3. Communication: creating the best workflows

One of the main objectives of the platform is to improve the communication between all involved stakeholders and to create an active and engaged community. Think of the platform as a magazine that needs to seduce its subscribers to keep on reading, with relevant and tailored content. 

1. Writing & targeting messages

The primary way to communicate within the community is by writing/sharing messages. Messages can be written by all authorised users in both the app and the web platform. 

Message characteristics:

  • All messages are presented on a timeline in chronological order.
  • There are currently five types of messages: update, event, survey, alert and offer. Each message type has different characteristics.
  • Messages always have a title, a description with basic formatting options, and optionally added media (files, images, video, links).
  • Messages are always part of a channel (e.g. news, events & promotions, security), which tells something about the message's topic.
  • Messages are always targeted to the entire community, a group (a predefined selection of users/companies) or a custom selection of users/companies.
  • Users can optionally follow, like and reply to a message.
  • Message have a basic set of statistics (views & impressions).
  • Messages can be edited by the writer's company admins and the community managers.

Fig 1: The five message types: update, event, survey, alert and offer.

Before the actual message is written, the author has to select the channel in which the message will be shared, the message type and the recipients he/she likes to target. The platform uses a smart selection drop-down, which makes it very easy to select any combination of recipients. 

When a message is posted, it will send each targeted recipient an email notification and a push notification in the app. Even users that did not log into the platform yet receive email notifications. The author of a message also has the option to send a silent message (without notifications) or a teaser with only the first sentence displayed in the email notification.

2. Channels to organise your communication flows

Communication flows within communities can be diverse and complex. Many topics are generally discussed between multiple audiences and with different levels of relevance. In the platform, channels are used to categorise messages per topic. This allows the message timeline to be organised, making it easy for users to find the information that is relevant for them instantly.

A channel has a name, a short description and a cover image. Each channel has a set of authors who are allowed to write messages in the channel, ranging from one person to the entire community. The recipients that can be targeted in a channel can be limited to a subselection of the community. This makes it possible to for example create a marketing channel in which the marketing agency is the only author and the recipients are limited to all the marketing managers.

Fig 2: Example of a selection of Channels. The 'My timeline' channel shows all the messages from the channels this user follows.

Because some channels might be more relevant than others, users have the option to follow or unfollow channels. When users follow a channel they receive notification when new messages are posted.  The community managers can decide which channels are followed by default and if the users have the option to unfollow them.

3. Getting the right content from the right mix of stakeholders

The level of engagement and activity in your community largely depends on the content that is shared. Content needs to be relevant, comprehensive and up-to-date, which requires continuous input from the most important stakeholders in your shopping estate. 

The platform also introduces a new, more direct form of communication, which will be more in line with how people are used to receive content nowadays. Instead of writing long formal texts, content can be a lot shorter, leading to much more efficient communication flows.

Note that the introduction of a new working method takes some persistence. Most people are used to sending emails or even hardcopy letters to get their information across, and it is hard to change people's behavior. It is therefore advisable to agree with each stakeholder on the type and frequency of content they have to write.

4. Sharing content outside your community

Most of the content that is shared within communities is solely meant for its members. There are, however, cases where it is convenient to share certain content with external stakeholders as well. The platform has options to do this via the newsletter module or via an API connection.

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