As Sr. Director of Adoption and Engagement for Community Cloud, I spend a lot of time developing best practices and strategies to help customers improve their community’s business value.

After meeting with many of our customers to discuss their community goals and objectives, I’ve been sharing key takeaways about community strategy with you in this three-part series that includes:

Shared purpose — creating meaningful connections with customers
The BIG, big picture — managing communities at scale
• Launch — what it takes get a successful community off the ground

This is the third post in that series. Read the first post here and the second post here.

I spoke about these strategies in a breakout session at Dreamforce ’16. One of the thought leaders who joined me onstage was David Spinks, CEO and Founder of CMX Media, who spoke about community readiness. This work was based on research conducted by CMX on Community Readiness, the findings from which we’ll share here.

Cesar: David – CMX has been one of the leading organizations that is a leading advocate for the community management profession. In addition to providing a great place to meet and share ideas, what is your take on the importance of online communities for businesses?

David: Our philosophy is that your business IS a community. It’s a group of people with a common purpose and identity, all working together toward a shared outcome. All of your stakeholders are members of your community, including employees, customers, fans, partners, ambassadors, and anyone else involved in your business. So when we talk about building community for your business, what we’re actually talking about it improving your business by creating stronger emotional connections between members, leveraging the collective knowledge of your network, and empowering members at all levels to contribute.

We’ve narrowed down the 5 ways that your most loyal members can contribute to your business, using the SPACE model:

  • Support : members solving problems for customers

  • Product: members providing ideas and feedback on how to improve the product

  • Acquisition: members helping you grow your business

  • Content: members contributing the content that makes up your platform

  • Engagement: members connecting around a common interest related to your product

Cesar: That is an interesting framework you have developed. I like it a lot because it touches on how to build community value over time, from the immediate value of peer-to-peer (P2P) support to the longer-term value of deeper engagement.  You often talk about the role of a community manager, can you elaborate on that? I know that having a community manager is one of the 5 characteristics you talk about for successful communities.

David: This was one of our most interesting findings from the research. A significant number of companies, who haven’t yet launched a community, are not planning to hire a community professional to run the community. The data shows that this is a mistake. 9/10 companies who have already launched a community have at least one community professional on staff.

If you’re thinking you can just launch a community and it will take care of itself, you’re mistaken. Communities must be curated and nurtured. Yes, even really large communities can be run by a few community managers, but that doesn’t mean they should. Community managers often end up overworked and stretched thin because leadership didn’t think they needed more help.

If you want a great community, you need great people to lead that community.


Cesar: Agree completely, in my role I work with community managers all the time and I can appreciate the value they bring.  What is the next ingredient for success?

David: You need to make sure that community managers have sufficient resources and the support of leadership and other teams internally. This builds on the first insight. Basically, it’s not enough to hire someone to manage your community.

The data showed that 1/3 of communities that failed were the result of lack of internal support and resources. We see this happen too often. A company will hire a community manager, expect the world of them, but provide them with little to no budget for tools, professional development, and community content and programming. It’s like hiring the best Facebook Ads expert in the world and telling them they have no budget to pay for ads. Clearly not going to work.

It doesn’t stop at budget either. You need leadership and other teams to be bought in. A community is going to need design and developer resources. They’ll need the help of your data team. They need to have the full support of the organization. It doesn’t work on an island!


Cesar: That is an important point, not only do you need to staff appropriately but you need to provide the additional resources and budget to be successful. I believe for example, that your own employees can play an important role in helping the community succeed. What’s the third element of success?

David:  Now if you’re hoping to launch a community for your business and you’re worried about not getting enough staff, resources and support, our study provided insight into what you should focus on: executive buy-in and a clear business case.

Those two things come hand in hand. You have to make sure your executives are bought in, so that when you need to ask for more resources, the message from the top is that community is important and valuable.

In order to get that support, you’ll need to make a clear business case. You can use the SPACE model I mentioned in the first question to define the value that your community can bring to your business. Start with the problem, not with the community. What problem does your business want to solve? Great, now how can you take a community approach to solving it?

Cesar: Executive buy-in is especially important here, because for many executives a community is a relatively new venture for them. So for them, it is especially important to understand not just the value but what it will take to succeed. From a strategic point of view, most people associate communities with customer support or customer self-service. What new insights did your research uncover as to why companies are launching online communities?

David:  When we asked businesses what the main drivers of community are for their business, we learned that customer satisfaction / retention and sourcing ideas for their products were the top responses by a healthy margin.

A lot of business still think of community solely as support forums. The data tells us that this is no longer true. Businesses are looking at community as a key method for retaining their customers, and to fuel innovation. When you’re making a business case for community, you can point back to this data and show where other businesses are putting their community investment dollars.


Cesar: At Salesforce we talk a lot about evolving communities beyond the typical peer-to-peer support forum. That’s not to say that P2P support isn’t important, it’s more about the fact that communities need to evolve beyond a purely social collaboration platform. That brings us to your last finding, tell us more about it.

David: To provide further insight on how businesses are investing in community, we asked community professionals how important it was to integrate with e-commerce and CRM tools. Turns it it’s pretty important.

8/10 companies said it was very, or somewhat, important. That means those companies that are treating community as an isolated add-on that is separated from marketing, sales, service and other data driven departments are behind the curve. If you’re going to do community well today, you need to integrate community with your core business processes. This is how you’ll truly be able to track the extent to which your community is impacting your customer growth and retention.

I hope you enjoyed this conversation and it gives you some ideas for how to successfully plan for a community. After seeing the results of this study, we partnered with CMX once again to do another study that digs much deeper into the topic of community value and metrics. We wanted to know exactly how businesses are valuing and measuring their communities. Stay tuned for the next post with David where we’ll share the key insights from that study.

If you want to learn more:

You can learn more about CMX’s training and industry events at CMX Hub.