Is Your Online Community Worth Your Customers’ or Members’ Time?


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“The key is in not spending time, but in investing it.” That state of mind was imparted by the late Stephen R. Covery, author of the well-known book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

This modern proverb has different implications for you than it does for the audiences that you are trying to reach. Thinking about how you invest your time can give you insight into your priorities. Thinking about how your customers or members get a return on their investment of time can be humbling.

  • Why would they invest the time in using your product or service?
  • Why would they invest the time in joining your membership organization?
  • Why would they invest time in reading your content?
  • Why would they invest the time in participating in your customer or member community?

This pillar of time management was made clear in a recent presentation by product design and marketing consultant, Etienne Garbugli. Unlike time management tips that describe a single way to get more done, these hacks can be used by everyone and are grounded in the reality of our often chaotic lives.

As you flip though these slides, think about the tips both for yourself and through the eyes of your customers or members.

Customer and Members Have a Choice About Where to Spend Their Time

One time management tip has special significance for businesses or membership organizations that are planning to create a private online community for their customers or members.

Is Your Online Community Worth Your Customer's or Member's Time?

If you see your customers’ time as merely hours in the day, you have a minimal incentive to make your online customer or member community a remarkably valuable resource for your target audience. It is easy to lose focus on creating an experience where your customers come to rely on your online community to do their jobs and advance their careers.

What would happen if your customers see their time valued at $1,000/hour? The disconnect between how your target audience sees their time and the value they get from your community would sink your private online community quickly. If your customers or members took this time management advice to heart and walked around thinking that their time is valued at $1,000 per hour, then your online community better create enough value to make it worth their time.

If you needed to recoup $500 of value every 30 minutes that you spend in an online community, what would that private social network look like?

  • What problems would it solve for you?
  • How fresh, profound, and actionable would the ideas and content be?
  • How easily would you expect to find answers and connect with experts?

Online Customer or Member Community Takeaway

Even though you know that most of your customers’ time is not worth $1,000 per hour, many of them feel like it is. Their lives are busy and time is limited. Some of them may even have read the 26 time management hacks above and are actively using them.

Regardless of whether your community serves hobbyists, low-skilled workers, IT specialists, or professionals that actually do bill at over $200/hour, you’ll be well served by developing an acute focus on creating your organization’s private online community in a way that provides overwhelming value to your target audience.

It is a proven approach to generate participation, encourage return visits, and create long-term advocates for your company and community. Ask yourself and your team the following question:

Is your private online community providing enough value to entice your customers or members to participate in the community rather than make $1,000 an hour doing something else?

Ask this question during the online community planning process, as well as throughout the community’s lifecycle.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joshua Paul
Joshua Paul is the Director of Marketing and Strategy at Socious, a provider of enterprise customer community software that helps large and mid-sized companies bring together customers, employees, and partners to increase customer retention, sales, and customer satisfaction. With over 13 years of experience running product management and marketing for SaaS companies, Joshua Paul is a popular blogger and speaker on customer management, inbound marketing, and social technology. He blogs at


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