Placing Value On Your Community

In Community: The Inbound Resource You Forgot About, Jennifer Sable Lopez of SEOmoz discusses the value of online community to a business or organization’s inbound marketing outposts.  Whether it be content, blogging (including earned media through blogger outreach), or social media, community is the common theme among inbound or referring resources.  As Lopez states, “…our community (whoever that may be for your particular organization) is right there, standing tall.”

Community DefinitionLopez’ article stuck with me throughout this week because it almost serves as a microcosm of #CMGRclass itself: it supports concepts we’ve talked about in earlier weeks (see: Listening to Your Community, Building a Community From Scratch, Planning a Community) while touching upon topics coming up in the future (see: Ambassador Programs, Metrics).  She poses the question, “What should “community” mean to you?” and offers potential roles that members of a community can play.  For me, coming from the perspective of a not-for-profit organization, a community is an organization’s brand advocates (both lovers and, at times, critics), members, sharers of content, and sometimes, even content generators.

The Value of Community

Given the multitude of roles that an online community can play, it’s no surprise that community is vitally important to a business or organization.  While it can be difficult to place a tangible value on a community, Lopez offers these thought-provoking questions as a multi-step process of determining a community’s value.

  1. Figure out who the community is in your organization.  Who are they?  What do they care about?  What online properties do they visit?  Why do you care?  A community manager can answer these questions by examining web/blog analytics, Facebook Insights, and website signup data.
  2. Figure out what your community really cares about.  Do they simply want a daily email update?  Will they share community content?  Will they visit your forums?  There’s only one way to get to the root of these questions: ask the community.  Information can be gathered from a survey sent via email or a poll added to a website/blog or social media site.
  3. Determine how much time/energy/money you’re putting into your community.  Where are you, as community manager, spending your time?  Creating blog content?  Managing social media sites?  Gathering and examining analytics?  Are you paying someone to help in one or more of these areas?  It’s critical to know where resources are being allocated now so that they can be adjusted going forward.
  4. Are you spending your time/energy on the things your community actually cares about?  At the intersection of identifying your community and their interests and determining where energy is currently being directed is a sweet spot: are these three factors aligned?  Will your hard work in one area pay off given the interests or preferences of the community?  (Lopez’ example of Twitter particularly hit home for me, as I have recently come to a similar conclusion for at least one of the non-profits with which I’m involved.)
  5. Rinse and repeat.  These four steps are not a one-time process.  Instead, Lopez advises, “Don’t stop simply because you found something that works for now.  The biggest takeaway here is also that you need to determine what works for YOU.”

Near the end of the article, Lopez discusses the value of community to her company, saying in step 5, “Because without our amazing community, we’re just another software company.”  What is your community to you?  What intangible value do they bring to your business or organization?

(Embedded image by Flickr user DragonBe.  Featured image by Flickr user Newfrontiers.)

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