Getting your current customers, prospective customers, and other users to your community is only the first step. Create a “sticky” experience for them so that they continue to return to the community to engage with your brand and other community members.
Educate Your Members
Not every customer will fully understand what your community is used for, and how to use it. Create a couple of how-to tutorials that educate your users on when, how, and why to use your community. Include these tutorials in your email and social media campaigns that promote the community.
In the early days of a support community, it’s important to respond to your customers within 24 hours so they learn that they learn to trust the community for answers. The faster you respond, the more likely they’ll come back and continue to participate in your community. After a period of time, it is okay to slow down your participation time. This gives your Champions and other community members a chance to help one another. Remember that you have set an response time SLA for the community. Take advantage of that SLA and allow your members to assist each other.
Not everyone intuitively understands how important it is to be human and use a friendly tone in your community. You want to start building relationships with the customers who visit your community, but you’re not going to be able to do that with an unfriendly tone and a bunch of customer service jargon. Don’t copy and paste a customer support script. Keep in mind that your responses will show up in search and be seen by others. Your community members will notice if you are using template responses. Be human and empathetic and mean it. Be honest with your customers. Honesty builds trust, which in turn builds relationships and breeds loyalty.
Encourage Knowledge Sharing
Post a new topic in your community that asks your users what new features they’d like to see from your product. Add a different post asking for best practices related to your product. Google keyword searches, and frequently asked questions, are a great source of ideas for discussion prompts. As an added bonus, highlight these threads in your weekly newsletters or via social media.
Communication Style Tips
Responding to participants in an online community often takes a certain amount of finesse and empathy. If you’re struggling with the “Be a Human” aspect of community engagement, follow these tips and watch how your community members interact with your new style.
It’s Not an Email
A comment in the community is the furthest thing from an email, so don’t structure it that way! Relax a bit, use some personality, and please don’t include the word “sincerely.” Also, try to avoid using scripted responses.
Don’t Get Defensive
Community members can be harsh, but more often than not, that’s because they’re feeling passionate – which is better than feeling apathetic! Take a breath, and craft your response without bristling at what they’re saying. If you’re concerned that your response might be a little abrasive, run it by the rest of your community team.
Remember Your Manners
Always say please and thank you… always. Your community members don’t have to take the time to write in and leave feedback, so be sure to show sincere gratitude when they do. Also, when appropriate, include the person’s name when writing to them! It helps build personal rapport.
Use a Happy Sandwich
Bad news is tough to deliver. Especially if the customer has been waiting a while to hear it. If you have to post bad news, do it in the form of a happy sandwich. Say something good, then the bad, and then follow up with something good. Depending on the situation, you might opt to end your conversation with SharksFan84 with a lighthearted diffuser like, “by the way, can’t wait to see the Sharks in the finals this year!”
Under-Promise and Over-Deliver
Don’t make promises you can’t keep, please. Don’t say, “It’ll get fixed tomorrow,” if it won’t get fixed tomorrow. The best practice is to under-promise and over-deliver on the expectations you set in the community. Also, please be very careful when promising dates. We recommend not posting a product release date in the community unless you, your product team and your engineering team are all 150% sure that it’ll happen… and even still, be cautious.