Gone are the days when customers want to hear from one, authoritative voice in “official” documentation. They want a community content potluck. Our workforce is evolving, populated with decision-makers who grew up online. They also want to feel connected to the content they consume. These facts make it important to offer different experiences, ideas, and real-world best practices in a social and community setting.
We found the best way to provide rich content in a variety of types is to expand our concept of a content contributor, and ask them to the table to talk. We call this methodology “content potluck.” But – how do you find the right people to contribute?
The right talent
If you observe closely you will notice that everyone in your company is a content developer. When we did our research we found the following content types: post to social media networks and blogs on LinkedIn. Answers to questions in community forums and email instructions to customers by support teams. We even found members of the services team creating short how-to videos to instruct customer remotely. Some of this content is developed in real time, delivered instantly. How could we leverage all of this content to support our customer’s experience?
The best contributors we saw created content that understood our audience; content that helped solve a problem. As we thought of content contributors in a broader way, we found we could leverage content our company had already developed. This created a win-win situation; we got more content for our channels, and our teammates got the chance to broaden their sphere of influence and grow new skills.
How did we decide on content contributors? We can give you a laundry list of departments to consider later; but we started by identifying the profile or profiles of an ideal content contributor regardless of their “official” function or title in the company.
The right profile
Every community needs a wide variety of content creators, but they should share some key characteristics. They do not have to be the most senior or experienced or technical team member to add value. Our most successful content contributors have the following characteristics in common:
- Show a passion for connecting with customers in a social forum, whether an owned platform, such as a community, or leveraged channels, such as Twitter or Facebook or GitHub.
- Display deep interest in how our customers experience our product, service, or subject. They wanted to learn from others as much as they wanted to share information.
- Have empathy for customer problems and a desire to help. A contributor who wants to post, but not respond to comments or answer questions, is not as valuable as one who wants to engage in conversation.
- Understand that helping one person online can organically scale to deflect hundreds maybe even thousands of identical support cases.
- See community/content participation as a career advancement opportunity. Frequently, more junior team members are more eager to dedicate time to content development projects in addition to their regular activities. Why? They are building an online reputation as a subject matter expert and growing their network. A content contributor who wants to learn new things and share that knowledge adds greatly to the voices in your community.
Get them to the table
You may be wondering, how do we get these people to contribute? How do we manage the chaos of so many voices? This is where the Content Potluck comes into play. A Content Potluck brings together a representative from each team contributing content to our channels. All potlucks require an organizer or two. Community managers, who work with many departments, and technical writers interested in broadening their skills, make ideal organizers in our experience.
With our representatives identified and our organizers in place, we schedule a recurring “potluck”, or meeting. In these gatherings (preferably over lunch or breakfast) we discuss:
- Content projects in flight, by team.
- Content types currently in production
- Publication dates, so we are constantly offering a steady stream of content to our customers.
- Themes from customer support, customer visits, and community forums to spark new content project ideas.
- Customer feedback from social media, communities and content portals.
This is always a lively discussion. We found it beneficial to have one organizer lead the meeting, while the other took notes. You might not need two organizers; it depends on the organization and the number of teams represented. In our Content Potlucks, we have team members from Product Management, Customer Support, Partner Marketing, Training, Information Development, Digital Marketing, Engineering, and Professional Services. Having a dedicated note taker to capture ideas quickly became critical.
What do you do once you have your participants at the table, the discussion flowing, and notes captured? Next steps include identifying common tools and creating a universal editorial calendar. Make sure you assign action items, create social media marketing campaigns to promote your content. These practices will help sustain the group for long-term growth. Each of these items deserves its own conversation to do it justice.
To learn more, attend the free virtual summit of the Content Wrangler and hear real life case studies and ask your questions.