How Hard Numbers helps clients to harness the power of community

We recently launched a new service at Hard Numbers – Community as a Service. In this post, Claire Barrance gives her views on why now is the time for businesses to embrace the power of community, and the proven process she’s helped develop to make this a success for our clients.

The power of community has been a passion of mine for a long time now. I have been active in a range of different communities from a personal point view, from Event Profs Live during my past event career, to a daily writers group online where a collection of people write together over Zoom for an hour, to the neighbourhood app Nextdoor to try my best to break away from the unfriendly London stereotype. It all helps me feel connected. 

My most recent, personal experience of building a community from scratch, was at tech start up Mo, an employee engagement app operating in the HR space. The world of HR is fairly emotionally intensive and can be a pretty lonely place. If HR teams are the safe space for an organisation – where can they turn to for support?

This is where the idea of the community came in – to bring together a group of senior HR professionals across all industries, who can turn to each other for support, share ideas, challenges, concerns and wins, small or big. 

After a year of launch, the community had grown into the thousands, with many actively posting and engaging on the dedicated Slack group on a daily basis. We even saw people arranging meet ups and securing friendship in real life! Seeing such an engaged community come to life and support each other during their difficult times and celebrating those good times was truly rewarding (and of course, fantastic for raising our brand profile), but it certainly took time, thought and management to reach such a level. 

As we have now moved into a more remote way of working and living, it has only heightened our need for genuine connection and relationships. There is a lot of content out there in the digital space but we need more from brands for us to really hear them. 

By harnessing the power of community, businesses are not only providing an additional shared space for networking and professional support for their target audience, they are gaining a unique opportunity to have direct access to their customers, building up brand loyalty and trust, and ultimately getting that all important word of mouth and brand ambassadorship we all strive for. 

So what does it take to build and grow a community and what does success actually look like? Working now with Hard Numbers we have defined a clear, five step approach to how we tackle Community as a Service to ensure our clients get the best results from this activity:

Define

As a first step, it is key to really understand what you want to get out of the community? Setting objectives are important for any marketing activity and community is no different. 

The next question is what does the ideal community member look like? By understanding your ideal community member profile, you will have a good starting point to what they will be looking for in a community and would really add value for them.

Build

There are some great platforms out there to bring together the community in one central place. Apps like Slack, Discord and Guild are all good examples of online tools to use – deciding which one would be the best for your audience takes a bit of research and weighing up those pros and cons. 

Once you have the comms tool decided and ready, it is time to put together a target list to invite to join you and send out those first invites. Your target audience needs to really understand the value joining the community would bring them in this initial outreach so wording is key. Some audiences may not be familiar with comms tools, so as part of the outreach you may need to be ready to simplify the onboarding process for them. We manage this whole process on our clients’ behalf, creating a buzz around it and making people feel they really need to join as well as making that joining process as easy as possible.  

Maintain and manage

It is the dream that in the end our communities will be so actively engaged, they will post content, pose questions and share experiences without intervention from you as a community manager. As with anything worth achieving, it takes time, effort and encouragement to attain this. 

As part of our offering, we will be dedicated to moderating and managing the community to keep that flow going and make the community something people get professional and personal value from. 

In my experience as a community grows, the flow of organic conversation certainly increases but you do need that level of management, a consistent welcome to new members, the opening up of dialogue that resonates with your audience and an ongoing level of support throughout.

Grow

The initial group is a great starting point, but we all want to reach out to a wider net of people. The great thing about a successful community is that your most engaged members will help you to spread the word and become ambassadors for the space. The Community as a Service approach from Hard Numbers takes growth into account and we use our expertise and measurement tools to encourage members to promote the community, and measure the success of this. 

Measure

This is a Hard Numbers service, after all, so absolutel everything we do will be rooted in providing a demonstrable return on our time and effort and your investment in this community. We always relate back to the key objectives we carved out together in the “Define” stage and measure success with regularly reporting on key performance indicators, as with any marketing activity. 

As earned media opportunities become more challenging and owned media channels proliferate, community is fast becoming one of the most important marketing tools for communicators. Creating a dedicated, owned space where your customer becomes an active part of your brand is invaluable and key for the businesses of today and the category leaders of tomorrow. This is why Hard Numbers have created the new Community as a Service proposition – to enable busy in-house teams to rely on our expert external support, to help them build engaged, growing, customer communities around their product, service or the issues that they help their customers to address. 

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