In a recent article, we spoke about types of internal communities that can thrive inside an organization. But what about external-facing communities? With the rising need for providing a complete digital experience for generating engagement of external members, several types of online communities are now in demand.
Let us then look at what are the 5 most popular ways to use eXo Platform as an online digital experience solution.
#1 A customer engagement solution
Customers today are more digitally savvy and likely to engage with and frequent online communities than ever before. This presents an opportunity for organizations to drive engagement of potential customers and streamline their communication with its representatives through a next-generation digital experience solution.
eXo Platform allows you to either add new users and invite them manually to join your community, or to create a registration page so that your visitors can self-register. This documentation provides a step by step guide on how to setup a basic self-registration form accessible from a public-facing portal page.
With the high popularity of social media like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, chances are that your visitors already have an account in at least one of them. eXo Platform allows you to tap into this potential to facilitate the onboarding of new members securely into your community with just two clicks. See this article to learn more about this.
Another way to facilitate new members joining your community is to provide an easy way for an existing member to invite other people to join the community. This is made possible through this little add-on.
Once they’re in, you can engage your community members through communications in the form of rich web content thanks to the content management capabilities of eXo Platform. To see one live example of this, log in to our own online community site. You will immediately see the latest blog publications that are potentially interesting to our community highlighted at the top of the homepage. Because not everyone will necessarily visit our blog site, this little display significantly helps improve the reachout of our content marketing campaign which aims to hopefully offer noise-free, useful, informative or fun content to our visitors.
You can also post announcements and enable two-way communication between your representatives and your prospects using the social interaction capabilities available, such as the activity streams with its micro-blogging and commenting capabilities or the chat.
With the high interoperability of eXo Platform, many third-party software integration scenarios are possible. One of such scenarios that can help you make the most out of your community of prospects is a CRM integration.
For this context we will pick one example: our pre-built Salesforce integration which is available as an add-on. One of the features that this integration provides is a Salesforce “lead details” section on member profile pages visible only to your staff members. This way, your people can quickly see the CRM status of a prospect that they are interacting with in the community, without having to open the CRM and try to search there.
For example, you may have a CRM used by your sales people. One of your support people who may not even have access to the CRM may be answering some questions from a community member. They can check quickly to see if this community member is a new visitor or an existing customer without having to ask.
Brand advocacy and reward programs can also be very effective in tapping into the hidden potential of your community. This free add-on allows you to organize such campaigns. You can for example propose to your community to freely test your new product and then publish their ratings/reviews online (wherever your product might be listed) in order to win a free goodie with your logo on it.
This results in higher lead generation, more engagement from your community, a whole bunch of valuable feedback about your new product, more exposure to your product online with a lot more people giving their honest reviews, and finally, more exposure to your brand and logo as a whole. All of this with minimal investment thanks to your online community platform.
We tried this ourselves once with amazing success.
#2 A customer support community
Other than engaging potential customers, you can also leverage your eXo Platform community to serve existing customers. Through fully featured and secure collaborative workspaces, your company representatives can share information and provide quality and personalized support to your customers.
You can share product documentation through the Documents or Wiki app. Questions and answers can be managed in a dedicated forum, while new announcements and updates can be posted in your customer space’s activity stream.
Your customer can always interact with your representatives asynchronously by commenting on these activities or posting in the forum, or they can reach out in real-time using the chat feature for urgent inquiries.
Searching for information is made easy with the unified search engine.
Recently, we at eXo have migrated all of our customer assistance and support ticket management to our own online community site, the eXo Tribe. Each one of our customers now gets a private dedicated space there where they can do all of this as well as submit support tickets.
Through custom work (which will soon be published as a free reusable add-on!) we adapted our forum app inside customer spaces to be used as a support ticketing tool. The customer can create the ticket there which requires him/her to out a form with the information that support people require.
Certain responses and updates to the customer are automated by the system. Support people get notified and are able to follow up on the request and interact easily with the customer.
They even have the option to post private messages in the ticket discussion thread that only your staff (and not the customer) can see. This allows for better contextualized collaboration around support requests.
All activity inside a customer space notifies the customer immediately within the site and by email, depending on each customer’s notification preferences, thanks to the platform’s native notification system
#3 A partner portal
Just like with customers, you can implement a dedicated portal for informing and engaging your ecosystem of business partners, such as a network of distributors and resellers.
