A Community Benefits Your Customers & Your Brand

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 12.06.21 PM

Online communities are essential no matter your business.  In addition to offering a great customer service solution, I will discuss three additional reasons why you need to create and nurture your own community.

Customer Service:

My graphic above shows why a community is the full-service solution to customer service.  Phone queues are hell for customers to get through and expensive for companies to staff properly.  Videos and knowledge base articles eliminate the queue, but if they do not cover the customer’s specific issue and you do not allow (or respond to) questions, your customer still has a problem.

A community is a perfect solution: fast engagement for customers, easy to staff for the company, answers become a searchable knowledge base, and customers may ask follow-up questions.

Connect With Your Customers:

Customers who care want your brand to succeed and love companies who listen and engage.  Active community participation also shows your brand’s personality and provides faces.  Along with discussion and questions, build focus groups and invite members to participate; receive product ideas and improvement suggestions from the people using your product or service.

Customers Become Advocates:

Potential customers learn about your brand by what is happening in your community.  What is the tone?  Is your brand engaged?  Are your current customers singing your praises?  People come with questions, problems, and stories: the results will set your brand apart from your competition.  Customers who care will sing your praises and even share your community with others; people love to talk about a club they belong to.


We are all slaves to The Google Monster.  We spend money and time optimizing websites with keywords and blogs.  Websites become stagnant and although they may have the right keywords, blogs are often too company focused (why we are awesome) & go unread by customers.  What the Monster really loves is keyword-rich content that is always updating; your community members provides this each day, all day.  An addition, because discussions & solutions are customer focused, they are not only consumed, they are SHARED.

So, why have you not built a community?

Please share your comments and questions.




Reactions Are Not (quite) Engagement

Screen Shot 2018-05-29 at 10.39.57 AM

Don’t get me wrong, I love getting a Like, emoji, or gif of approval to a post, blog, or Tweet, but reactions are not as valuable as comments or questions that may lead to further conversation.  I have written about the importance of engagement before; this blog will discuss how to engage.

The graph above shows some engagement data from a Facebook foodie group I manage and I find the difference between Comments and Reactions amazing.  Getting positive reactions to posts let’s people know their content is valuable, but questions and comments are what brings a community together.  Lets have a quick look at community types and how you can increase engagement.

Instagram: Interaction is Liking the picture or video.  Take the next step and leave a comment or question – if you are the poster, @mention the person in the comments with a thank you.

Twitter: Like Instagram, you show approval to posts with a Like or heart.  Don’t stop there: reply to the tweet with a comment, emoji, or gif.  If you really like the content, retweet it with a comment why.  When you get a question or comment, respond; if you get a retweet, send thanks.

Facebook / Community: Communities allow for very deep conversations as it their formats make it easy to have 1 to Many conversations.  Jump into that conversation and leave your $.02: engage the original poster as well as others who contribute.

Leaving a positive reaction is great; I am asking you take the next step and actually engage with a comment or question.  As a social mentor of mine, @JoelRRenner ‏, says: #JustBeSocial

I look forward to your comments and questions.




Craft Beer is the new Golf


I spent a fantastic afternoon at the Treehouse Brewery this weekend.  If you enjoy outstanding beer and conversation, I suggest a trip to their beautiful facility.  This is not an ad for Treehouse Brewing or their exceptional beer; I am suggesting that meeting for a craft beer is a wonderful opportunity for conversation and networking.  First, let’s look at the tail of the tape:

  • Round of golf: $70 per person (not including)
    • Clubs
    • (lost) Balls
    • Beverages during play
    • Post-round lunch or dinner
  • Beer at Treehouse: $7 with a 2 beer max
  • 18 Holes of golf takes about 4 hours
  • It takes significantly less time to enjoy 2 beers; conversation controls the time
  • Some clients or team members may not like to play golf or feel uncomfortable with their ability so they may be timid to agree to a round.
  • Craft Beers, especially Treehouse IPAs, are extremely tasty and popular
    • Even if you do not drink, The Treehouse Brewery is a beautiful setting with comfortable seating and live music; oh, there are food trucks too.  You may have the conversation without alcohol.

Deal-making and team building is all about relationships, and relationships are built on trust.  The warm weather has finally arrived, even if Treehouse is too far a journey, gather your team or invite a client to enjoy tasty beverages and the conversation that follows.




Creating Advocates & Sharing Knowledge

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 9.52.54 AM.png

This article is about Jive closing the doors of its Portland office.  End of an era.  Jive-X was part of my daily life and taught me so much.

