Getting Started with Salesforce Communities

November 14, 2013 Appirio

By Randy Wandell, David Meyer and Nancy Wright

salesforce communitiesSalesforce Communities are the latest way to enable users of the Sales and Service Clouds to more efficiently communicate and collaborate by creating a more common and specific interface. Communities offer a viable alternative to portals by providing a mechanism to customize the user experience and limit access to areas of the system by assigning specific applications to a community.  A Community can be created for any purpose and customized to suit any need.  In short, Salesforce Communities are a very flexible way to bring internal and external users with a common purpose together to communicate and collaborate in a custom interface.

Salesforce Communities exploit the social aspects for companies by combining business data and processes from a common interface while eliminating trade-offs between portals and social solutions.  By providing a social and mobile community solution, companies can transform how they sell, service and market.

Like all Salesforce products, Communities work in conjunction with the security model and create another layer between object, application and content.  Because members are added to a community based on their profile or permission set, system administrators can create a custom security model for a community based on general characteristics.

Determine Goals

A company interested in enabling Communities should explore their needs as well as the needs of the communities they intend to create. They should start by defining what the business goals are and then determine what their members want.

Business Goals

  • How will this community support the company’s vision, mission and brand promise?

  • How will this community add to the company’s core value proposition?

  • How will this community complement and expand the company’s customer experience?

Member Needs

  • Who is this community for?

  • How can the company support/serve them?

  • What would make members login to the community?

  • What would make members come back to the community?

  • What motivates the members?

Invest in a Community Manager

To make the Community a success, internal teams should be aware and involved in the community, therefore a community manager should be appointed to insure success.

A community manager is a leader who understands the business needs as well as the needs of the users and works inside and outside company lines to make sure the community stays active and brings value. This person should set strategy, measure impact, act as the voice of the company, build engagement, limit destructive behavior and ensure that the community meets business needs and member needs.

What a community manager is

  • Passionate

  • Empathetic and service-oriented

  • Well-networked inside and outside

  • Approachable

  • A strong decision maker

What community management is not

  • Social media marketing

  • Broadcasting your messages without conversation

  • Being part of every conversation

  • Glossing over issues instead of fixing them

  • Tech Support

Build your Community

Start with a small group of champions both internally and externally. Focus on a few quick wins and don’t attempt too much at once. Expect the community to evolve. As the community becomes useful to customers or partners they will start to trust the company more.

Communities are highly customizable and can be seamlessly linked to other social platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Linked In and Google + using single sign on.   Also, when implementing communities, here are a few more things to keep in mind.


After the community gets going the company needs to stay engaged and continue to reset expectations internally.

At this point, the community manager should help to build the engagement of the Community members by developing programs to draw members in, creating conditions for members to easily connect and create value and building community activity into things members already do.

The community manager helps define how the company participates in the community. All employees should understand their role in the community and follow best practices.

Measure, Learn, Repeat

Using the goals identified earlier the company should create and run reports and dashboard to gauge the effectiveness of the community. There will be different stakeholders and their goals are not always measured the same way so the community manager will want to make sure they measure these goals separately.

Learn from the feedback provided by the community whether that feedback is direct through ideas or indirect by performance and adapt the community to fit the needs of the members.

The company should set a timeframe for reviewing metrics like these and plan on continually improving the community this way.

Randy Wandell, David Meyer and Nancy Wright are consultants in Appirio’s Salesforce consulting practice

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