Since Influitive is an advocate marketing company, we know that advocates can increase your high-quality referral leads, act as strong sales references, and contribute to a higher customer lifetime value by coming back to purchase from you again and again.
And we also understand how crucial advocates can be to the success of an online community.
That’s why we were thrilled to see that The Community Roundtable—the leading authority on online communities—has once again put advocacy in the spotlight in its latest State of Community Management report.
The report revealed key findings around strategic, operational, and tactical areas, with many insights directly related to the role advocates play in successful communities.
Here are a few highlights from the report, including our take on the findings.
Best-in-class communities incorporate advocate programs
According to the report, communities with advocate programs correlate with higher engagement levels and better value.
Building on last year’s findings about the importance of advocate programs in online communities, this year’s report gives a more detailed picture of how the most effective programs should be structured.
The report found that best-in-class communities are three times as likely than average communities to offer multi-tiered advocate programs, which means they offer many different ways to get involved depending on the type of advocate and their needs.
In addition, these communities provide a wide range of benefits for their advocates, from discounts on products and services, to early access to news and information.
According to the report, top features of best-in-class communities include:
- Access to the community team (79 percent)
- Early product access (76 percent)
- Recognition in the community (74 percent)
- Opportunity to provide product feedback (71 percent)
Finally, these programs help nurture “emergent leaders”—those who gain credibility and leadership status through their level of expertise, commitment or supportive actions within the community. “Building programs to support leaders is typically resource intensive and ongoing,” states the report. “However, it is one of the most effective ways to scale the impact and value of community marketing and management, and it should be on every community’s roadmap.”
Our Take: At Influitive, we’ve long discussed the difference between an advocate marketing program and a community. As this report confirms, your community is not an advocate program. However, with an advocate program in place, you can leverage your advocates to make your community more engaging.
Quick wins can help increase engagement
The study highlights some tactical things that organizations can do to help increase engagement and get those quick wins that help propel your community forward.
One of these recommendations is around new member programs. According to the report, 82 percent of the most mature—or advanced—communities incorporate new member programs.
Further, communities with new member programs showed a higher percentage of creators, contributors and collaborators (38 percent) than those without (31 percent), as well as a higher level of user generated content (58.9 percent for best-in-class vs. 47.2 percent for average communities).
However, the programs that showed the highest impact on engagement included personal ways of connecting with members, like video welcome tours, personalized welcome phone calls and webinars.
Our Take: Leverage the power of peer influence by recruiting your advocates to help support these new member programs. A welcome message or call from a peer will have a lot more impact than a call from a representative of your company.
Investing in people and systems are key strategic initiatives
Finally, the report stressed the importance of investing in both people and the systems that support them in order to have a successful community.
The statistics show that best-in-class communities allocate 32 percent of their budget to community resources, as opposed to average communities, which only invest 26 percent in these resources. Best-in-class communities also offer more conferences, coaching and online courses than average communities.
Ensuring that you have enough community staff, developing a cross-functional community team and encouraging policy and governance structures at the organization level to support the community structure are other important strategic considerations.
Our Take: If you don’t have the resources to hire a large community team, look to your advocates for help. These active members will be more than happy to help with some of the daily tasks associated with your community, including welcoming new members, answering questions in the forum, contributing content and moderating activity.