What is the real ROI you get from your community?
If your business operates an online community you are most likely to know how many resources are being invested in your community in terms of time and money. But ask yourself this - can you accurately evaluate what is the return you get on your investment?
If one of the following questions is a mystery to you, I recommend to keep on reading.
Can you mention the precise number of your community members on each of your communication platforms? Or the exact number of community members in total? How many of your members are also customers? Is your community helping with increasing retention rates? How engaged each member is in each platform? Who are your greatest advocates? What happens in communities similar to yours?
If you don’t know the answer to some of these questions, don’t feel bad! After reviewing over 4,000 communities from different sectors I can say with confidence that most businesses don’t have access to this type of data about their community.
Why do businesses build communities?
Businesses who invest in creating a community choose the approach of hosting the market, rather than trying to chase it, and “shoot” customers down in the right customer journey intersections. It is a “let them come to you” attitude.
The community approach is innovative and it affects the way customers behave. Aside from customer’s growth in terms of using the product more often and inviting friends, communities enhance retention rates, brand loyalty, create better customer experience, and reduce the need for customer support. If you think about it for a moment, it makes perfect sense. A brand community allows you as a member to take an active part in shaping the product, by sharing your opinion and stating how it can be better. People are more motivated to play with a toy they helped create!
The change in community structure
Five years ago began the renaissance of community platforms. These were third-party platforms that are based on community members migration to their platform, and onboarding. As long as the communication and conversations were made within the platform, they did a pretty good job. Good examples for these are - Ning, Hivebright, Higher Logic, Khoros, and Jive.
In the last two years major changes occurred in the structure of interpersonal connectivity, and content consuming models globally. With recent years inflation of social media platforms and internal apps, it has become very challenging to convince users to migrate and converse in customized and designated platforms. In fact, most people choose to communicate and consume content through different social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Mailing lists, Twitter, Reddit, Linkedin, and Slack among others. This trend created a new challenge for community managers - multi-channel operation. COVID-19 just accelerated this process.
Why running an online community in 2020 is much more complicated than 5 years ago?
Imagine interacting with 50,000 community members across one platform. Not an easy task but manageable. Now imagine interacting with 50,000 community members across 5 different platforms. That’s 250,000 potential micro-interactions to handle. Once you start engaging with your audience across different online platforms and make data-driven decisions that are based on multiple data sources, that is when things are getting nasty. Multi-channel community operation is one of the core reasons which explains why most businesses can’t really tell what is their community ROI, and why they aren’t able to answer the questions above.
“Let’s say you manage a product community for a SaaS company. Your company is doing well and it has a lot of clients. When you first founded your community, you did so on a single platform (Facebook for example), and you made sure that only active clients were admitted into the group. Over time, you expanded your community activity to additional platforms (newsletter, Instagram, or telegram) and launched a few sub-communities to address different segments within your community. Naturally, over time, the company experiences churn at a certain rate. Now you have different members of your community on several platforms, with no indication if they are even active paying users of your product. Trying to keep track of this is exhausting and ineffective.
At HoneyBook, we have recently teamed up with an Israeli startup called Simpoco, in an effort to consolidate our data throughout the various platforms we work with, like Salesforce and Facebook. The output we received after connecting our Salesforcce and Facebook data together, gave us a clear view about our customers and potential customers data. This helped us get a clear understanding of what our community looks like and how to optimize its potential, by identifying opportunities within our client base. Also, we were finally able to measure the positive effects that our community activity has on our business results.”
Maria Green-Povarchik -Head of Community at Honeybook
There is a solution - Consolidate your data!
In order to build a thriving and effective community you first need to understand what your goals are and how to measure success. To do that you need to be very honest about your blindspots, create a clear methodology, and a data-driven environment to rely on. A major part of creating such an environment derives from the consolidation of all your data sources into one place. Only after doing the following, you will be able to get a real picture of your community and answer the open questions we started with.
Starting an online community is very much like starting a plantation. You need to meticulously plant and nurture the seeds, with love and attention. The community irrigation system is maintained by using engagement and facilitating conversations. The best fertilizers are quality content, great events, insightful workshops, and webinars. A community manager that has done his job well, will harvest the sweetest fruits when the time is right - Strong advocates to carry on the brand’s name, along with satisfied and recurring customers, that provide valuable insights on how to make the business better. Simpoco tells your business what plants need watering, and which fruits are ready to be harvested!
Community managers are some of the most influential actors of our generation! the right technological tools are the basis for making the right decisions, and making the most out of your community.