Craft Your Member Support Philosophy
I want you to think about your member support philosophy. Now, that sounds really fancy. It's not actually that fancy. I just want you to think about how you approach actually supporting your members. We've started to touch on this. Things like actively coaching people. Things like saving posts and making sure you're really elevating awesome behavior, really defining what it means to be a good citizen of your community. Those are all things that kind of fall into your member support philosophy. But now, instead of looking at it from the behavior of the member side of things, we're gonna look at if from your behavior side of things. So the first you wanna do is remember what your vision for your community is, because your member support philosophy is going to vary depending on what your mission is. My member support philosophy may not be the same as yours because my vision is different than your vision is. So start there. Remember what your vision, your values, your purpose is behind yo...
ur community, and that's going to inform everything else that you do, every interaction that you have with your members. Before we get into all the right ways to do this, I'd like to kind of air our dirty laundry about what worries you have about supporting your community members. Because, again, there's been a lot of this like oh gosh, this is a lot of work, oh gosh, this is a little scary, oh gosh, this causes me anxiety. And I know that supporting members is one of the places those worries tend to crop up. So what worries do you guys have? Angie?
I know this sounds really crazy, but I have people sign up for online things who really have no technical skill.
And so that that ends up being a huge headache.
That is a thing that happens a lot. Yeah, yes. That is a good one. I can't help you with that. No, I'm kidding. I can help you with that. That is a very, very valid concern and one you absolutely want to address. What else? Melissa.
Just getting sucked dry.
Sucked dry? Yes. Okay. Denise.
Spending time in negativity versus the positive aspects of managing a community.
Yeah, absolutely. Yeah.
Upholding my own boundaries. Like when people ask a question at 3:00 in the morning not responding right away.
Yeah, you do not need to respond to that. What else? Yell it.
Bad eggs, potential bad eggs.
Yeah, we're gonna there. Don't worry. Anybody else? And other worries? You guys have kinda covered the gamut. Yeah, Mia?
Um, I guess, sort of around the boundary thing as well, knowing when to let it go if a member is not taking action or if a member is not sort of being a good citizen of the community. Like what do I do as a leader around that and how do I create a culture where that's clear for my team as well as to what to do?
Yeah, we're gonna get there. We are absolutely gonna get there. Some of those worries we're gonna address right now, and some of them like that one and the bad egg ones we're gonna address in just a little bit. But we are gonna cover pretty much all of those in one fashion or another. So kind of overall, all of these worries can make us feel like our members are the enemy. Your members are not the enemy. And I think in serving business owners, I see this all the time where people are complaining about their customers, what their customers did, what they expect from them, what kind of questions they ask. And it's just like guys, these people are paying you because they trust you, they like you, they have a problem that you said you had a solution for. Why are you making them out to be the enemy? Now, I'm not gonna say that there aren't some crazy customers out there. But by and large, when you feel like your members are the enemy, you are the problem. Not you personally, but the way you've set things up or a lack of information that you've given or something that's confusing. And when we feel attacked by our customers, when we feel our members are the enemy, it's because it reflects something that we know we're not doing as well as we could. It's that we have a higher expectation that we're not quite living up to yet. And so we want to really, we want to be constantly aware of that so that we can be constantly improving things. 'Cause not everything is perfect. I don't run a perfect community. We're still in process. I told you onboarding 5. and it's probably more like onboarding 10.0, I just have no idea how many actual iterations there have been. It's all a process. So every time you start feeling attacked, every time you start feeling your boundaries slip, every time you start feeling like shouldn't people just understand this, the answer is no and I can do something different. And so every time that that happens there's an opportunity to make an improvement. I actually asked our community team for a lot of advice on this class because they're way better and way more experienced community managers than I am. I'm a good community visionary, not so much a great community manager. My people are phenomenal community managers and Kristen Runvik is one of them. She says, "All communication expresses a need. "As a community manager or member support, "you need to be able to connect with members and hear "what they're saying and not just how they're saying it. "This is especially helpful in sensitive situations "whether inside the community