Building a Customer Community takes time, money, and effort, all for one purpose: customer engagement. And it doesn’t matter which platform you select — Jive, Lithium, or (my personal favorite), Salesforce Community Cloud — the “if you build it, they will come” mindset of old doesn’t apply to a Customer Community, and instant engagement is not a given.

Here are 6 key principles we recommend to all of our customers during the design period:

What’s the Point: You need to understand your customer’s purpose in order to build a community that they will find worth using. Consider why your customers would want a community, such as to find support or product information. Remember that, unlike an internal portal for your company, participation in a customer community is entirely voluntary, and they need a reason to want to go there.

Your Purpose: Consider your purpose for building a Customer Community as secondary to your customer’s purpose. Is it to build product loyalty? Is it to lower the cost of support services? Then consider how you can solve those problems while serving the purpose of your customer.

Ownership: Users that feel that they own a community are much more likely to engage in it. A great way to create this sense of ownership is to allow users to answer questions in a forum setting or to leave honest reviews of products or services. While you can moderate the conversation at a certain level, allowing your customers to guide the discussion will be significantly valuable for you in the long run.

Balance: A recurring issue we find in all sorts of communities is the balance between browsers and searchers. A browser may not know what they’re looking for, but wants to find information they will most-likely find interesting. Searchers will look for a specific piece of information, and a poor search experience may frustrate them to the point they abandon your community. Depending on the amount of content and the size of the community, we often recommend utilizing an artificial intelligence (AI) solution such as Coveo to ensure relevant data is always easily accessible.

Incentivize: The greatest part of a Customer Community is that it makes it easy to find your champions, and reward them. You can make this reward extremely personal, thanks to data available through the Customer Community. The greater the value of the reward, the more likely your champions will be to come forward — just remember, value doesn’t always equate to dollars.

Adjust: Use your analytics to measure the success or failure of any content and to really understand what your customers are looking for and using. Keep information up to date and depreciate old content in an open archive. And listen to what your customers are saying. You can expect about 75 percent of your feedback to be negative right out of the gate. Accept this as a blessing in disguise, because it means your community is telling you directly what you need to know to make the community better.

These are just a few considerations we’ve found helpful for building a new community or migrating an existing one to a new platform. At Paladin, we pride ourselves on providing customized plans for all of our customers, so there may be specific suggestions we make depending on your needs. Contact us today to learn more about how we can build the perfect Customer Community for your organization.