Learning & Growing Together: Building a Community of Users
It’s an exciting time, because there are so many ways to learn right now. We have video, audio, podcasts, forums, private groups, and all kinds of other social media channels where industry experts, organizations, and individuals share information and knowledge. When you bring these resources together, you have the fastest growing educational network in history, not to mention an opportunity to provide massive value to customers and build lifelong fans of your products and services.
What's impressive is seeing how organizations are reacting to the challenge of building communities as these opportunities are beginning to unfold. We have one client that is very much a startup in the music industry, but they hit the ground running with the goal of creating a community of users as a top priority with their educational programs. By investing in the students and community aspect of their business (beyond the scope of selling courses and products to customers) they've been able to work collaboratively with customers to evolve and grow their products and additional course offerings.
On the other end of things, we have another client in the investigative technology industry. It's amazing to see that as they deliver educational products and trainings around the globe that these not only educate the participants in the course. They raise the talent level of the entire industry over time, and the students in those courses take that learning out of the workshops and instructor-led sessions to online communities across socials, email listservs, and professional platforms.
Every Industry Is Different.
Industry culture seems to influence where and how people look for information. Creative industries often share information openly on channels such as social media whereas heavily regulated professions may rely on privatized forums, communities, learning management systems, or email-only resources.
As an organization entering the “Training As A Service” market, or even one having been in the customer training business for a while, identifying where these communities currently exist within your industry, or just as importantly identifying the need to build that community, can present a massive opportunity for expanding your value and service offerings for traditional product/software organizations.
Look for ways to bring people together outside of traditional conferences, such as:
Can your organization launch a digital cohort around one of your core service/product offerings? What about virtual meetups and digital summits?
Are there any technologies currently in place for your organization that facilitate group discussions and engagement? (i.e. Slack, Yammer, Workplace, etc.)
What can your Learning Management Systems (LMS) support in terms of cohort or group functionality? Will email marketing systems function for communication and discussion instead?
There’s Power In Community.
There’s a lot of power in being surrounding by people who think similarly and bringing people together around common challenges and solutions.
This is true because nobody lives or learns in a silo. There’s a social push in our culture to build your brand online, share your knowledge, and share your process. Many times this social learning comes before any formal learning or learning management system ever comes into the equation.
You also see a positive ripple effect throughout these communities when organizations empower people within an industry by sharing information freely and unveiling their processes and technology. If done right, these organizations can build a loyal audience of raving fans for their products and services. Through user groups, summits, virtual meetups, and trainings these fans become product and industry experts. They also tend to purchase more, recommend the service and product more, and often amplify an organization’s sales force.
Remember that the reality of creating this community for your organization won’t happen overnight. Often, organizations have to provide value without expecting much in return. It many times requires an outpouring of giving without expectation to build that community and earn that trust. However, when done intentionally, thoughtfully, and strategically, your organization can build a loyal base of users that will rave about your products and services, recommend them to others, and provide valuable insight to grow and evolve your products over time.