or one on one." So when someone is making a complaint, often what we hear is complaint, complaint, complaint, red light, blaring alarm, and that makes us feel attacked, like I just said. But really what they're expressing is 99% of the time absolutely valid, and there's something we can do about it. Or we can acknowledge that that is true and it's not a priority for us. And so that then, that complaint, that problem might mean, might signify that that member is not a great fit for your community. And that's okay too. They don't have to be, you can let them go. So, as I said, it's not that members are the enemy, it's that a lack of direction and information is the enemy. And everything that we can do to increase the level of direction and information that members can engage with, the less complaints you have, the less boundary issues you have, the less confusion there is. And that helps take the workload off of you as a community manager. There's so much community management that you can front load into your community so you don't have to do the work. Shannon Paris who is our community advocate, she's in charge of our community team, cited this quote from Carl Sagan. He said, "There are naive questions, tedious questions, "ill-phrased questions, questions put "after inadequate self-criticism. "But every question is a cry to understand the world. "There is no such thing as a dumb question." So on another level, you know, you wanna think about what does a question from a member actually signify? Maybe it is ridiculous that they don't know how to change their profile picture because apparently they've never used Facebook before and it's exactly the same on your platform as it is on Facebook. Doesn't make it a dumb question, right? It means there's an opportunity to, it's their way of expressing a need, it's their way of asking for help, and it's probably not about the profile picture. It's probably about feeling overwhelmed in some other way. And I would say that the vast majority of the questions that we get about how to do this or how to do that at CoCommercial are really a much deeper issue of feeling overwhelmed, feeling out of place, feeling like they don't belong. And so our member experience specialists really focus on taking those questions and using them as an opportunity to create, to acknowledge that overwhelm. Because no matter how hard we work, people are gonna still feel overwhelmed. And to also create that sense of belonging. So I'm not going to say that that process is easy, that it doesn't take emotional intelligence and maturity. I'm also not gonna say it's for everybody. I would be a terrible active community manager because I'm not good at divorcing, I'm sure I could with practice, but I'm not good at divorcing the complaint from a real need. I'm not good at taking the seemingly dumb question and looking at what's underneath the surface in the moment. I'm good when I've got some distance from it, but not in the moment. So I've hired people to do that for me. That may be something you want to consider along the way. If this is like, you're like yes, community is the way I wanna go. I love this. I love everything about this, but I am not the right person to be in there talking to people one-on-one like that, guiding them, holding hands. I'm not a hand-holder. There are other options. There are phenomenal people out there who specialize in this, who love this. And the good news is that, especially online community has been around for long enough now that there really are experienced community managers who you can hire to help you, and it is absolutely worth every single penny you spend on it. It's also a case where you can, and I talked about this earlier, deputize existing members. So maybe you don't want existing members handling complaints, but you can, you know, tap some people on the shoulder and say hey, I really appreciate the leadership that you share here, and I was hoping to make you an ambassador for our community or a moderator of our community or whatever fancy title you want to use. We like to call people member leaders, right? Because you can be both a member and a leader in our community, and we wanna help all of our members become better leaders. So that's another way that you can kind of approach this. It's okay if everything that I just said is just like no, I can't, I don't do dumb questions. (laughs) Or no, I don't do customer complaints. I get it. I totally understand. There are other ways that you can go about that. So just things to think about. More things to think about. I want you to really consider your philosophy, your approach, your perspective on these five things. First off, responding to members' concerns or questions. What's your philosophy going to be for that? How do you handle that? Do you let other members do it? Do you do it? When do you jump in? When do you not jump in? I'm not gonna give you answers to these questions. This is something you need to think about. Again, there's space in your workbook where you can start brainstorming the answers to these questions. What's your philosophy going to be for helping members' posts receive more engagement? Maybe you don't do anything with that. That's okay. Or maybe, as I was talking about with I yell it, you really coach members. Hey, that post that you put up, man, that