Never in my life would I have imagined that 14 years later I would still be writing about the evolution of running a community? Why? Because it is a discovery! It is still fun. Like learning a craft or an art. You get better and better at it and you pile value layers on top of value layers for your customers, partners, prospects and just about anybody who is willing to spend a few valuable seconds out of their 24 hours with you. Because for some reason, you deliver value.
Measurable Result: Scaling, Branding, Lead Generation, Innovation
In 2006 I started out with my coMakeIT peers what was then called a Knowledge Backbone. We needed to scale out and we started something bold: a community! 5 years later we served 11000 developers worldwide with just a few people. Everybody in the company was connected somewhere in the customer journey. We started with Support and Professional Services and gradually worked our way to the front of the process into providing prospects a community experience which they could seamlessly continue once they became a customer.
The prospect was just a customer who wasn’t paying yet. What started out as solving a Scaling issue, quickly became a platform for Innovation delivery, Branding and Lead Generation. In scaling we reached 1:25 employee/community member rate. We could serve many more with the same crew. Lead generation: 5% of our business had a community as lead source. We delivered 20% of our software effort via community generated ideas. These days, when I am asked to help build a community, I always ask which result areas you like to be successful in.
Trust: The key ingredient
Many ‘community builds and operations’ further, there is one ingredient that any community should organize: Trust. No trust, no community. Communities exist as long as mankind. They are not new. It is a group of people with a common interest. Online communities can be as powerful as local communities. But you need to organize trust. A place where people feel safe and are willing to share with you and others. Trust comes as you give trust. In order to give trust you must let go to some % of the “100% control the conversation” paradigm. Once you have tried that out, you will see that the yield is much greater with managing the conversation vs controlling the conversation.
2020, the turning point
If ever the need of working together online and getting things done together online became clear, then 2020 will be the year when we realized that we must, can and want to change the way we work. Those that never bothered, had a hard time learning it. Those that doubted are now convinced. Those that did before are glad they did. It doesn’t take much imagination that our generation will talk about “After Corona” as my parents talked about “After WWII” or “After 9/11”. Things have changed. We need to adapt. It is time. It will not go back to the way it was. The evolution of online conversation will accelerate. Online communities are a great way to do that and now is the perfect time to start planning for it.
Trust: The key to a good partnership
Now, I still work with coMakeIT. The same guys who shared my dreams back then are still with me. They understand. They have invested in a Community Center of Excellence. It has gotten into their DNA. We now deliver community services to several customers. They trust me, I trust them. Together with a powerful platform like Verint Community (aka Telligent) and the folks of that company who have also mastered to be a community (not just build a community platform), it is like a dream combination that can make any turn you want to make in your business at lightning speed. Only last week I spoke to a Verint Customer on Friday, the quote was on Saturday, the deal was done on Monday and we were delivering on Tuesday and that is no joke. I am particularly proud that we could demonstrate to a customer that this mix of partners is all he ever needed to drive a community to a business result. He is now well on his way to become a platform for his customers and organize the value between him, his supplier and his customers and attract many more.