The Essentials To Planning A Successful Support Community

I was speaking with an eBusiness executive today who summarized his efforts around launching a support community in three succinctly non-ambiguous words: “It ain’t easy.”

A community can have many strategic purposes: PR, brand management, product development, customer service.

My colleague Melissa Parrish has written a really helpful report called “Community Management Checklist.” If you are considering launching — or have launched and want to optimize — a community, I highly recommend this report.

If your objectives are customer service-related, you will have unique requirements such as securing and rewarding internal product experts’ participation and creating internal guidelines around when to respond. To date, there hasn't been a wealth of established best practices for support communities. To assist in launching a support community, we’ve just published my report called, “Essentials To Planning A Successful Support Community.”

As a user of support communities, I’ve often wondered about what motivated these helpful strangers to guide me through resolving a download hiccup on my iTunes upgrade or navigating the mysteries of changing toner on my new printer. I’ve learned that — while their motivation may be a mystery to me — a good community manager knows exactly why each of these super-users participate, for example, for recognition, helping other people, or product passion. Some support community managers even telephone enthusiasts to develop direct relationships with them.

In researching this report, I spoke with vendors and recognized community managers at Environmental Data Resources, Hewlett-Packard, Jive Software, Lithium, RightNow, salesforce.com, and Verizon. Interestingly, their advice was incredibly consistent: Foster internal collaboration, create a motivated internal team, and have a plan to build a vibrant community.

The insight in “Essentials To Planning A Successful Support Community” comes largely from their experiences, and I am very grateful to these folks for taking the time to share their lessons learned. I hope you find the report helpful.