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Community management is the practice of building and managing a community made up of a brand’s customers, employees, and partners. It refers to how a brand engages with its audience to create a network that allows participants to connect, communicate, and share with each other.
Community management is becoming increasingly vital for brands, especially as consumers are increasing their usage across digital channels. In fact, 87% of consumers have increased their digital usage since the COVID-19 pandemic, and 75% of consumers found value in interacting with others in a brand’s online community. Creating and managing a community provides value for consumers and the brand itself.
Supports engagement and interaction between consumers and brand representatives
Collects feedback from community members to improve business offerings
Improves customer service by enabling community members to answer questions amongst each other
Promotes self-service by allowing people to get answers from previous forum discussions
Fosters relationships with consumers to create brand advocates
Creating a community is a good start, but brands that want these benefits will need to invest resources into managing the space so it can thrive.
Community management comes in different forms, depending on the type of community you create. For instance, some brands create niche communities to serve an individual purpose, while more expansive communities can accommodate several. The types of communities can be classified using the SPACES model (i.e., Support, Product, Acquisition, Contribution, Engagement).
In a support community, members answer questions for each other, which reduces dependence on brand customer service representatives. A support community is typically a support forum, where people can ask and answer questions about the brand’s products and services. This may include questions about which solution to purchase, how to use it, and troubleshooting issues. USAA is a great example of a support community, as they have dedicated spaces to help people with finance questions about banking, investing, and retirement planning, among other areas:
Image Source: Communities.usaa.com
By crowdsourcing customer service to community members, brands can save on costs and increase customer satisfaction. Higher customer satisfaction comes from personalized answers based on other user experiences. Over time, these threads can grow into a knowledge bank that enables others to get answers through self-service.
A product community creates a space for consumers to share ideas and feedback about a brand's offerings. This type of community is an excellent way for brands to identify areas for improvement on existing products, such as new or revised features. It also helps brands identify gaps in their offerings, which can help them develop new solutions to meet consumer needs. Fitbit's product community is notable, as they have several popular forums dedicated to each of their offerings:
Image Source: Community.fitbit.com/
Brands can create a product community for all their offerings or separate communities for individual solutions. Within these communities, the brand can gather insights from member discussions or proactively distribute surveys to collect feedback.
An acquisition community is a private network comprising brand employees and customer advocates or ambassadors. In an acquisition community, brand advocates engage with employees and other members to discuss ideas for promoting the business to drive awareness and growth. Membership to these communities is exclusive and may depend on an affiliate-related goal, such as getting 10 people to purchase a product or create an account.
Brands can make the most of these communities by dedicating management resources to ensure advocates have plenty of support to promote the brand. In addition to driving awareness for new customers, these communities also help increase brand loyalty for your existing advocates.
Contribution communities are comprised of people who individually contribute content or actions to a collaborative project that several people are working on. These communities are more common than you think. For example, an open-source platform that allows users to code together collaboratively. You could even consider Wikipedia as a contribution community, because the site itself represents the culmination of content curated by users. Community management for this type of group can be as simple as offering a collaborative platform and leaving everything to users. However, these communities require a strategy and review process to guide collaborative efforts while maintaining quality.
There are two types of engagement communities: external and internal. External engagement communities unite people with shared interests, such as a hobby or passion. For example, Microsoft has an XBOX community for people interested in video games, where members can discuss popular games, industry news, and upcoming events:
Image Source: Xbox.com/en-US/community
Internal engagement communities are the other sub-type, which are comprised of employees, suppliers, partners, and vendors who work with a brand. Internal engagement communities enable people associated with a brand to discuss private information about internal operations or offer an exclusive space for coworkers to interact with each other.
These communities are a great way for employees to stay connected, especially for large organizations with people working remotely from several locations. Almost every brand has an internal engagement community, which can scale from a basic messaging platform like Slack to an external hub filled with other employee resources like industry news and HR resources.
Success communities help members get the most out of a brand’s products and services by encouraging users to share tips and best practices. They’re similar to support communities but focus on helping existing users improve their use or strategy for better results. For example, Airbnb has a community where hosts can share tips to help improve their spaces to help get better reviews and more bookings:
Image Source: Community.withairbnb.com
Several community types and management strategies will vary based on which communities you create. Here’s a quick breakdown of the steps required for creating and implementing a community management strategy, regardless of community type:
Start by thinking about the audience you want to reach with your community. Do you want an internal community for employees and brand associates or a consumer-facing community to interact with customers? Additionally, consider whether you want the community to focus on your brand’s entire catalog of offerings, specific solutions, or unique interests. Knowing this information will help determine the type of communities to build or how to manage existing communities better.
If you got through step one and decided you don’t need to build additional communities, you can skip this step. However, if additional communities need to be created, you’ll want to decide what channels they should be created for. For a consumer-facing community, you may consider creating a dedicated website or forum section on your existing site using a platform like Khoros Communities. You could also create a social media group, but this comes with limited customization options, and you may not be able to reach consumers who don’t have a presence on the channel, such as someone who doesn’t have a Facebook account.
For an internal community, you could consider a messaging platform like Slack for basic communication or a full-featured community in the form of a separate site that’s customized with resources for employees and associates.
Consider the goals of your community and what success will look like. These goals should align with brand objectives and have KPIs that can be measured to track progress over time. Common goals and metrics include membership growth, better engagement rates, increased satisfaction, and referral conversions stemming from the community.
When setting goals and expectations, start with a conservative short-term goal that you believe is achievable over 1-2 months. You shouldn’t be too aggressive in the early stages of your community because you won’t have much data to set a baseline, and it can take time to build awareness about your community. After the trial, use the performance data to set long-term goals that are a little more ambitious but still achievable.
While communities can become self-sustaining over time with crowdsourced moderation, part of managing a community in the early stages will involve employees filling it with content to start discussions and engaging with members to show you’re active. When publishing content and engaging with your audience, see what content resonates and generates the most interest.
Consistently publish this type of content and respond to all comments. As the community grows, you may eventually scale back your involvement and even delegate management responsibilities to the most active members.
The final phase of implementing a community management strategy is measuring the results. How you do this will depend on the goals you set and the tools associated with your community’s channel. Social media sites include analytics about groups you create, though some of the goals you set may not be included in their tracking capabilities. This is another reason why a dedicated community management platform is valuable. In addition to customizing the look and feel of the community, you can also get a customized performance dashboard with only the metrics you care about.
When measuring performance, remember that your community's early stages will likely start with small numbers that will gradually grow as you build it out with more content and attract new members. As you measure performance and get feedback from users, use the information to improve the value of the community for members.
An online community is a great way to increase conversions, offer support, and drive brand loyalty from your audience. However, getting the most out of your community requires thoughtful planning and a well-rounded community management strategy with the right technology to fulfill your vision.
Khoros Communities gives you a platform to create a customizable branded community to meet your needs and is a leader in customer satisfaction that more than 2,000 brands trust. Request a demo today and learn to create a branded community for your audience.