This post originally appeared on Loyal's blog

Loyal is a Community Development Studio. Process-driven and people-centric, they develop bespoke solutions for each of their clients. They've worked on community with a variety of organizations from Fortune 100s and international brands to seed stage startups and politicians. For more information, visit http://loyal.is


At Loyal, feedback from our community — clients, colleagues, partners, friends, and even sometimes family — is invaluable. In fact, feedback is one of the leading benefits of having a community. It leads to product and service improvements, open channels of communication, customer insight, and sometimes, new product ideas.

Feedback can be used to improve minor elements of a larger strategy as well. When I first started at Loyal, I began emailing all of our newsletter subscribers asking for feedback — what they liked, didn’t like, what they would like to see in future issues, etc. I purposely kept it very casual and open ended, as my primary goal was to introduce myself and get to know a community that I was very new to. The secondary goal was to gather feedback to improve the newsletter. Looking back, I wish I asked for more specific feedback from certain people — design advice from designers, insight on our content from community managers, etc. Having said that, the experience and insight gathered was extremely helpful in improving our newsletter for subscribers, and although we were asking about the newsletter specifically, we were able to apply much of the feedback received to other areas of our larger content strategy.

One thing we heard over and over again was that our subscribers wanted to read about our own opinions and insight on community-related issues. In response, we started producing more original content based on our expertise and experience and added a related reading section at the end to house this content in the newsletter. These pieces continue to see the majority of click-throughs to this day.

We also heard that our images were a little feminine for our male audience. Our brand by nature (and by design) is very feminine and romantic, but that doesn’t mean we can’t include more gender-neutral images, which we’ve worked to do.

Readers wanted more quantitative and metric-specific content, as well as case studies. We’ve included more of these stories in our curated content and have made a significant effort to produce original pieces on how to measure thebusiness value of community, and all its subsequent activities and tools, as well as our own process-focused approach to community.

Additionally, we heard that people loved our short-mid-long format for curated content and how we tie each story together into one theme, but they wanted more concrete summaries of each beyond the context we provided. We’ve also worked to make this change, while keeping each piece short and easy to digest.

After rebranding our newsletter from CX at Heart to Community.is in January, we asked for feedback again — mostly around what our readers thought of the new look, as the content and format didn’t change much. Remember, communication is a two-way street. By communicating the why behind the change and what it meant for our readers, we opened the channels for honest and constructive feedback, which resulted in a ton of positive remarks as well as some really great constructive advice.

Before

After

One minor piece of feedback we received was to include more specific calls to action at the end of each issue. I really liked this idea and tested it continuously for a while, but it did not prompt any action. It’s possible that our calls to action were not strong enough to get readers to hit reply with their thoughts. We’ve put a hold on the specific CTAs for now, but will likely brainstorm how we can improve them to spur more action and start including them again later, which brings me to one very big point…

Don’t forget to test

There’s a very important step, or steps rather, between gathering feedback and executing for iteration and improvement. You must first filter, qualify, and organize feedback from your community, then you test. Whether you’re gathering feedback in bulk (like I initially did) or piecemeal (like I do now), you should read through every single communication received. From some of these, you’ll be able to pull out quick wins, the advice that makes you say “why didn’t I think of that?” and takes 15-30 minutes max to change. Execute these right away, you’ll feel good about your day.

Beyond these quick wins, it’s important to notice patterns. Highlight one specific statement (and versions there of) that keeps popping out. In our case, it was that our readers wanted our opinions and case studies from Loyal included in the newsletter. I should mention that acting on this feedback has had many other benefits, including greater brand awareness, new fans and followers (measured by people paying attention to us on a regular basis, not by Twitter count), and even leads.

Start testing. Test both the big things that the majority of your community asked for and the one-offs, assuming that they’re reasonable. If someone told us that Loyal should start including stories on how to build bookshelves, we probably wouldn’t do that just please that one person because Loyal is in the business of building community, not bookshelves. However, we would include more actionable tips and take-aways on how to build and grow a community, if that was a request. After implementing a change, go back and ask those who suggested it for their thoughts, if they’re pleased, and if it’s what they were actually looking for. Never be afraid to ask someone to elaborate.

Keep it continuous

Yes, I initially sent a large batch of emails to the entire subscriber-base when I first started with Loyal, but the results were so helpful that I’ve now built it into my workflow. I send an email to every new subscriber, asking them for thoughts and feedback as they continue to receive weekly issues. Not only has this resulted in a continuous source of fresh feedback and new perspectives, it also provides me with inspiration and motivation, as most of our subscribers have very positive things to say about Loyal, the newsletter, and all of our content. Although it’s the constructive criticism that I seek in order to improve our work, it’s a pretty awesome added benefit to hear how much people like what we’re doing. :)

In the spirit of collecting feedback, I’d love to know if you found this post helpful. Please leave your thoughts in the comments below or on the original post at the Loyal Blog!


About the Author:

Shannon Byrne is the Content Manager + Community Associate at Loyal, where she crafts words and creates community-driven strategies. Florida native turned Brooklynite, she has a passion for writing and a knack for connecting people. Follow her on Twitter @ShannnonB.

Read more stories like this one at http://loyal.is.

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