The Gist

  • Strengthen. Engage, energize and reassure your brand's community during transitions to build a stronger community culture.
  • Baby steps. Tackle small challenges first when bridging across multiple community programs.
  • Maintain and highlight. Preserve individual identities while finding opportunities to showcase unique identities when bringing communities together.

Your brand's community members are its biggest champions, and during periods of transition — like a merger or acquisition — it’s imperative to engage, energize and reassure your community. It also brings a unique opportunity to build an even stronger community culture by finding opportunities to bring together multiple distinct community engagement programs.

Coming together to achieve similar goals while maintaining unique community identities is not only possible, but it can drive even more user engagement and activity, innovative behavior and new customer growth. Here’s how to approach it.

Bridging: Tackle Small Things in Customer Community First

Bridging across multiple community programs can be one of the biggest challenges a community leader can face, especially in the beginning. But you can't build a bridge in a day, so I advise starting small.

Establish which challenges you can tackle right off the bat. Internally, you might start by aligning with the other company's community lead to identify where your programs overlap. Leverage those areas as you unify parts of your programs to ensure a smooth transition.

Externally, begin the bridging process by helping each community understand how their programs differ and where your companies can reconcile them. You might connect community group leaders with their counterparts in another company's program. Consider facilitating those meetups and guiding leaders on how to invigorate their communities through content, speakers and other mediums.

Consider New Pathways for Community Feedback

Community users are more likely to provide thoughtful, constructive criticism because they appreciate your company on a deeper level. For example, these users might even build their own businesses around your product, like how Donut was built on the Slack platform. Because of this, they’ll give feedback with your company's success in mind.

Now consider how powerful your product and business could be with multiple sources of community feedback! As you identify places to combine forces with another company’s community program, ensure that you’re encouraging and sourcing high-value feedback via new methods. Does the other community use other online spaces? How can you tap into those?

Related Article: Enough Already With Customer Feedback. Make Your Move

Learning Opportunities

Pinpoint Opportunities to Showcase Unique Identities

When two communities — like Salesforce's Trailblazers and the Slack Community — already have deep engagement strategies running efficiently, preserving individual identities is just as important as coming together.

Start with a joint community event, where executive leaders can present to members about their vision for the future of the brands’ community programs. Have your executives demonstrate how their companies and products can work together and complement one another.

More importantly, use this as a forum for your most highly engaged members to voice how they envision the two companies preserving specific community experiences. Listen, invite feedback and remain transparent about what can and cannot happen.

Related Article: Ratings and Reviews Help Customers Make Smart Buying Decisions

Bring Your Communities Along for the Ride

If the point isn’t clear enough, transparency and willingness to collaborate and iterate is key! Take your user communities along for the ride to ensure that in the end, the member experiences across groups remains at its best. Everything matters — from something small like ensuring members know the extent to which they can still access their forums, to something big like communicating a major shift in product strategy.

The true measure of successfully-bridged user community groups is the ability to transcend company lines and serve as a space for users to connect, share and foster new ways of thinking, working, creating and collaborating.

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