If you’re responsible for customer service or tech support for a business that provides software, you’re probably already familiar with the term community management. It’s the way you get to expand the reach of your customer support without expanding your budget, right?
Because of the dynamics of using community management for your customer service and tech support operations, software businesses with a large numbers of users that run lean can find an effective way to hunt bugs and improve the customer experience by offering an online community.
If you don’t have a content marketing plan in place for your business or organization, you should so stop reading and get one. Ensure you plan your community to fit the elements of your business: brand voice and tone, your core values and your goals.
An online community can fill a large range of roles, from product feedback to lead generation, so it’s best to understand what specific roles are most important to your business.
- Technical Support – Offering technical support through an online community not only makes it easier to track bugs in your software, but also reduces strain on your non-technical customer support organization.
- Product Feedback – Face it, we live in an age of ratings. Having an online community can help you provide your place for users to voice their opinions about your business. Having this clear line of communication to your most passionate users will also provide you with valuable marketing research.
- Customer Support – An online community is not a great way to help with password problems, but it is an effective way to educate and inspire your customers.
To really be effective, your online community should be an important piece of your core marketing strategy, an extension of your business’ basic values.
Internal Support Process
Even though just the thought of having a community behind your product may sound nice, it’s not the reason you spend your valuable resources to create one. Online communities create value for your business by making it easy to offer support to and get feedback from your customers.
However, without logical and clear processes in place, your business may never benefit from that. Even if your business is still small with only a few team members, it’s important to create an explicit pathway for information from user to whoever needs it.
Whether that means creating a process for your community manager to file bugs or pass along an interested lead to the sales team, the most efficient pathway for that information to travel should be laid out and adhered to. Without clear and documented internal support process, your bugs will go unfixed and your leads will grow stale!
There are a number of pernicious and pestilent creatures among the denizens of the Internet. Spammers, trolls and con artists of all stripes call cyberspace their home. Ensuring your online community has robust tools to thwart these villains is a very important consideration.
Training and supporting your team to know how to recognize and deal with potentially abusive content will help reduce the chance for false positives that may create public relations difficulties. Also having clear processes for dealing with illegal content will help ensure your compliant with the law.
Bonus Fourth Pillar of Online Community Management: Gamification
Gamification may sound like a trendy digital marketing term, but you can use it to make your online community an experience unto itself.
Gamification doesn’t mean making your community experience a literal game. It’s introducing some concepts from game design into your community’s fundamental design to keep members engaged and motivated to participate.
An excellent example can be found in Reddit, one of the world’s largest online community platforms. Users are able to vote for both posts and comments on the site, with positive votes accumulating as karma.
Encouraging users to “win” through karma encourages content the community self-selects as quality.