We've already looked at why now is the time for community in B2B marketing and we've outlined the 10 success factors for community-based marketing (CBM).

But what are the top 10 mistaken expectations of community when used in business as a way to engage prospect and customers?

1. Thinking community is a short term fix

It takes time to create, build and nurture a successful community. But once you have it then it is very powerful - a bit like building a strong brand.

2. Thinking community is tactical

Community won't work if you think of it simply as a 'project' or a short-term tactic you can apply. It needs to be strategic and part of the business/brand DNA to be truly effective.

3. Not having the senior people in your business leading, and actively participating in, the community

If senior executives are not actively involved then not only will 'community' not get the attention and resources required to help it succeed but it sends the wrong signal to the members of your community: if your senior people can't be bothered to show up and take part then why should they?

4. Thinking you need loads of 'content' to power a community

At the heart of a thriving community is not 'content' but conversations. You might use content to prime or stimulate conversations but your members almost certainly don't need more content, just pushed at them another way. But they do need answers to their questions.

5. Thinking an event is the community

An event is just one manifestation of the underlying community. It is not the community itself. Just like the village fete is one example of the local community - as is the local sports club or church. There are many ways for a community to come together that are not events e.g. learning, collaborative content, Q&A, mentoring, joint projects and initiatives etc.  

6. Thinking providing a means of mass interaction, like a web forum, is enough to provide community

Real community happens at a small scale in quite an intimate way. Having thousands, or even 10s of thousands, of anonymous, or near-anonymous, users interacting (e.g. in a support forum, or posting comments to a blog) can be valuable but is not a community.  

7. Not having a clear purpose for your community

Members need to know why they should care about joining and participating in your community - it needs to have a purpose that you clearly state.

8. Expecting people will just 'get chatting/networking' if you give them a community platform

If you hired a venue for an event, even a great venue, you probably wouldn't just invite people to show up and hope they got talking. You need to set expectations and provide some structure: the event needs an agenda, a format, and some kind of MC or host to help guide delegates through the experience. The same is true for an online community - however fancy the tech platform you've only really hired a venue.  

9. Thinking big numbers = successful community

Some people feel they have to chase big numbers to show success. In fact, communities can weaken, fragment or drift if they get too large. Professor Robin Dunbar, who sits on the Guild Advisory Board, is famous for the ‘Dunbar number’, of ~150, showing we cannot truly know more people than that. Communities for B2B marketing are likely to be 10s, 100s, possibly 1,000s but not more. Guild’s model for professional networking in the digital age suggests group sizes between 15-1,500 are likely optimal.

10. Expecting short term ROI from community

Read the business case for community-based marketing for more details on the different kinds of value that community delivers. There can be short-term return on investment but it is more likely to require investment over time to build the required levels of engagement, trust and reciprocity with your community members. Then you've built up relationship equity and social capital that you can get value from in all sorts of ways and it keeps on giving.  

Image by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

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