Tips for Implementing Common Use Cases in External Communities

Ruth Neighbors

What are the most common scenarios or use cases for an external-facing community? At Social Edge, we often work with external communities that are focused on customer support. While the nuances may vary from community to community, here’s what popular communities focus on.

Customer Support

Companies often see this as an opportunity to get customers to use self-help features, thereby decreasing the number of calls or emails to support desks. Knowledge base articles, videos and other forms of product documentation are posted here.

Sometimes, there’s content bridging, meaning content is being shared between an external community and a company’s internal community. For example, content posted on an external community appears as an alert on a slack channel that’s watching that community.

Best practice tip: Encourage both peer-to-peer interactions amongst customers and facilitate conversations between customers and company staff. You’ll get better interactions when you have dedicated subject matter experts involved in asking and answering questions.

Product Feedback and Enhancements

Customers are encouraged to submit requests for improvements through some kind of idea-generating process. Ideas are then voted upon and scored. If a specific ideation module doesn’t exist in the platform you’re using, then idea gathering can still be done with discussions or polls.

Best practice tips: Clearly articulate the product feedback process and regularly report back on progress. For example:

  • There should be an understandable scoring system and rules publicly posted on what happens to the suggestions.
  • Some communities will take the highest scored items, and then the product team will have additional voting to determine which ones they’ll follow up on.
  • Other communities hold a quarterly (or monthly) webinar to discuss the top ideas that they’re selecting.
  • Every idea should have a comment/acknowledgement from the company staff. It doesn’t necessarily mean that they will be implementing or following up, but every comment deserves a response.

New Product Releases & Updates

Whether it’s about announcing new features or providing updates, this is a variation on a communication use case. Content typically includes blog posts, videos and documents. Some communities treat this as more of a one-way promotion, but it’s also an opportunity to get customer feedback.

Best practice tip: Consider giving valued customers access to an early adoption group where they can learn about new releases in advance of the regular announcements.

User Groups

Successful communities look to create user groups by region, topic, role, early adopters (aka VIP customers) or some other common interest. A good user group program often combines both virtual discussions with online and sometimes in person meetings

Best practice tip: Empower your customers to be owners of these groups (pick at least two owners per group); it’ll be up to you how much official involvement you want to have in moderating what’s discussed there.

Event Management

Customers use this to create places in the community for upcoming events, thereby allowing employees and members to connect with other attendees, ask questions, view event information, and more prior to attending the actual event. It also serves as a platform for the company to elicit feedback from attendees post-event.

Some communities use this for an annual event, others for more ongoing activities. Either way, the key components are to include:

  • planning event
  • pre-event
  • event day(s)
  • post-event – report back of activities, and, sometimes, allow for continued networking and knowledge sharing amongst participants
  • event archive

Best practice tip: By sharing and promoting event information and content before an after an event, you can get customers engaged as well as keep the conversation going after the event has ended.

While these are a few of the most popular use cases in external communities, we have also worked with our clients to build out use cases that are uniquely customized to meet their organization's needs. If you're an external community owner or are considering investing in an external community for your customers, our expert team of strategists and community managers are here to help!