Look Inside Your Brand’s Community for People To Help Lead It

Intuit knows people ask a lot of questions about taxes.

For over 10 years, its TurboTax brand provided an online question-and-answer support forum to address them. But a few years ago, Intuit saw the potential to evolve the robust FAQ into a year-round community to discuss all aspects of personal finance.

The community expansion makes sense, given that 84% of US and UK consumers surveyed say they’ve reached out to online brand communities for customer service and support or to identify answers to questions and helpful resources, according to Khoros’ 2023 Brand Confidence report.

But Intuit didn’t stop there. Unlike many brand-driven digital communities, TurboTax encouraged its community members to answer questions. It also launched the formal Intuit Community Champions program for its most active members.

Though in the minority, Intuit isn’t alone. Women in Tech SEO contracts with community members to lead and assist with its outreach. The Content Marketing Institute’s community Slack channel operates with a volunteer host.

Read on to learn more about how these brands operate their community-led initiatives.

Incentivize community members to elevate their participation

When Intuit launched its new community and champion program a few years ago, it partnered with Khoros, a digital engagement agency responsible for the annual Brand Confidence report.

“The Intuit Community Champions program invites passionate, supportive members with high-quality responses to join a membership complete with recognition and exclusive offerings,” explains Lindsay Sanchez, chief marketing officer of Khoros.

The digital acknowledgment encompasses over 80 badges and ranks based on their participation — writing posts, helping community members, participating in events, etc.

In one year, these champions provided 55,000 answers in 90,000 new conversations with 230,000 replies. According to Lindsay, most threads received a reply in 30 minutes or less — an 8% reduction from the previous year.

She says the results also boosted customer satisfaction among community members by 17%, and engagement in the community jumped 35%.

Intuit has a detailed process before it grants the champion label to community members. First, individuals must be active in the community, achieving a level-seven ranking (visible next to their screen name) before submitting a nomination form to join the Intuit Community Champions.

Every quarter, a review committee considers every nomination and reviews the nominee’s current community activity, according to Intuit. Nominees who pass the review fill out an official application, sign a non-disclosure agreement, and agree to adhere to a code of conduct.

Once approved, the new champion receives a welcome box with swag, public recognition for their new designation, and access to a private forum where they can connect directly with Intuit employees, Lindsay explains.

Intuit reviews and renews champions’ profiles annually.

To support and reward them, Intuit sends ongoing tokens of gratitude from senior leadership and hosts fun-oriented appreciation weeks. It also provides coffee chats and educational webinars so champions can grow their skills, asks them to test new product features, and distributes complimentary software.

Lindsay says the program works because it empowers and incentivizes members who meaningfully contribute to the community. Intuit isn’t alone. Khoros’ Brand Confidence research proves that. Nearly all those surveyed call loyalty rewards a key component of an appealing brand community.

Hire community members to support brand initiatives

Almost five years ago, Areej AbuAli founded Women in Tech SEO to help women in the industry empower each other in positive, inspiring, and beneficial ways.

Today, the organization encompasses 7,000 free members and 40,000 followers online. It also hosts festivals in London, Berlin, and Philadelphia.

Last year, Areej used some of the revenue to contract with 50 community members to support several projects, including the WTSPodcast, WTSWorkshop, and WTSNewsletter.

She selected members engaged in the community who were already involved in similar initiatives. The WTSPodcast host, for example, shepherds another industry podcast.

“I usually get in touch with engaged community members who have been part of the group for some time and know the ins and outs of how we operate,” Areej explains, noting she pays by project or retainer depending on the project.

Though Areej elicits help from her community, she remains its primary manager. “It’s one of those things that is very difficult to let go of. Even though the community is almost five years old, I’m still very much involved in the day-in and day-out of it,” she says.

Areej regularly updates the community rules and code of conduct, asks for feedback, and updates the channels. But she also finds members voluntarily taking on a leadership role. “There’s a lot of member-led growth that happens where I almost never feel the need to jump in and answer questions asked or welcome new folks … mainly because most of the other members are quicker than me,” she says.

Ask community members to lead the conversations

Four years ago, the Content Marketing Institute community manager asked Jeremy Bednarski if he would like to host the CMI Slack channel.

“The original ask was to post a question or message once a week or so. I said I’d post daily since if I can’t come up with something to ask or discuss with this group, I’m in the wrong profession,” Jeremy recalls.

A screenshot of the CMI Slack community channel showing a question and replies from community members.

A senior manager of content strategy at Salesforce, Jeremy recently started his fifth year as the volunteer host of the channel and still posts daily to prompt conversations. “We’re all learning from each other as we go. This community has helped me with my career for years, from job referrals to things I’m working through on a day-to-day basis,” he says.

Though leading a social channel could make someone feel like they’ve taken on hall-monitor duty, Jeremy hasn’t experienced that. “I never had to deal with anyone going rogue,” he says.

He says community members who take on a leadership role should strive to be helpful and refrain from self-promotion. “Understand why people spend their time within the community. Most of all, listen and be flexible,” he says.

Community leaders also shouldn’t think they need to do everything. Encourage other members to answer questions and join discussions. “It doesn’t have to be me leading things,” Jeremy says.

But you do need patience. He explains, “It takes time to build a community that shows up every day. Some brands are lucky enough to have an audience that will follow them into any channel, but most don’t. It’s about building relationships.”

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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