In my recent Customer Experience Headlines blog post, I shared one of top CX trends I’m observing right now:

“Online communities are an underutilized source of customer insights. While many of the companies represented have online communities, they are often siloed from other feedback sources (surveys, focus groups, advisory boards). There’s power in connecting community feedback with traditional research to build a 360 view of customer experience and perception.”

Are you trying to launch or transform your online customer and partner communities? How do you create better online engagement? What metrics are the best indicators of success? And, what type of talent is required to sustain a successful online community?

Meet Claudio Castro (@claudioxcastro), Community & Social Engagement Expert.

Claudio manages a successful online community with over two million members. Sound like a daunting task? Not for Claudio.

“I do not directly manage all two million of those people,” he said. “In fact, I don’t even know 100,000 of those people personally. My job is about creating scale in those interactions.”

How does one community manager effectively scale interactions with two million people? “I focus on creating evangelists. I think of myself as the general manager of the community and the evangelists as VIP volunteers,” he said. “My goal is to engage the evangelists. Get to know them. Let them get to know me. Then share messages, trends and insights that are of interest to them. That help them do their jobs better and more easily.”

What are the most important factors in creating a successful online community? According to Claudio, they are:

-Be transparent. “If you have an outage, explain what happened, don’t try to hide it,” he said.

-Be authentic. “You are not a computer. You are a person behind a computer. Interacting with other people behind computers. Share your personality and enable others to do the same,” he said.

-Build trust. “When you engage with other people and share content that is not just yours,” he said, “That establishes trust. You’re not just watching an infomercial and asking me to buy your stuff all the time. Selling is cool, but establishing relationships and building trust is what matters. (Selling) is just the beginning of the journey. You want to continue that journey throughout every engagement a customer has with you. That is how trust is built.”

When Claudio reflected on the biggest mistakes he sees people make in building and sustaining online communities, he observed:

-Informing rather than engaging. “It’s not just about posting a blog. It’s not just about Tweeting about Kanye. It’s not just about pushing out content. I can teach my little sister how to share content” he said. “It’s about creating an ongoing, online conversation. Where questions get answered. And problems get solved. That does not happen in broadcast only mode.”

-Under-estimating the power of personalization. “One of the biggest things I have learned from social media engagement is that whether you have an audience of 5, 500 or 5,000, treat them with a personal touch,” he said. “You may say there’s ONLY 20 people in my online community. Fine. Make them the best 20 community members you can. You can’t buy a following. You want to build your growth organically. It takes time. It takes relationships. Take an interest in getting to know the members of your community personally.”

-Failing to say thank you. “It’s easy, free and goes a long way,” he said. A few of the ways Claudio thanks community members are with Tweets, cards, stickers, and invitations to special events. He incorporates the personal touch when he says thank you as well. For example, sending a onesie to community member who’s just had a baby. Or favorite sports team accessories..

As you consider metrics and measurements for your online community, which ones are the best indicators of success? Claudio recommends monthly tracking of:

-Active Users

-New users

-Repeat Visits / Visitors

-Unique visits

If you want to learn more from Claudio, follow him on Twitter @claudioxcastro And visit his online community at:

The opinions expressed in this blog are my own views.

About the Author

Karen Mangia (@karenmangia) believes that exceeding customer expectations starts with understanding why your customers are doing business with you. She leads a global team focused on effective customer, partner, and sales engagements, analysis and implementation of new ideas. She also has a passion for building and connecting people, teams and communities around the world.

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