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Community and Customer Success Make a Good Mix

Posted by Patrick on May 29th, 2014 in Thinking

More and more, I’m seeing customer success fall under the responsibilities of the community department at various companies, both business-to-business (B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C). That makes perfect sense.

Where marketing grows your customer base, community aides you in keeping those customers by helping them to maximize the use of your product. Yes, those lines are muddied sometimes, yes, marketing helps you keep customers and, yes, there are exceptions that need not be mentioned.

You might be saying “but Patrick, that’s how it has been already. Community is essentially customer success for many companies and has been for a long time.” You wouldn’t be wrong, necessarily, but I think what we are seeing now is more of a formalization of it. Job titles including something extra and job descriptions making it clearer. David DeWald does this at Thunderhead.com. Meg Christolini did this at CoTweet. And the list goes on.

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Film director Quentin Tarantino held a press conference at the Cannes Film Festival on Friday. He was asked about the possibility of his movies being re-released as director’s cuts or with added footage. Seeing as all of his movies are the director’s cut, he wasn’t really a fan of that idea.

However, he talked about how he has 90 minutes of footage from Django Unchained that has never been seen. He said that “the idea is to cut together a four-hour version, but not show it like a four-hour movie,” adding that he could “cut it up into one-hour chapters like a four-part miniseries and show it on cable television. People love those!

With binge watching – for example, watching all episodes of a show on Netflix at one time or in a short period – being such a common thing these days, Tarantino added that people would “be dying to watch all four episodes in one go.”

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Speaking of helping people, I’d like to take a moment and ask how I can help you? What can I write about? Do you have a challenge that you’d like me to think about? Is there a community management related issue that you’d like me to comment on?

If so, I’d love to hear from you in the comments. I know that these situations can sometimes be sensitive, so feel free to email me instead. If I write about your situation, I will be happy to keep your name anonymous and any sensitive details private, upon request.

I like writing about matters that directly affect the people who read my work, so please don’t hesitate to ask for input or suggest a topic at any time.

Thank you for reading and for for your support.

Bob, a member of my staff at KarateForums.com, recently shared a heartwarming story on our community. It involved his son, Nathan, whose bicycle had been stolen – taken right off of their front porch.

The theft was reported to the local police in Owasso, Oklahoma. The next week, several police officers showed up at his house with a gift: a new bike (and a lock for it). For Nathan, a special needs teenager, the bicycle represents freedom and his means of transportation to work. The police department used money set aside in a Cops for Kids fund to purchase the gift.

The local news covered it. Watch the clip below, including an emotional Bob.

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Facebook allows you to download an archive of  content you have posted on their platform. Google allows you to do the same with many of their services. Twitter will also provide you with an archive. As will many other social media platforms.

And yet, I don’t know of a single community or forum software application that allows members to do this. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is an option or two that does, but we need to do better and I want to push for that change.

I can think of reasons why it hasn’t been a priority. Posts in an online community are seen more as being part of the whole, so there isn’t necessarily a strong desire to download content separated from the larger conversations. In my 14 years of managing online communities totaling well over a million contributions, I have never once had a member request that they would like an archive of their posts. But that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be a welcome feature.

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Link Walk And Tabletop Track
Creative Commons License photo credit: huskyte77

The whole Comic Book Resources story has me thinking about the proper way to close an online community.

All online communities eventually come to an end. I’ve launched many communities and I’ve experienced unique longevity. I’ve managed KarateForums.com for 13 years, PhotoshopForums.com for more than 11 and phpBBHacks.com for 11 before I gave it away to a member. All of these communities will eventually come to an end – whether I am at the helm or someone else is.

I’ve also closed communities. Because the time had come. They were inactive, it felt like an uphill fight and I wanted to spend my time elsewhere or they had run their course. Whatever the reason – and there are many – your online community will end. For this article, I am going to presume that we have explored the alternatives to closing and decided that closing is the appropriate course of action.

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Split Down the Middle
Creative Commons License photo credit: mikecogh

In my last piece, I discussed Comic Book Resources and their decision to delete their 7+ year old, 12.9 million post forum. It’s a complex story and one that responsible minds will disagree on, as far as the handling of the situation.

I don’t want to rehash the story too deeply, but the crux of the issue was that the community had been allowed to go in a direction that the founder was not proud of. From what he said, it sounded like it was a very vocal, loud minority that was saying terrible things that were racist,¬†misogynist or otherwise intolerant or hateful. Awful stuff. So they opted for a clean slate, which is a reasonable option.

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Comic Book ResourcesComic Book Resources (CBR) is a large, long-running and influential comic book website, featuring news, reviews, blogs and an active community. Created by Jonah Weiland and launched in 1996, the site’s media kit reports that they receive more than 24 million pageviews per month from over 6 million unique visitors.

On Wednesday, Weiland announced that CBR’s current forums would be closing and would remain online for 14 days, in order to allow members to retrieve old content they wanted to save. The old forums have 12.9 million posts, with public discussions going all the way back to 2006. In their place, a new community was launched. None of the old content, nor membership information, was preserved. I learned of this story through Mark Wilkin.

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I've got nerd bling... Too much or just enough? #geek #nerd #bling
Creative Commons License photo credit: betsyweber

If you work in community, marketing or “digital” (whatever that means to you), you’ve probably heard a lot about the declining reach of Facebook pages, the death of Google+ and how Twitter isn’t far behind. Everybody loves to talk about platforms dying.

For what it’s worth, I don’t think any of these stories are that big of a deal. The Facebook reach drop is probably the most impactful one, but Facebook doesn’t owe pages anything and it was never said that they wouldn’t change how reach works on their platform. Google+ has provided value for some people, while others never found traction. And Twitter is still what you make it.

No matter how great third party platforms are performing, even if you could go back to the days when beer flowed like wine for brands on Facebook, one simple fact remains. It always goes back to the spaces you actually control.

When I keynoted at Podcamp Topeka in November of 2010, this slide was in my deck:

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