Content and community strategies cannot exist in isolation. In fact, they only benefit from feeding off each other. Around seven years ago, I pivoted my career from journalism to tech and worked as a Content Marketer, Event Coordinator, and Community Manager for several B2B SaaS companies focused on collaborative tools. In all of these roles, I applied my experience as a writer and editor to craft programs that maintained a consistent tone and point of view, treating them as editorial strategy.
Showcasing your community in your communications can elevate any piece of content, giving it authenticity that many brand publications lack due to being too SEO-focused or too salesy. By considering your community strategy through an editorial lens, you can provide structure and confidence that many community programs lack.
Here is how you can connect your Content and Community Marketing into a singular strategy.
Find your company's heroes
Like any publication, your community needs a group of newsmakers — the cast of people who consistently appear in the stories you highlight and can give these stories a human dimension. When I started at Felt around a year ago, the product had just come out of beta. At the time, we saw some mentions on social media from people who were trying it for the first time, but it was hard to source any testimonials or case studies. We didn't know who our superfans were.
To identify them, we started two initiatives:
- A Slack group with a channel for those who want to showcase their maps and receive feedback from other community members and our in-house cartographer Mamata Akella.
- Map challenges: themed contests for the best map for Halloween, the best map for winter holidays, etc.
Within the first few months, we identified a group of 10-20 superfans who regularly contributed to our Slack group, started posting on social media more, and participated in our mapping challenges.
Elevate your champions
Here are a few ways we encourage our champions. Feel free to try them out or get inspired and tailor your initiatives to fit the community you’re managing:
- We repackage the best maps into blog posts and tag their creators on social media. Our monthly community map spotlights allow us to showcase our product in a more authentic way and consistently get high levels of engagement when shared on social media.
- We also highlight the best maps and their creators in our monthly newsletter.
- We invite people to show their maps and talk about their experience making them at our in-person or online meetups.
- If our meetups don’t work with someone’s schedule, we ask the creators of the best maps to record a short Loom video explaining how they achieved different cartographic techniques.
- All the outstanding maps that represent our target industries are added to the Map Gallery, our version of a template library that many SaaS companies have. These maps can be easily duplicated and used by our customers to create great-looking maps for their industry.
Set clear guidelines for your community
Once you've identified your superfans, it's important to support and enable them to represent your brand. This is where you need to put on your editor hat and think about ways to create structure for them.
Whether it's by creating an ambassador program or hosting a series of community-led meetups, you want to provide your superfans with a framework that allows them to contribute, as if they were freelance writers and you were the editor.
Make sure there's room for creativity, but also ensure that your superfans don't feel like they have to start from scratch. For instance, at Felt, we established an ambassador program that helps superfans showcase their mapping skills and teach others about Felt. They can choose the format that interests them most — record a video, write a blog post, or organize online or in-person events.
Once they've picked what suits them best, we provide guidelines that are similar to what a publication might have. For videos, we suggest the optimal length, a structure that the author may want to follow, and key tactics for promoting it, among other things.
When in doubt, host an event
If your community champions are unsure which format to prioritize, starting with virtual or in-person events or meetups is a good option. The goal is to start conversations between your champions and other community members,allowing each champion to have more agency and assess which topics generate the most interest, what can be improved in the way they tell their story, and share their skills.
In other words, live interactions are the quickest way to get productive feedback on your community and content strategy, and to inform your further plans and champions' priorities. Based on audience reactions and questions, you can plan blog posts, improve the flow of future events, and find more enthusiastic champions to represent your brand in the future.
Additionally, event recordings can be turned into content for social media. Cutting them into clips and sharing the most insightful ones helped us a lot when Felt didn't have a dedicated customer education initiative.
Another way we connect our content and community is by integrating our community members’ work into Felt’s product launches. We start by giving our ambassadors a sneak peek into the new features we’re launching ahead of the official release date. They receive launch notes and attend an internal event to learn more about potential use cases for these new features. Very often, the launch itself is inspired by the feedback from our community members, so these briefings are usually received with a lot of enthusiasm.
That allows us to have example maps created by real GIS professionals, educators, urban planners, and mapping enthusiasts by the time we launch. After that, we either post them directly on social media and forums or create a dedicated blog post where we can show these new maps and ask our ambassadors to give the audience tips and tricks for creating something similar (or they can tinker on their own since every map we post can be duplicated to users’ accounts). Testing new features early also allows us to get short written testimonials that we can include in launch blog posts.
Frequently asked questions about the product or new features are then turned into blog articles, social media posts, and a source of inspiration for thematic events.
Connecting content and community can give your brand authenticity and help you make an impact even with limited resources, creating a feedback loop between your product and its audience and helping you reach more people. Identify your company’s champions and set clear guidelines for them — that creates structure and allows them to act as your representatives even if you don’t have a lot of marketing resources in-house.
September 12, 2023
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