I can’t believe it’s been 8 years since I lost the argument and we decided to launch our own community. (That’s a story for another day – catch me at the 10 year.) Of course, I’m glad I lost that argument, because of all the benefits the community has brought to Lithium, but also for something else: because it’s given us the chance to “walk in our customers shoes,” and experience for ourselves the kinds of things you only learn by creating a branded community for your own brand.
Because I was involved in launching the community and remain involved as the Lithium Community’s “executive sponsor,” @JennC asked if I could put together a list of some of the things we’ve learned. So, here are 8 things we’ve learned over the past 8 years of running the Lithium community.
It’s hard – maybe impossible – to do everything right. We’re the experts, so of course we wanted our implementation to be flawless in every way. Guess what? No matter how intentional you are, or how well you scope your effort to your capacities to plan and manage, you’re going to make mistakes. Recognize them, address them, move on.
When you don’t do something right, sometimes it’s best to just start over. We learned this with our VIP program. After a few years of middling success, we started over with the Stars program, and life is so much better for us and our members.
Community focus will ebb and flow. Over eight years, sometimes the community has been a main focus of attention for our business. At other times, it’s been purely about keeping it going at steady state while other priorities take precedence. Don’t fight it – use this time to take stock and prepare for your next turn in the spotlight.
There is no maintenance mode. While the community might be the focus today and merely the sidelight tomorrow, make no mistake – there is no point at which the community can be put on autopilot. In reality, the community is the focus every day – for those who are using, joining, and participating. Be there for them.
Ownership dictates focus. We all know that community has something to contribute to many aspects of the business, from marketing to sales to product development to customer care. In the end, though, the community has to be owned by somebody, and the things you do best will probably relate most closely to the function or department that funds the community.
Your community team will change. That superstar you have running the community today? In all likelihood, he or she will be moving up or moving on at some point in the future. Make sure you have your operation well-defined, and have other team members who can step in when the time comes.
Your superusers are in it for the long haul. While your community team will change, many members of your community will not. It’s surprising to see how many of our earliest members are still among our most active and influential in our community. Increasingly, they carry the history of our community forward as much as we do.
Your superusers will continuously amaze you. Maybe it’s a fact that people in general are pretty amazing if you really pay attention. Or perhaps there’s just something special about those who devote their time and effort to helping their fellow community members. Regardless, in any venue, from on-sites at our headquarters to dialogues in our private superuser forum, I am always in awe of the insights and perspective these folks have to share. Don’t underestimate yours.
It’s been a fun 8 years – looking forward to many more.