Jun 14th, 2023

How Intel, Qualtrics, and SAP engage and expand user communities

“Community” can have many definitions, and its enormous value isn’t always as cut-and-dried as other business functions.

Unlike their colleagues in product, marketing, and sales, community professionals often have to go the extra mile to justify the work they do—and get it done with fewer resources.

But when you serve the needs of your members, the value of community is undeniable. Just ask Intel, Qualtrics, and SAP—globe-spanning enterprises responsible for more than $300 billion in business.

Common Room’s Head of Growth Josh Grose discussed that and much more with Reinaldo Parreiras, Global Head of Community at Intel, Michael Cooksey, Head of XM Community at Qualtrics, and Dani Weinstein, Director of Community Strategy at SAP, in our recent event: Community without compromise: strategies for keeping digital relationships personal at enterprise scale.

Keep reading for three of the top takeaways, including:

  • Why community isn’t just one place
  • How to evolve community over time
  • Why internal education is essential

1. Community is wherever your customers are

The term “community” can sometimes hold program leaders—and their companies—back. It often comes with preconceived notions about how a user community works and what it looks like.

For example, there’s a common belief that a community is a single space: a support forum, Slack group, or event series. But as the team at Intel knows, community encompasses a wide range of activities across digital touchpoints—both owned and unowned.

“Sometimes I feel that people are talking about community as a place, as one forum, as a location,” Reinaldo said. “To us, it's not about that place. It's about that group of people banded together and they can congregate in multiple platforms.”

Whether the primary gathering place is an owned support forum or a group of people chatting about your product on Discord, it’s important not to put your community in a box. Consider all the places your users congregate to understand (and share) the full reach and impact of your community.

What it means for community teams: Community isn't just your owned Slack channel or other single platforms—it's a collection of activities across surfaces. Whether owned or unowned, your job is to nurture your community members wherever they choose to spend their time. This view of community will better reflect the full needs of your members and the holistic impact of the work your team does.
“We can build relationships with [them] across multiple platforms,” Reinaldo said. “And that's when I think a solution like Common Room plays an important role for us.”

2. Communities grow best alongside their members

You may have lots of ideas about what your community will look like tomorrow—how it functions and which business levers it pulls—but you should start with what your community members need today.

This is easier said than done—especially if you’re new to the role—but there are lots of ways to build empathy with your members, such as:

  • Understanding the user experience by getting hands-on time with your product
  • Uncovering pain points via surveys and feedback sessions
  • Measuring impact by auditing past and current programs

The Qualtrics community was previously a peer-to-peer support network, but the company wanted to reimagine it as a destination for everyone, not just a place to get answers to product questions.

“Qualtrics is a survey company, so naturally we surveyed our community extensively to ask them, ‘What are your needs?’” Michael said.

Over time, the community went from solely support-centric to a place where people come together to build relationships with each other, learn from other community members, share success stories, and much more.

“We have expanded our groups and categories so that we can have custom-segmented, industry-specific conversations,” Michael said.
What it means for community teams: Your community shouldn’t stagnate, but it should always put its members first. Keep fulfilling current member needs while finding out what new programs will resonate most with your community by thoughtfully collecting and implementing feedback.

And if you want community members to engage in certain activities, consider what you can do to inspire them.

“We've also implemented an expanded rank and rewards program within our community to incentivize and reward participation,” Michael said.

3. Internal education is key to proving community ROI

Communities provide opportunities for value capture and value creation. That means how you measure the success of your community will differ when you’re thinking about business value versus the value members get out of it.

The trick is bridging the gap between the two.

It’s helpful to understand which metrics resonate most with internal stakeholders. That way you can map out how your community contributes to the overall customer journey across key touchpoints—from product discovery to customer onboarding to retention—and align it with your program strategy.

At the same time, you should be clear with stakeholders about how community differs from traditional marketing and sales programs—and how that impacts performance measurement.

For instance, while Qualtrics looks at how many leads are organically generated through its community, it doesn’t use it as a metric to evaluate success.

“There are certain types of metrics that leaders want to see, because quite frankly, that's the way leaders think,” Michael said. “A lot of times leaders think in terms of dollars, or financial bottom lines. And so we package up certain types of metrics in a way that meets that need.”
What it means for community teams: It’s important to educate stakeholders on the value of community, how it impacts their work, and how they can get involved. But it’s also essential to help them understand how community differs from other business functions.

Ultimately, the team at SAP believes that empowering community members is a win-win for businesses and members alike.

“The more that you can enable your customers to better use your product, guess what? They're going to have greater demand for it, greater thirst for it, that drives better sales,” Dani said. “It mitigates the risk of churn, and it makes your account much more likely to upsell and retain.”

Whether you’re just starting to cultivate your community or looking to scale it, the secret to success is simple: Put your community members first.

Grow your community with Common Room

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