year’s report, we are starting to see things move into other advanced use cases that are reflective of customer loyalty, such as: retention, satisfaction, and organizational growth.
I hope this mindset shift continues, because viewing communities as cost deflection tools limits the true power of community to grow your organization.
When you look at the bigger picture of retention and loyalty, the potential for the upside and growth is much greater than cost reduction. According to The State of Community Management Report:
“For communities that can connect engagement directly to business value, 77% of Advanced External Community programs impact customer loyalty – a top line, complex objective being pursued aggressively in today’s business climate.”
When customers are able to collaborate with each other, and able to participate in an active dialogue with organizations themselves, they develop stronger connections and grow into brand loyalists.
When organizations create that infrastructure, they benefit from a wealth of data that is produced in a healthy community.
And with that data comes powerful business insights. Smart organizations are building the structure to support those business insights and leveraging them.
“Community engagement supports every member’s success by giving them access to the knowledge and value of the entire community. By supporting them in their work, it inspires their loyalty. It exposes people to new ideas, prompts product and service use, and rapidly surfaces shifting needs.” – The State of Community Management Report 2020
Communities are an important step toward building a loyal customer, member or employee base. When a community is built into your way of doing business, it becomes an agent of change.