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4 key considerations to help you manage a successful online community.

Online insight communities when run properly can be an invaluable resources for companies and brands. They can generate value in a number of ways; helping your company to become more customer-centric, gather insights on how to create better products and services, allowing you to reconnect with your customers following a decline in sales or change in competitive landscape.

Nobody wants a community that just generates mountains of useless data and shallow unhelpful content, you want to gain valuable insight that you can then use to tackle your business challenges.

We’ve outlined 4 key considerations to help you manage a successful community.

Be clear on your aim.
You need to know what you want to find out from your customers. Are you thinking of developing a new product or service? Launching a new campaign? Or simply evaluating how satisfied your customers are with your brand? You need to be very clear on your aim and focus on the right issues. Make sure you are asking questions that matter to your business.

Keep your community engaged.
Success of a community can be measured by the quality of the user generated content.

Before you launch the community you need to produce a varied Activity Plan (an activity is a question/project/challenge you set your community members to complete). Making activities interesting, engaging and practical is vital to making sure your community is fully engaged and successful – you must have a spectrum of types of activities. The activity plan should consist of a set of tasks that you are going to ask your community members to complete in the course of the project, it makes it clear to users what they’re being asked to do and gives community managers guidelines dictating what they need to achieve from the project. Activities should be varied, creative and engaging, they should make people think, challenge their views and overall make it an enriching experience. To help make the activities more enjoyable and improve content generation we often use Instagram and Pinterest, visual content has a massive impact, it brings users, opinions and ideas to life. To balance this be sure not to overburden your community with too many focused research tasks, instead prompt them with softer content (e.g. articles, TV adverts, advice) by doing this you will get more undirected feedback and move valuable user generated content that in turn will lead to more powerful insights. Overall it’s important to make sure you challenge yourself in how these activities can generate further insight, how they will uncover different insight yet also keep your participants interested and challenged!

Understand your community members.
You need to anticipate what responses will be given by your customers and understand how to get in-depth responses from them.  It helps to know your customers before you launch the community. Typically we will spend time before launch understanding our client’s customers and building a hypothesis to what outputs we’d expect, as a result we will have an impression of how conversations will flow once the community starts. This in turns means we are better able to tailor the conversations to individuals in the community. A good community manager will spend time engaged with individual members of the community, it is these conversations that usually generate the more meaningful responses. And this level of engagement allows us to understand what they mean behind what they say.

We also advise that you regularly take a step back to look at themes and ideas that emerge across the broader community rather than just focusing on feedback from individual issues. This way you’ll be able revisit content that you might have missed while you were focussing on individuals.

Keep stakeholders on board.
We all know the stakeholder/client who takes a quick look at the community early on, examines the first few bits of content and then disappears from the project with the assured assumption that they know the results already. We feel this is a missed opportunity stakeholders/clients can contribute a great deal to a better understanding of the customer and indeed will often learn things that will contradict previously held assumptions. Keeping stakeholder/clients involved throughout the process can only ever mean better results and getting the most from your community.

 We recently conducted an online community for a key client to co-create a flagship advertising campaign with influential consumers. It was important to make sure we understood their business needs and appreciated their specific hypothesis that would in turn shape the way we designed our community engagement. Communities should never be about a transactional questions and answer, it should be an experience, one that is engaging for the participants and fertile ground for insight generation. The community was so successful that the participants started engaging with each other and even moderating and challenging our consultants – this sentiment was encapsulated so vividly when a participant put together a business case for an idea that our client might like to consider! The client and their stakeholders were hugely involved in the community which made the outputs much more valuable to the business.

By Tom Skilbeck and Prisca De Severac.

 

Nicholas Harrisson