By Kirsti Buick, Pam Magwaza, and Noele Flowers
As a community builder, you’ve likely poured blood, sweat, and (not even proverbial) tears into your community to create a rich, vibrant space full of knowledge-sharing and valuable conversations between your members.
If you’ve succeeded in that, you’re awesome, and you deserve all the high fives for all the value you’ve helped create and facilitate.
But here’s the rub. People outside your community — from your other customers to your target audience to your colleagues — may never see all of that value. Plus, depending on your community platform, it’s pretty likely that all that knowledge-sharing goodness will get lost over time.
That is, unless you can give it a permanent home.
One of the biggest opportunities for community builders to translate high-quality engagement into tangible business impact is to do just that — adapt the best conversations in your community into formal content pieces that have a permanent home and ongoing impact.
Of course, it’s not quite as simple as dumping conversation threads online (but you knew that). More often than not, one of the simplest ways to give your user-generated content (UGC) a new lease on life is through written content. Unlike multimedia content, all written content requires is a fair command of your language, a good idea, and somewhere to publish.
Showcasing the value created within your community in a more public, permanent space is a serious perk — but it’s not the only one. Here are a few more ways having written content can benefit your community in the long run.
If one of your community metrics is to increase brand awareness, written content can help.
Increasingly, customers are researching their pain points and finding solutions online. Rather than waiting for companies to come to them, they seek out content — and ultimately, brands or communities — that can help.
Written content can consistently show potential members (or, if you run a Community of Product, potential customers) that your community has the answers they need. And community builders have a unique advantage over other content creators when it comes to identifying audience pain points: They're getting a window into exactly what their members (and by extension, potential members) care about every day. Here’s an in-depth guide to community-sourced content.
Having a blog can also help your website rank higher on search engines — more so if you prioritize SEO (search engine optimization, the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results).
Want to become the trusted source that inspires innovation and ideas, and even affects change in your industry? That’s what it means to be a thought leader. And thought leadership is not hard to achieve when you’re regularly producing quality content (more on that below).
A 2019 Edelman-LinkedIn B2B Thought Leadership Impact Study found that thought leadership content not only influences the majority of buyers (this one's for you product community folks!), but it also can help brands win, retain, and even grow their businesses.
In addition to that, 55% of decision-makers use thought leadership to evaluate potential partners and vendors. So publishing written content for your community can become a win for your whole company — and that's some excellent ROI to report on at your next community meeting.
Written content can help you build a stronger relationship with your members and connect with industry leaders.
Reaching out to experts from within your community — and non-members you’d love to have sign up — to contribute to your content will lead to their own career advancement and an increase in your community's credibility.
At The Community Club, we do this through our Creator Guild program. A selected group of community pros writes content based on their expertise, and we publish their pieces on our blog (and pay them for their work, of course).
While great community content can serve as a marketing tool, marketing should not be the ultimate goal of the content.
In other words: great community content is not marketing content.
For example, if your community is tied to a product, your company may already have a blog that shares news on feature releases, recent acquisitions or hires, and other company updates. While some of that content may provide value to your members (for example, a new feature they might find useful if yours is a customer community), your community does not exist to be ‘marketed’ to — in other words, your community is not purely another audience for marketing content.
Any community content should, above all else, provide something of value to your members.
In Ann Handley's Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Creating Ridiculously Good Content, she lays out a formula for quality content. While this wasn’t necessarily written within a community content lens, the equation is perfectly translatable to writing for communities.
Utility x Inspiration x Empathy = Quality Content
A closer look at these three factors:
While the above is incredibly useful when it comes to devising great content for your community, perhaps the most important part of the equation is the multiplication signs. In other words, when utility, inspiration, and empathy are all present in the equation, they make each other exponentially greater. But what happens when one is missing — when something is multiplied by zero?
Anne writes: "The multiplication is important because if the value of any one of these things (Utility, Inspiration, or Empathy) is zero, then the sum of your content is a big, fat zero too."
An online publishing space can be an incredibly useful community tool. A blog can serve as a hub for news and resources, and it’s a great way to showcase domain expertise (especially if your community is a Community of Practice).
Another perk: it can give you a space to highlight your members — there’s something pretty special about seeing your name in (proverbial) print.
Including members’ voices in a public space is a great way to show how much you appreciate their expertise. As an added benefit, they’ll likely share the feature with their wider network, too. As such, which we touched on above, your blog can function as a gateway into your community for new members.
Fun fact: a study by HubSpot found that companies with a blog saw 55% more website visitors than companies that didn’t.
Before The Community Club evolved into the ecosystem it is today, it started with a newsletter called ‘Community Chat’. Founded by Mac Reddin, Community Chat was initially sent to four subscribers (one of whom was Mac himself).
Mac didn’t necessarily start the newsletter with the ultimate goal of forming a community — but that’s exactly what happened. All the early editions contained some interesting tweets, events, job posts, and a few blog posts about community.
Within the space of a few months, the subscribers grew from single to triple digits, and Mac had the makings of a group he could call together into a community space. One that would eventually become The Community Club, now a thriving community of thousands.
This illustrates just newsletters can be a powerful community-building tool, particularly when it comes to new member acquisition.
In a nutshell, newsletters serve as a low-lift entry point into your community ecosystem. Signing up for a newsletter means signing up for some of the value your community can provide, without subscribers having to give over more than some inbox real estate. Make whatever lands in their inbox valuable enough, and you can draw them into your community space.
While starting a newsletter may seem like a daunting prospect, it doesn’t have to be. Thanks to the plethora of easy-to-use tools available, newsletters are far lighter lifts than starting a blog. And, if resources are thin on the ground, they don’t even necessarily require exclusive content — Mac’s approach, that of using the newsletter to highlight and link out to other useful blogs or resources, is a viable option (provided you’re not sharing more than a brief blurb about the original work, and you’re linking out to the source, of course).
Other great newsletter inclusions could be a brief round-up of the recent goings-on in your community, info about upcoming events and initiatives, and news and achievements from other members of your community.
While many will consider social media content outside the realm of ‘community’ we’d be remiss not to include it here. Social media is useful for amplifying your content — and, as a result, an important member acquisition tool, too.
Whether you opt for written content that will live on a blog, in a newsletter, or even creating multimedia, sharing that content on your platforms is a great way to showcase the kind of value you offer your members. (So be sure to include a CTA to sign up to your community within all your content pieces!)
In addition, social media platforms could also be used as a publishing tool in and of themselves. LinkedIn, for example, has a free, easy-to-use blogging tool, while Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok can house multimedia content.
A word of caution when it comes to creating new social accounts, however: they take work to maintain. Sporadic posting won’t help you achieve the desired results. Does your company already have well-managed social accounts that you could leverage to share your community content? The simplest solution may be to use those.
If you’re creating new social platforms, don’t fall into the trap of wanting to be visible on every single platform. Yes, ‘everyone’ is on TikTok — but is it a platform your ideal members actually frequent?
Look to your member personas and your content strategy to help you define which platforms are and which aren’t worth your time and energy. If that means using one exclusively, so be it. Rather leverage one platform well, than several poorly.
Want to dive deeper into community content? Then head over to Building Community Content Calendars, a self-paced course by C School — there’s so much more to learn! This course will cover creating content calendars, content cadences, how to measure the impact of community content, and so much more. Head over here to start the course.
Our favorite strategies to help you enhance the effectiveness of your engagement plays.
Our favorite strategies to help you enhance the effectiveness of your engagement plays.