According to Warren Buckley, a Managing Director of Customer Services at British telecom, there are 3 essential communities that every company wants to have, nurture and grow:
- Customer community. You don’t need a huge community of followers to be impactful. Each member of your community has their own circle of friends, followers etc. and as soon as you talk about something meaningful and interesting, your community will retweet / forward links etc. to their own community. This is where BT is focusing most of their energy; after all, it’s the space in which people resolve each other’s problems and where a testimonial has added impact. Warren mentioned a customer, who spends 40 hours a week helping others. He’s not paid for this ‘work’ and he doesn’t work for BT, so a recommendation from him has huge credibility. Warren points out however that, in such communities, it is best to take a step back and not to interfere too much; your customers can become disengaged and can come to expect you to answer every question, not just the questions you can answer.
- Care community. According to Warren a company should invest in having the right people caring for its community. BT has 23 dedicated people, working full time, monitoring what customers talk about their brand and responding to them. All employees working in the Care Community Team had to undergo specific training to ensure that corporate language is avoided. People don’t like to hear “Apologies this caused you inconvenience”. They want to be treated like a human being by another human being. Warren sets the tone in this respect,using the username “Wasser”.
- Everyone else in your organisation. This is particularly important for big companies with separate departments. Everyone, starting from PR, Sales and Marketing departments, and including company’s CEO, should be building relationships and communicating with their customers.
So what can we learn from above example?
- Look after your customers
- Be personable with your customers
- Allow your customers to talk and help each other
- Reward your biggest community contributors
- Regardless of your position in a company, get involved and where applicable, talk to your customers.
So where do you start? The best place is to answer the questions below.
IS there a purpose for your community? You need to define a specific goal for your community. It can be promoting an event, it can be to spread word about a product – but you need to define the goal and keep it in mind as you go. Ask yourself – is what I’m doing helping me to achieve my goal.
WHO is your target? Understanding your target audience will help you to set up the right community. If you are targeting corporate organisations, your community design and the language you use should be business like, if you are targeting young people you will choose more casual design and language.
WHERE will I set up a community? The answer to this question will depend on who your target is and where are they reported spending their online time. Is it Facebook? Twitter? Blogging? Youtube? Pinterest?
WHAT content you use? You need to ensure that you provide useful and engaging content for your community members. This will get people talking, interacting and engaged. You will also want to ensure that you are consistently providing content. If you do not remain consistent, people will stop visiting – and in the case of Facebook, an algorithm may start filtering out your content.
WILL you have rules? Some communities use community rules as benchmarks for member behaviour, whether they are ‘no advertising in any of the posts’, ‘no foul language’ or ‘members must post pictures with any text’.
CAN you identify advocates of your community? Contributors are people who love feeling important, so ensure that you reward your most active contributors. It doesn’t have to be a monetary compensation; it can be a badge, a star rating or any form of recognition of their effort. You could even go a step further and offer your contributors titles and editing powers so that they become moderators of the community.