By Ted McEnroe, The Community Roundtable
Ever have a conversation with someone who was focused solely on their needs and wants? Of course you have. It doesn’t make for great engagement.
So why do we expect to engage members when we focus solely on our organizational needs?
In a nutshell, that’s the message of a new whitepaper from Anna Caraveli of The Demand Networks and Elizabeth Engel of Spark Consulting that features TheCR Network’s Community Manager (and force of nature) Hillary Boucher. The target audience of “Leading Engagement from the Outside In: Become an Indispensible Partner in Your Members’ Success” is associations, but there are plenty of good points for anyone running a membership network that is striving for engagement.
TheCR Network case study highlights the co-creation of content and programming that Hillary champions with members of TheCR Network on a daily basis in the network. Virtually every project The Community Roundtable has developed in our history has been built in collaboration with our Network members. Indeed, we say the shared purpose of our network is to demonstrate the value of community management, through the co-creation of research that demonstrates its impact.
But true collaboration means much more than expecting free feedback from members. It’s an authentic investment by the organization in supporting the needs, desires, and values of the community members. Our State of Community Management research, for example, is a “Community Roundtable” publication, but the research focus each year is shaped in collaboration with members, and informed by the dozens of Roundtable events planned, created and archived by and/or for the membership.
This approach recognizes that the value of a community is not the network, it’s the relationship between and among the organization and community members. Improving engagement is often less about the mechanics of connecting and more about the value of the relationships to members and the organization.
It’s also great to see the work of one of our community superheroes from the Community Manager Handbook highlighted as well. TheCR Network member Christian Rubio is the Community Director at SERMO, a for-profit, private social network of more than 300,000 doctors, which represents approximately 40 percent of MDs and doctors of osteopathy in the United States. SERMO strengthens the community by building trust among members, creating a network where member contributions serve as a powerful value generator and focusing on ensuring that the valuable data the organization gets from the community is also shared within the community – a generative business model that enhances the value for both SERMO and its members.
Creating valuable engagement, rather than simply generating responses, is at the heart of the work the best communities do each day. It serves us well to follow the lead of organizations that have tapped into the shared value promise of community approaches.