Salesforce Communities are an excellent way to collaborate and engage with your customers, partners, or employees. Communities are often also referred to as a portal, support site, or HR site. Regardless of who your community is for, there are a few important steps that make communities successful.

In this four-part series, we’ll cover the four things you need to do to create and run a successful community: Plan, Build, Listen, Measure.

Part 1: Plan

Planning is the first and most important step in any community implementation. Here’s how to plan an engaging Salesforce community:

Outline your community

Before any software is purchased or any code written, you should ask yourself and your team three important questions:

  • Who needs this community and why?
    It could be your customers, partners, or employees. Make sure you know who your audiences are, their expectations, and how to measure success.
  • How will they use it?
    Will this service as a self-service support platform? Or is it meant to connect people one-on-one? It’s important to understand your key use cases and customer journeys to ensure the community is easy to use and frictionless.
  • Who will maintain it?
    To secure buy-in from your executive team, you should have a longevity plan for content creation, maintenance, and long-term growth. Be sure to include personnel from any department that will be represented within the community.

Creating a solid foundation for your community is important and will set you up for success down the road. Your community could be simple, or more detailed – it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish. The three questions above should help you determine that!

Outline your goals

It’s important to determine your measures of success from the very beginning by setting goals and KPIs (Key Performance Indicators). Decide what actions and metrics you will track and how you will determine if your community is serving its purpose.

For this step, it’s helpful to start by reviewing (or creating!) your user personas. Think about their unique journeys, using the answers you uncovered in the first step as your guide. Knowing who is using it and why, will point you to the goals you want to accomplish and track.

You can even add tracking code to your community just like your website. Create a new property or view in your Analytics account to see this data on its own.

Create your Project Management Plan

Even a well-organized and detailed plan can fall apart without proper project management. Before you move on from the planning stage, be sure to identify a few key areas for project management: 

  • Define your one source of truth
    Doing this early on will save you headaches down the road! and remember: email is not a single source of truth!
  • Assign project roles
    Define the decision makers and stakeholders, and make sure each member of the project team knows their role and responsibilities. A good way to define this is using a RASCI diagram (Responsible – Accountable – Support – Consulted – Informed) to review each team member’s role.
  • Document
    Documenting specifications is important when setting expectations with your managers, team members, and even customers. Don’t worry: This doesn’t have to be a long, overly complicated document. In fact, simple specifications are often a much more effective communication tool (because people actually read them!).

    In addition to the written specs, using mockups and visuals helps to convey your intent. Adding mockups to your documentation makes it easier for your stakeholders to understand and approve.

    A good specifications document will include:
    • A list of problems that you intend to solve
    • Details of how you plan to measure success
    • User and admin requirements
    • Specific use cases
    • Explicit acceptance criteria
  • Overall planning and strategy
    You’ll see a theme in our recommendations: keep it simple. So our final project management recommendation is to distill the project information and plan into a concise, easy-to-digest format.

Salesforce offers a useful Community Management Canvas that can help you articulate your community strategy and address the key points that you’ve defined throughout the planning process.

That covers the first step in creating your Salesforce Community. If you’re looking for help creating a new Community, or looking to streamline an existing one, we’re here to help. We’re a team of community experts, with the tools and the knowledge to deliver engaging communities for any audience.

Stay tuned for step 2: Build!

Greg Jankowski