This content was provided by Chris Detzel. This originally appeared at Chris’ website.
Engagement, Webinars, Content- Oh My! Strategies to Grow a New Online Community
The Peers Over Beers podcast serves as a chance for two veterans in the online community industry, Micahel Sandoval and myself, to sit down and discuss different aspects of our experience.
In episode 59, Engagement, Webinars, Content, and ‘That’s Not My Pile of Sh*t”, we talked about the results of my recent online community go-live and how I am working to build up that community. Specifically, we discussed engagement trends and my newly implemented webinar strategy. We also talk about setting appropriate priorities, working with individuals of different cultures, and the changing role of IT. These last few topics I’ll break down in another blog.
For now, let’s dive into:
- Business outcomes for an online community and how a webinar program accelerates growth
- the engagement trends I have noticed since the roll out of the new Reltio online community,
- creating effective webinars
- building out more engaging content.
Business Outcomes of an Online Community
Before I dive into the reasons why and how I built a webinar program for the Reltio Community, let me talk about why Reltio has built an online community in the first place. A webinar program helps to drive engagement and content to the community, but why are we doing this?
- Adoption of the product
- Awareness of new features, new products and features that existing customers may not be aware of
- Upsell / Cross-Sell
- Brand Awareness
- Customer Advocacy
There is a lot to dive into on this topic, because it’s the reason why we have built an online community. I am not going to dive deep here on this blog, but I put it in here because it is important to know. Creating programs such as a webinar program will allow you to accomplish these goals.
Engagement Trends of a New Online Community
We rolled out the Reltio online community in April of 2021, and it really started out with a bang. Within two months, its trajectory continued to grow. I worked on creating more and more content, through a webinar program. A webinar program, for me, is one of the easiest ways to engage your audience, create video, Q&A and blog content. I get to accomplish many goals with a program like this.
One of the hardest things to do is to engage your audience. Building an engagement strategy and a roadmap on how to engage your users is key to having a thriving online Community. I believe that you have to have programs to keep your community engaged. These programs should focus highly on a content strategy. If you have relevant engaging content and other engaging activities and strategies for your community, it is more likely that you will succeed in acquiring new users, engaging the existing users and that will lead you to a successful and thriving online community.
My Webinar Program Strategy
Webinars were new to the Reltio community, and something I built into the platform. In fact, this is not the first time I’ve incorporated webinars into an online community. I’ve done the same with a previous employer, Imperva. Establishing a webinar program has five main steps:
- Establish an outlet for users to engage with each other and experts.
- Produce video content for users that bring product information to their fingertips.
- Break down long webinars into smaller videos for ease of viewing.
- Provide a Q&A outlet.
- Create engaging, often expert product blogs to build organic SEO for the online community.
When I started to build the Reltio Community, I planned to bring the same ideas into Reltio’s online community. It’s worth noting that the Reltio marketing department also does their own webinars, but they are focused on the top of the funnel content. In the community, we aim to bring in webinars and community blogs at a deeper level, so that users at any stage of using Reltio products can find value and reasons to engage. At Reltio, I have found pent-up demand, as our users, customers, and partners crave hearing and viewing further content from Reltio.
Reltio’s Community Webinars
In those first months after roll out, we hosted three webinars that really brought people in. In fact, our first webinar brought in about twenty RSVPs, while over thirty people actually attended. Our second webinar had fifty-three attendees, and thirty-seven RSVPs. The last webinar brought in about thirty-five RSVPs, and forty-three actual attendees. Over time, I started to see an average of 60 or more people show up for these webinars. Check out the past webinars here.
This is an interesting trend I was not expecting. Usually, I would expect half of my RSVPs to attend an event, rather than a number more than my actual count. This tells me that the individuals in our community are sending our events to peers, encouraging them to connect with our content as well. It also tells me that these people are hungry for more information on Reltio products, which remains my focus, too. I began developing another way for users to engage with these increasingly popular webinars.
Webinar Engagement Paired with Discussion
You do not need to have a Reltio community log-in to view a webinar after it goes live, but you do need a log-in to RSVP beforehand. Thus, in the days following a webinar, I have noticed a lift in log-in rates, sometimes over double, because our users want to catch the latest information from a webinar or expert blog. But, in terms of other engagement, growth could be better. I’m working to combat this by building another way to engage with the presenters.
I am doing this by introducing “Ask Me Anything” discussion boards. To prepare the audience for an opportunity to ask questions directly to a presenter, I will send out emails asking questions like “What Do You Want to Ask our Founder?” a week or so before the webinar goes live. I’ll collect five or so questions, and use them to push engagement and use them as starter questions.
I’ve found that touches like this drive connections between people while they are on the webinar, building actual tangible relationships rather than just a post on a discussion board. This builds the community even further in a meaningful way.
General Notes on Discussion Posts Engagement
While webinar events and these expert panels were bringing in an audience, my thought was that our other discussion and engagement with the webinars would drop off. Generally this is true in the summer months. I found that this time around it was not completely true. Although organic traffic to the Reltio community dropped off, participation in the webinars did not. I hosted several webinars in July and August. I averaged 50-60 people on each one.
At the end of June when I noticed a drop in organic traffic, and anticipated this slow activity to continue into September, I decided to seed some of the questions asked by customers on the webinar by the customer. I ramped up questions, and continued to seed two or three discussions a week into the community. One great source I found for these discussion questions was the webinars themselves, as participants often presented questions that we either don’t get to in the webinar, or can dive into deeper off screen. In some cases, I will even ask the questions on a discussion board, and then log back in as an expert and answer the question myself, simply to build out more useful content. The answers came from the expert on the webinar and I captured it.
Webinar and Discussion Posts Results
In the end, webinars get me a wealth of videos, discussion questions and blog content that I can push throughout the community, to help users at any level understand the Reltio Master Data Management product better, use APIs, understand APIs, or even get useful code out there. Adoption of our product is the key, and moving forward we will continue to do just that.
Online Community Engagement Strategy Moving Forward
Of course, we do not want our online community to get stagnant, or continue to suffer from lowered summertime engagement trends. So, I developed another strategy I plan to implement. Through our online community, I’ve been able to connect with professionals who have come in and have become deeply involved. Now, they wish to do even more. Here’s where I rolled with the punches a little, and saw an opportunity. During summer months of lower engagement, I plan to reach out to customers and see if they would like to get more involved in creating content for the community.
Of course, there are certain challenges that come along with this, some of them legal- i.e. what they are allowed to bring to discussion, and what they are not. In many cases, anyone can talk about their expertise, and they won’t necessarily have to talk about how they work with Reltio or specifics about their own company. In other words, I might be able to bring in a data steward to talk about their own best practices, or another professional to talk about a specific point of view. People want to connect to peers, and think about their advice and knowledge. A 20/80 for 40/60 split between Reltians (Reltio employees) and customers may bring that level of engagement even higher.
Another piece of the puzzle is how partners can engage in the community. Reltio works with many kinds of partners, from those that sell the product, to those that work with our product on a daily basis.
Building on a Growing Online Community
Adding in these tactics isn’t exactly slow going, but it will take some time. A lot of things within the community are going well, and as always, there are things that can be optimized and worked on. In our next article, we’ll get into prioritizing next steps, and other challenges we face as an online community grows.
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