customer communities engagement advice

Every brand wants (or should want) to build a robust online community for users of their product. Online communities allow companies to:

  • Connect with customers and potential prospects to better understand their needs
  • Better educate users so they become product experts
  • Help generate and unearth customer stories and potential brand advocates
  • Offer added support and networking opportunities to current customers

However, this is no easy task. According to Gartner, 70% of customer communities fail.

This doesn’t have to happen to yours. Keeping an eye out for some potential pitfalls can prevent your online community from becoming a virtual ghost town.

Below, we’re sharing five red flags to look out for, plus advice from CMXHub community members on how to prevent your customer community from a slowly dying.

1. Your goals are not aligned

Let’s be frank: Any initiative you (or anyone else in your organization) undertakes needs to support the overall goals of your business, or it won’t be around for very long.

Although one of your customer community goals might be to increase membership and growth, the tie-in with your business goals needs to be clear: How does starting an online community drive revenue, translate to cost savings, or contribute to member retention and increased wallet share?

Equally important is making sure you have the metrics in place to be able to determine your performance against those goals so you have something positive to report when executives come knocking on your door.

2. It’s all about you

If there’s one thing you need to be very clear about when it comes to your customer community is that it exists to serve the needs of your members, not those of your company. One way to be sure you keep this top of mind is to continually engage, and get feedback from members, and then adjust based on that feedback.

“Listen, listen, listen,” advises Arlene Donley Moss, business coach and community strategist for Kimberlite Coaching. “Pay attention to the tone of the community so you really understand why they are there and can be sure the community is providing what members need.” (Source: CMXHub Community)

3. No one is talking

According to research by DemandMetric, only one-third of study participants stated that their members participate well or very well in their communities.

To get people talking, you need to give them something to talk about. This is why regularly providing high-quality, relevant content is so important.

Recruit your advocates to submit interesting articles, photos and videos to drive conversation, and inspire others to do the same. A consistent schedule of community programs will also help.

4. Too much moderating

Community managers want to be sure they’re serving their members in the best way possible, and many times they think this means jumping in to answer every forum question, and commenting on or moderating every post.

The problem is that these activities stifle natural conversation and make interactions feel forced rather than helping to smoothly build relationships— especially if the community manager is the only one responding. Resist the urge to step into every conversation and encourage your most active advocates to do so instead.

“Empower your community to connect with each other,” said Mitzi Figueroa, community manager at HelpHub. “Focus on less ‘management’ and more on enabling members of the community to spark conversations and engage in real relationships. Create a welcoming and friendly space, facilitate the initial spark and then get out of the way!” (Source: CMXHub Community)

5. Racing to grow

One of the dangers of building a community is having the false expectation that membership numbers are going to explode overnight.

Community managers need to be sure that they educate others across the organization that building and sustaining a successful community is all about developing relationships—which takes time.

“Every community, even the biggest, can be boiled down to individual relationships,” said David Spinks, CEO for CMXMedia. “If you focus on developing individual relationships amongst your members, you are guaranteed to eventually have a healthy community.” (Source: CMXHub Community)