is a tough problem. I'd love to help you get better responses from the community. Here's how I would rephrase it. Try that. Post it again. And there's a whole wide spectrum of things in the middle that you could do too, right? What's your philosophy going to be for sharing your own advice or experience? When are you gonna chime in with your expertise? When are you gonna chime in with things that have worked for you? When are you not going to chime in? These also, the answers to these questions also don't have to be hard and fast. You can experiment with them. Your approach, your philosophy is going to evolve over time, but I want you to start considering it now. The more you can start considering it now, the less scary starting or ramping up your community is going to be. What's your philosophy going to be for self-promotion? I don't really know any kind of community that doesn't deal with self-promotion in one way or another. You know, it might be a parents' community, but one of those parents is a yoga teacher and really wants the community to come to their yoga class, right? It doesn't matter. It's not just a business community thing, there's self-promotion in almost every kind of community. How are you gonna handle it? What's your policy going to be for it? We're gonna get to policies in a little bit, but I want you to just think about what you're approach is. How do your values as a community, how does your definition of citizenship for your community affect how you approach self-promotion? And then deleting inappropriate posts or comments. I've always had a philosophy of if a comment or post is truly inappropriate, if it's mean-spirited, it it's attacking, I delete that and I do not think a second about it. Get rid of that crap. It does not belong in my community. Doesn't belong on my Facebook page, doesn't belong on my blog, doesn't belong anywhere that I control and have a delete button for. That's my philosophy. It doesn't have to be your philosophy, I highly recommend it though. (laughs) So I will give you some advice on that one, I guess. All right, as I said, you wanna keep your vision, values, and purpose in mind all the time. Any time you are faced with a member support concern, a member support issue, always go back to your vision, values, and purpose. Vision, values, and purpose make everything easier to figure out. They really can guide your decision-making. We literally talk about this in slack all the time on my team. Someone will bring an issue, how would you handle this? Hey, Ter, can you check this out? Hey, Shannon, can you figure this out? And Shannon will say, oh, yeah, that totally fits with our value of experimentation. Here's how you're gonna handle that. Or, yeah, it's just we literally have conversations about this. It is not, our values document is not something that sits along the side and no one ever looks at, it's something we're engaging with on a daily basis as we support our members, and I would encourage you to do the exact same thing.
When you have a small business, you’re always on the lookout for your next customer. They might pop up at a networking event, they could subscribe to your email list, they might fill out the contact form on your website.
Too often, knowing where your next customer is going to come from seems unpredictable at best and, at worst, like a huge gamble.
Luckily, there’s a way to ensure you always know where your next customer is coming from—and that your existing customers purchase from you more often—and that’s by building a community.
All sorts of businesses can benefit from making community-building part of their growth strategy and many can benefit from making it part of their business model, too. Whether it’s an informal community (like an email list or Instagram hashtag), a brand-driven community (like a free Facebook group that brings together people in love with the same brand and values), or a dedicated community (like a local group, interest-based social network, or a support group, your business can cultivate deeper connections with existing and potential customers.
Of course, an engaged community doesn’t just happen. If you want to reap the benefits of community-building for your business, you need a plan.
In Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business, Tara Gentile, the founder of the small business support & social network CoCommercial, will share the must-dos, nice-to-haves, and compelling extras you need to make the most of the community you build around your business. By the end of this class, you’ll have a plan for making community-building an integral part of your marketing strategy—and always knowing where your next customer will come from.
Tara will cover:
- Simple ways to generate community without a group or forum
- Why and how to level up into a dedicated space for your business’s community
- How to create a clear reason Why for joining or participating in your community
- The systems and procedures you’ll need to manage the workload
- How to avoid community management burnout
- How to plan to earn more through your community—whether that’s through charging for membership, selling add-on offers, or generating more word of mouth marketing
Stop waiting for your next customer to come to you and start building a community that brings new business your way every day.