10 Tips for Better B2B Community Management

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Maria Ogneva is the Head of Community at Yammer, where she is in charge of social media, community programs, internal education and engagement. You can follow her on Twitter, her blog, and via Yammer?s Twitter account and company blog.

The communities most of us are familiar with tend to be customer or fan-facing. However, business-to-business (B2B) communities are also an important part of the social media experience.

Social media has changed the way we relate to each other, and even when you talk to business users, you are interacting with people inside those companies first and foremost. To ensure success in managing your community of business users, here are 10 best practices.


1. Know When to Create Your Own Community


It doesn?t always make sense to create your own community. Depending on your intentions, you may opt to join an already existing community. If you plan to lead conversations focused on serving your industry in general, just join that community and take a prominent role there. If, however, your community is more narrowly focused around your product, you will probably want to create a unique destination.


2. Think Through the Purpose


If you opt to create one, remember that each community should have a purpose and a vision ? otherwise, chaos will ensue. Are you creating a user community or a broader best practices forum for your industry? Do you want to foster a better dialogue between customers or inform the product road map and gather feedback? Or both?

How will community members interact, contribute or learn by being a part of your conversation? Will it revolve around vertical applications of your product? If so, you may want to think about having several vertical-based communities.


3. Establish Membership Guidelines


Think about whom you want to invite and how people should join. If you?re aiming to create an industry-wide best practices exchange, you may opt to have a completely open community. If your community is more of a value-add for VIP clients, with personalized help from their account managers, you should opt for a private, invite-only community. You should also figure out if your membership will be open to employees of your company, and if so, which ones. Your community?s purpose should drive these guidelines.


4. Understand Your Members


It?s imperative that you understand what business users and their employees need from your product. When your community serves business users, its job is to help those people get their jobs done. Think about how you can make them look like rockstars in front of their peers and managers.


5. Outline Roles


Depending on your type of community membership, you?ll need to structure participants? roles. This is especially necessary for a newly launched or relaunched community. In a large community, a subset of superusers can become moderators or take on an advisory role. This status promotion should be aspirational. Make it clear how someone can achieve that status, and empower the community to ?self-police.?

If you have a more intimate community where both employees and top customers participate, place employees in consultative roles, but beware of clashing objectives.


6. Establish a Vision and Charter


The clearer you are from the beginning, the better off the community will be. Establish a charter and a set of goals driven by your community?s purpose. Let members know which behaviors are frowned upon, and which will not be tolerated. Share all of this with the community as well as internally with your company.


7. Success Metrics


Now that you?ve stated your purpose, membership and roles guidelines, decide how you will measure success. You should track community health metrics, such as growth, engagement and the percentage of active users. Additionally, make sure you align your success metrics to overarching business objectives. If a better customer experience is the primary goal, you should measure the impact of your community on satisfaction scores and customer sentiment. If education via best practices is a goal, you should see fewer support tickets and higher usage and renewal rates.


8. Have a Community Manager


Each active community should have a designated community manager. Although you should empower your community to self-sustain, active community management establishes accountability.


9. Establish Internal Processes


You should work cross-functionally to ensure that the community doesn?t operate in a vacuum. You will probably have amazing insights and feedback coming from inside the community. Ensure you are sharing insightswith the right teams internally to facilitate dialogue.


10. Enable Sharing


People love to share their successes, whether for bragging rights, to be viewed as an expert, or to help others. On the other hand, listening to others? successes helps people visualize success. This is especially key for business users who are often tasked with proving ROI and who need to point to demonstrable examples of someone else?s success. In your community, encourage members to share their successes publicly and point these stories in the direction of other community members who are grappling with a similar problem.


Of course, there are basics of solid community management that apply across both consumer and business communities. You should be building up community advocacy, facilitating (not forcing) the conversation and monitoring engagement. Ask yourself if your community helps people do their jobs. If the answer is no, course-correct, and you will be on your way to success.

Images courtesy of iStockphoto, studiovision, max_carpenter

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