How To build A Case For An Online Community Platform

When you are trying to build or power your community, you will quickly understand the value of incorporating an online community platform into your overall strategy. Unfortunately, many community managers also run into problems trying to convince others that the effort or the cost are worth it.

It doesn’t matter if you’re working for a business, educational, or non-profit organisation. The reasons that you might run into resistance are varied but there are straightforward methods you can use to overcome that resistance.

The key to unlocking the necessary budget and getting approval for an online community project is to be prepared when it’s time to make your pitch. You need to build a solid case for developing an online community platform within your organisation.

Communicate The Benefits Of An Online Community Clearly

As with any business plan, you can use reasonable assumptions to create models that will help illustrate the impact that an online community would have on your business or organization.
Avoid generalizations. Be as specific as possible. The idea is to show the people making the decisions the direct benefits. Don’t talk about abstract situations.
If you’re working as part of a large organisation, it might be beneficial to pick out the most important points first and then have all the details ready, if needed.
There are many obvious ways to highlight the added value of an online community platform, also depending or your use case.

For schools and universities, maintaining a high level of engagement with alumni can lead to multiple benefits. It will impact positively your student recruitment, provide opportunities for entrepreneurs to find potential co-founders, investors, or employees and display the dynamism of your alumni community, but also promote and give credibility to your high-quality education.

For corporate entities, creating an online community will also unlock various opportunities, such as traditional networking or creating valuable connections with your corporate alumni that will most certainly expand the reach of your business. Here, community platforms are often used to share knowledge and best practices, facilitate ideation and feedback collection, but also collect membership fees.

For non-profit organizations, an online community can help you capture the attention of donors, volunteers, possible partners, and more. It will also create an engagement that is vital for success. You will be able to create and organise your events, centralise the communication with your constituents and then to manage memberships and encourage donations.

Gift

Feedback is a gift. Collect Positive And Negative Comments

It’s important to consider both positive and negative feedbacks from stakeholders about what you want to do. You should also recognize that if someone has an opinion to share at all it’s because they have an interest in what you are trying to do and have been thinking about it. See it as an extremely good sign.
Don’t think negative feedback is a bad thing. Instead, take it as valuable information that is telling you what hurdles you’ll need to overcome if you want to get your plan through, and use it to your advantage.
Use the information you gather to address underlying concerns so that everyone feels confident that building an online community is the right choice. A good approach would be to list all concerns and questions from your leadership team and then came up with detailed answers, points by points, at the next meeting.

Have A Logistical And Operational Plan

If you want to get approval for your plan, you’ll need to show how you intend to get everything up and running. Again, you’ll want to be as specific as possible. Think about things like:

  • Who will oversee the initial setup?
  • If you already have an existing solution, what needs to be done before the new one can be launched?
  • What would you need to migrate your community member data to the new platform?
  • Who’s going to manage technical issues, moderation, promotion, etc?
  • What is your action plan to increase members engagement?
  • What are your KPI (Key Performance Indicators) and what results do you expect in the First Quarter?

You were explaining to your leadership the “why”. Now you are telling them the “how”.
Have a plan

Be Realistic About The Costs And The Potential Risks

Here you’ll want to provide as much transparency as possible. Show what it will cost to get ready, launch, maintain, and expand. Itemize and break things down when it makes sense. For example, in addition to upfront costs, show that you also forecast potential costs for things such as hiring a freelance designer, a potential mobile app, employee training, etc...
Demonstrate to your stakeholders that you have a clear vision and have outlined a viable strategy moving forward. They’re going to be counting on you to educate them on everything. If they feel like you’re leaving things out, they won’t trust that you’re right, or that you can pull it off.

You should also have at least basic plans ready for providing thoughts on privacy policy, a data backup plan or the community platform support capabilities.
Of course, we are human after all and you can miss something, but It’s important to show that you explored most potential risks and are on the top of everything. Don’t let your boss come up with something that you haven’t mentioned.

Set Clear Expectations

An “online community” can mean different things to different people. Some people will envision something like a Facebook group. Others might see something more like a live chat network, and still, others might be thinking of an all-in-one full community portal.

By setting expectations about the project from the beginning, you’ll make sure that everyone is on the same page and seeing the vision you have in mind.

It’s also important that everyone understands what will be needed to get everything running and maintain it. If, for example, you start telling everyone it’s going to take 3 days by yourself to put everything together, because you’re afraid of rejection, you could end up with a budget that’s too low, a staff that’s too small or timelines too tight. And you don’t want that.

Be clear about what you want to do, what you’ll need to do it, and what you expect your organisation to get out of it.
Demo call

Finally, Provide A Trial Run To Demonstrate

The best way to make sure that those who are less familiar with the concept really understand what you’re going for is to give them an actual demonstration. When you get with the team to state your case, show them a video, or better yet, a walkthrough with real or mockup data in the actual software that you want to use. Let them see exactly how it will work and what it can provide for both your audience and your organization.

Most online community platforms will provide a short, free demonstration of their system. At Hivebrite, for instance, we’re happy to set up a video conference call for your entire team and walk everyone through a full and customized demo of our platform, but also answer all specific questions, at any stage.

Hivebrite is a leading provider of branded community management platforms and helps all size institutions grow and engage their community - Feel free to visit us or request a demo if you would like to know more.