When I started working at Asana, the goal was to create a community program and get it off the ground so that we could do things with it later. Now the goals are much more clear because we know, based on data, that when people are part of our community programs, their accounts are healthier, they grow more quickly, use the product more, and retain better. - Joshua Zerkel - Head of Global Engagement Marketing (Community), Asana
As a community builder, you’re not just centred on listening to or serving your community but also about whether or not are you aligned with business needs. The community has to have a purpose, otherwise, why are you doing what you’re doing? Before venturing into community programs, it’s a prerequisite for you to align yourself with business goals and work with teams across the board to make sure those goals are met. Whether it's about gaining market share or deepening revenue streams, community has to serve a purpose that favors overall growth.
When we talk about increasing adoption in existing customers, what you need to put ahead of everything is your product. But there’s a thin line between shoving the product down people’s throats and having a subtle approach to making people realize the value of the product. And this value is far more valuable when it’s communicated by people who have a genuine appreciation for the product. You’re more likely to trust someone who has benefitted from the product than someone who’s selling it.
Asana’s three-pronged community program is a testament to how perfectly a community serves product adoption goals when you align these factors right from the get-go. This program focuses on creating three impactful community groups: Asana Forum Champions (power users who answer questions from other customers), Asana Certified Pros (consultants looking to offer Asana to their clients), and Asana Ambassadors (champions who are leading the Asana charge within their organizations). As of now, Asana has over 5300 Ambassadors, has hosted 1100+ community events, has nearly 236K forum members on discourse, and has resolved over 10K queries.
The Ambassadors program especially came from the idea that if they can equip multiple people within an account to become ambassadors, that means they get more resources, and more education to help spread the word among their colleagues and their peers. And because of this, Asana saw far more engagement among accounts that have ambassadors versus the ones that don’t. So, essentially, if you’re building your community centered around a product, the strategies you come up with have more purpose, and this purpose is to drive product adoption.
But, as a community builder, you also need to realize that when building such community programs, you’re asking for people’s time. Time is the greatest currency of all and if you want someone to spend that on you, it has to be a fair trade. At the same time, your company has business needs that can’t be overlooked. Product lies at the intersection of business and community and if you have a good product, you’re halfway there.
Ben Lang started out as a Notion fanboy. He’d spend hours of his evenings and weekends fascinated by what the product was capable of. Evangelizing the product in a Facebook group and actively Tweeting about it turned some heads at Notion, some important ones for that matter. He was hired as the Head of Community and all because of a genuine love for the product. He was, in every true sense, a Notion Ambassador himself before the program even existed. Ben’s first order of business was to find more people like him who were truly passionate about Notion and give them the right nudges, and the right resources to spread Notion globally.
Today, Notion powers one of the most successful Ambassador programs in the world and exemplifies community-led growth. And if you think about it, the process itself cannot be forced, hence it’s organic. But what can be done is give structure to things. How can you equip existing users to talk about your product? What is it about your product that makes people want to share it with the world? Finally, you can attach these structures to goals, align teams with the same values, and offer your community anything possible to catalyze exponential impact.
When you're building a community around your product, there are certain initiatives or strategies that can improve how people interact with your product. These can be anything from small nudges or encouragements to well-thought-out community programs.
As we mentioned before, you're more likely to trust someone who has benefitted from the product than someone who’s selling it. What if you facilitate that? This was the idea behind Threado's Community Demo Days where we empower community builders who have seen tremendous results with Threado to talk about how they did what they did. Other community builders can attend this live event and get insights on making the most of Threado to activate their communities.
Small efforts compound over time, and so encouraging members to openly discuss your product has to be a result of smaller efforts that cuts through the tension of silence. This means that you have to be vocal yourself before you can see community members doing so too.
Your community will be more vocal when you're more vocal. Don't let go of any opportunity to talk about your product - be it in newsletters, scheduled community posts, email comms, or through any touchpoint you have with your community.
Success stories are proofs that your product works. It showcases end results which is what grabs people's attention. If I tell you about what the product can do, that'll get me your attention, but if I tell you about what the product helped achieve, that'll get me your curiosity. Success stories also can help draw parallels. The challenges that someones else faced might just be the ones you're facing right now. And reading or learning about how that problem was solved is one of the strongest factors for someone to genuinely invest time in your product.
Competitions can be fun but they can also be informative. You might've seen a lot of no-code communities host friendly competitions around using the product to build something of their own. In the process, users end up learning more about the product than they would've otherwise. This is a simple yet effective strategy that can potentially help work wonders when it comes to driving adoption. You can make it more exclusive by announcing winners, sharing gift bags or prizes, and being more vocal about it on socials so more people can participate and hence improve adoption.
After you’ve taken the right efforts, there also has to be a quantifiable way to track metrics that indicate improvements in product adoption. Here are some ways in which you can connect product usage improvements to community efforts.
When you have an ambassador or advocacy program in place, a clear indicator of its impact is when people talk about it more. You can monitor if there’s been an increase in product-related topics or a spike in engagement across channels that you’ve dedicated to product discussions.
Threado gives you data on all trending topics and channel-level engagement in the community that you can filter as per time period.
If product-related channels or topics seem to trending or have been the most active/talked about topics in the community, this can be in direct correlation with the efforts you’re putting into the community program.
Another great thing is, you can see every topic that’s trending and structure your next interaction around those topics to keep engagement high
When your goal is to drive product adoption at scale, you need to also be able to stay on top of engagement in the community, especially when people start talking more about the product. Sure, constantly monitoring for relevant messages is a way but it’s not the most efficient way. You can do the same thing by setting up alerts to get notified every time anything product related is posted in the community.
For example, you can setup an alert to get notified anytime a query gets posted in the community and it contains a keyword relevant to your product.
You can also automatically tag them as activated product users in the same workflow. This tag can be used to send relevant product solutions or personalized interactions to further improve adoption.
Another great way to measure the impact of your efforts is to get in touch with your product team and study insights as to whether product usage in members who are also customers has improved over a selected time period. If you’ve been observing the right community Insights, you’d be able to tie your efforts directly to the positive change in product adoption. As a community manager focused on meeting business objectives and driving revenue, this is your way to quantify the impact of any community initiatives you’ve leveraged to meet this objective exactly.
Understand that both product and community take time. Community is something that can’t be forced but can always be leveraged. You’re not showing them the way but instead walking side-by-side, facilitating necessities, and lending a helping hand. By re-enforcing the importance of your product, you bind your community through it, leading to them being more aware of it. And being more aware of it makes them more likely to be frequent users. Create resource hubs, and playbooks, conduct workshops - anything that dictates the smooth functioning of your community programs. Finally, data speaks volumes. If you’re seeing better numbers, it’s probably working.