January 7, 2022
There’s a wealth of unlocked potential in your customers, but not enough people have the key. The way I see it, every customer has a unique story to tell and the desire to become a part of something bigger. What they need is the right channel or platform that gives them the opportunity to share their insights. This is where your community plays an important role in becoming that platform that connects your customers to their tribe. A community manager is then simply a facilitator in creating channels that can build heroes out of them.
I learned this pretty quickly after I joined Dundas Data Visualization as Community and Content Lead.
A Community for Customers and Prospects Alike
Every superhero needs a superweapon, and I like to believe that at Dundas Data Visualization, we forge that weapon for data analysts and business intelligence practitioners. Our product, Dundas BI, is a flexible software solution for those who want to embed data analytics capabilities within their software solutions or business processes. And The Dundas Community is where these data heroes get the best out of themselves and our product.
The Dundas Community is a combination of a customer-only community and a public-facing forum, which encourages Dundas BI users to talk about everything data analytics. Community members (or Dundas Champions as we like to call them) have the opportunity to tell their story, share their two cents around the product, and dispense knowledge about their experiences—all on the same platform. It is also a space frequented by prospective customers trialing our product to get their queries resolved by folks from our R&D team, as well as existing users.
I’ve been at the company for about a year, and I’m currently in charge of The Dundas Community. I love my job. I’m a storyteller at heart and the more I candidly interact with people, the more I realize just how powerful storytelling can be. Helping users tell their story—and celebrating it afterward—puts a spring in my step.
I didn’t start this community. I’m the beneficiary of my predecessors, who built The Dundas Community using Influitive over five years ago. When I joined, I saw an opportunity to breathe fresh air into our community and build stronger connections with Dundas Champions.
How Our Advocates Help Us Compete
Dundas competes in an industry with giants. Yet, despite not having the same marketing resources as the major players, our name is consistently part of the conversation. This happens through advocacy. But that advocacy needs to start somewhere. A customer community can be the breeding ground to get the word out about your company. Not only can it enhance your customers’ perceptions, but it gets them used to spreading the word about your organization.
As we’ve learned, every customer using our software has a unique set of knowledge and skills. This knowledge could help prospects and new Dundas customers better navigate our tools and services, but only if they’re given the opportunity. After all, not everyone is eager to elaborate on their experiences. Perhaps they aren’t as extroverted about sharing their knowledge, or they don’t have time to sit down and write out a long-winded response. But what if you provided customers with a platform that removes the risks and effort of sharing?
To boost engagement rates within our Influitive powered community, I started with the basics: fun. Our program is made up of tech junkies—software developers and analysts who spend the majority of their days working extremely hard. So I started throwing in some fun activities for the community to congregate around. Think topics like “guess the landmark,” or a cryptography puzzle. There’s nothing wrong with developing activities that would be fun for people across industries, but you’ll drive deeper engagement if you tap into your audience’s personality. Once I understood what my audience was looking for, I started seeing untapped opportunities that could take user engagement to the next level.
Creating industry-specific content within your community can drive greater adoption than a one-size-fits-all approach.
One of these opportunities included interaction between Dundas Champions, something I knew we could definitely improve. Customers who provided stellar discussions and post content would be featured as a Champion of the Month, allowing them to share more about themselves and their thoughts on Dundas BI. Because this was so well received by users, I also started featuring our Dundas employees in the community. I immediately noticed some stellar growth patterns, both in our user base and our staff interactions.
We were starting to create internal and external advocates, but despite all this rapid growth, there was still a challenge I had yet to face: creating content.
Using Advocacy to Create Content
Being a small team, Dundas could only create so much content alone. Our time and resources were limited. I quickly realized that user-generated content was one of the answers to our dilemma. We needed to unlock something in our customers and provide them with the tools to become thought leaders in the industry. I knew our customers had what it took to prove their expertise—I just needed to create a space for them.
Your customers have the capability to become thought leaders. How are you enabling them?
I started this initiative with discussions in the community. I opened a discussion channel with high-level questions, very broad topics that allow anybody to throw in their two cents, such as, “tips you would give to somebody new to analytics.”
These macro questions generated a lot of great feedback from users, so much so that I created activities around the answers and pushed them to our public user forum. Macro questions built a lot of context, created a large amount of intrigue, and nudged users to return to the forum to embark on an active, publicly viewable discussion.
These discussions also brought to light a few key contributors—customers I noticed were incredibly active throughout various topics. These users had a wealth of info to share, and were extremely knowledgeable about the field, its tools, and its future changes. They didn’t give one-line answers. They gave in-depth, thoughtful responses that could help either inspire a new piece of content or make a meaningful contribution to it. I realized these contributors weren’t just helpful bystanders, but thought leaders in disguise.
I started reaching out to these advocates on my own, getting more details about their lives and stories. One of our most regular and frequent responders was a senior data scientist from a media analytics company, a user who explained technical content in a fun, personable way. I realized that recruiting members of our community was the perfect way to create more technical content for Dundas without scaling our team. I knew immediately that he would be a perfect fit.
I’ll admit I was hesitant when I first asked him about contributing as a writer. I figured that he would be busy, or even uncomfortable with being in the spotlight. But despite my initial musings, his answer was a resounding yes. In fact, one of the first questions he asked was, “How soon can we do this?” We’re not Forbes, where his articles will get tens of thousands of views. But even if his blog post gets 1,000 visitors a month, that’s a major platform for him to share his thought leadership and build his personal brand. At the same time, since he’s an analytics practitioner, it gives our content more credibility.
Providing a platform for our advocates and giving them a voice will help shine the spotlight on their amazing work and allow us to scale our content efforts. It’s truly a win-win situation.
Being a Community Member First
Throughout this process, I’ve realized that Influitive is the absolute benchmark for creating thriving communities. The platform helps me easily facilitate these conversations and activities with our customers. But more than that, being an Influitive community member has made me a better community manager.
Influitive VIP, which is a community for their customers, has allowed me to grow in my role. When I log in, I can see activities and discussion topics that I might want to replicate within The Dundas Community. It’s also connected me to industry peers. We now do monthly Zoom calls and they’ve become a terrific sounding board. I’m extremely grateful to be using Influitive and being part of the Influitive community.
Sustaining Advocacy for the Long Term
Creating an environment to grow customer conversations isn’t just for customers, but for your whole team. It allows you to better understand your users, generate engaging content, and put your business’s name in the running, to name a few benefits. Ultimately, it’s one of the most powerful forces we have here at Dundas.
All the questions, topics, and blog posts in The Dundas Community help to support the company in multiple ways, but the best and most important support is driving the conversation about our brand, our work, and our solutions. Our activities and discussion boards are creating a breeding ground for people to talk about Dundas from a candid, real-life perspective. And it nets results. Year over year, Dundas BI is seeing a 15%–18% increase in user reviews. For a software company with a relatively smaller footprint compared to the industry giants, this is absolutely groundbreaking. Our community not only brought attention back to our brand, but it made it much easier for our prospects to interact with customers and get answers to their product questions from real users of the software. Frankly, I can’t imagine doing things any other way.
Every company has customers, and many of them are waiting for their chance to help. You just need to give them the right platform.
Want authentic customer stories like this for your company? Learn more about Influitive’s Upshot service.