Today’s zeitgeist for scale has drawn Customer Success teams’ attention toward customer communities. This is great! When thoughtfully built, community programming pulls all the right levers:
- Organizations know where to deliver resources; customers know where to find them. Self-sufficiency = scale.
- Customers know where to deliver feedback; organizations capture voice of customer without a CS go-between. Removing the middle-person = scale
- Customers learn from experts, each other, and content; Few-to-many delivery = scale.
But while that third lever – content – can change the game, CS is still in the early stages of tackling (heck, understanding!) the opportunity content offers.
So, here’s a primer from a Community Professional’s point of view: What community content is, why it matters, and how CS (Yes! You! CS!) play a leading role in its generation.
What is community content?
While community content varies as widely as communities themselves, user-generated content (UGC) - content created by community members - used to be the gold standard. A forum rich with contributors engaging with one another with little effort or interference by the host? Dream scenario!
The problem is, UGC doesn’t magically happen without effort or interference; UGC needs to be sourced and curated.
Additionally, the concept of Customer Community has slowly transformed from interactive forum to something more like a customer portal. Many organizations create content for their community to centralize resources and information. Like websites, communities deliver:
- Product documentation
- Case studies
- AND MORE
Long story short, community content doesn’t just happen,” and your organization may create as much - if not more - than your members.
But why bother with Community content?
Why should organizations create all this content for their community when they’re already doing it for their website / blog / social media? Isn’t that duplicative?
Fair question, and one that community professionals encounter often. The answer goes back to your audience – your community of customers. While websites exist to guide leads through the marketing funnel, community channels guide customers through a new funnel: the Customer Success funnel. The audience is different, the goals are different, the channels are different, and the content needed is different.
Who owns Community Content?
While this depends on the audience and the organization’s community strategy, when it comes to customer communities, CS should play a lead role in generating content.
Eeeek, I know, don’t throw things at me!! Content is not typically a CS responsibility. But hear me out. Community content grinds. Create it one time, and it works for you 24/7.
- Instead of answering the same questions repeatedly, share the answers in your community and listen to the sweet sound of those questions fading.
- Instead of going over product updates on customer calls, share them via community articles so you can focus precious meeting time on customers’ unique needs.
- Are your customers constantly asking to connect with other customers in X industry or about Y topic? When customers make those appeals or share their stories in your community, CS team members needn’t play matchmaker.
Even better? When CS gets involved in content, not only do customers and CS teams benefit, that content can also be repurposed to support Marketing, Sales, and prospects. #Teamworkmakesthedreamwork amiright?
How CS leaders can build a Community Content contribution strategy
Step 1: Identify your content creators
When I say CS should play a lead role in generating community content, I do not mean they should necessarily create each piece.
I mean that, as the team most intimately familiar with customers’ needs, problems, and wins, CS is best positioned to ensure content meets those needs, addresses those problems, and celebrates those wins.
So to start, you need to know who actually will create and solicit community content. Your Community Manager likely already does this to some degree. Are there others? Customer Education teams? Customer Marketing? Identify your Customer Content Squad. Make sure they know you consider them your Customer Content Squad.
And if there is not yet a squad?
- Make the case that CS needs to hire a community-focused content creator
- Invite CS team members to serve as content creators on a part time or rotating basis.
I love option B! Many CS team members are looking for ways to develop, and building community content requires a new set of skills. BUT! If CS team members do serve as content creators, remember that quality content creation is a job. Rebalance their caseload accordingly.
Step 2: Set up a system to centralize content ideas
Work with your content squad to set up a content intake form (it could be an excel, a Slack channel, a Google Drive document, a shoebox in the office bathroom – whatever works!). Then require CS team members to share content ideas weekly or monthly. Topic areas could be:
- A question I keep fielding
- A small (or big) customer success
- A framework, process, or strategy that seems to be working for my customers
- Something about our product or services that I am struggling to help my customers adopt or understand
When the time is right, your content creators can work with contributors to develop the requested material.
Why this is beneficial
Community Managers are always looking for content ideas that will provide mutual value for customers and the business. We don’t know the customers who have great stories to share, but you do! We don’t know the hot button challenges like you do! When CS provides content ideas, CMs can build or conscript that content.
Community, however, isn’t front and center for most CS team members. They deal with customers whose hair is literally-not-literally on fire daily which, understandably, requires their focus. A content submission requirement (i.e. “Share one content idea every Friday”) builds the habit of community-mindedness.
Imagine, for example:
A customer mentions a successful change management effort to their CS contact. The CS team member may not think much of it after congratulating the contact; after all, they hear small wins all the time. But later that week, required to come up with a Community topic, they submit this moment via the intake form as a “Customer Success.”
A few days later, the Community Manager reaches out to learn more, then talks directly to the customer and helps them write a compelling story in the community.
The post attracts other customers who benefit from the advice, and compels them to share their own strategies. Other CS team members share the thread with their customers who need advice.
All this goodness because the CS team member took a minute to share a tiny tip with the CM.
Step 3: Get cross-functional!
You know what customers love? A great story from another customer.
You know what prospects love? A great story from an existing customer.
Community content can be repurposed as case studies and reference material, serving as an important part of the broader organization’s content engine. Make sure your counterparts in Marketing know the great content growing in your community.
Funnels are great and all, but imagine if we got out of our silos and actually started building loops.
CS leaders, get your teams into the content loop! Do it for customers, do it for scale, do it for your organization as a whole.
**This post was originally hosted on ColverCC. See it here.
Brigid O'Donnell Colver is a content writer and community consultant for Colver Content & Community. She believes that helping companies create strong customer communities and meaningful content results in scalable, long-term value.