High-quality content is often key to doing so. The platform’s content management system allows you to leverage content templates, utilize a user-friendly content editor and collaborate on content creation, validation and publication.
Other than this top-down communication, your partners can have dedicated spaces where they can receive targeted content, updates and support. For example you can share the latest product and service documents targeting partners who cover specific regions.
Similarly to the customer engagement solution described above, you can simultaneously use your partner portal to attract, inform and engage new potential partners.
You may also want to set up areas where partners can collaborate with each other, share experiences, ideas and solutions. The platform’s spaces, forums, polls, activity streams and notifications are ideal for this. This helps build a collective and easily searchable knowledge base that will prove valuable in time, especially to new partners.
#4 A student community
In a previous essay titled “How Digital Collaboration Technology Will Power the New Learning Platforms”, I shared my thoughts on the emerging digital learning space and its need to respond to the needs and expectations of newer generations of students. In that light, academic institutions have an opportunity to attract and engage students and enrich their experience with their academic world through a modern and portable digital community experience.
Social networking and the social media experience reproduced in an academic environment is one of the keys to achieving this. eXo Platform covers this with its streamlined social-network-like user experience.
Student collaboration can also be empowered through virtual project spaces, sub-communities and interest groups where students can work together on their projects, leveraging the platform’s collaboration tools. The platform allows them to solicit new project members, find relevant expertise or advice from other people from a university-wide pool of skills with potentially related and searchable interests.
Real-time collaboration tools, including the integration of video conferencing technology, can help make it easy for students to capture information live, be it when attending live courses with teachers, communicating with an expert in their network or with other students.
Integration with a dedicated Learning Management System (LMS) that may already be in place may prove beneficial as well. Students may for instance see test results, upcoming exams and responses to other student group or student-teacher activities. A search integration so that users can do a search from the platform and be able to pull up results coming from the LMS may also prove of value.
Finally, the student community platform’s capabilities for user and group interactions and networking can also be leveraged to interface with companies in order to provide students who are part of the community with internship and placement opportunities. A partner company for example can have a dedicated account in the community for posting new opportunities and receiving applications from interested students. This directly benefits the students and gives them another reason to be engaged with the community.
Needless to say, this community in its entirety should be accessible to students on their smartphones and tablets. This is available in eXo Platform through the native mobile app for Android and iOS.
#5 A software community
Another example of an online community is one where a software editor would provide a place for its community of staff, developers, users and partners to find resources, downloads, documentation, answers, etc. about its software. Of course this is particularly valuable for open-source-based software like eXo Platform.
Our online community site is a perfect example of such an implementation of eXo Platform for running a fully featured software community.
Not only can you share information about your software but also enable social interactions between community members by allowing your community to engage, communicate, and help each other. Structured support forums around your software, targeting different user personas (e.g. forums for users, developers, admins, project ideas, etc.) best exemplify this.
Product documentation can be created, organized, shared and kept up-to-date thanks to the Wiki app. You can even leverage this app for sharing resources like your product roadmap. Your users can subscribe to such a page in order to receive email notifications about new changes to it, thus keeping an eye on the direction and development of your software and potentially sharing feedback or participating in early tests.
Another interesting add-on extending the native capabilities of eXo Platform is the Marketplace add-on which you can use to create a catalog of software products or add-ons. You can see our own implementation of this add-on here.
Integration wise, there are many scenarios that can be thought of depending on your particular needs. eXo Platform allows you to interface with your software development and maintenance systems in order to build effective online community tooling.
A nice example of such community tooling is our translation crowdsourcing that we did through our online community, powered by our in-context translation setup. Thanks to this crowdsourcing of new translations, we were able to get translations and proofreadings of our software for about 20 foreign languages. This demonstrates the power that your online community can have in helping you improve your software.
More can be said about these five examples of online community solutions, and more of such solutions can be discussed. But I hope this gives you a taste of what is possible with eXo Platform outside of the realm if internal company collaboration use cases that we usually tend to talk about.
What’s interesting is that it is entirely possible to have a combination of both your internal staff intranet and collaboration running alongside your public-facing online community on the same instance of eXo Platform with complete privacy management. We do this ourselves in our eXo Tribe site and we have customers that do it quite successfully as well.
Stay tuned for future topics related to that.