How to Handle Community Curveballs

Here are three common obstacles organizations face and how to overcome them.

In today’s competitive marketplace, companies are working to enhance customer and employee relationships through engagement and collaboration. Online communities can help achieve this goal by connecting and engaging employees, customers, and prospects. Despite their benefits, communities sometimes throw their share of curveballs. What do you do when engagement isn’t at the level you want it to be? Or, how do you explain a community’s value to the company’s leadership team?

Here are three common obstacles organizations face and how to overcome them:

1. How can I increase community member participation?
Sometimes community members need a little incentive to actively participate in an online community. Gamification – the process of adding games or gamelike elements to engage and motivate people to achieve goals – is a great way to encourage users to contribute to your community. Not only can gamification increase participation, but it can also be used to improve customer engagement, enhance employee performance, and crowdsource ideas. Over the course of building hundreds of online communities, we have found gamification to be a pivotal feature that drives organic engagement and community growth – so much so, that gamification is one of the core elements of AnswerHub. Users can receive reputation points, badges and expertise status as a reward for active community participation.

2. How can I prove the community’s ROI?
Organizations use online communities in a variety of ways. Some communities foster employee collaboration while others provide customers with self-service support. Identify the goals of your online community – what are you hoping to achieve? Once you have a clear understanding of your objectives and expectations, it will be easier to prove the community’s return on investment.

For example, if your community serves as a knowledge base, evaluate content clicks, bounce rates, and engagement (likes, comments, and shares). Or, if your company has aggressive revenue goals, tie member interactions to revenue. By integrating a marketing automation system or customer relationship management system with your community, you can track actions such as clicks and downloads back to leads, conversions, and sales. Your end goal is to illustrate how the community helps the company achieve larger business goals, such as employee and customer engagement, retention rates, up-sell opportunities, sales growth and decreased support costs.

3. How can do I keep community members coming back?
Customers have a million places they can be online – how are you going to keep them coming back to your community? To sustain community success, companies must create a valuable experience. As a best practice, companies should actively listen to those engaging in their communities and gauge user satisfaction. Listen to what your community can do to make members’ lives simpler and easier. Regularly send out surveys to community members soliciting feedback. Or, create a dedicated channel in your community where members can leave suggestions and ideas on how to build a better user experience. The interaction between the company and community audience is crucial. Acknowledge user feedback and thank them for the feedback. Even if you can’t make every suggested improvement, community members want to be acknowledged and feel that their opinions matter.

Community curveballs can be challenging, but they shouldn’t stand in the way of success. Encourage active participation, solicit user feedback, and analyze key metrics to prove community value. Through a proactive approach, companies can overcome common challenges and create a community that benefits the customer and meets organizational goals.