Do you know you have a ready-made community of practice that could be sharing knowledge amongst each other about your product or service? They might be talking in person, but it’s likely they occasionally talk to each other on Facebook or Twitter, as well. When groups of people get together to talk about your product or service they are commonly using, they uncover neat ideas on how your product can be used in innovative ways. They discover more efficient ways of using your product, based on the experience of others. We like to compare what we’re doing to someone else, just to know we’ve got it right.
Now imagine if you facilitated that by opening up an online user community, where your customers could come together and have those conversations in a space they know you’re available and listening. And I’m not just talking about your customers having somewhere to bring up feature requests or “here’s how we’re using it, what are you guys doing?” I’m also talking about your customers helping each other out when issues arise. Sometimes your customers, in their tinkering with an issue, come up with their own workarounds or solutions.
In December, I wrote a post detailing my predictions for 2012. One of those was an expectation that community management would merge with IT service support. Last night, I listened to a webinar called “Is the Service Desk Still Relevant?” During the panel’s discussion, ITIL author Stuart Rance (@Stuart Rance) and @ServiceSphere‘s Chris Dancy, called for service desks to create a community management role to engage with the user community and build upon the knowledge community members share amongst each other and with the service provider. By engaging with your user community in a searchable, online medium, you already have the basis of a living knowledge base. Some support software solutions provide a forum structure that is ideal for this kind of community, and others provide a social stream, not unlike Twitter, which lacks structure but can be easily tagged and searched.
If you’ve got the means but you’re unsure of the method, and you can get to Melbourne in September, please check out Swarmconf. You’ll get a ton of help and knowledge from experienced people in the online community management field, who can help you map out how to get started.