Patrick from Which? is a bit of an old hand. He’s been running their community discussion website, Which? Convo, since 2010. But Which? is even older. It was started in 1957. So how has a membership organisation that was founded before the internet risen to the challenge of connecting with people online?
Since 2010 ‘Which? Convo ‘ has had 8m visits, 130,000 comments, 400,000 poll votes, 200+ authors, 4,000 conversations – and all of that starting with a blog on WordPress and expanding to using Buddypress. It just goes to show you don’t have to go all flash and bespoke to get started or even to grow. Their revamped site is still built on the same system.
Interestingly, for an organisation whose funding is from their paying, subscription magazine members, this site is for everyone and they don’t do a hard sell. They see the value in their community members powering the campaigns that bring about change – and then, I guess, cementing their reputation as the effective friend to consumers.
So here are some of the lessons we learnt.
Nurturing keen members
Rather than a free for all forum they have divided the new site into subject areas. As their consumer brief covers so many items, this allows the community to navigate to their area of interest. This means they can also create content written by their experts and by members who have a deep interest in a subject. Giving active members the space to blog is one way to reward activity and also allows people to help share the agenda.
But they also use polls to generate content and use this as a way to test ideas for future campaigns.
Most useful was their approach to criticism and controversy. There is unlikely to be an online community where people don’t disagree with each other or take issue with your policy line. They see this as part of the territory, allowing discussion to happen, using member blogs to show both sides of the argument and being honest when its just not something that Which? as an organisation can agree with!
Using conversations to change the world
They can also gauge which members would make great case case studies for the media. Their trail of comments are a great way to test whether they have something to say and can say it well.
“Our community has helped shape our move to campaigning with consumers. The community stopped the abolition of cheques, and directly influenced the launch of our Fixed Means Fixed, Costly Calls and Nuisance Calls campaigns.” Patrick Steen
They had 30,000 comments and 260,000 signatures on their nuisance calls petition. Community Members Martin Bostock and Lee Beaumont spoke to the media, not as Which? but as informed consumers with stories to tell.
Using the data to make campaigning more effective
We all struggle with knowing what data to collect and how best to use it for insight. You would think a big organisation like Which? had it licked. But they are really just building in the ability to collect more data to make their campaigns more effective.
This was a useful reminder to me. You can crunch as much data as you like, but the real test of whether you are getting things right is if people are responding to your content. Only build in whiz bang features if it helps your community do more of that!
Which?’s revamped site is all about making it easier for the community members to tailor their interaction. They achieved this with a simple modification requiring a simple sign-up process.
- Your community needs a shared purpose and they need to know what it is
- Show your community’s achievements back to them
- Your biggest advocates can be your biggest critics (and vice versa) – listen to them honestly and you can turn them around… Don’t be afraid to let go
- You don’t need the latest software – give them features they want not what you want
- Don’t let data go to waste
- Don’t hide your community away – they are a huge asset to your brand so put them front and centre
- Push the importance of your community within your organisation – everyone needs to be involved, especially if you are a small organisation.
You can see the slides from the event below and do join us at the next one – from Fan Clubs to Supporting Refugees with Shelly Taylor.