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Six Strategies for Crowdsourcing Ideas in Your Online Customer Community

Posted by Joshua Paul on Wed, Apr 02, 2014 @ 09:14 AM

How to Crowdsource Ideas in Your Online Customer Community

You work hard to add people, content, and tools to your private social community that provide value to your customers or members and keeps them coming back.

However, that is only one half of an effective social community strategy. The best customer community strategies balance benefits to community members with leveraging the community to the meet business-level goals of the host organization.

Better customer or member engagement is the catalyst behind a variety of strategies at your company or organization. These advantages include increasing advocacy in your market, lowering support costs, and maintaining stronger relationships with customers or members.

Using Social Community Software to Crowdsource Ideas (and Everything Else)

Increasingly, organizations are engaging their communities to discover, test, and validate what they need to do to achieve or maintain a strong product/market fit.

Whether you are an association where content, educational programs, and events are your bread and butter or a big company where products and services drive revenue, understanding which offerings, messaging, and delivery channel best solve your market’s problems is vital to your growth.

One of the greatest advantages of your community is the ability to communicate with your customers and members in a collaborative environment. Your organization can then use their opinions to align your products and service with your market and drive innovation. When your company or organization is developing ideas to help your target audience, you can efficiently get rich, ongoing feedback from your community.

Yet, even with an online customer or member community in place, crowdsourcing can be difficult to manage. Without the right tools and processes, you risk missing important market data and frustrating customers who are looking for evidence that their feedback was heard.

Customers might expect that their feedback to be acted on in a more concrete way, when you were really just testing the waters. It is important to clearly communicate your purpose and set expectation.  

What Can You Crowdsource in Your Private Social Community?

The possibilities are really endless, but here are just a few areas where crowdsourcing can be especially useful:

Events.

Ask your community what type of events they’d like to have. Allow them to vote on event locations, topics, and themes. You can even get their feedback on event structures or special speakers.

Conference Sessions.

Use crowdsourcing to find out what types of sessions your customers or members find the most helpful. What would make them more likely to attend the conference?

Product Enhancements.

Thanks to your community, you won’t have to guess how a product enhancement will be received—you can validate the idea within the confines of your secure customer community before releasing to the public.

Content Ideas.

Get feedback about the content you’ve already produced and ideas about what types of content to produce going forward. Find out the topics and formats that are most helpful to your community members.

Issues to Tackle.

Since you want your private social community to help solve your customers' or members' most urgent and pervasive problems, crowdsourcing can help you identify what those problems are. This is especially useful for nonprofit associations to identify the top issues that their membership wants them to advocate for or against.

New Programs or Products.

Get a strong idea of how new developments in your company or organization will be viewed by your larger audience by testing in your community members first.

How to Crowdsource Ideas in Your Social Community

Luckily, your private online customer or member community isn’t just useful for analyzing social data—it can also be useful for managing your crowdsourcing processes. Thanks to a few basicsocial community tools, you can create a sustainable system that allows you to receive and manage valuable information from your market.

Tool #1) Idea Tracking.

By aggregating the voice of your community, you can prioritize what’s most important to your members. Members can submit their ideas and vote other ideas up or down. You can use idea tracking for product enhancements, sessions at conferences, or product and program ideas.

Tool #2) Discussion Forums.

With a private secure place that has a built in target audience, you can get feedback and figure out areas where your customers or members would like to see improvement. For instance, post a discussion topic about your user interface and ask forum contributors to identify the weaknesses as they see them.

Tool #3) Surveys.

When you need to narrow down the feedback you’ve received in a more unstructured space, like a discussion forum, you can target certain segments of your community to survey. Use this approach to confirm what you heard in the discussion areas..

Tool #4) Polls.

To get quick and instant responses to single questions, you can embed polls in your online community for quick feedback. For instance, you might ask community members to weigh in on where they’d like to see next year’s conference—Vegas or Orlando?

Tool #5) Wikis.

Collaborate online with your customers within a controlled group to create better products or services. For instance, let’s say your product advisory board wants to co-create requirements with your organization. Wikis allow them to create a living document where they can build on each other’s ideas in a collaborative environment.

Tool #6) Documents/Videos.

Use videos to convey information in a different format to segments of your customers or members and ask for their help. Explain your concept for a new process and ask customers or members to leave feedback in the comments section.

How to Get Community Members to Participate

Despite how beneficial crowdsourcing can be to your company or association, it isn’t always easy to convince busy customers or members that they should participate in your requests for feedback in your social community.

Here are three strategies to help motivate participation:

Channel #1) Segmented Email

By targeting specific customer or member groups with personal emails, you can seek out the small group feedback you need and narrow down your target response rate. With a reminder in their inbox, your frazzled community members are more likely to take a moment of their time and participate in your survey or respond to your forum discussion invitation. Remember to be specific and clear about what it is you want them to do so they’ll be more likely to follow through.

Channel #2) Calls-to-Action (CTAs)

Create text or image-based CTAs that highlight opportunities to provide feedback. Then, place then in specific areas of your online customer or member community. Community members with access to those areas of the private community will be enticed into clicking through to learn more. “Ever wish you could redesign our user interface? Click here to get your chance” or “Want to have a say in our latest product development? Click here to give us your ideas.”

Channel #3) Public Social Networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc.)

Publicizing your crowdsourcing intentions on public social media networks both teases people to come back to your community and intrigues non-members to check out what’s going on in your community. Post something like, “Are you a XYZ company customer? We’d love to hear your feedback.” Don’t forget to include a link back to your customer community.

Social Community Crowdsourcing Takeaway

Taking advantage of the opportunities your private online customer or member community provides for soliciting feedback and crowdsourcing the will of your target audience is a great way to consistently get insight into your market. As valuable as crowdsourcing is, it can also be an overwhelming process to sustain, so utilize the available tools in your social community software platform to make the most of the information your customers or members have to offer. 

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Tags: Association Management, Social Business, Customer Communities, Product Management

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