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Why Your Customers Need an Online Community (Updated 2018)

You want your company to lead in a dynamic, transformative world. Here's how we use digital (and some analog!) strategy in our Yammer External Network to reach customers while never losing sight of the fact that people are our greatest asset.

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Why Your Customers Need an Online Community (Updated 2018)

  1. 1. Why Your Customers Need an Online Community (And how to prove it’s working when you have one) © 2018 Becky Benishek Twitter: @beckybenishek Case Study Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) & Yammer
  2. 2. Who I am • Becky Benishek, Manager of Online Communities for the Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI). • Over 8 years experience with strategy & tactics for external social media and internal/private online communities. • 2x Microsoft MVP for Office Servers & Services (where Yammer comes in). • Children’s book author with a working Commodore 64 and two guinea pigs. Twitter: @beckybenishek
  3. 3. Don’t just build. Optimize. • Make sure this is really about your customers, not just you • Measure engagement and effectiveness • Bring online and offline worlds together!
  4. 4. Take a (really good) look at your customers Case Study Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) & Yammer “Our attitude towards others determines their attitude towards us.” – Earl Nightingale
  5. 5. What we do • We’re a mid-sized company that helps schools, hospitals, and other service organizations throughout the world create safer, more respectful work environments. • We do this by providing training to human services providers in ways that prevent and de-escalate violent behavior.
  6. 6. We’ve trained over 30,000 human service providers so far. In turn, they’ve trained over
  7. 7. How do we effectively support people who are busy supporting others? Only about 5% of our customers actually “do” CPI training as their full-time job. • Sometimes questions come up after office hours. • Sometimes there is only a single CPI customer for their facility, district, state, region, or country. • Sometimes they just want to talk to someone who really gets what they do.
  8. 8. Bringing The One To The Many
  9. 9. Bringing the One to the Many We wanted to provide a way for our customers to exchange ideas and strategies on training. This would, we hoped: • Strengthen their knowledge and skills. • Help them connect and form partnerships. So we set up an online community for them, using a Yammer External Network.
  10. 10. But we still didn’t know. . . Will this online community really work for our customers, given how busy they are offline? And how will we really know when it does? Let’s find out! Anup Deodhar | Comedy Wildlife 2016
  11. 11. Build, Realize, Optimize Case Study Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) & Yammer “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.” – Zig Ziglar
  12. 12. #1: Know your why.
  13. 13. Know your why Whether building or re-launching a community, understand and define your objectives. • Foster meaningful collaboration • Connect around common objectives • Measure for business outcomes • Enhance relationship between you and your customer • Enhance relationships between customers
  14. 14. #2: Get executive buy-in.
  15. 15. Get executive buy-in (as high up as you can!) “What’s in it for me?” works at all levels. Have reasons prepared in advance that align with: • Company goals • Company culture • Customer needs • Customer requests (not always the same thing!)
  16. 16. #3: Build your team.
  17. 17. Build your team For any platform, you need a: • Dedicated community manager, or at least dedicated part-time • Dedicated team OR volunteer colleagues And think big. Wouldn’t it be great if everyone in the company was able to talk to customers about this sweet online space?
  18. 18. #4: Get the word out.
  19. 19. Get the word out to get people in How do you reach your customers today? Use the same methods: • Email • Phone • Website • In person • Direct mail (yes, really) • Fax (also yes, really) Don’t hesitate to use offline means to get people online. See Appendix A for examples.
  20. 20. #5: Nurture to grow
  21. 21. Nurture to grow (not set & forget) There is no “Build it and [they] will come.” Even if it’s just you managing the platform at first, you need to be there. This means: Listen, manage, nurture, engage, expand, evaluate, lather, rinse, repeat. And this includes all the efforts to remind people that this wonderful thing exists.
  22. 22. #6: Lurkers gonna lurk. Dmytro_Skorobogatov/iStock
  23. 23. Lurkers will lurk, but… Something to know about communities: 90% of your members will lurk. 9% will contribute. 1% will carry the community.* Don’t panic. That 90% doesn’t mean they aren’t doing. As long as you’ve got content that people can learn from, you’re providing value. Lurkers also need time to figure out that they are confident enough to post. Think of ways to help encourage posting; think of how to help build their confidence for them. *The 90-9-1 rule is always under debate. But it’s oddly true that you have a very good chance of ending up with most people quite silent.
  24. 24. Remember: Don’t panic!
