How to Use Community-Based Support for Your Social CRM

If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably have some passionate customers. Use this community of followers for your Social CRM. Are these customers willing to help others using your products? That’s a key question you need to ask yourself when you’re considering developing a community-based support site.

These kinds of sites run the gamut from a few users who informally answer questions, to sites that require major resources and monitoring by your company. To decide what’s right for you, look at what successful communities are all about.

Build the community-based support site

In their book, The Hyper-Social Organization, Francois Gossieaux and Ed Moran list four elements of all successful communities. They are as follows:

  • Members share a passion for the topic. A cohesive group can be formed only if people truly care about the topic and want to share that information with others. We’ve all visited forums where no one but the forum owner has posted anything. For a group to thrive, the members really need to care. This creates a commonality of purpose and sharing becomes automatic.

  • The content includes both user-generated content and professionally produced information. The content should be of the highest quality. Companies should considering outsourcing material from experts who can add value. In addition, the community should feature user contributions.

  • Access to member profiles is available. Members join communities to find connections and learn more about the topic. If you facilitate that by helping them share information about themselves, you’ll help fulfill their need to find like-minded people.

  • Navigation is easy.The term navigation is used here to refer to things like finding information or meeting a new member. If it’s hard to move around your site and find what you came for, you will discourage people from returning.

Grow your community

Management traditionally has a difficult time figuring out the value of social media initiatives. With community-based support forums, the case is clear. It’s a benefit.

The support costs decrease because of the contributions of unpaid members, and the productivity of the paid staff rises. This is a win-win in any manager’s mind. But creating a successful community is hard work. If you build it, they may not come.

So what do you need to think about when creating your community? Here are some things to consider:

  • Software platform: Search for an easy-to-use software platform that provides your members with easy access to all the functions they need. Don’t try to cobble something together. Part V introduces several platforms and helps you start your search.

  • Rewards: Most people who come to these communities and share are there for the intrinsic value it provides. Rewarding them is icing on the cake, but doing so lets everyone know that your company values its most active customers. Creating something like a leader board that shows who is most active can be very inspiring.

  • Member interaction: Make it easy for members to meet each other online and share information. This will strengthen the bond among community members and your company. This is a huge benefit because you’re on your way to creating customer evangelists.

  • Knowledge base: Devoting some money to building up the knowledge collected in this forum will help cut support costs. You can see what problems users experience when using your products and turn the knowledge base entries into the precise information they need. Real-time problems that crop up can be swiftly handled.

A great example of a thriving community site is the SAP Community Network. It’s run by SAP, a market leader in CRM, to support its vast array of products and services. Once you become a member, you can write a blog, answer forum posts, and meet other members. The community is very robust and includes employees, users, vendors, and mentors.

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Member communities are very influential. The Nielsen study Global Faces and Networked Places says that member communities reach more Internet users (66.8 percent) than e-mail (65.1 percent). That’s quite a reach. Member communities can be a corporate asset if done correctly.

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