Offline community gives your members a chance to build deeper and more trusted relationships. Online community allows people to engage and work together, but meeting in person puts an actual face to a profile. It’s harder to get the nuances of people’s personalities when only engaging online. You can’t experience their funky sense of humor, their sarcastic wit, or their vulnerabilities online because this doesn’t come out in typed words. We can’t see the facial expressions, the smile, or the passion.
“The power of an offline community comes from being built BY the community, FOR the community.”
Your Volunteer Leaders – The Heroes Behind it all
Popular offline community include chapters, user groups, franchises, or meetups. Volunteer leaders run these programs, and they will become some of your most valuable advocates. Ensuring you provide these advocates with all the tools and resources they need as a leader is critical to the success of the offline community strategy. Making it easy with the lowest barrier to entry allows your program to scale. It also inspires volunteers to get on board with you. Providing clear and easy onboarding materials, simple to use event management tools, access to swag for meetings, and a smooth reimbursement policy – if applicable – are some critical elements.
It’s important to provide guidelines to the program, like bumpers on a bowling alley, but don’t over complicate or over govern. This can stifle empowerment. The power of an offline community comes from being built BY the community, FOR the community. Give your community leaders the keys to the car so they can step up and lead the way.
“Offline community gives your members a chance to build deeper relationships”
Hybridization – There is room for both
The blending of offline programs with online programs can supercharge engagement and customer success. When a connection is made offline, people engage differently online. There’s a new level of respect and they can picture the person behind the words or the profile.
An example of this is the Salesforce’s IdeaExchange Strategy (aka — gathering and processing product feedback from the customer). It has a great online tool for collecting and channeling customer feedback, a solid Community team to engage with the feedback, and alignment with Product Management to actually implement the feedback. In addition, they have offline groups that incorporate in-person listening sessions. With this, they have taken the online process and brought it offline. Product Managers get to hear directly from customers, and customers get a chance to talk directly to Product Managers. This makes what I like to call, mutually beneficial community magic.
“What I love about offline community programs more than anything is that it creates a safe and trusted place to create a sense of belonging and family no matter what industry, product or service!
Check out The Difference Between Field Marketing and Community-Driven C2C Programs by David Spinks.