  25. 25. #7: Plan to Re-Evaluate—Constantly Ashish Inamdar / Wildlife Photo 2016
  26. 26. Re-evaluate constantly (or at least periodically) It goes all the way back to your basic strategy of getting people in, and keeps on going. For us, it’s because of this periodic evaluation that we keep our online community opt-in. We wanted people in this space who had both time and inclination to be there. Our engagement numbers uphold this strategy. You might be able to stick with a one-size-fits- all policy for a long time, or quickly evolve to a wholly different model.
  27. 27. #9: Failure is your secret bonus Nicolas de Vaulx / Comedy Wildlife Photo 2016
  28. 28. Failure is your secret bonus Once upon a time, we had a community on a different platform. The layout wasn’t user-friendly. There were no notifications. We had to do a lot of extra work just to let them know this space existed. It just wasn’t right for our customer base. R.I.P., but the story doesn’t end there! When Yammer came around, I was able to identify it as a platform where we had a pretty good chance at succeeding with our goals. Why? Because our customers had told us loud and clear what they wanted and what they didn’t want, simply through how they did and didn’t use that old community.
  29. 29. #9: Remember who this is for. Andrea Zampatti / Wildlife Photo 2017
  30. 30. Don’t forget they’re people. Whoever this community is for, what you’re building is for them. You may want: Synergy! Impact! Retention! They may want: Help. Answers. Fellowship. What do you do? Let them have it. You’ll find that you get what you want, too. It’s not about the words. It’s about the people.
  31. 31. Measuring what your eyeballs see Case Study Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI), Yammer, and tyGraph “Even if you are on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.” – Will Rogers
  32. 32. Value has weight Numbers are great, and people like the big ones. But in an online community, even the biggest number won’t help if it doesn’t correlate to real value. And—this may be radical—it shouldn’t even be about quantity. At least, quantity shouldn’t be the sole measuring stick. Whether you have 100 or 10,000 community members, measure the actual value people are getting from the space.
  33. 33. Value has quality Engagement. Messages. Views. These are all actions that show me people are looking, doing, learning. I love that Engaged % number at the top. Yet one of my favorite metrics is the Responded Not @Mentioned %. That means people see a question posted and don’t wait to be tagged to jump in. They just want to help. You don’t get that on email. You don’t get that on the phone. But you do get that with an online community.
  34. 34. Your next “Don’t panic!” moment Tibor Kercz/Comedy Wildlife Award 2017
  35. 35. Offline reflects online (and vice versa) Metrics don’t exist in a vacuum and neither do the people who use your community. Here we’re looking at overall engagement measured by several criteria. Even without looking at the numbers, it’s evident that there are highs—and lows. Don’t panic at the lows. Stop and think what may have happened offline to influence them. The high ones definitely count, too! Big offline conference! Analog postcard Holiday YamJam Summer
  36. 36. What our customer community does for us (And what one could do for you.) We see: Challenge-to-success stories Resources freely posted Resources requested of us Strategy brainstorming “How do you…?” “I’ve trained CPI for 20 years.” “I’m a new customer!” “Hey CPI, I need…” We provide a service. Customers find value in this service. Customers use service with purpose. We learn what they need to succeed.
  37. 37. Recap • Define your objective (and let it evolve). • Get leadership buy-in. • Have a dedicated person/team. • Market offline & online. • Let lurkers lurk. • Measure and remember: Offline matters. • Remember that your community is made up of people. Continually evaluate: What do THEY want? • Try it out!
  38. 38. Appendix A: Offline manifestations Case Study Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) & Yammer “People forget how fast you did a job, but they remember how well you did it.” – Howard W Newton
  39. 39. Example #1: Analog in a Digital World Per my peaks & valleys analytics slide, one of the reasons for the climb in online engagement was the introduction of a postcard. A real, live, in-the-hands-of-our- customers postcard. Side 1 here has the value proposition: “Why” they want to join. Side 2 has the how.
  40. 40. Example #2: Online to offline to online again Message posted in Yammer about offline meeting: “Please join us at on [Date/Time/Location].” Phone/email messages went out, too! 1 Online recap of that offline meeting (which was about an awards ceremony). This also helped people who couldn’t attend. 2 A press release for all the public to see—which came from that offline meeting organized online! 3
  41. 41. Appendix B: The platform and the data Case Study Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI) & Yammer “Either you run the day, or the day runs you.” – Jim Rohn
  42. 42. Thank you so much! It is my sincere wish that you found value from my company’s experiences with customers in a Yammer External Network. Connect with me: Twitter: @beckybenishek