Companies preach about the importance of collaboration, synergy, knowledge management, customer advocacy and communities can help with all of it.  No matter internal or external, a great community requires time build, nurture and gain adoption.

Internally, a community allows employees to collaborate and share solutions, but unlike instant messenger, the knowledge can be saved and cataloged. Externally, a community allows you to build external trust, increase customer communication, and best of all; build a self-service, cost saving, knowledge base of information.

Tell me about your community (internal or external), how are you using it?





Twitter is a Community

Illustration of social people network community

Online communities are still misunderstood: people narrowly define them by network or platform in which they live rather than the conversations themselves.  A company’s support community, a LinkedIn or Facebook group, are obvious communities, but Community is more than location: communities are places where people meet to discuss common interests, share knowledge, and help others with their problems.

Twitter is my favorite social network and is teeming with communities.

  1. Lists help me organize people by what I learn from them.   For example, I can open my list of Community Mangers to see what they are taking about – within this community, I can search for answers, ask a question to a specific person, and answer a question someone else may have asked.  This link will take you to my Twitter lists by topic: https://twitter.com/Toby_Metcalf/lists
  2. Tweetchats are weekly discussions that focus on specific topics.  I join these to listen to and network with thought leaders and judge the success of the chat by the amount of side conversations I have going.  I have made some of my strongest and most helpful networks through tweetchats.  Some of my favorites are: #Custserv #Bufferchat #Sproutchat #Twittersmarter #Hootchat – I hope to see you there.

No matter the platform, it is the people and the conversations within the platform that makes the community.  Please let me know if you have questions about Twitter or Tweetchats.



The Power of an Engaged & Organic Social Audience


Follower / membership count is a misunderstood and deceptive social media metric.  It is possible to purchase thousands of followers, but these will certainly be bots or fake accounts and will not return business value . Your online community may have 200,000 members, but how many are actually participating and contributing?  If followers are not organically grown through engagement, you do not have an audience; you have a list.

One of my social mentors, Martin Lieberman (@martinlieberman), and I regularly discuss this phenomenon: it’s called “social media,” why do so many only push content and ignore discussion?  Ask a question, provide an answer, share personal insights; social media is about conversations.  In addition to thought leadership blogs and company announcements, genuinely respond to your customer’s questions and actually engage them.  Engagement will positively impact your business.

Customers turn to social media to research a company’s culture as well as for trusted peer opinions and product insight.  What is the tone of your Twitter feed, what types of content are you sharing?  Does your company have an online community: what is the activity level, do members interact with one another, are employees participating?  No matter the platform, an engaging social strategy builds customer trust, differentiates your brand, and most importantly, creates advocates.

Engaging customers and cultivating them into advocates should be a priority.  Advocates are loyal consumers who help you meet revenue goals.  Advocates talk about your brand, increase awareness, and provide trusted reviews to potential customers. Advocates share your content with their networks which improves your SEO.  Advocates answer the majority of the questions within your community which lowers customer service costs.  Simply creating an account or community and pushing content will not yield advocates, advocates are nurtured through honest engagement.

It’s called “social” media.





Do You Have The Right (Support) Bucket?


Customer service and support is continuously evolving and great service differentiates brands and turns customers into advocates.  This blog will discuss three service buckets and how an online community can benefit your company while providing your customers an outstanding service experience.

The First Bucket: Phone Queue

Something we are all familiar with, but often hate using.  Because there such a high staffing cost to companies, customers are often burdened with lengthy menus or unhelpful automated responses.  To add further irritation, it is often difficult to reach the rep with the right level of knowledge leading to transferred calls, the need for a customer to start over; a horrible experience.

The Second Bucket: Self Service

Convenience and speed are appreciated by customers and allowing them to help themselves is very popular.  YouTube videos,  or a knowledge base created from solved customer problems are very helpful to customers and will free up support rep time, but what if a customer has a question?  If there is no way to ask a question or if comments are not monitored, the problem still exists and the customer remains frustrated.

The Third Bucket: Online Community

An online community offers customers many things they are seeking: speed of answers, access to a knowledge base, and most importantly, the ability to ask questions about their unique issue.  Like a knowledge base, a community cuts costs by documenting solutions and providing self service; both reduce demand on support reps.  Furthermore, most community solutions are provided by customers: a cost savings for the company, and trusted by peers.

An online community will deliver trusted and targeted support to your customers in a timely manner while reducing costs for your company.  If you have not done so, it is time for your community!  I look forward to your questions and comments.