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How to evaluate community growth platforms

How to evaluate community growth platforms

Choosing the right community growth platform can make or break your community growth efforts. As the name suggests, a community growth platform is a tool that allows an organization to grow its community faster and more efficiently. Some community growth platforms can also enable community-led growth—using the power of community to further customer acquisition, retention, and expansion.

A strong community growth platform allows your team to get a unified view of every member across all channels in your tech stack, surface valuable insights and trends, and scale a thriving and value-driving community.

Choosing the wrong platform, on the other hand, will leave your community management team with a fragmented, muddled view of member engagement across channels, create additional manual work, and leave you unable to understand and prove the bottom-line impact of your community.

In this article, we’ll explain how to approach evaluating community growth platforms. For a deeper examination of the core capabilities and use cases these platforms must support, download the full guide: A guide to evaluating community growth platforms.

Why you need an intelligent community growth platform

Community management strategies often involve a wide variety of channels. Companies have built thriving communities across applications and services such as Slack, Discord, Discourse, Twitter, LinkedIn, and many more.

Monitoring and surfacing member interactions, insights, trends, and activity across each of these platforms is a must for companies that want to continually grow their community and the positive effect it has on other parts of the business such as marketing, sales, product, and customer success.

Community managers need to moderate, monitor, and engage users across multiple mediums simultaneously to successfully execute on community goals. Ensuring your team has the right tools in place to keep a finger on the pulse of your community (and take action) is key to increasing brand awareness, recruiting and nurturing champions, accelerating user acquisition, and boosting customer retention.

How to evaluate community growth platforms

Finding, choosing, and adopting the right platform for your specific company can be a challenge. You have to take an intentional approach to platform evaluation to ensure you adopt the tool that best suits your needs.

Understanding the drivers of success in your community, knowing which features are must-haves for your organization, asking the right questions, seeing the platform in action first-hand, and tracking progress with new tools are key to making the best choice for your team and business in the long run.

Understand the drivers of success in your community

The first step is to identify the actions, initiatives, and methods of engagement that have helped your community achieve success. This analysis will inform which community growth platform is best suited to your use case.

For example, if you oversee a community of product, you may have different needs than a company running a community of practice. In a community of product, sharing tips and best practices, giving insight into product updates, and ensuring members can easily ask questions and resolve challenges may be particularly important.

In this instance, it would be wise to choose a community growth platform that allows moderators to easily send automated engagement messages to members and also surface essential health indicators for the community. For example, essential health indicators might signal if there is a dip in engagement or sentiment, and can help community managers keep their users thriving.

Prioritize your must-have features

Once you’ve analyzed your drivers of success, you can then identify the necessary features your community growth platform will need to have to help your teams achieve their objectives.

Each company has a different community, so each company’s must-have features will vary. For example, if one of your goals is to expand your community across several platforms, it would be imperative to choose a community growth platform that can aggregate and surface insights across many different channels.

Community growth platform features can be grouped under a few different buckets, which are:

  • Community management: Measuring community growth, keeping up with new organizations, and creating member cohorts for easier management
  • Engagement and activation: Building automated engagement workflows, setting team alerts, and design custom reports based on your goals
  • Community intelligence features: Automatic activity categorization, sentiment analysis, and enrichment of profiles with customer and product data
  • Security and compliance: Keeping community data secure through SOC 2 Type II certification, GDPR and CCPA compliance, and support for single sign-on, role-based access control, and SCIM provisioning
  • User support: Email and chat support, a user community, and custom data science analysis for advanced use cases

Take some time to create a list of the must-have features your team needs to do their best work and achieve success. For example, if your team has a need for stronger insights, choosing a platform known for its data analytics and reporting capabilities may be most critical.

Weigh the pros and cons of each platform against your defined set of feature priorities. This will ensure your team doesn’t miss or improperly prioritize the features that matter most in favor of features they could take or leave.

If you’re ready to get started right away, you can use this community growth platform evaluation template to begin your assessment.

Access a free template to track your capability needs and score your evaluation of community growth platforms

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Ask the right questions

Once you know which features you’ll need in a community growth platform, it’s time to start talking to vendors about what their products have to offer.

Asking the right questions during these calls is paramount to accurately evaluating each platform. Needless to say, each vendor is trying to best market themselves. As a result, at face value, every platform may seem ideal. That’s why it’s important to come to each meeting with a list of questions that will illuminate any possible gaps, highlight potential benefits, and provide a clear picture of each solution.

Here are some examples of questions you might ask to find out if a community growth platform provides the value you’re looking for.

Does the platform:

  • Provide a unified view of all members, activities, and organizations across the community?
  • Automate repetitive actions to free up more time for strategic programs and relationship building?
  • Easily identify contributors, influencers, champions, and other impactful members?
  • Help you understand how the community is feeling at a given point in time?
  • Enrich community data with product and customer data to generate actionable insights?
  • Allow you to measure community-attributed revenue and the impact of community investments?

Dig into how each platform will serve your community’s specific needs, ask about your must-have features, and discuss the pain points of your existing approach to community management and growth with each vendor. This will help ensure none of your questions or needs go unanswered so you can make sure you pick the right platform.

Demo the platform

Next, you’ll want to see the platform in action. Schedule a demo to explore the functionality in depth.

This will help you get a sense for the user experience, interface, and the unique workflows of each platform. Watch how the vendor performs specific actions, surfaces insights, and measures progress.

You may think you’ve found the perfect solution until the demo reveals a clunky UI. Even the best features can be hidden or complicated by a bad user experience. Striking the right balance between must-have features and a positive user experience is tricky, but it could mean the difference between your successful adoption of the platform and a challenging, unsuccessful onboarding process.

Track your progress

If possible, sign up for a trial of each of the competing community growth platforms on your shortlist. Train your teams on the software, and see how well they acclimate to the new technology.

At regular increments, compare your team’s progress across each platform. Has one resulted in stronger insights or higher levels of engagement and growth than the other? Do your teams prefer one UI over the other?

This will provide a strong indicator for which platform will help your team reach their objectives the fastest.

Get the comprehensive guide for evaluating community growth platforms

In this post we addressed how to approach the process of evaluating community growth platforms. For more about what you should be looking for in a solution, read the next blog in this series: Criteria for evaluating community growth platforms. It examines the key capabilities community managers should consider during the community growth platform selection process, including:

  • Deep member insights
  • Activity insights and trends
  • Actions in response to member activity
  • Community health metrics and reports
  • End-to-end community attribution
  • Customer references
  • Community and customer data security
  • Performance and scalability

For a deeper dive into how to thoroughly evaluate community growth platforms—including the benefits a community growth platform can bring to a team, the critical capabilities and use cases it must support, and a template to track and score your evaluation—download the free Guide to Evaluating Community Growth Platforms.

Access a free template to track your capability needs and score your evaluation of community growth platforms

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