Creating intentionality in a community is typically in everyone’s early goals. You, your company, your stakeholders, etc all have a plan as to what the community is going to do. If it’s external, perhaps it’s case deflection or training. Internal communities often aim to help to build and support the culture of the organization. Perhaps your community is just one arrow in the quiver of boosting the bottom line, but no matter the flavor—sharing goals and building mindfully is key.
In my own experience, the push to create that intentionality often leads to some pain points and growing moments across the organization. As a Community Manager who’s dealt with external and customer focused communities, there’s some difficulty in floating shared goals to both sides of the customer/company divide. Let me break down my own experience.
An external community will generally want a seat at the table in some form. When the customers are commenting, suggesting, RFQing, etc, they are engaged enough to want to help their vendor. The help? Some tangible thing that will improve the vendor in their own estimation and also address customer needs. In this case, a selfish push for a feature or change can actually be a great thing, as a change that benefits one, can often benefit many.
Unfortunately, as the norm has been for many years, “we build it, you buy it”, the feedback loop that a community provides often has pushback from internal forces. It’s not only habit that causes this pushback, but the fact that the internal teams developing software/products/whatever have their own goals to drive towards, and their own needs internally that might have far reaching consequences that the consumer can’t see from their side.
So how do you meet in the middle?
First, watch our recent #CMGRHangout on Creating Intentionality in Communities with Helen Chen,David DeWald and Melissa Hill for a much deeper take on this entire topic, but here’s a quick example of something I’ve tried:
Your internal teams will be jealously guarding roadmap from external forces, competition, etc, and they are right to do so. Ask them to float 10 upcoming changes—big or small—that will be incorporated into the product. Emphasize that these roadmap pieces should probably not be reliant on timing, and other moving parts. Then, simply present the list to your community and have them vote to stack rank it.
Boom. Seats at a table, smaller than the huge roadmap one but still influential. Your internal folks get direct feedback and actionable insights they can carry back to their desks as well as see what their work is doing for the people in the field. In addition, your customers are in the mix and changing directions of a product. This is a great first step that can lay the foundation for both sides beginning to plan not only products intentionally, but you can use the same process with the community itself, giving the keys for innovation and change to the people doing most of the driving.
The hangout covers quite a bit a ground in this intentionality discussion, with great call outs to getting buy in, the benefits of these methods, and course correction. I think it’s a perfect watch for those of you trying to not only build out your community further but to really cement the goals, feedback, and why it matters to your company.
(Also, if you’re interested in living in a very cool sounding intentionality based community – The Ecovillage sounds freaking amazing.)
Let us know what you think, and your own tips for incorporating intentionality into your communities, and tune in every week for CMGRHangout!
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