It’s Time For Your Community’s 6-Month Check Up – Are You Prepared?

I had an interesting call with a client today who was in the process of reviewing their online community’s “health” 6 months after launch.  I thought this was an interesting concept: I’m a strong proponent for constant site evaluations, audits and updates to keep content and design fresh, but a six-month “check up” was a concept I hadn’t considered before.  But what does this evaluation entail? What tests need to be performed? How can you gauge which results are ‘healthier’ than others, and where your high-risk areas are?

Chances are this check-up might be happening with your leadership, who are also looking to see what the results of their investments are. Here are some ideas for mapping out this meeting and what prep-work you can do to make it a meaningful and productive undertaking for you and your bosses.

Preparing For Your Check Up

Before you enter a room with leadership, dig up all your documentation from the start of the online community development process. Why did you create one? What overall objectives did you set for the program, and what deadlines did you give yourself for certain activities? Arm yourself with this documentation to provide at the start of the meeting, and show your leadership in detail where you stand on specific accomplishments.

Examples:

Goal 1: Improve brand awareness: Compare your presence on major search engines from 6 months ago and today. Have you climbed in search engines? Are you showing up in News Alerts? Have you been mentioned in any blogs, industry sites, LinkedIn Groups or conferences? Bring in any and all documentation that shows how your brand name has been growing in the market place. Also, track the number of site visitors your online community has received. If it’s growing month-to-month, then more and more people are being exposed to your community (and your branding) as well.

Goal 2: Build a content portal to position our company as a thought leader: Here’s where numbers also count. Develop a matrix of all your online community articles by specific topics, and track how many readers viewed each piece. Then, compare this with how many people were viewing your press releases or other articles/content on your company website or anywhere else it was housed before the community. Also, again you can see the results of your activities with Google: Track your presence in search engines, type in your keywords and see how many of your pieces show up, and monitor your presence in News Alerts. These are all indicators of your status as a thought leader, and remember- the more content you develop, the more likely the status is to increase. By tracking which topics ‘trend’ over others, you’re also ensuring that you are creating and delivering the content that your audience seeks the most.

Goal 3: Generate Leads: This is trickier to monitor, but there are some ways you can bring some data to the table for this meeting. For one, on how many people downloaded your assets? How many site visitors have you had, and how many “converted” (tip: clarify internally what a conversion means and get consensus- for some companies it means downloaded a form for a trial, for others it means a signed contract). How many people signed-up to receive your eNewsletter, or participated in a discussion or survey/poll on your site? These prospects are all valuable and potential leads for your business because they’ve actively chosen to interact with you. Be sure you’re realistic with your lead generation expectations, too. After 6 months, if you have a long sales-cycle or are a B2B brand you may not have closed any leads yet directly from the community, and that’s OK. You’re building your brand and repository of content that will continue to nurture prospects, eventually getting them to enter their information for a free trial, Webinar, white paper or other gated piece.

In short, you’ll need the numbers to do the talking, which we’ll talk more about further along in this piece.

Now it’s meeting time: Here’s what your check-up should include:

Check Your Voice & Design: Are your messages consistent across all your online sites? This means your online community, social media sites and company website. Your marketing materials should be in sync, and a quick audit will be able to confirm whether or not you’ve been using a consistent tone in your online channels. Check for casual versus formal tones, your tagline, how you describe your company, and even your writing style.  This extends to your site design as well. Color schemes, logos, font treatment and advertisements all matter to the experience of site visitors, who will be looking for consistency as they move across your online sites, following your stellar content and social activity. If you seem scattered, disorganized, or “unmatched” there’s no way a prospect will view you as trustworthy or credible.

Finally, where are things appearing on your page? Are you rotating this? Testing out which content and design placement works best for certain content pieces is an important part of your preventative care as you can avoid potentially detrimental activities that may weaken your SEO or your site visitor’s experience.

Check Your Pulse: How much dynamic versus static content do you have on your site? Do your ads rotate? Do you have a video playing, or audio capabilities? What about discussions? Have you gotten stale with your postings and comments, or are you consistently engaging in and encouraging interactions with site visitors? These are really important vitals to check, because the more interesting, different and fresh your online community appears at any given time, the more likely site visitors will be to bookmark the site for future visits, or pass it along to your friends.

Check Your Levels: Go back to your reports and see how many clicks, site visitors, click-throughs and anything else you measure have been performing. What lulls do you see? What spikes? Then, match that up with certain activities you conducted. Did you release a new video, and see a spike in activity? Did a white paper have little effect on your number of lead-captures? See what has been resonating with your audience and keep focusing on that, and start testing some new activities as well. The more you test, the more you’ll hone in on what your audience really wants, and be able to  deliver it to them.

Prioritize Improvements: Now that you’ve brainstormed what’s working well, and what activities you should stop, start and continue in terms of high, medium and low priority action-items: Really map out the next 6-12 months of your online community’s development. Remember, you can’t do everything at once. Pace yourself, and pick a few objectives you will focus on first, with clearly defined action steps and how you’ll measure success (this is great prep for your next check-up).

 

Report-Out Regularly: Don’t wait another 6 months to tell your leadership how the community is performing. Share a content piece that generated a lot of hits, or provide monthly reports on lead captures or conversions.  Give a summary of the most popular discussions on the site, and even ask your leadership to participate! Make your community something the whole company is invested in, and working together to make succeed.

Finally, Keep Your Eye on the Ball

Make managing your online community a part of your daily routine. Though it doesn’t need to take up too much time, those valuable 20-30 minutes a day can make or break your site, if spent wisely. Look at your articles and see if there’s anything that needs to be covered for the week. See who’s talking about you, and conversed back with them. Post a picture, a video, or swap out an advertisement. By staying involved with your community you’ll be the first to know what’s working, or what needs to be changed.

Do you perform a community “Check Up”? What do you look to measure during these meetings? Connect with us and Join the conversation on any of our social sites.