Salesforce Communities: How to Find the Magic

November 1, 2017 John Gorup

The research firm Gartner has a helpful tool they call the Hype Cycle. While it’s not a scientific reflection of technology adoption, in my experience it is pretty accurate to what’s happening in the market. The cycle follows the typical journey of a specific technology through a series of steps that sound like an IT version of Candy Land. There is the Peak of Inflated Expectations, the Trough of Disillusionment, the Slope of Enlightenment, and finally, the Plateau of Productivity.

Especially around Dreamforce time, it’s useful to think about the Hype Cycle as Salesforce rolls out new functionality. For Solution Architects like me and my colleague Julie Macalik, it is important for us to separate hype from reality. Julie and I work with Appirio’s Nonprofit and Higher Education clients. Part of our job is to help clients separate hype from reality. For us, there’s a deep satisfaction in helping institutions use technology to further their mission.

3 steps to finding the business case for Community Cloud

This brings us to Salesforce Community Cloud. As you probably know, Community Cloud lets you build branded communities (or portals) for constituents, partners, or workers. That might sound great, but unlike Sales or Service Clouds, for example, the value is not inherently obvious. Getting started with Community Cloud technology is straightforward, but getting real value out of it takes some deep thinking. This is especially true for Higher Ed institutions and Nonprofits. Here are three steps for finding that perfect business case for Community Cloud.

Start by thinking about brand

Brand is not just a college’s mascot and colors or a nonprofit’s logo. The real meaning of brand is the emotional connection constituents have with with an institution. The better you understand what connects people to your organization, the easier it will be to build a successful community. Implementing Community Cloud presents an opportunity to enhance your brand and a risk of damaging it.

Think about incentive to add content

Communities live and die by good content. If you are counting on community members to add content, you need to consider what incentives they have. As economists say, incentives matter. Usually when we think of incentives we think of monetary incentives — but non-monetary incentives can have a huge impact on behavior. Enhancing a reputation, getting visibility to something someone is passionate about, or being recognized for contributions can all increase the quality and quantity of content published.

Ask yourself: does it add value to constituents?

The idea that “if we build it, they will come” does not work for online communities. The value of having interactions on a platform fully controlled by the sponsoring organization is clear. It gives them the ability to analyze sentiment, adjust messages, and react to new information factors. But that is not enough to build a successful community. There has to be value to the users, and it has to be value that can’t be found in other communities that people are already using (like Facebook).

We want to meet you at Dreamforce!

At Dreamforce, Julie and I will dive into these topics and share a couple of great demos in a session titled “Build Great Salesforce Communities for Nonprofit & Higher Education.” Appirio is also hosting two breakfasts: A Nonprofit breakfast on Tuesday and a Higher Ed breakfast on Wednesday. We’d love to meet you there!

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