The Indispensable Community  (In 7 minutes lecture)

The author of The Indispensable Community and FeverBee’s Founder, Richard Millington, explains in this book how top community professionals turned their members into allies.
Through interviews, Millington tells the story of a community and then follows up with the lessons that can be learnt from the story. It’s a practical book, full of examples that then are translated into clear outcomes. In the following review I will shortly explain you each of those outcomes.
First of all, to give a quick sense of who Richard Millington is and why this practical examples are so meaningful for CMs, you need to know a bit about him, since he’s the example of how to turn your passion into life’s purpose.
When he was a teenager he started to work as online community manager. After more than a decade of experience, he founded FeverBee, an online community consultancy whose clients have included Apple, Facebook, Google and many more. Also, in this book he interviews community professionals of companies such as FitBit, Dropbox, CMX, Nextdoor, between others.
In his book, Millington seeks through all this interviews the main common thing that successful communities share: they are indispensable, neither the community managers nor the members, can live without them.

What makes an indispensable community?

You’ll wonder, when does a community become indispensable?
When the goals of the community serve the needs of all the members, but most importantly, when the community generates a measurable impact – which can often mean economical value -.
“Unless a community has meaningful goals, it’s impossible to know which behaviours matter. You can’t hit a target that doesn’t exist.”
As a CM, you should ask yourself… In what ways is the community I lead indispensable? For whom is it indispensable? Why? For who else can it become indispensable and what do we need to do to make that happen? CMs that can answer this questions and that have the answers within their community’s culture, are managing an indispensable community.
These communities save their companies millions of dollars, keep their customers fiercely loyal, reduce customer support, help design new products or improve productivity. These communities have a clear ROI for the CEO, the CM, the shareholders, but most importantly, the members.
Members are encouraged to adopt behaviours that suit the needs of the community, and match with their motivation to contribute, they always get something back from the time and effort dedicated.

How to give back to members?

For each measurable goal that is set up for the community, there must be a member behaviour that needs to be adopted in order to achieve it. And this behaviour needs to be encouraged or motivated through strategy and tactics. For example:
Measurable Impact Goal – Reduce Customer Support
Objective Behaviour that achieves the goal – Get top customers to answer questions and share their experiences
Strategy – Make members feel joy in giving back and confident about the useful information they can share
Tactics – Get each member to identify their “superpower” (knowledge in specific area of the product, for example), give badges and show how they can contribute it to the group.
When this wheel starts rolling, the community becomes unstoppable. Each member has a specific value for the community, if they are correctly matched to the goals of the community that they can solve, members will become ALLIES.

Turning members into ALLIES

The secret is to get members making their best possible contribution to the community, getting them to Advocate, Lead, Learn, provide Insights, Educate others, and Support the community. In practice, this means:
  • Advocate: members promote the organization and its community to others. Members provide referrals, share content, provide testimonials and create reviews.This brings in new members and, most important, new customers.
  • Lead: members organise and lead groups within the community. These groups help prevent information overload, keep members hooked, organise contributions and ensure the community achieves its maximum potential.
  • Learn: Members learn something that matters – new skills, solutions to their problems, the latest news, trends…- When members read discussions, articles, attend webinars, and much more, they learn. Learning reduces support costs, improves satisfaction and often generates new business.
  • Insights: Members directly or indirectly help to improve products by making suggestions and highlighting problems, providing qualitative and quantitative data via habits which can be mined for useful insights. Often members don’t realise they’re doing this.
  • Educate and Support: Members contribute to the collective good of the community. They share their best tips, answer questions, share links, and support one another. Often they take volunteer roles to keep the community on track.
It’s a lot easier saying this in theory than getting members to make this contributions so… how to motivate them to do it? I suggest you to take a look to the “Community member motivation model”:

Conclusion: Stop Chasing Engagement, Start Delivering Results

Richard Millington’s approach to community engagement reveals that chasing engagement can be a huge mistake. Spending time trying to get community members to click like, share, and post comments is meaningless, because the engagement metrics do not measure a valuable impact. If the goal of the community is to have many likes, then yes. But usually this goal can not give much more benefits than reducing the organisation’s advertising expenses.
Do you feel forced to chase meaningless engagement metrics? If so, you’re probably one of thousands of online community professionals caught in what Millington calls the “engagement trap”.
Engagement isn’t bad; chasing engagement is bad.
Engagement should be the natural outcome of building an indispensable community. If members can’t live without the community, the want to visit and participate every day. This naturally drives a lot of engagement. The danger that Millington tries to make us aware of is that focusing in engagement can drive us to mistake the success of the community. We think that many likes mean we’re doing good, while the goals are not being achieved, and the engagement can drastically drop in short time.
To escape the engagement trap, the community needs to show results the members care about. Goals have to be long term impact of behaviour, and metrics have to track the tactics, strategy and adopted behaviours that drive us there.
Check our guide, you’ll like it!
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