When we think about driving product adoption, we often default to things we can change about the product. Perhaps we improve the onboarding flow, or we add tooltips to teach users how to use new features. However, driving product adoption can be influenced by factors outside of the product as well, including things like customer support, marketing campaigns, and word-of-mouth. In fact, according to a recent report by Nielsen, 88 percent of consumers trust word-of-mouth recommendations over other forms of advertising.
Driving word-of-mouth takes concerted effort, but that’s where building communities comes in. Getting users to interact with each other, build relationships, and learn from each other is at the core of building a product community and it’s these behaviors that drive strong word-of-mouth. As you cultivate your community, the organic engagement between potential and existing users of your product becomes an amazing channel to drive product adoption.
Product communities are communities of similar people who share common interests and challenges related to a product offering. Product communities are typically run by a company that offers a given product and serve as a way to capture new customers, as well as provide support to existing customers. These are sometimes limited to existing customers, while others include potential new users as well.
Communities are a great channel for driving product adoption because they can be used to drive word-of-mouth throughout the entire product adoption lifecycle. Early on, they can help you find new potential users to adopt your product. Later on, they can help existing users expand their usage of your product.
The following represent some of the additional benefits associated with product communities.
Early on in the adoption lifecycle, users are still trying to figure out if they even need your product. They might not fully understand the problem you’re trying to solve and are simply looking to learn from their peers. Communities provide a lot of value to users like this because they bring together users who are at different stages of product adoption.
Users who are further along can educate users who are just getting started about the problem space and why your product is solving an important problem. When the early users finally mature and are ready to make a buying decision, your company will be top of mind as a trustworthy brand that they have interacted with for a period of time already.
Just like how contact sales forms or free trials generate leads for your sales team to go after, communities can capture potential leads as well. Your community can be a channel you use to push people towards signing up for webinars, networking events, or signing up for your self-serve product.
Communities can also serve as scalable support channels to encourage product adoption. For example, during my prior roles working as a product manager for open source database companies, we would run Slack communities where users could ask for help. We would have team members monitor the Slack channels, but also rely on power users to help out as well!
Giving users an easy way to get the help they need while they are using your product can work wonders for driving product adoption.
As users adopt your product, they become more and more advanced users. Within the community, they can learn from other power users as they become power users themselves. They can also interact with your team members to better understand the new functionality that you’re shipping. Communities provide a great environment to nurture users as they adopt your product for more and more use cases.
A big challenge users face when adopting a new product is that they aren’t sure what the “right” way to use it is. They are still trying to learn best practices, as well as figure out how the new product fits into their daily workflow. That’s where communities can be powerful!
Happy customers can share use cases and success stories and support others in their journey towards adopting your product. Product adoption isn’t just about whether or not someone uses a feature in your product, it’s also about how deeply embedded the product is in an organization’s or user’s workflow.
Finally, we all know how important it is to collect product feedback in order to drive product adoption. It’s through feedback that you identify reasons why users fail to adopt. Perhaps users don’t know how to use your product early on in the product adoption lifecycle. Maybe users get stuck using your product for simple, less valuable use cases.
You can discover these barriers and more as you listen to what customers say about your product. Then, you can leverage the themes you identify to improve your product adoption.
Hopefully you’re convinced that communities can be a powerful strategy for businesses, whether it’s to find more new users or nurture existing ones to drive product adoption, but building a community isn’t right for every company. Some key questions you should ask yourself before embarking on the path to building a community include:
Answering the above questions will help you decide whether or not it’s worth it to build a community. Communities take time and effort to drive engagement and it’s important to know that it takes investment for it to work. If there are other methods of driving product adoption or company success that make sense over a community, you might want to hold off on jumping in.
Now that you’ve thought through whether or not a community is right for you, what are some important things to figure out before you get started? The questions who, what, when, where, why, and how are a great guiding framework!
Who should be included in your community? Only active users or potential users? How would you describe them? When thinking through your “who,” it’s important to understand what other communities are available to your users. In order to attract a vibrant, engaged community, you’ll want to offer something valuable and unique.
For example, let’s say that Airbnb wants to create a community for hosts and potential hosts. The hosts are obviously a pretty targeted “who,” but the potential hosts aren’t. Should you be targeting hotel managers or just smaller BnBs? Are you going international or focusing on small towns? Figuring out your unique niche will help you capture engaged users.
What value are you seeking to provide to your users? In this day and age, building a network and community simply isn’t enough. Are you facilitating real-world interactions? Are you providing some kind of educational content? Make sure that the value you provide matches the type of user that you’re targeting.
When is the right time for you to open up your community? Do you want to start with a closed community first? Do you have enough target users who will join your community? Do you have enough team members to engage with the community and drive initial engagement? It’s important to try your best to avoid having a quiet community!
What platform will you use to run your community? Do you want to build your own closed community just for paying customers, or do you want to use existing platforms like Slack and Discord?
Why are you building this community? How will you measure success? What are your goals? Make sure you know what your goals are when building out a community so that you make the right decisions around who you are targeting and what value you are providing.
How will you find the users to seed your community? How will you engage with them? How will you find more users to build up your community?
By answering these key questions, you’ll be able to figure out your community strategy, as well as how you want to go about building your community.
First, don’t start a community if you don’t have enough people to seed the community with. When you start a community, you want to seed it with some conversations and engaged users so that new users who join the community aren’t met with a wall of silence.
That said, you don’t need thousands of users to get started. You simply need to invest internal resources towards keeping the community active and have a good handful of engaged community members to start.
Second, don’t assume that communities will grow quickly and go viral. Although sometimes you might get lucky, communities are usually a lot of work. You need to find ways to market what you do, what value you provide and also find the right users to join your community. Think about creative ways to get your existing community members to invite others.
Third, communities aren’t built overnight. They take continued investment and time and your company truly needs to see the value in building communities in order for your community to have a chance at success. Although it might seem easy to simply spin up a Slack channel as a community, there’s a lot of work that goes into maintaining a community over time.
Ultimately, communities are powerful tools in the large toolkit available to you to drive product adoption. Your company might not be in the right time or place to build a community and that’s totally fine! Every company should have a unique community strategy that fits into their goals.
If your company is ready to start building out a community, make sure to map out your target audience, what value you provide, and how you’ll provide it.
Featured image source: IconScout
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