Earlier this year we started exploring the idea of launching a community for our Easyshift users. The drive behind this was to allow users of Easyshift “shifters” to feel as if they were part of something larger and to develop a responsibility not just to us and our company but to each other.
We had some tactical benefits in mind as well. We thought “we can get users helping users” , “we can learn directly from users what their issues are” “We can have users share tips”. We also thought that some things might happen that we couldn’t anticipate but having people talk to each other would be a good thing.
The idea of community is in no way new but in the crowd sourcing space it hadn’t been done within the app itself and sponsored by the company. Our direct competitors, Gigwalk had a community and then pulled it down and Field Agent doesn’t have one. Mechanical Turk had a number of third party forums but nothing they directly sponsor and TaskRabbit doesn’t have any either. We didn’t really understand this as we were a crowdsource company, we believed in the idea that large populations could do lots of useful work. These other companies do as well but yet no one was facilitating any user to user communication. Each “worker” was in a silo.
Well we had our own fears as well. What would people talk about? What if they said bad things about us? What if our competitors viewed it? Only a few people will participate and then it will die. Using community within an app is hard. What if they unionize?
Prior to working on the community we launched some surveys in the app asking if people would participate and what would they talk about. Over 60% said they would and this was across light and heavy users. They also suggested that they wanted to help each other, find out who else was “out there” and just socialize
Well none of our fears turned out to be true. We launched our community along with our ES 4.0 release. It has been a hands down all out success. Our community members were the first to tell us about issues with our release. They teach each other how to do shifts, lecture each other on good and bad behavior with regard to easyshift, discuss our competitor apps what they like and don’t like, they tell us they love us, they tell us they hate us, they convince each other to love us or hate us (ok they mostly love us) but we have hundreds of posts per day. And most importantly to our bigger goal- there is now an “us”. An EasyShift community where shifters feel they are part of something bigger than themselves.
The benefits for our team have been far greater than anticipated. Unlike a support desk people seem freer with their observations and the team feels freer in exploring the discussions and interacting with users. For our team discussions have been the go to place for learning what is happening with the user base, to see if the app is working, identifying what is going on with competitors. The feedback is instant, we can ask questions and get answers. Are all the answers statistically relevant, no, but its fast and fast is good.
The lesson is if you have gathered a crowd- let them talk to each other!!!
How we did it We developed the discussion groups internally and provided a minimum of tools. We weren’t really sure if anyone would use it so we wanted to limit investment. The basic tools were create a topic, post a comment. On the admin side we could view the discussions, hide a comment or block a user. We tried it internally for a few weeks and let it fly.
As discussions popped up- and we had over 50 topics in the first day we altered the tools a bit to allow for better administration, faster reading of topics and the ability to reply from our admin app. That caused us to start to think abut outsourcing the community function but a pretty thorough vetting of third party services revealed there isn’t a good tool for mobile app based communities.
We did develop some policies and rules for the shifters themselves. Those have helped keep things collegial. While we have identified who we are in the discussions, we haven’t limited who can post. Any team member can post with a question, word of advice and a reply.