Listening to your community, part two focus groups…

The next step to really listen to our community was to dig a little deeper on the themes we had identified through the survey.

When you cover a community of 40,000 people you need to narrow your numbers down, you also need to think about what is a manageable number to facilitate. We’re a global company covering a variety of time zones, this meant we wouldn’t’ have the luxury of face to face and we needed to cover as many time zones as possible. We use google but I didn’t think a google hangout would be manageable with the numbers we anticipated, we chose WebEx.

We set a limit of 20 people per session, we should have had some back ups in hindsight. I’m based in the UK so we ran sessions at 7am, 12pm and 8pm. We had asked the respondents of the survey to include their email address, we invited these people to participate first. We then communicated the focus groups through our normal communication channels.

Top tips:

  • People will drop out, you can oversubscribed by about 5-10%
  • Be clear up front with the attendees that you welcome honest and open feedback, we used Chatham House Rules.
  • Make sure you record your focus groups you will want to listen back after the session for your notes. We were clear the recordings were for note taking only and would not be shared beyond our team.
  • Two facilitators make for a more productive use of everyone’s time, one should lead, they can take care of facilitating the conversation, ask the questions and move the conversation along. This person needs to be the time keeper too, it is critical you keep on time, if you don’t you won’t get through all your questions. The second facilitator can lead the conversation in the chat window, this gives everyone in the session the opportunity to get involved and share their views and be heard.
  • Limit the number of questions you want to ask and circulate ahead of the session if possible.
  • Turn your notes into really clear and actionable items, we chose to pick out short term actions and long term actions.
  • Share your summary with the attendees before posting in your community to check you’ve represented their views and comments (anonymously obviously).
  • You need diverse representation – it is important to listen to those who love your community and those that don’t.

The focus groups proved incredibly valuable – even more so than the survey, of course without the survey we wouldn’t have been able to narrow down the themes for the sessions. If you really want to listen to your community you need both.

We now have enough insights to help prioritise our time in the community and we will be able to use the information we’ve gathered for our roadmap and strategy planning. Going forward we will run this listening exercise annually.

Listening to your community, part one create a survey…


Listening to your community is one of the most important tasks of a community manager. If you had asked me at the beginning of the year, “do you listen to your community?” I would have said, “yes, we have plenty of places for people to feedback and we’ve had surveys and polls, we talk to people all the time”. Of course the truth is all those activities are part and parcel of the role, they are not listening.

Our objectives this year focus around being insights driven, we are looking at our data and re-evaluating how we measure success. We’re also embarking on a community improvement project and we wanted to make sure the decisions we are making to improve our community are insights driven too.

A survey is a great place to start if you have a global organisation and a very large community. We pulled together a survey

I’ve attached an example of the survey questions we used, you may what to consider adding more demographic questions, for example what role do your perform…sales, marketing, finance etc. Example Survey. Note we used an NPS score question, you can find out more about NPS here: Net Promoter Score.

We promoted our survey through our community and our Corporate Affairs executive invited colleagues to take part via email too. We had a 20% response rate, with over 13,000 comments. Top Tip: The more free text fields you add the more comments you will need to wade through, which isn’t necessarily of value.

  • Keep your survey open long enough to catch people on leave, but not too long that people grow tired of seeing the button on the homepage.
  • You will get the majority of your responses early on very few people actually go back and complete the survey after the first week
  • Incentives can work for getting people to share their details (helpful for follow up) but be careful to not trivialise the survey, your survey isn’t a gimmick, you are gathering useful insights.

Our survey provided us with so much data and so many comments, we decided to theme the responses and host focus groups to dig deeper into some of the challenges and opportunities…this is where we were able to REALLY listen. More on that in the next post.