Which company can truly say that after a year of operating a community: We don't want to go back to the old way of working? Here at SDL we have reached that "Point of no return". Usually, "the point of no return" is associated with a negative connotation but in this case it is a very positive indeed. Last May 2015, we officially opened up our doors under the Open Door policy. We dreamed about not HAVING a community but BECOMING one. Wild vistas that were far from anybody's mind at the time. I had the good fortune to meet great CEO's and they all had this notion of: "If you dream, dream big! And then go for it" So, that is what we set out to do and we are now well in the slingshot curve of the hockey-stick.
Lurkers are good
One of the things we really had to get used to is the notion that lurkers (passive readers) are good. There is this historic notion that only active members are good and that you should strive for registered and active users. If you adopt this as your goal, the first thing you will do is put content behind the firewall and have everybody register and identify themselves before they can see content. The biggest validation of the idea to open up is that now 50% of our traffic is coming from Google Search. Our content is being indexed, associated with SDL and people are reading our stuff as we see the time on site increase. Most of these people are anonymous but our content is more and more being read. This has huge implications for our group owners who now see that indeed what they write is being read and they now control this process themselves. We are now having debates about how to make it more valuable for our readers and have them convert to a registration and entice them to a conversation.
"The Horse behind the Carriage"
There are many websites dedicated to the hilarious translations of Dutch sayings into English. Putting "the horse behind the carriage" means in Dutch that you got it wrong. The horse should be pulling the carriage. A good deal of 2015 was around getting people active. Dragging indeed the community carriage down the SDL street and getting people onboard and 'see the light'. In the latter half of 2015 we already found that the carriage was driving itself and not long after that the community team had to run to keep up with the momentum and make sure things were done correctly. We felt like the horse behind the carriage but in a good way...sort of. Some things had to change. We needed to organize ourselves a lot better. Amidst all kinds of org changes, a team got together and hammered out a 2016 End-to-End ONE SDL community programs that took care of the main processes. People, Content, KPI's, Processes, Endorsements, Responsibility, and above all, some agreed and common goals across the company. This program is now in action and it has greatly improved our customer and partner focus in the community. Everybody knows what to do and also be assured that the full process is supported.
The benefits are huge. First of all, our customers and partners are being responded to in a much quicker and direct way. We see huge increase in anonymous traffic too, meaning that not only customers and partners are looking at what we can do. The goals we set ourselves early this year - at that time deemed 'positively aggressive' - now already seem a bit 'easy to achieve'. A year ago, the concept of a community was met at best "if I have time". A year later, we are trying to make all the internal requests fit and are having debates about optimizing conversations that are happening in two different places and should be with one audience. Last month we passed 500 registrations/month without any special campaigns. We just now integrate the community in our daily work and that is paying off.
We still dream...even more
So, one year down the line, we are in good shape for the future with regard to the community. We still dream. Only this time, encouraged by chapter one, we dare to dream even further. We took the opportunity of org changes to improve the experience for our customers and partners. If we keep dreaming about that one goal then the next step is to get closer to our customers and partners. Be where they are and have that conversation that is required for SDL to truly understand their customers and partner and to make a difference. This was just the opening act. Some people already find it very hard to imagine a world without it. Like some people cannot imagine a world without a cell phone. So when your community turns from a novelty into a commodity. When the horse needs to run to keep up with the carriage, you know you have reached the 'point of no return'. And we don't want to go back, EVER.