10 steps to improving adoption
Whether your community platform is for staff, customers, knowledge-sharing or emotional support, the potential benefits are well-known. It should widen and deepen engagement between you and your chosen audience, and then help you reap the benefits of that engagement. A well-planned, well-run and effective community has the power to make the difference between your being an also-ran in your niche, and becoming the world-class market-leader.
Yet we all know of communities that don’t transform the business as effectively as this. In many cases it takes longer than expected to engage your audience, or it may attract a lot of talk but little that converts into a hard return.
If your community is not – yet – delivering world-class value, don’t despair. You are certainly not alone, and there are a lot of simple steps that can help you on your way.
Some organisations undoubtedly do build successful, business-critical communities organically and without pain – but they’re in the minority. Others embark on the journey, and then find the task more complex than they anticipated. Their communities may look fine in many ways – yet they never quite attract the enthusiasm nor deliver the results that were hoped for.
Even if your community is doing pretty well, chances are there are some areas you could improve on. If you haven’t given it a recent health-check, looking both at the technical performance and the business planning behind it, you may be missing some tricks and losing out on potential returns as a result.
Some business reasons why your community may not be flourishing:
Of course there may be technical issues as to why your community is not performing as well as you hoped. The platform may have a load of broken links, dreaded 404 errors. You may be running an old version of the platform, or not have the integrations you need to make it intuitive from the users’ perspective. Sorting all this out may be a low priority on the IT team’s roadmap.
But it is equally likely that business reasons are the cause. Maybe some of the following:
- The original planning for how the community fits into the overall strategy of your business was sketchy.
- Significant changes in your business circumstances which mean some of the original planning needs revisiting.
- Some parts of the business don’t understand how the community can help them.
- Governance of the community is confused, restrictive or limited.
- Lack of resource (time or money) to support the community.
- Problems marketing the community or attracting (or retaining) the attention of the potential audience.
- Difficulties in measuring the effectiveness of the community.
Any of these sound familiar? Here are some steps you can consider:
- Run a sentiment survey. How do your audience feel about your community? What would they like it to do for them? What are their frustrations? The results will provide great insight into what you are offering – and will give a benchmark so you can prove that your efforts have improved things.
- Check the values, vision and mission of your organization and revisit all the ways your community contributes to delivering them.
- Talk to the boss. Does she understand the importance of what you are doing? Is she prepared to support it by being an active community member? Your chances of success will be dramatically improved by a few deft interventions from the top of the organization.
- Draw up a value map. How does (or could) the community benefit its individual members? The main teams in your organization? How would this contribute to achieving the overall business goals? Clear answers to these questions will help you develop strong arguments for a community that is supported by everyone.
- Collect case studies of how your community benefits people. Even better, get case studies of how it benefits any teams that use it. Tell everyone about them – make them want a slice of the action.
- Build a team of champions, advocates, early adopters. Get them to share their ideas with one another, then make sure everyone else gets to know all about it.
- Anyone who uses a community needs to feel safe, so review your table of risks and mitigations. Does it address all the concerns of the folk who don’t engage? Then make sure the doubters know their concerns will be outweighed by the benefits.
- People will only come if it offers them something they want that they can’t get anywhere else. So brainstorm your USP, and make sure that it’s evident on every page, and in every communication you send out.
- Stop measuring activity on the community, and start measuring the ways in which it provides value to the individual members and to the business.
- Promote as hard as you can. Use SEO, social media, newsletters, email, word-of-mouth – whatever you can afford and wherever’s appropriate. And if you can, use community-generated content and community voices. People need to know that they won’t be wasting their time by joining – and the best way to find that out is to see the good stuff that’s posted there.