Las Vegas is all about lady luck - If only you face the horseshoe, touch your talisman, and never ever enter a casino through the front door, you will succeed tonight. Superior planning, scale and skill won't help you as serendipity reigns supreme.
Especially in traditional industries, engaging in social media is sometimes viewed as a racy saunter to the craps table mainly because there is a misguided belief that the outcomes can not be controlled within a normative environment. Up until the point of software launch, the executive sponsors of an online community usually feels like things are on track. People are busy with familiar tasks such as wireframes and project plans and marketing campaigns. It is only after an online customer community has been launched that many an executive has reached deep in his pocket for his lucky penny while uttering a member engagement chant. Getting customers to talk online can feel very slippery, uncertain and, shall I say, a dicey effort.
The reality is that online community member engagement risk can be mitigated. There are best practices to guide the member experience across the different stages of online customer communities as well as a suite of common pitfalls to be avoided at each stage of growth to help manage risk. Here is a Member Experience Roadmap for Online Customer Communities to help pave the way to success...
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For early stage communities the member experience focus needs to be on demonstrating credibility though responsiveness and member management. The member experience is primarily a directed search for information. If the community helps members solve problems and is especially responsive to member needs, even if the community is still getting it's member foundation stable, the members will start to value the community and return.
For mid stage online communities the best practice is to foster a shift to a more member-centric community, evident through more member-generated content and member-leadership visibility. The member experience should resemble a club or organization with corollary value. While striving for return visits and an active membership base, scalable customer care with a core membership base is a critical success factor.
And for established/thriving online customer communities (note: a small-in-number community can be an established/thriving community), the member experience should include an integrated customer experience where the community functions as an extension of the company and the members are in a virtual conference room nearby. Both company and customer inform and value each other and work together toward defining and refining the future. The member experience with an online community is a dynamic, iterative journey that can be planned for but does need to evolve over time.
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