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  • Writer's pictureMadeleine Milne

How do you know if community is right for your company?

Three key things to consider before you dive in

So, you’ve understood the benefits of developing a community strategy for your brand and you’re raring to go. But before you do, first consider these three critical questions to make sure community is right for you and your brand.

1. Your truth

It’s tempting to trot out hackneyed mantras like “our customers are our everything” but - be honest with yourself - are you truly considering the customer when you take business decisions and really listening to them if you do? Or, might you be tempted to feel that you know best? We all know our customers should be central, but often there’s some tension between the aspiration and reality.

If you can’t easily disconnect your wishes with your reality, consider how you feel about negative feedback. In its nature, community activity can generate negativity at times. Will you embrace this and learn from it? Or ignore it or respond dismissively, persuading yourself it’s just a handful of grumpy serial complainers, and burying your head in the digital sand until the underlying issue starts seriously hurting your company’s performance?

A business leader I spoke with the other day asked why he should let negativity about his brand be visible in his community. Wasn’t that corporate suicide? On the contrary, I replied, it gives you power. If your unhappy customers aren’t permitted to vent in your own community (and hopefully get a response) there are hundreds of other places they can and will. In which case you might never become aware of their comments and you certainly won’t have any control over them. Whereas if you see it in your community you have the opportunity to be part of the conversation, do something about it, learn and perhaps improve along the way. But don’t rush into setting up a community offering until you’re geared up, both mentally and in terms of resources, to deal effectively with occasional incoming flak.

2. Freak show

Do you have, or like to have, control over things? Then how comfortable might you be if you weren’t in total control? Are you happy to take your hands off the wheel now and then and let your customers drive the conversation? Great if you’re confident enough for that. But if the truth is you’re such a nervous passenger this will just make you carsick, my advice is don’t try and develop a community offering.

One client thought it would be madness to share significant information with his community that his competitors could access. My responses? First, if your competitors want that info badly enough, they’ll get it by hook or by crook. Second, if the information or content you might share with a community is your main competitive advantage then you are, quite honestly, pretty screwed. I’m not suggesting you shouldn’t be protecting your IP or commercially sensitive information, but thinking it’s only your content that makes people come to you, rather than the company next door, is worrisome.

3. Size matters

Most businesses are ultimately numbers games and need a critical mass to gain momentum. The same applies to communities. Of all your customers, only a certain percentage will sign up, and of them a much smaller percentage will engage energetically enough to drive the community growth. So without a decent number of people in your audience to start with you’re going to struggle to scale and generate a quality offering that will become self-sustaining and can deliver the business benefits you are seeking. The trick is to first build up your customer base sufficiently before you launch the community, so you can be confident that you’ll will have a sizeable cohort from the outset.

Then you just need to make sure you have the best offering, but perhaps that’s where we can come in. Contact us if you would like to discuss your needs further.


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