As hosts of Common Room’s Uncommon community, we hear it all the time. Our community members’ organizations support the idea of community, but their company leaders need help understanding community and its impact. How much does investing in community efforts, and a community team, actually help the business? How should a company prioritize community investment when they look at their finite amount of resources and their seemingly infinite number of priorities?
Intrinsically, community managers want to scale their communities’ impact to show just how valuable their communities are. And community leaders - Heads of Community, Directors of Community, VPs of Community - want to empower the business across all organizational functions.
Building internal advocacy and increasing cross-functional understanding of the power of community, all the way up to the C-suite, is a vital part of their role. Working in tandem, these two community roles can achieve both of their missions: Scaling their community and empowering the business, all supported by intelligent insights and data.
When we interviewed Evan Hamilton (formerly Director of Community and Customer Experience at Reddit and now Director of Community at HubSpot), he talked about what empathy means to him, especially when it comes to building internal advocacy. To Evan, empathy, in an organizational context, revolves around understanding the needs of his stakeholders in order to position the community’s value as it relates to the value they are tasked with bringing to the organization in their specific role and function.
There are various ways to exercise this empathy and bring people along with you - Joshua Zerkel, Head of Global Engagement Marketing at Asana, does this through internal roadshows. His take: Demonstrate how community work aligns to stakeholder goals and results in function-specific outcomes, and you’ll earn a forever-ally for continued investment in community.
Historically, the question community managers and leaders have been asking has been a little unfinished. We’ve asked, “How do I prove the value of my community?” when instead we should add a few more qualifying words: “How do I prove the value of my community as it relates to different stakeholders in my organization?”
Every stakeholder sees the business through a function-specific lens. It’s when you can speak the language of those individual stakeholders with their individual missions - when you can demonstrate not just how community matters, but how community matters to them - that you can bring your entire organization closer to your community and enable the user-led flywheels that strengthen your company across every function and empower your business.
Bringing your entire organization closer to your community benefits everyone. Literally everyone. It helps your internal teams find and amplify champions, build user-centric roadmaps, nurture new voices, identify where customers and community members need help, quickly understand the overall health of their community corpus, and generally ship products and experiences more people love, more quickly.
Most importantly, it helps your community members access the information they need to succeed, feel valued in the process, and help shape the future of the product they use, and it gives them useful insights to share with their own networks.
So how do you speak the language of an organization’s core functions? How does community matter to them and help them achieve their specific goals? Community teams are like an organization’s quarterback (we talk more about that here and Holly Firestone, VP of Community at Venafi, created this great graphic about how community serves as the center of excellence for achieving an organization's ROI goals).
Community teams can and should be involved in nearly every play because their constituents, external community members and customers, are their organization’s reason for existence. We’ll highlight a few of a community team’s closest cross-functional collaborators and stakeholders, why community matters to them, and how our customers use Common Room to speak their stakeholders’ language and help drive impact across each organizational function.
Alright! Let’s do this.
Marketing teams want to increase awareness and distribution of their products and services through clear messaging, relationship building, word of mouth, and NPS (soon to be CPS, Community Promoter Scores). The more people who know about their products and understand the value they offer, the happier marketing teams are.
Why does community matter to marketing? Because marketing teams love to find and elevate product champions who spread awareness and enthusiasm for products and services across their own interconnected networks, amplify new and emerging voices who will lead the next generation of product users, deliver impactful and memorable events that generate revisitable and educational content for quarters-long campaigns, and turn the crank of those ever-important user-led flywheels.
Community efforts empower all of these goals, and a robust intelligent community growth platform provides the mechanisms for building, executing, and reporting on a community’s positive effect on a marketing team’s mission.
With Common Room, marketing teams achieve this today using features like auto-generated Influencer and Contributor member tags, notifications, segments, automations, and content attached filters that surface every member creating content about their products and services across the 20+ community sources where those members interact. Customers like Confluent have used Common Room to identify and invite new and emerging community voices to speak at community events and conferences, and Imply used Common Room to help seed and grow more than 300 community events last year.
Marketing teams can also understand the complete user journey—by connecting their data warehouses and CRM tools like Snowflake and Salesforce, they can better understand the relationship between community membership, product usage, and account size. Spoiler alert: Users who are community members are aggregately happier and longer-lasting customers.
Product and engineering teams want to scope, design, and build products users love based on user-centric roadmaps.
Why does community matter to product and engineering teams? Because community members are clearly invested in what the product and engineering teams create. Community members are highly likely to be in one of two groups: one group that’s evaluating your product, asking questions about features that are important to their goals, and getting a feel for what it’s like to interact with your team(s), and another group that consists of current and active product users who are highly likely to hold nuanced, informed opinions about what works best, which features would be most helpful to be built next, and where bugs live.
Nurturing and deepening community relationships enables internal product and engineering teams to more quickly deliver products and features that users - both present and future - love. Being close to the community enables quick and iterative user research sessions, roadmap validation, and bug triaging.
With Common Room, product and engineering teams are able to quickly triage user issues through intelligent, real-time auto-categorization of topics like product complaints, bugs/issues, and feature requests. They can also get immediate insights into what’s trending across product users through real-time sentiment analysis, powerful filters for things like programming language, location, and role, and whether or not posts have been replied to. Product and engineering teams can set up team alerts so that anytime someone posts, say, a bug/issue or a product complaint, the right internal teams will be notified immediately via Slack and they can start the resolution process right away. In short, community members know they are being heard by the people building products for them.
