How are you using community to foster advocacy?
I speak to a lot of Higher Logic Vanilla customers who are keen to drive advocacy in their communities, and a few common themes typically come up that I thought I would share with my friends here 😊
I’d love to hear what works best (or doesn’t work) for you! I know there are a few regulars in this community that are ROCKING their advocacy programs — would love to hear how you all are doing it.
First, use community to find advocates
I want to focus on fostering advocates today, but I think it's important to call out that your customer community is a great place to identify advocates – (you can find a post all about this here)
Identify members who consistently demonstrate enthusiasm and a deep commitment to the community (and your product). I’m always looking for that ‘secret sauce’ -- keep an eye out for those users who eagerly lend a helping hand to fellow members, enthusiastically share their success stories related to your product, or actively engage in product discussions. If they are willing to share tips and ideas in your community and help other users, they might be willing to take on other advocacy opportunities.
Ask advocates what they want
One of the most effective approaches to determine the advocacy activities that resonate with your customers is simply by… asking them directly! By actively involving your advocates and super users in the decision-making process, you can foster a sense of ownership in advocates while harnessing their collective wisdom to find advocacy activities that resonate. You can read about creating a stellar survey here
Advocacy only happens once a customer has received value. Some of that value can be provided with a fulfilling community experience! This could include connecting them with peers, providing a sneak peak into your roadmap, hosting exclusive community events, or self-serve educational content. Customer communities are powerful tools in creating authentic relationships with customers. Use what you learn about your customers’ goals (professional and personal) to provide them with relevant advocacy opportunities.
Anyone who's been in more than one meeting with me will know how much I like to ask — what is in it for me (the member)?!
Integrate, Integrate, Integrate
What platforms do your advocates live on today? If you use an advocacy platform, or even something like an LMS or other methods of communication, consider integrating them with community to drive advocates towards community. This could look like a Zapier integration, or be as simple as mentioning the community within other channels. Making community the hub is key.
Encourage community members to connect with one another, foster collaboration, and build relationships. Provide networking opportunities through virtual events, meetups, or dedicated discussion threads where members can share their interests, expertise, and collaborate on projects.
Measure and Celebrate Success
Track and measure the impact of your community forum on customer advocacy (and keep that in your back pocket when demonstrating the ROI Of your community to your boss when they ask…).
Show off your top users with gamification elements such as ranks, badges, leaderboards, or other points systems to encourage and reward active participation (especially those behaviours that line up with your community goals…). These mechanisms can incentivize members to contribute more frequently, answer questions, engage in discussions, and share valuable insights with others.
Consider featuring a leaderboard on your community – I’m a big fan of weekly or monthly views, as all time can feel insurmountable (that’s what ranks are for, IMHO). Someone who earned 100 points lately is more relevant than someone with 1000 points overall but hasn’t logged in in a year.
Celebrate milestones and share success stories to motivate and inspire continued advocacy – this might be community posts, social media shout outs, or our User spotlight widget.
Not sure where to start?
Getting started is always the hardest part. Folks that try to do all the things all the time often get overwhelmed and nothing gets done. Do what you can with the time and resources that you have.
Maybe start by creating an analytics dashboard in your community and beginning to track some key players in your community more closely, and then making some of these tips come alive.
Or, go ahead and post that survey to learn more about what types of advocacy your community members might be interested in. You might be surprised at how willing your customers are to take that next step with you.
I had a VP who always used to tell me ‘don’t let perfect be the enemy of done’ and I’ve had that post-it stuck on my desk ever since – one or two tactics is a great place to start – no need to do all the things at once.
Remember, driving advocacy in online community forums is an ongoing process that requires consistent effort, active engagement, and a genuine focus on building meaningful relationships. It’s all about humans (that warm and fuzzy feeling..) at the end of the day. By creating a supportive and engaging environment, recognizing member contributions, and providing valuable resources, you can cultivate a community of passionate advocates who will champion your brand and help it thrive.
How about you?
Speaking of human connections, what are YOU doing? Every advocacy program is as unique as communities are – sharing is caring 😉 – we want to hear from you!