Evolving online communities beyond support

Historically, companies have viewed digital customer communities as an extension of either HR, in the case of company intranets, or the support organization in the case of service-focused external communities. Although they vary in scope, customer communities exist for users to find and share information, and for companies to reduce the need for support staff. But with so many companies building large, active customer communities, we see a huge missed opportunity for marketing departments to approach supporting robust online communities in much the same way they did with websites a decade or so ago.


  • Community Strategy
  • Community Measurement
  • Marcom Strategy Alignment
  • Community Design
  • Platform Selection
  • Platform Migration
  • Platform Engineering
  • 3rd Party Integrations

Community experience is customer experience.

Although not necessarily representative of ALL of a company’s customers and prospects, digital communities do represent a fairly large group of customers, most of them friendly to — or at least familiar with — the company’s products and services. They’re a ready-made focus group, perfect for feeding into a number of marketing activities, including:

Segmentation Enrichment

An active customer community provides your organization the opportunity to enrich your user data. These updated profiles can increase the precision of your user segmentation, targeting, and personalization initiatives. Community data falls into two primary categories, Explicitly Shared Information and Implicitly Shared Information.

  • Explicitly Shared Information is the additional level of detail that a customer shares with you via their community profile. Your marketing automation tool may only capture key information such as Name, Company, and Email. Your community profile allows for a richer set of fields that users can share, such as their department, their goals, and the products they love.
  • Implicit information is the additional level of detail we can gather from a user’s community-specific activity. For example: Which product discussions have they engaged in most actively? What content have they liked or rates? What groups have they joined? What is their click path within the community? What ideas have they submitted? These user activities can identify goals and areas of need that the user has not explicitly communicated.
A/B Testing

The use case for A/B testing on communities expands beyond the standard use case for measuring sales or lead captures. Too few organizations use A/B testing on their community, whether it’s their company intranet, a support community, a network, or a work productivity tool where the majority of non-email correspondence and document sharing happens.

That’s a huge missed opportunity. Communities are overflowing with rich data just waiting to be mined. With anonymous users you can test many of the same things you’d test on a marketing site: how often collateral is downloaded, what UX layouts result in users finding the answer to their question, what kind of traction you’re getting on promotional campaigns, whether your marketing efforts are working to drive event registrations, and more. And with authenticated users, you can get a little more specific, promoting onboarding content for newly purchased products, surfacing content that may be relevant to their company or industry, or serving up support information specific to each user and their previous purchases or interactions with the site.

Brand Amplification

When digital communities are engaged and active, they talk about a brand far beyond the community itself, boosting your signal above the noise on social media and via wordofmouth.

Product Development

Got an idea for a new product or service, or an update to an existing one? Run it by your community, solicit input and feedback, even crowdsource further ideas. 

Content Refinement

Information from tests performed in your digital communities can be used to inform what’s happening on your main .com site. You can refine audience definitions based on users’ social activity, and better target content to specific audiences. And now that you know more about these community members, you can learn even more, too, monitoring which pieces of content they interact with, and tagging content to particular groups. You can use community data to adjust everything from broader audience approaches to more granular language tweaks in your messaging across all of your digital properties. With enough data, we can target content and even refine our audience experience based on implicit social activitythink views, likes, and sharesand reorganize content to reach and actively engage with more specific groups.