As Gatherhere grows, we aim to have it become an active portal that facilitates curation of content, co-creation of best practices / ideas and connecting professionals in the social service sector. Naturally to reach that stage would require time, effort and people because no matter how good the tool is, the responsibility of success lies at the feet of its users. The best industry-leading tool will still fail without any form of engagement strategy and a key part to that strategy is a strong community advocate program.
I completely agree with the author that a community can't grow or even get off the ground if we don't get advocates involved early and often during the infant stage of this portal. Advocates play a key role in making the portal successful and effective in its role as a go-to portal within the social service community.
Adapted from the article:
1. Advocates can share in community work.
They are basically the extra legs and arms to support the functionality of a portal in:
Leading topics and discussions
Helping welcome new members
Delivering training or coaching sessions
Answering questions in the community
Sharing best practices
2. Advocates can increase a community reach and word of mouth through:
Promoting or spreading word of mouth through other channels
Defend the community with their credible views and expertise
3. Advocates can be a powerful front line source of end user and member support.
By training and educating them about the portal and providing them with templates, they can be a source of member support. Advocates can field simple questions such as usage and functions of the portal to posting their views on certain subject matter. Advocates act as a form of storytellers, sharing best practices and their help would reduce the need for a community manager to intervene for every single question. By shortening the lead time for members to wait for a reply or answer, users will have a more positive experience and keep using or recommend the portal to their colleagues!
4. Advocates can help prune and curate community content.
Relying solely on the community manager to manage all the content a community generates is insane especially when the direction forward is to make it into a one-stop portal with vibrant discussions and active involvement from many parties. Advocates can help to scale the work of content planning and content monitoring to a more manageable workload.
5. Advocates can a trusted source of user feedback.
Advocates may be the ones that use the portal more frequently than normal users or even the community management team simply because they are taking the role of engaging the community. As such they know the portal in ways that others do not. They are an important source of feedback channels for community feedbacks, user experience and solutions. The community itself can leverage on these feedbacks to better itself so that users can benefit and the portal can improve and upgrade itself constantly.
Essentially, advocates are not just users that promotes the portal. They are important strategy partners that can beef up the portal and make it even more useful and effective as a digital platform for users to enrich their learning journey. Should Gatherhere have an advocate program?