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HigherLogic and Socious

Online Community Blog

4 Things To Do Before Starting a Blog Program in Your Customer Community

Posted by Katie Bapple on Thu, Dec 08, 2016 @ 08:30 AM

4 decisions to make that will set your customer blogging program up for success.

You did all the work. When you started your customer community, you created the content, wrote the blogs, and encouraged your customers and prospective customers to join. It was all on you.

And to some extent, the pressure will always be on you and your business.

You need to moderate discussion forums and ensure that there’s a constant flow of information and engagement opportunities. But online communities are also built to encourage customer participation and customer-created content that informs and engages.

By using your community’s tools to encourage customers to create their own content, you take some of the pressure off of your business while still providing the information customers need.

One of the simplest and most powerful tools for customer-created content are blogs. They’re a great medium for compelling and valuable online community content. Blogs can even be organized and categorized by topic, author or type, providing a simple way for your members find the information they are looking for through a positive user experience.

How to Set Up Customer-Created Blogs in Your Online Community

The key to blogging success is not only the value of the content, but the expectation of its continued relevancy and consistent updates with fresh information. Ideally, new blog articles should be posted to each blog within your community at a minimum of once per week. Scaling this objective amongst the other community tasks you may be juggling can be challenging.

It’s also important to remember that the very nature of online communities is highly collaborative. User-generated content should be the rule, not the exception. That makes creating a user-centric blogging program a natural solution for scaling blog content needs while facilitating community member expectations.

Formal blog programs are an underutilized yet excellent solution for making people in your community an extension of your content team.

But starting a blog program takes more than just asking people to write. First, you need to create some ground rules and supporting materials. To get started, we’ve outlined four prerequisites to set you on the right path.

4 Decisions to Make Before Launching a Customer Blog Initiative

Decision #1) What People Are Allowed to Write About

Community policies should cover what users are and are not allowed to post. Consider the issues below:

  • Is self-promotion allowed?
  • Do the posts have to maintain relevance to a specific industry or set of topics?
  • What happens when inappropriate or contentious content is posted? (Don’t worry, this is rare.)

There is an article with more in-depth guidance on how to create posting policies here. For blogs in particular, consider additional parameters that will bolster quality assurance and content value, such as recommended article lengths and suggested content mediums.

When guidelines are in place, you not only help ensure the success of the blogger, but also create a greater level of perceived value by other community members because each article met your quality standards.

Decision #2) How Bloggers Will Be Set Up in Your Online Community Software

The best online community software will give you multiple permissions options when you set up new bloggers. Answer the following questions to determine how bloggers should be set up in your online community:

  • Will members be enabled to post in site, group, or user level blogs?
  • Will writers be granted their own blog where they are the sole author, or will they contribute articles to an existing blog with multiple supporting authors?
  • Will blog articles need to be approved before being published, or are writers trusted to publish their own articles (in other words, what are their security rights in relation to the blog)?

Familiarize yourself with the different settings your customer community software provides and make a judgment call on how new bloggers will be setup. Depending on the desired visibility of the articles, the quality of the content, and your familiarity with the new blog author, you may also consider establishing the type of blog and publishing rights on a case-by-case basis.

Socious Customers: If you’re interested in detailed information on MemberCloud’s blog module and how you can set up new customer or member bloggers, visit the Support Center's blog overview.

Decision #3) How New Bloggers Will Learn the Proper Steps for Submitting Articles

If posting a new article is a frustrating, cumbersome process, new bloggers will get disenchanted fast. Make the posting process feel as easy and simple as possible to ensure users know how to use the tools and feel comfortable with the posting process from the start.

Create a training plan, such as an onboarding guide or video walkthrough, to help your new bloggers get accustomed to the process and the tools they’ll be using. Watch a colleague follow the training guide before sharing with new bloggers to ensure the instructions are thorough and intuitive.

If members are still having trouble or you are onboarding a large number of new bloggers at once, set up a screen sharing session to walk through the process together, accepting questions as you go. Record the session, house it in a file library and refer future bloggers to the resource.

Decision #4) How New Blog Authors Will Be Identified, Scouted and Sourced

It’s likely that you don’t know a large majority of the people in your community personally. Even if you do, you probably don’t know their writing aptitude and inclination, so how do you go about finding the right people for the role?

There are several ways to do this, including:

  • Scouting discussion forums to identify expert, well-written answers
  • Establishing a vetted application process
  • Creating a call for volunteers via an email blast
  • Directly reaching out to known thought leaders

You can use one of these methods as your primary means of sourcing, but don’t limit yourself. To ensure that your blog program grows over time you can make sure of all these methods at different times or blend them into one overarching sourcing strategy.

Socious Customers: If you’re interested in establishing a vetted application process, use the survey tool. In the tool you can create an application and showcase the opportunity on a primary landing page.

Customer Blogging in Online Communities Takeaway

These four prerequisite decisions will help set your business up for success. Make these decisions based on your online community software’s abilities and prepare for a long-term customer blogging program that provides value to your company and its community members.

Just be aware that developing a blogging program isn’t quick and easy. It takes time, dedication and persistence to identify the right people and keep them engaged as active community bloggers. However, the inherent value of a blog program to both the community’s users and your ability to scale content, makes the endeavor truly worthwhile.

Free eBook: The Online Community Launch Guide

Tags: Online Community Software, Customer Communities, Customer Engagement, Content Strategy

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