Guide the product team into supporting your community
Linus Torvalds, the creator of the Linux operating system, once said, "a program is only as useful as its users find it…."
Communities are a type of program, and it's a community manager's job to make their community useful. When we consider the members of our communities, we should remember our internal stakeholders. Because they may not even realize they are part of the community, we must help them understand that our, and the community’s, role and goals are to help them, not create more work.
I believe it's our - the community managers - responsibility to bring other teams into the community by evangelizing its use. While support from C-Suite executives can bolster our message, I will focus on what we can control - our “behavior.”
Problems for the community manager arise when the entire organization fails to view the community as a means to achieve organizational goals. For example, many product teams are used to communicating with their users only when they release an update.
Your community is a rich resource of comments, ideas, suggestions, pain points, and criticisms on improving your product from the people who matter the most.
The product team may see a community as a burden of ideas to contend with when they are already doing their best to improve the product. They focus on creating what they think the users want and increasing the product's stability. They may think they don't need to be interested in what the community has to say. However, the community is full of juicy insight for them.
By engaging with the community, the product team can gain valuable insights into customer needs and pain points and gather ideas for new features and improvements. This can be incredibly valuable as it allows them to understand what customers want and need and what they are struggling with, which can inform product development decisions.
In addition, the community can serve as a testing ground for new product concepts, allowing the team to validate ideas and gather feedback before investing significant resources into development. By tapping into the collective knowledge and creativity of the community, teams can generate new and innovative ideas that they might not have thought of on their own.
Now that we have defined why a community is good for the product team, we need to set about helping the team understand. David DeWald is mighty smart, but their words aren't enough to sway someone who doesn't think they need what you're offering.
Step 1: Get a seat at the table.
The first step is to get a seat at the table. One community manager I know says they started to win over their product team by attending their meetings and chiming in where they could. They eventually got on the agenda and started delivering monthly "Top Community Insights for Product" reports. (Tip: If you can’t get on the agenda, send a short, easy-to-digest email.)
Step 2: Ask.
Let's brainstorm together on how we can leverage the community to benefit the product.
In addition, set up a meeting with the product team lead so you can ask how the community can help the product team do their job better. You're going to have to guide this first conversation. Ask which features the product team wants people to use more and how you can help that happen.
Step 3: Bring facts.
Come prepared with data and statistics. Product people love data and charts. It's less about saying what your members need or want – it's more about having data to back it up. For example, "this % of users want this thing. How can I help? Do you need more data, or is this not possible? If it's not possible, can you help me explain why?"
Step 4: Keep showing up!
Face-to-face time is important.
Regular meetings between the community manager and the product team build strong partnerships, especially when the community manager presents data and metrics that show how community feedback impacts product development, sales, and customer satisfaction.
Your ultimate goals are to show your team what’s in it for them and to create a space for your product team and members will want to visit.
To keep this concise, I wrote about product teams, but this can apply to any other team in your organization. Can you use any of these ideas to galvanize your organization? What are you doing to bring other teams on board?
What resonates with you?