Thursday, April 25, 2013

Articulate - Case Study in Developing a Content Marketing Community

articulate communityArticulate, is a provider of elearning authoring software that is used by large corporates and across education. Articulate has built a content marketing community that creates and shares content about designing and developing elearning. They have been incredibly successful, there are over 100,000 community members and they love Articulate. The content developed by Articulate and its community members drives customer loyalty and a huge volume of inbound leads.

To put that number of 100,000 Articulate community members into context, the largest elearning body globally is the Elearning Guild which has around 58,000 members. This independent professional body also has the largest LinkedIn elearning group at 33,000 members. Thus Articulate, as a proprietary tool vendor, with its 100,000 members has been successful in engaging far more elearning professionals. The Articulate community dwarfs everything in the rest of the industry. Let's examine why their content marketing community has been so successful.

Articulate's Approach to Building a Content Marketing Community

Articulate's approach to building a community that creates and shares content has a number of core aspects.

A passion for sharing and helping

I first came across Articulate in 2007. I downloaded a trial copy of their software to see how well it worked. I got a little stuck in one area and I mailed them a question. Within a few minutes I had a reply, then another reply. They were passionate about helping me, I was so impressed I shared my experience on our company website. Unlike many other communities if you ask a question in the Articulate community you will get a quick response.

Practical content that adds value

The content on the Articulate community is designed to be practical and the formal Articulate content includes a lot of 'how to' tutorials. These tutorials comprise articles and videos, and are split into tutorials on using their product and also a very extensive set of tutorials on developing elearning. Thus even if you don't use their product there is a lot of value to be gained from their materials.

Making customers heros

The focus of the Articulate community is making the product users heros in their own organisations. This message is gently played and with humour but it is always there. The community site is actually called E-Learning Heros, and if you go their stand at exhibitions you can get an Articulate superhero character for your desk. Thus they reinforce the message in a number of ways.

Generating community content

The great thing about the Articulate community is that the registered members contribute an enormous amount of practical and valuable content. Articulate encourages this sharing and also helps structure the gathering of this content through regular competitions and awards. The best content from each award category is shared on the site and this has built into a great set of elearning examples, that inspire the community.

A personal touch and friendly approach

The leader of the Articulate community is Tom Kulmann. Tom embodies everything I have listed above. He is the nicest and most unassuming guy, someone who wants to help others and does so by making things simple and practical. He doesn't create complex tutorials or dress things up, his approach is to break things down into simple, easy to follow steps. He is patient and will always find time which is impressive given the size of the community. As a consequence Tom has become one of the most well known and well liked people in the global elearning development community.

Tom, and his colleagues Dave and Jeanette give Articulate a personal touch. You never feel like you are dealing with a large corporation, it is more like chatting to the person who sits next to you. This personalisation also takes the form of individual blogs so you can dip into Dave's or Jeanette's blog.

An easy to use community site

The content on the community site is well laid out, simple and effective. The home page lists the most recent and the most popular posts for ease of access. The top navigation allows you to select from:
  • tutorials - split into tutorials about elearning and about how to use their authoring tools
  • forums - very active forums also split into two main streams, how to build better elearning and product support
  • blogs - a range of blogs from the team and other experts
  • downloads - a really practical set of downloads such as free templates, free assets, tools and conference presentations

In summary, Articulate have built a great content marketing community. The combination of Articulate and user generated content has created one of the most popular resource sites for elearning developers. It creates trust, customer loyalty, inbound leads and a significant amount of goodwill. As an example of how to build a content marketing community it is hard to beat. Take a look for yourself