In a three-part webinar series, we’ve been discussing everything knowledge leaders need to know about online communities and how they can drive new growth. In the first webinar, we looked at online community management with Richard O’Connor, CEO of B2B Marketing, and Neil Berry, Global Head of ABM at Atos.
We built on this with the second webinar, looking at practical community strategies and how it can help your organization scale. Here’s a quick overview of the fascinating discussion with Marc Wright, Founder of SimplyCommunicate, and Laura Bineviciute, Head of Content and Community at Data Leaders.
Introducing the network effect
You’ve been taking advantage of the network effect, perhaps unwittingly, for many decades. The invention of the telephone is one such example of the network effect. One telephone on its own is simply a nifty gadget, but add two or more and suddenly the value of owning that telephone increases. It’s the same with community, the more people who consume it and add their own insights to it, the more valuable it becomes to the whole group.
Another benefit highlighted by Marc, for the members of the SimplyCommunicate community is the 24/7/365 interactions the community offers. “Previously, our customers didn’t feel like they could talk to us outside of a consultation because they’d have to pay for it or they worried we would try and sell them something. The community opens up opportunities to talk to them all of the time, having a conversation with people, and building trust,” he explained.
Peer-to-peer interactions are also improved through a community, as Data Leader’s members have experienced. “It gives a space for our members to meet others and feel understood, while also having practical conversations about things that a consultant or vendor couldn’t understand,” Laura stated.
Laying the foundations
To achieve this you do have to do some groundwork. As Laura explained, “We do a lot of curation. We’ll have a mix of bringing experts in and having people sign up to the community themselves. We make sure the right level of people are there and we have an in-depth onboarding experience that really makes it personal for members.”
“Content strategy is key. Be clear to your community why they should come to you,” Marc added, “We positioned the community as ‘your expert voice’ so people can return to their work more informed. You’ve got to have content that drives people to the site and sparks conversations — it’s quite a skill, to be at the bleeding edge of what’s going on in the world.”
Standing out in a noisy market
Once your community reaches a certain size and stage, your peer-to-peer interactions happen more regularly and that really drives the network effect. We are bombarded with information today, so every interaction that occurs in a community needs to stand out as high quality and highly relevant to someone’s needs and goals.
“In our space, the community is unique. Once we have someone in the community and they realize the value of the community, they stick with us,” Marc shared, highlighting an added bonus of leveraging the network effect — customer retention.
Deliver personalized value
Some final advice was offered by both experts. Laura honed in on how a customer focus underpins the network effect in a community, saying, “Put customers at the heart of everything that you do. Of course, you do need to be commercial and make money. But I truly believe that if you put customers at the heart and you personalize the experience, to deliver exactly what customers want at the time they need it, they will connect with your business in a completely different way.”
Given the many perks that a community offers its members and the organization behind it, Marc advised against under-selling your community by setting membership fees too low or giving it away for free. “Charge what you think it is worth in terms of the value it is giving to your members’ businesses. Don’t underestimate the value of what you are giving to your member organizations.”
Check the on-demand webinar:
To sign up for the last webinar on the ROI of online communities, click here.