You've spent hours putting together community strategy documents and making presentations – and it worked! You got the nod from C-suite for your community initiatives. Now you can get on and devote all your time and energy to building and nurturing your community, right?
Well, not exactly...
Community-building is a marathon, not a sprint. And getting buy-in across the board is the fuel that will keep you going. As such, it's so important to make sure you invest resources in getting it from the right people and maintaining it in the long haul.
Many community pros start — and stop — with winning and maintaining support from company exec and C-suite. That matters of course, but so does buy-in from the rest of your teammates.
From developers to marketers, operations to customer support, all of these folks will have a nuanced perspective on what community is all about. While some may agree that it could be the lynchpin in helping you achieve your business goals, others may see it as a cash cow that eats way too many resources. With a bit of luck, many will be curious to find out your vision and see if they can contribute.
When I kicked off Upstairs Community by Pixelgrade (a year and a half ago!), I was the only one passionate and excited about its potential. That's not surprising — I've been nurturing communities within the creative industries since 2011, and seen the profound effect that they can have on an organization.
But I did not expect to get so much pushback from my teammates.
The founders had some questions too, but they were pretty casual. They immediately understood that what I was trying to build was aligned with our company's mission — to support people who want to make an impact in their communities. Over the years, we had dozens of conversations about the fact that we want to keep building a company that exceeds its financial interests. We want to give back, help others thrive, and lead by example.
But in the early days, there was much eyebrow-raising in the wider company, from fellow marketers to my developer colleagues. Why should we build a community? How would it help us increase our revenues? Is it for customers, at least? Why are we so exclusive? What do we plan to accomplish, after all?
Even though my position may be uncommon in this landscape — most community builders struggle with C-suite buy-in more than their peers — this does not mean the latter should be seen as an easy win. Being the first ambassador of your community is a must if you want to convince people that it will pay off.
Here are the tactics I've found success with when it comes to getting buy-in for community from the entire organization.
An obvious one, but too important not to include in this list. Before you present your ideas, you'll want to take a serious deep dive into research. Read stories from professional community builders to learn from their mistakes. Play the devil's advocate and ask yourself the hard questions.
Present your community-building vision in a way that leaves room for feedback, input, and improvement from your peers. Depending on your team size, choose who needs to listen to it at this point. Try to capture everything they throw at you, while keeping an open mind. Even if they're resistant, sometimes simply giving them the opportunity to express their thoughts will help you make major strides in winning them over.
It took me dozens of 1:1s to share my vision of the community I was determined to build. Mostly, that was what helped convert the skeptical folks.
In a very small number of cases though, I felt the chasm was just too big to cross. I accepted that I wasn't going to win every single person over, and that was OK.
Involve your teammates into the actual building of your community. Everyone has a valuable community-building skill: a marketer's eye will be incredibly useful in tracking data and getting those metrics right, and a developer's expertise will help you put together a custom landing page. But perhaps more importantly, giving folks a stake in the project will contribute towards winning and maintaining their buy-in.
Every few months, write a public internal document about the state of your community: how far you've come, what blockers you're facing at the moment, what you've achieved, what you plan to do next.
At Upstairs Community, we publish such articles every two to three months. It's an excellent opportunity to document our efforts and offer a single source of truth to everyone.
We also started writing public transparency reports, too.
Some people need more time getting accustomed to a change or embracing a new initiative, such as nurturing a community of interest, as we do at Pixelgrade. That's OK. Respect their rhythm and don't push them to act like cheerleaders when they're not.
Getting buy-in means building and maintaining momentum — it's not a one-and-done exercise. It also doesn't mean getting the go-ahead from C-suite, and steamrolling over the rest of your teammates.
There's no recipe or framework that applies to all scenarios, so don't be afraid of trial and error. It's the only way to capture buy-in for the very long haul.
And trust me — you’ll need it.