Today I had the opportunity to host one of my mentors and friend, Esteban Kolsky, principal analyst of ThinkJar. When it comes to community, Esteban is the expert. He has over 25 years of experience in customer service and CRM delivery, consulting, research, and advisory services. Today we sat down to uncover how a true community can ultimately become a place for your customers to collaborate, drive valuable conversations, and convert.

These are the key takeaways:

Community vs. Social Media: How Social Has Evolved

  • Community is aggregation. People come together to share power and knowledge.
  • We can expand beyond online communities and brands should start thinking about the interactions between their people and their product: those are all communities.
  • Social media is nothing more than a set of channels for global communication. Communities have existed for thousands of years.
  • Social leverages the internet as a public open network to connect people from all over the world around certain topics
  • The big revolution social media brought is to create new communities by leveraging the internet. In 2004, the average person had 12 communities with 4 online. In 2014, people had 48 communities with 26 online.
  • Social media brought the expansion of communities: Makes people that are remote accessible.

Esteban’s “Don’t’s” for Community

  • Don’t think your customers only want to be connected to your community. The biggest mistake that brands make is thinking that a customer will belong only to your community. Customers have an average of 48 communities, and some are competitors.
  • Don’t build your community to only promote your brand, don’t use your community as a megaphone
  • The brand should not become a member of a community, but the people within that brand. Don’t collaborate as your brand, but as a person who represents your brand.
  • Don’t build a branded community that tells people what they want to hear. Become a part of existing communities and provide useful knowledge.

True Community Value Comes from People, Not Brands

  • Most employees know how to use social channels & other community spaces.
  • People are people, they should be encouraged to collaborate within your communities as people, not as your brand.
  • Value comes from individuals: Don’t train them on the message, train them on engagement
  • A person can bring the value through the knowledge they have, don’t entrap your employee’s to only talk brand talk.
  • The social media landscape has changed from an outbound concept (where you push messages out) to an inbound concept (where you provide knowledge for people to start conversation themselves).
  • Instead of pushing message out, you should become the advocate for your community: able to answer questions, share relevant content, engage in discussion.

Where to Begin

  • Brands stand out from one another by the value of your community. Provide the best, valuable content to your members. Contribute new insights that allow them to evolve.
    Customers go to communities where the value is established.
  • Communities can be created without the participation of the official company brand. Encourage employees to visit topics related to what your company does and be themselves. You might find the community you want to make already exists.
  • Community is more about content & knowledge rather than software or medium.
  • The old model of communities often were: 90% of people are lurkers, 9% are contributors, and 1% are power users. Today the ratio is: 70% lurkers, 20% contributors, 10% power users.
  • Use a segmentation tool to identify potential advocates and power users that will help your community brand.
  • Rewarding and engaging with people who use your product is a great way to encourage brand advocates in your community.

The most important thing that we learned today was when I asked: How can I uncover what my customers want out of community?

Esteban’s answer: To discover what your community wants, simply ask them! The value of feedback = Feedback is king.

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