Online support communities work best when a small core of fans become highly invested in them, contribute answers freely, and help police the topics and the behaviors of the participants. There could be very few of these “MVPs”, but their influence is essential for success. Some thoughts about them:
- It’s ok to be very selective when conferring the MVP status. One can (and should!) select individuals who have a proven track record of providing technically correct answers, but including personalized criteria to make the final decision is just fine. After all, it’s very difficult to create yes/no criteria for business judgment or tact, let alone the ideal balance of fandom and thoughtful feedback. Lower levels of contributions can be mechanized (and gamified). MVPs, not so much.
- MVPs want to know more and know before. Put them under NDA and share (appropriate portions of) the product roadmap with them.
- Be careful with monetary rewards, as they could trigger tax issues. And in any case non-monetary rewards seem to work better. See above.
- Set up a private forum for MVPs, where they can talk amongst themselves and get direct access to company resources.
- Consider real-time sessions with product marketing to discuss future features and product, either conference calls or, even better, at headquarters. (Go ahed, give them a mug too or other tchotchke the common mortal cannot possess. An autographed picture of them and the CEO or CTO, perhaps?)
(With many thanks to Joe Cothrell from Lithium for his talk at the TSW conference, which reignited my interest in this topic and included, if memory serves, the know more/know before wording.)