If you are running a support-focused community, you know the challenge: How can I increase the p2p support on my community? It is simply impossible to answer all questions yourself and it keeps you from working on the content which you planned to publish.
This guide does not contain the holy grail to activate each user to become the next answer guru on your community. However it hopefully inSpires you to do the right things which will make your users share more of their valuable knowledge.
1. It’s all about engagement
Please do not expect a community activate itself without any engagement from you and your colleagues:
In order to have a good share of p2p support, you need users that keep coming back to answer questions.
There are many ways to achieve this stickyness from your userbase, e.g. meaningful content. I have learned over the years that your personal engagement as an official in the community is a very (if not the most) powerful tool in creating this stickyness.
You are the face of your company or organization
Especially if you are truly engaging with your community over a longer time people will read your name left and right when they browse around. Unlike unpersonal websites or marketing material, you will have an individual voice and this will attract re-visits by users because they know you.
Your knowledge is confirmed to be true
Different to other support channels, a community is generating trust and reliability, in a way that users appreciate that your very own statement from 18 months ago is to be found in public. In consequence people rather come back to the community to “listen” or talk to you in order to learn what’s really true.
Of course this works much better if you are working directly in the community (and not in a seperate tool connected via API) and if you are working in a small team.
2. Give top users more attention / Super user program
Basically related to number one on the list, however the dedicated engagement in a public thread is just one aspect of it. Why not send a private message to very active users, for example? Even (or especially) when they are unhappy about something which is not easy to solve, it is your opportunity to make a difference and listen to his/her concerns. Try to explain why things are the way they are and they hopefully be more motivated to help.
Fun fact: On my previous community, the top-performing Super user who answered most of the questions started off as a really negative user. By giving him attention he turned into an answer-hero.
Do you have three or more very active users? And you think you/they could even get along? Maybe start a hidden Super User category where you can communicate a bit less formal? Read the Super User one-pager which Ditte (CM at SONOS) shared here to learn more.
3. Reward your users
This does not mean that you need to give the latest iPhone to a user that answered a couple of questions. Nevertheless: Give back to those who give!
These users usually help you and your colleagues in an invaluable way, there there are many ways in which you can pay them back - some things don’t even cost money. :P
You can e.g. give your experts special ranks which not just give them a cool name - but actually something they find valuable. Did you know you can connect a custom user role to a rank? This way a user e.g. can have more rights on the community (e.g. submit ideas in an ideation board, or access to a hidden area with exclusive content). Next to that you can create Badges which will motivate your users to be more active. In the following points you can find some more notes on how to reward users in a special way.
Host Q&As with experts or with yourself. Again a good piece of content which works very well to stimulate re-visits if done in public. Especially if it is around new & upcoming products this can stimulate a lot of interested, knowledgeable users to join.
Ever thought about to have a private, invite-only Q&A for interested users, e.g. who signed up via social media or a newsletter to onboard them to the community? This could be a good signal to a user that their contribution on the community is appreciated.
5. Mentioning / connecting
You probably often see questions where you don’t know the answer. Your colleagues will know the answer, but sometimes only other users who have knowledge in a very specific area are capable to give a good (or even better) response. This is a good opportunity for you to mention that other user - most of the times they will then share their knowledge. Do that more often, but not too often with the same user, otherwise he might feel harrassed. ;)
6. The 24h rule
It’s very good if you are engaged on your community, but there is something that could be categorized as too engaged: If you jump on every open question within a minute, you will take the opportunity for another user to become active. If that question can be answered by other, regular users, then leave it for about 24 hours. Normally this is not too long for a user to wait. And if only you can answer it, or if it is a question that requires an action in your CRM system to fix an issue, please ignore this rule. ;)
7. Rank-up notifications
You might know that you can send automated private messages to your users when they reach a certain rank. Why not send them a message when they receive a new rank because they answered their first question?
This is the ideal moment for you to connect with this user and personally thank them. They will notice that you noticed what they did, and hopefully will like the taste of helping users who have questions.
8. Promoting user-generated content
You can actually promote a user-generated discussion topic to an article. An article created by a regular user is giving this user a lot of prestige, as this content usually is only created by the community team. With a label and a highlighted article banner it will motivate other users to also get their helpful content promoted.
If you connect this to rank up notifications & user roles, you could create a co-creation program where your experts can collaborate (in a hidden section on the community) to deliver premium support content.
9. Email notification improvements
In order to achieve real p2p support, you not just need replies that answer questions, these replies also need to be marked as such (so you can measure, but even more so that others find it easier e.g. via Google). A good way to motivate users to mark a reply as the valid answer you could improve the “new reply”-notification:
Did you ask a question? Maybe this is your answer! Mark it so that others can find it!
Another, more direct way to improve a notification so that it stimulates more p2p support is to improve the “marked as best answer”-notification:
The question “[topic title]” has been marked as answered! This means someone was nice and helped - why not help someone else as well? [link to “unanswered questions”-tab]
10. Give your most helpful users a stage
Leaderboards and activity streams for ranks and badges are nice to show off your top performing users. But why not giving them a dedicated stage which is not depending on if they have been accumulating likes or badges in the last x days. There is no reason not to advertise to become a user with many replies just because your top 3 users are on their summer holiday. You can create a sidebar widget really easy with HTML using our tutorial.
Are you running a B2B community? Well then there are other opportunities for you which you can use to increase your level of p2p support:
You should make the community the go-to place in your onboarding material. Why not have the onboarding material (documentation, guides, e-learnings etc.) within your community? Then users are aware of the community from day one. Especially in the early days they will also have some questions which your more mature customers will easily will be able to answer and share their experience. And once your new customers have build up more knowledge they then will also be more likely to share it.
For users to answer questions, they will need the right knowledge. Many questions on the community are being answered by simply showing where to find the right info. A Knowledge Base will not just deflect unneccessary questions to be posted in the first place, but furthermore enable your users to use this official information to help each other more easily.
Beta & Research
If your users give you feedback early in the development of improvements it will not just make your innovation process more efficient and your users more happy - it will actually equip them also with the product knowledge that they need to answer questions once the feature is out. Everybody wins!
Best practices section
Many questions on your community will not be technical - they will be focussed on projects or operational challenges that experts in their field are seeking to achieve something in their professional life. Often enough you as a vendor are not the ideal candidate to answer a question of a user that is looking for good examples from other customers. Open a dedicated section on your community where your users can exchange their best practices. True customer success is achieved by connecting your users with each other!
You know best who could be a top-performer on your community. If you meet with them (at a customer meeting, at a buisness review, etc.) or if you spot they are doing something really cool with your product, why not ask them to share it on your community?
Also, if you are seeing something where you know one of your more mature customers is doing the exact same thing with your product, send them a link to that topic asking for their help. If they are happy with you that shouldn’t be asked too much. In the end it shows that you know what they are doing and can send a positive signal.
Is there anything you are missing on this list? Do you have something cool which you want to share, or are you fighting with low p2p-support levels and nothing helps? Let us know in the comments!