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Enhance Your Online Community Through Stakeholder Engagement

Your online community can help solve a variety of business problems if you use consistent interaction to build momentum and keep them engaged.
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Enhance Your Online Community Through Stakeholder Engagement

“We’re not sure how to utilize the community well…”
“We’re not sure how to engage the internal organization…”
“We’ve covered the main topics we wanted to cover…” 

It’s not uncommon for an online community to work really well and be utilized often at the start, and then get tricky to maintain as time goes on.

Think about it: when you first get your community set up, you have loads of business questions that need answering. Now, the initial buzz has started to diminish as you’ve tackled many, if not most, of those inquiries and objectives. 

Keeping momentum and maintaining contact with internal stakeholders is fundamental to getting the most out of your online community. 

If you feel your community is being underutilized or you’ve run out of topics to explore, that means it’s probably a good time to think about who your internal stakeholders are and how you can engage them to address gaps.  

Make your stakeholders an integral part of your process  

When we get busy at work within any organization, we reluctantly end up putting the blinders on to focus on what’s in front of us. If your job isn’t to maintain an online community and qualitative market research is just an input to your day-to-day, it’s easy to forget about the tools you have at your disposal.

The best way to keep your finger on the pulse is to schedule regular meetings with stakeholders to discuss their needs, share insights from the community, and reassess business priorities.

Here are a few examples of ways to stay engaged: 

Actively share work

Sometimes it’s easier for people to understand how great a community is by seeing the results from the community, not just talking about the possibilities.

Actively sharing work not only makes the collective business more informed on what’s being researched, but it also helps bridge knowledge gaps between teams and can spark ideas and questions organically that move the business forward. 

For example, we have a client whose businesses are particularly siloed as units span multiple states and cities. By sharing the work we’re doing and have completed, we were able to help the client consolidate efforts for business units that were working on similar initiatives. This not only made the related initiatives run more efficiently, but it also saved the business money on market research costs. 

Interview stakeholders

Empower your partners to meet with the folks you engage with on a day-to-day basis.

It can feel like a lot to gather everyone together to understand their needs, but your market research partner can help by interviewing stakeholders and recommending market research solutions that directly tackle their questions.

Do this regularly, as it will allow your partners to be in-the-know on what’s important to the business and how needs have shifted. 

Hold Summit meetings

Sometimes underutilization happens because internal teams are unaware of the existence of a community, are unsure of how to tap that community, or don’t know what the community can help them achieve.

Holding a meeting once or twice a year to show off the community, discuss new tools and methodologies, and explore their impact will often get the gears turning for your colleagues. 

For example, we structure our Summit meetings as a “50/50 split between you learning about us and us learning about you” — that is, half of the day is dedicated to our capabilities and previous work, and the other half is focused on discussing our clients’ strategic plans, goals, and how they typically collaborate in reaching them.  

This past year, during a renewal of a long-term community, we set up a Summit meeting with stakeholders to kick off the year — a 2-hour lunch-and-learn followed by 1-hour breakout sessions with business units.

We discussed the key pieces of work from the previous year, updates to our technology, and then met with stakeholders to hear their needs and goals for the new year.

Afterward, we distributed qualitative market research approaches to each business unit that we felt could tackle their needs — a great way to show how the community can be a valuable input and get new stakeholders on board. 

Empower your qualitative market research partners to be an extension of your team  

Discuss your business

Sometimes, underutilization happens because business needs and objectives aren’t shared transparently with market research partners.

We stand by the idea that insights can’t be developed in a vacuum and that, by understanding the context of the world around you and your business, your market research partners can generate ideas for tapping into the community.

Empower your partners to become experts in your business and have conversations about the business often, and you’ll reap the benefits of that synergy. 

With a few of our clients, we schedule time on a weekly or bi-weekly basis to discuss industry news. It helps ground us in our clients’ business, develop market research ideas, and add context to the projects we have going. This ensures our market research is agile and rooted in the present, which has been a game-changer for many of our clients.

Adopt push and pull research

The role of your market research partner is to create and maintain a dialogue with your consumers, and recommend topics for qualitative market research that could be interesting and insightful to your business. They should keep track of industry trends as well as your earnings reports, products, competitors, etc.

In doing this, they can: 

  • Push Take current events, news, product launches, etc. and get them in front of your community members so they can better inform your team on what is working in the world. This helps uncover topics that may not have been explored within a traditional market research brief.
  • Pull With an engaged community, you can set up evergreen rooms or discussion topics, encouraging members to keep you up-to-date on trends and observations.

    This can include interesting advertisements, cultural shifts, socio-political movements, and other buzzworthy topics. This is a great way to utilize the community while keeping a finger on the pulse of where your brand should be asserting its influence.

Being transparent with internal stakeholders and your market research partners will unlock community insights and capabilities that can push your brand in new, innovative directions.

Once you understand the needs of your stakeholders — and they understand what online communities can achieve — you will be able to breathe new life into your community and keep engagement high.

After combining your partners, stakeholders, and consumers into one super brain, there won’t be a need to dwell on the question, “well, now what?”

About the author

Sean Aurigemma
Sean has over 10 years’ experience in consumer insights, strategy, and consulting. Through creative research and great storytelling, Sean focuses on empowering clients to empathize with their most important asset, their consumers. He has worked globally spanning industries like CPG, food and beverage, and tech services & products. Sean has a degree in Business at Babson College, with a double major in Branding and Economics.

Read more by Sean Aurigemma
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