Building a Community Business Case

Notes from our Building a Community Business Case.

This is quite long overdue. This comes from what attendees jotted down as we talked around ideas of how to build a community business case and how we could potentially include some of these ideas in an in introductory community course.

Building a community business case

Previous sessions:

Who is in the room?

Topics of discussion

What is a good community business case?

  • What is hard about building a case?

    • What needs does it fill?
    • Start with something that is not fulfilled?
    • We need to know what is missing, what is the hole we are trying to fill?
  • If you need to pitch the value, then you need to define what the value is, quickly, otherwise the default value is the monetary value.

    • “Always add value, and bring a service mindset to work with you every single day. (Matt Saunders)”
    • Offer a framework of value
    • It’s hard to put it into numbers
    • How can we focus on value
    • We feel frustration with the constant focus on value
    • Content does mean value
    • Value is not the be and end all
    • Is value the wrong word?
    • How can we shift the word the words we use?
    • People want something that is useful, that then is valuable, then comes relationships
    • “The holy grail of community is self disclosure” - Suzy Nelson, Facebook
  • Is self disclosure really the goal?

    • What is does it mean? (a definition of what it means and how it can apply to different situations/communitieis)
    • Being able to share what you don’t know
    • Ask questions
    • So that we can serve members needs and goals
  • One that serves the whole business and also the members

  • create sense of being together aside normal activities (BW)?

  • increase collaboration across silos (BW, businesses)

  • extract knowledge (BW)

  • One that informs product development and roadmap

  • Increases business revenue, decreases churn and increases retention.

  • adding Fun and joy

  • Incorporates metrics that can inform/indicate success/RFI

  • What is good research for a case?

  • What is in it for me? WIIFM

How do we pitch the business value of community?

  • Define value (not only monetary), coming to terms, rephrase, what role it has (Venia)
  • Show examples
  • Data
  • testimonials/stories of members
  • What needs does it fills? It could go further but it starts from need (make people join)
  • ​​One way to find the value is to ask what people would loose if the community stop existing (could be by asking members of a similar communities)
  • What emotional connection can you make with the “decision maker(s)”?
    • Show them pictures of what good community meetings or events look like
  • Dashboards are number, don’t we need stories?
    • Arguments
    • Objections
    • Stories
    • Examples
    • Experiences
    • Emotional connection
  • may be work on scenario of selling
  • and then from scenario see if some general ideas emerge
    • Need, Value => Join → Encourage > Meaningful (self disclosure) @Venia
  • Consider this angle: well-being has 5 main dimensions, physical wellbeing, financial wellbeing, career wellbeing, social wellbeing and community wellbeing.

How do we plan, budget and estimate our community needs?

  • Business plan as usual with projections of costs and incomes in $ and time.
  • A great strategy is needed
    • Can we break this down, for purposes of the course, into the “phases” of a community plan and fit them in to 101, 201, 301 and 401 framework?
      • 401 builds on 301, which builds on 201, etc…
      • Community is a muscle. The strategy should reflect that as well.
  • a checklist
  • Design Thinking, DT, process to prevent blind corners: what do we want to solve, bring by creating a community, do a prototype, get feednack, make the plan,
  • Prepare for objections
  • Start small - as lean as possible (Rosie):
    • I want to be as efficient as possible
    • I don’t want to waste anyone’s money
    • I want to start with a headcount of 1
    • Why should we hire a team?
    • How are we going to organise a team?
    • Be super considerate of how we use our time
    • There’s a great article by Holly Firestone (Tiffany Oda extended on this)
    • We need to guide people, not always go into detail upfront
      • What are the traps we can help people avoid
  • Its important to include a community discovery in the plan

What language should we use?

  • Think about what language the business uses ( aka voice of customer bW, no)
  • How can we keep it simple?
    • Harkening back to the prior discussion, having freshman, sophomore, junior, and senior segments lets us avoid the weeds.
      • I set mine up as follows. We could do something similar:
        101: building a magnetic community brand
        201: understanding and building platforms
        301: Creating a scalable community charter
        401: Measuring, Fostering, and navigating community
  • Typically in Marketing or UX we do interviews, surveys (bring back to DT) (BW)
  • Need to think about the target audience for the course
  • Use language that we use everyday to explain things
    • James - this reminds me of how we design content for GOV.UK, which anyone from aged 11 up and should be able to understand
  • Avoid acronyms, at least until you’ve explained them for the first time
  • Be neutral - try not to have bias
  • Beware common language - could it mean different things to different people?
  • Problems with academia, for explain, is the complex language
  • Build a shared community codex
    • not a glossary, but as we have discussions about things, make sure we record of why we come to this decision to use this language
    • Venia has an example of a codex
  • Jargon has a reason to exist, because its precise
  • Keep repeating definitions of jargon until they’re internalised
  • In terms of selling community, maybe avoid the jargon - use their language instead
  • Each of the groups of people we interact with, will have their own language
  • If the customer is the CEO, use her language
  • Some resources:
    How max QDA treats codes:

What does management look for?

