5 Tips From a Community Engagement Expert

What do you think of when you hear the words community engagement? For many, likes and comments immediately come to mind; however, community engagement is so much more. It’s about inspiring people with a common bond, driving the launch and evolution of ideas, and building relationships through collaboration and knowledge sharing.

This past June we celebrated five years since the SAP Customer Experience Experts community was introduced worldwide. It was designed to help our customers and partners to get answers about our products. Since then, the site has become a prominent tool, especially in the technical domain.

As the knowledge senior consultant, I’m proud of our highly engaged community. Last year, customer and partner visitors asked 4,000 questions and answered 58% of them. We tagged 700 “Best Answers”, those deemed the most relevant and helpful by subject matter experts.

This didn’t happen overnight. It’s challenging and requires passion, dedication, and imagination. Here are five tips to help you succeed in increasing engagement and creating a community experience that keeps your users coming back:

Seed the Community With Content

To build sustainable engagement, you need high-quality content. Before launch, I encouraged every department at hybris (the company name at that time), to invest in our community initiative and pre-populate content showcasing their expertise.  Each department allocated individuals to participate in the community, contribute product-related knowledge, and moderate content. This level of participation from internal stakeholders is critical to community success. Without them, we would not be able to deliver strong content that engages users, answers their questions, and invites them to return.

Promote the Community Widely

As a community advocate, it is my responsibility to encourage users to regularly share their knowledge and expertise in the community. I spoke at the SAP Hybris Summit to promote the Experts community site to customers and partners and presented the advantages of joining the community.  I emphasize that the two benefits of community adoption are time saved and increased productivity.

We can all relate to the nuisance of answering the same question multiple times. Not only does this negatively impact our productivity, but it also leaves us frustrated. The problem is the lack of knowledge documentation. However, with an online community, users can capture and share their knowledge in a way that makes it accessible to others, anytime, anywhere. This creates a situation where everyone wins – colleagues can easily find answers and you can focus on your work without constant interruption.

Beyond the advantages of saving time and increased productivity, I also promote our community as an opportunity to have fun. Recently, I was presenting at the SAP Hybris office in Munich, explaining the similarities between our experts and Batman. Just like Batman, experts are heroes; they are the individuals that others look to for help and to “save the day” with answers to critical questions. This was the perfect opportunity to highlight our community’s gamification elements and announce that we will be awarding an exclusive Hero of the Month badge to our most active monthly contributors.

Listen to Users

I strive to deliver an experience that keeps community members coming back. I created a space in the community where members share feedback and ideas on community improvements. I also created a dedicated email address that I use to contact administrators directly for feedback and site recommendations. The feedback from internal contributors is extremely valuable. For example, one request I have received is to take away the penalty for downvoting. Based on the members` opinion I created an action plan to deliver a more beneficial and enjoyable user experience for the community.

Monitor Your Community’s Health

To create a successful community, managers must regularly assess the community’s development and health status. I closely monitor engagement metrics such as response time, number of questions, number of answers, and the number of upvotes and downvotes. If I notice a trend in downvotes, this is an indicator that content quality isn’t meeting expectations and I need to look at the problem more closely. Average monthly visitors, for example, proves that the Experts’ community is vital, and visitors find the site a good place for knowledge exchange.

To keep my members informed on community health, I publish a report every three months sharing the current state of Experts. The purpose of the report is to promote the community as a strong resource and encourage users to visit the site. It is also a great time to compare previous quarters and check patterns that show where the community is heading.

Thank Your Champions and Users

Members will return to your community if you thank and reward them. I needed internal experts to help me seed the community with great content. I also requested that they reply to customer and partner questions after launch. To thank my colleagues for their help, I designed a special t-shirt for the top 10 internal contributors. This competition was a great success and those who won t-shirts continue to regularly engage in the community.

Today, I recognize external users for contributions, but also continue to extend my thanks to the internal stakeholders who moderate and provide community content. I decided to extend the Hero of the Month initiative: deliver a T-shirt to the most active contributor to be recognized in their environment as SAP CX Expert and start a new mission for employee participants.

A successful community takes a village – it’s not my success, but theirs. Our users, whether customers, partners, or employees, make the community possible by sharing their knowledge. I keep saying that we all know that the Experts community is more than just a tool. There are knowledgeable people behind it who want to share knowledge, support others and benefit from this exchange.

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