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3 Ways to Drive Executive Participation in Your Community

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3 Ways to Drive Executive Participation in Your Community

Caty Kobe

executiveparticipation

Every year The Community Roundtable spends months collecting data from in-the-trenches community practitioners, and publishes it in a succinct, actionable slide deck. This year is no different. 

There are tons of nuggets and insights packed into this year's report, but I'd really like to call your attention to the importance of slide 18. In this slide, Rachel and team provide concrete data proving that executive participation within a customer community will greatly impact a community's success. According to the research, C-level participation in a community drives 2-3 times more collaboration and content creation behavior in a customer community than a community with no C-level participation whatsoever.

 

A Story About Executive Participation

As most of you know, I used to lead the community team for Get Satisfaction from 2012-2014. Prior to getting C-level involvement in our community, true engagement in our community was tough to find. We had plenty of customers posting surface-level product questions and problems, but the collaborative conversations and thoughtful ideas didn't really start to flow until our customers began to see that our executive team cared about their opinions.

The movement for executive participation was really spearheaded by the leadership and collaborative nature of CTO, David Rowley. I had previously struck out with getting other execs on board with the idea, but Dave was different. Because he lead our product team, Dave naturally understood the need to have product-related conversations with our customers in the community, but on top of that he also had a personal interest in building relationships with our customers. 

Knowing that Dave's available time was slim, we started by setting up a 30 minute, weekly recurring meeting between my team, Dave, and our product managers. In this meeting, we would share community-submitted ideas with the product team, they would give us their thoughts, and then we'd respond in the community. Over time, Dave and the product managers began taking more initiative in responding in the community, and by the time I left the company Dave was consistently the top, most active non-community employee in the community. To date, Dave has posted over 1,000 replies back to customers in the Get Satisfaction community, and the overall community conversations have become much richer as result.

To show Dave how cool you think his community spirit is, send him a Tweet! Go ahead, I'll wait. :) 

How to Make it Happen

As community managers, our job really hinges on the success of the community and its impact to the organization. If executive participation increases engagement in your community, which ultimately leads to community success, then it's in your very best interest to drive C-level participation in your communities. Here are my 3 tips for making that happen:

  1. Make It Matter
    An executive is not going to take the time to participate in the community unless it's for reasons that personally matter to them. We all only have so much time in the day, and senior leaders seem to have even less time than most of us, so only the really important initiatives will make the cut. Dig deep. Find a particular issue that resonates with them and tie it into the community. If you can show that participating in the community will help advance their goals and initiatives, they will be more apt to prioritize time to participate. Not sure how to figure out what matters? Check out Robin Dreeke's talk from CMX Summit for tips.

  2. Make It Easy
    Leadership team members don't have a lot of time on their hands to learn new systems and browse through posts. Make things easy by curating the top 1-3 topics in your community that they would be interested in/ need to take action on, and send it in an email with explicit instructions. If you need them to post a response, say so. If you need them to re-tweet a particular article, tell them. Don't forget to include the exact links while you're at it!
     
  3. Make It A Habit
    Be mindful of your executive's time, but also take care to begin building a habit of checking in with them about the community. Even if there's nothing that you need for them to do in the community, it's still good to check in weekly with an update to keep it top of mind. Share some positive stats, especially if it's related to engagement on their contributions, and give feedback on how their efforts are working. Don't forget to share this information with the rest of the organization too! Once a habit has been formed, the momentum around participating will continue to build and likely spill over to other members of the executive team.

The data proves executive participation matters to the success for the community, and I've just shared 3 tips for doing just that. What are yours?

Don't forget to check out the details of these findings, and more, in the 2014 State of Community Management report!