Starting a Community


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  • Nicole Saunders
    Zendesk Community Team

    Hi Samuel, 

    The upcoming live Q&A is on Support emails and triggers, but I'm happy to help answer this question for you. 

    The first step in preparing to launch a community is to really understand your users' needs, and how a community could best serve them. I recommend starting to talk to some of the people you are hoping to engage in your community to best understand their pain points, so that you can design your community experience around that. 

    This is important, as organizations often think they want to launch a community to serve one purpose, but their users actually have a different set of needs. I'll give an example I heard at a conference last year. An educational organization wanted to launch a community for their teachers. Their idea was to have the teachers share their lesson plans and best practices, so that they could all learn from one another and become better teachers. Sounds like a great idea, right? 

    Well, they got their community set up, launched it, promoted it, and, disappointingly, saw almost no participation. So, the community manager went out and talked to several of the teachers, and found out that - while they thought the idea of learning from one another was great - in practice, they felt they didn't have time to type up their lesson plans and post them, or to go out and be teaching other teachers.

    Understanding this, the community manager went back to the drawing board. A few months later, they re-launched the community with a focus on tips for time management and sharing ways to make the job more efficient. This time, the teachers engaged, because the community was serving a need they really had, and one that actually helped them be able to participate in the community more. 

    So go out and get a sense of what the biggest pain points or challenges for your potential community members are, and bring that into the planning for what kinds of topics you'll have, content you'll share, etc. 

    The other thing you can do is start figuring out who will be responsible for managing your community. This involves things like planning the content, designing workflows for who will engage with users, when, and how, and how you'll build the community's culture. You'll want to have a Code of Conduct in place, to help users understand what they can and can't do in the community, what kinds of interactions are encouraged and which aren't allowed. For example, can people market things in the community? What will be your rules about posting photos? If someone doesn't follow the rules, how will that be handled? 

    One mistake I have seen some organizations make is thinking that the community will just run itself, or that the users will all just talk to one another. While communities are great spaces for people to engage with one another around a common interest or need, they always need someone to be the host. You'll want to have someone who is responsible for going into the community several times a week (if not daily) to start conversations, facilitate connections between users, escalate things that need additional engagement from your organization, etc. 

    Once you have figured out what your community is going to be about and who will be responsible for "hosting the party," you'll want to start planning your communications to promote it to your prospective community members. How will you let people know that the community is launching? How will you talk about it and help people understand what its value is and why they should participate? You've figured out the theme of the party and you've got a host, so then you'll need to make sure people know they're invited and are excited to be a part of it. 

    Of course, somewhere in-between figuring out what your community is for and inviting people to it will be the actual work of building it, pre-populating some conversations, having a beta group of users test it out and provide feedback, etc. But as far as things to be thinking about in advance: 

    1. Talk to users and get clear on their needs 

    2. Plan out how the community will serve those needs

    3. Figure out who can be the host, set strategy, and engage users 

    4. Plan out how you'll communicate

    I hope that helps. Please feel free to ask any additional questions. :) 



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