For product and engineering teams, the ability to be closer to the community counts for far more than retroactive purposes—it offers a way for community members to proactively shape the product by getting involved in roadmap conversations earlier. Product and engineering teams use Common Room’s segments to organize, track, and manage cohorts of community members, like beta tester groups and product user groups across different stages and depth of product usage, for feedback on early stage product additions, user research sessions, product ideation sessions, and roadmap validation sessions.
Revenue, growth, and sales teams want to uncover and identify organizations who would get value from their products and services. More than that, they want to understand both who the builders and who the buyers are in those organizations, so they can start conversations with the right level of context for the right people.
Why does community matter to revenue, growth, and sales teams? Because those teams want to understand how organizations and the member roles within them are interacting in their community - what they’re asking, how they’ve been connected with in the past, how many members belong to an organization and in what capacity - and they want to uncover any macro trends across their leads and target accounts so they can have more informed, meaningful, relevant conversations.
Too often, revenue, growth, and sales can be seen as antagonistic to community, but they shouldn’t be. When done in service of and in step with the community, revenue and growth is an indicator that the organization is building the right thing for and informed by its community. Increasing revenue and growth should be seen as an indicator that users find *value* in an organization’s products and services, and that they feel heard when they need support or have feedback about those products and services.
Increasing revenue and sales numbers, especially when anchored to a happy, healthy, growing community, also speaks a language (a revenue, bottom-line language) that resonates with stakeholders across the organization and helps community teams secure continued investment in their community members and programs.
Revenue and growth teams use Common Room to quickly see which organizations have joined the community, who works in those organizations and what their roles are, who the first person was to join from that organization (we call that special, singular person the organization’s Pioneer - they’re often a strong first internal connection and are integral to evangelizing and growing product usage across projects, teams, and functions), who an organization’s most active community member is, which organizations are growing the fastest in terms of employees who are joining the community, and all of the context around an organization’s sentiment and activity within the community.
Revenue and growth teams can set up and customize alerts and notifications to stay on top of the organizations joining their community and when they have conversations with individual community members that belong to that organization, they can leave team notes to make it easy to capture important details and collaborate with community, marketing, and other partner teams.
Finally, we’ve seen that community both contributes to new business and accelerates business outcomes. One of our customers found that 72% of deals that began in community closed within 90 days. For sales and marketing-led deals - those where the member did not join the community first - only 42% of deals closed within 90 days. That fact is music to revenue and growth teams. There’s a number of convincing stats to prove community ROI - read more about them in this post.
Success teams, well, it’s in the name. They want to quickly understand what will make their customers most successful with their product—they want to know what their customers’ goals are and how their product can help them get there. They want to understand where customers get stuck, what they’re trying to solve using their product, where they need more guidance or education, and what they’re loving about the product and why.
Why does community matter to success teams? Because success teams make it their mission to empower every customer with the tools they need to succeed, and answering one customer’s question in the community helps countless other folks who may have the same question or challenge but hadn’t asked it or solved it yet.
With Common Room, success teams can quickly get context into a customer’s experience through their interactions across 20+ community integrations, including inSided and Intercom. Across all of their connected community integrations, they can easily identify any member who asked a product question, posted a product complaint, or made a feature request using Common Room’s intelligent auto-category filters. They can also quickly see if a member has been replied to, and then can quickly pull in other teams by mentioning them in team notes.
Success teams can keep a pulse on customer sentiment using our powerful sentiment analysis, create segments of member cohorts who have requested certain features or who need a similar kind of guidance, and they can trace the trajectory of their customers’ product usage and conversions, tied to their community experience, by connecting their data warehouses and CRM tools like Snowflake and Salesforce.
Like community, support is a team sport. Support teams want to make sure that community members and product users have the answers they need to use the product as they intended to.
Why does community matter to support teams? Because support teams want to quickly understand the severity of a problem, respond as fast as possible, resolve issues, and do it all in a way that leads to satisfied customers and positive sentiment.
Support teams use Common Room to stay on top of account support needs, bugs/issues, and product complaints using Categories filters. They can quickly see which conversations are trending, who’s participating in them, what the general sentiment is, and whether or not issues have been replied to and resolved.
They can quickly pull other team members into conversations using team notes, and they can see which of their support team members are most active and familiar with specific members and accounts. Finally, support teams can set up team alerts and notifications to help them organize, manage, and track issues to resolution.
Understanding the goals of each partner and stakeholder team helps community leaders speak their language, empathize with what they’re trying to achieve, demonstrate the importance of the community to the outcomes they’re looking to deliver, and build internal advocacy for deeper community investment.
As a community leader, not only do you serve as an organizational quarterback, connecting internal teams and external members, you can also empower your partner and stakeholder teams with direct insights into the most relevant aspects of community activity related to their work. You can enable them to get real-time alerts, notifications, and reports, insights into trending topics, questions, and issues, and details and context around impactful member contributions, organizational relationships, and product usage.
Approaching each of your partner and stakeholder teams from the point-of-view that takes their everyday goals into account helps elevate the work of your community team, the community function as a whole and, most importantly, the outcomes and experiences of your community itself.
Together, we all rise.
You can get started with Common Room for free today. Want to read the ins and out first? Peruse our user guide and check out our roadmap plan. To connect with 1000+ community builders, join our Uncommon community Slack, subscribe to our newsletter, or come to our free events. Want to see how community leaders have proven their community ROI using Common Room? Read this fun post.
Special thanks to community leader and Uncommon community member Rosie Sherry for her feedback in making this post more accessible and more useful for readers, and for recommending the great visual created by Holly Firestone.