According to Metcalfe’s Law, the value of a network increases with the number of connected users. By the same logic, the value of an online community increases with the number of connected and engaged members. However, connecting and engaging people is often easier said than done. Developing a hyper-engaged community can be challenging, particularly when companies are faced with language differences, varying degrees of subject matter specialization, geographical distance, content creation and dissemination.
If you’re faced with any or all of these challenges with your customer community today, you’re not alone. Fortunately, there are five easy-to-implement solutions that can increase the connectivity and engagement of your community in no time.
Connecting Your Online Community
1. Unified Search.
Unified search is a powerful capability for deriving maximum value from your online assets to the benefit community members. You may have articles on your blog, case studies on your website, discussion threads and video tutorials on your community platform, but without unified search, “ne’er the twain shall meet.” A community’s success is significantly hindered without unified search, because without it, the member needs to leave the community to find assets that aren’t surfaced in an intra-community search. This causes friction in the customer experience and takes a toll on overall customer satisfaction.
With iTalent Digital’s unified search solution delivered in partnership with Coveo, customers can surface the full value of their assets, which are dispersed across multiple platforms, with a single in-community search. Built-in artificial intelligence allows the search engine to understand users’ intentions and deliver an even better match of queries to content over time.
2. Cross-community collaboration.
On the flip side of unified search is cross-community collaboration. Driving – and realizing the full value of – effective collaboration across the enterprise is challenging when there are separate communities on different platforms or disconnected from one another. Historically, contributed content could only benefit the members of the specific community in which it was published.
Not any more: iTalent has developed a cross-community connector that enables forum posts, blogs, articles, and other assets to be seamlessly surfaced in different communities as if it were published directly in each community. Moreover, if members within the “target” community reply to a thread or a post, it will automatically appear in the “source” community, and vice-versa. This allows content to be easily and seamlessly amplified to all relevant communities.
If your organization has multiple communities and repositories that support different products or capabilities, cross-community collaboration can not only drive value for your community members, but it creates visibility for your products and services that members may not even be aware of, potentially driving topline revenue for your company. Your best prospects are your existing customers; let the community help amplify and drive awareness of your organization’s capabilities to the entire installed member base and prospects.
3. Dynamic translation.
iTalent Digital has overcome the language barriers between community members through a proprietary cloud connector that enables dynamic translation either between members in a community, or between members of different communities.
To create a truly global community, it is critical to support multiple languages. As a case in point, English speakers accounted for only about 25% of internet users in 2017. In order to reach 80% of the world’s internet users, more than 10 languages are needed.
Imagine the exponential increase in value for the whole community of having all the content available in multiple languages. The real-time discussions would also be much more dynamic if everyone could understand what each other was saying, no matter their preferred language.
The beauty of a dynamic translation connector lies in allowing members to read and write content in their language of choice, and have it dynamically translated into the preferred languages of all the other members, so they can have near real-time interactions.
Engaging Your Online Community
Simply put, gamification is a way of turning a desired behavior into a game or competition to stimulate participation. Gamification also enables you to positively reinforce desired actions through rewards and recognition.
Gamification can be as simple as allowing members to upvote or downvote content. This not only rewards relevant content through upvotes, it also makes the most popular and relevant content more visible and easily found by users.
Gamification can also be more complex by assigning points, levels, badges and other status-granting privileges to users, depending on the type of activity you want to encourage. Granting privileged status (SuperUser, MVP, etc.) based on the level of contribution drives a greater degree of participation.
Content contributors can also be rewarded through special recognition. Beyond the badges or special status automatically assigned by the gamification mechanism described above, members can be recognized through being amplified on other platforms (for example, their tutorial in your community could be featured on your blog), or you can create a special platform for star contributors such as a member hall of fame or winner’s circle, whose exclusive group of members are selected based on pre-defined criteria. Another way to think about recognition is celebration – this is a way to celebrate your members and involve the community in doing so.
Fostering connectivity and engagement of your members are the most important factors in the success of your online community. When members are empowered to self-serve and are equipped to help others self-serve, and are rewarded for doing so, they become motivated to contribute to the group, thus raising the value of the community for everyone.
If you use these five simple steps to optimize the accessibility of your content, increase the relevancy of your assets and drive greater participation, you will super-charge your community and increase the value for every member exponentially.
Fred Walters is general partner at iTalent Digital and leads the company’s digital transformation efforts. He leads strategic and transformational practices in enterprise collaboration, big data and business intelligence, mobile and cloud, along with business development.