  • Good use of money

  • Good use of time (even if volunteer based, cuz it has to overall burden) (BW)

  • Effective solution, best solution to expected benefits (BW)

  • Insight

  • Tangible, clean results/metrics

  • Research and Development

    • Who’s in contact with customers everyday? (bw: Add to stakeholders people who are in content with prospective members, not only members)
    • Should we add a section specifically on the semi-structured interview processes and how that relates to survey questions?
    • How does it tie into the industry you’re in?
    • We should be able to spot things and connect it with people inside the business
    • It’s also about breaking down the silos and explaining the value of talking to people
  • What about business transformation?

    • Not just how the community can benefit
    • How can the wider business benefit from community
    • How does the community facilitate this?
  • Internal community managers often don’t have that as their named role

    • James has loooaadds to say on this from a civil service POV
  • Maybe community should start with internal community managers, get it right internally first, then get it right externally

  • Ideally, everyone would understand why they can benefit from community

  • We can’t build community in silo

  • If businesses are built with that community focus, peo

  • Sustainability, not being too dependent of enthusiasm of creators but will find relays and promoters inside the org (BW)

  • risks: what are the risk and how are they mitigated ( social, interpresonnal risks)

  • A guide from google: Write inclusive documentation  |  Google developer documentation style guide  |  Google for Developers

  • staged deployment (prototype, small groups, etc) => see what they commit to as it is built (BW)

  • A clean organizational system to make chaos more organized:

  • Ease of implementation and integration

    • Shifting from a reactive (reactive to leadership needs/questions/misunderstandings) to proactive (Community leaders driving the converstation and bringing management along)
    • When you centre community this is what happens
  • We need to take hold of the conversation with management

    • Stop them from focusing on a particular metric
    • Stop reacting to their needs
    • Focus them on the real thing / value / benefit
    • We hit red tape every step of the way
  • Beware silos reporting individually “up the chain”

  • Maybe a section to explain how to sell your job to HR/Managers

  • Also shifting the focus ROI. What other indicators show the health and vibrancy of community. Example: Vibrancy indicators developed by the ArtPlace Grant. How could we create this for community?

Examples, case studies or Scenarios of selling

  • What are the different sectors or types of communities out there?
    • Community Coach Carmen has great web3 and tech communities
    • LearnLinuxTV’s Jay is really great with non-organizational projects
    • Budget Light Forum is a GREAT case study for tons of them
    • David DeWald could probably provide dozens based on his work
    • Obviously we have to mention “my life as a night elf priest”
  • Some failures too?
    • cough Twitter cough cough (laughing blue)
    • Can we talk about the Linode Disapora XD
    • The failure of several YouTuber communities comes to mind
    • The SSL open-source project’s rather high-place failure
  • Selling in a small public service org (town)
  • Selling inside a big organisation
    • Jono Bacon’s great for the open source organizations
    • Michelle Knight Suzi Nelson and Justina Fenberg are great resources
    • Salesforce’s HIGHLY SUCCESSFUL terrible community product
  • selling for customer group/organization
  • Pivoting for communities
  • Need to make fast failure okay
    • Do management get this?
    • “Mistakes are information” and “Behavior is Communication”
  • “Co-design” and “test and trial”
    • Use language that’s acceptable
  • Several more good examples courtesy of the Communication Cache:
  • Erin Staples has this awesome article database she updates too:
    Notion – The all-in-one workspace for your notes, tasks, wikis, and databases.
  • Example to look to Open Sources Contributors Covenant

Perhaps for another meeting:

  1. We need to explore the bloated and vague job roles of community professionals.
  2. We are building something that may create the groundwork for institutional trust. We are building something that will impact peoples’ long-term careers for potentially 4 to 8 years and they need to continue to come back.
  3. We need to discuss the undue burdens that organizations are placing on community professionals: the 7 burdens of Community Growth

Twitter is not a failure, it’s the vehicle for real time news and reporting.

I think these two blog posts offer another perspective on communities, technology platforms, sponsoring organizations (as potential containers).

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