We all know most communities rely upon a core group of members to provide the bulk of contributions. The challenge has been to increase their core group without upsetting the group.
10 years ago we realized it was possible to identify the future leaders of a community by their early interactions and coach them to become top community leaders.
We need to understand some psychology first.
Why Members Want To Become Future Leaders
First, newcomers try to be accepted by the community. This has evolutionary roots. You’re more likely to survive challenging environments if you’re an accepted member of a cooperative group. Early on, members adopt behaviors most likely to see them accepted as part of the group. They copy what they see others doing.
When members feel accepted by the community, they try to boost their status among the community. There might be an evolutionary explanation for this too. Those with high status have more support to achieve their goals, better access to group resources, and the pick of mating opportunities.
As per the intro, members try to increase their status by befriending high-status members, making unique high-quality contributions, and/or giving far more to the community than they take.
These act as signals that the member is highly competent in community-related tasks or highly devoted to the group. In short, members increase their status among the group by increasing their perceived value to the group.
How To Identify Future Leaders
Not all of them make it. Many begin, don’t see quick enough progress, and leave. The challenge is to identify future leaders and coach them to become one of the core group of members.
Most communities have a core group of 5 to 30 members that contribute the majority of activity. Every member you can nudge to this level is a big win for a community.
So look for members that display these signals. These include:
- Making unique, high-quality, contributions. These contributions are usually longer, more detailed, or have a unique viewpoint.
- Contacting top members (or yourself) with a view to building relationships.
- Giving far more to the community than they take.
If a member shows the right traits, contact them by an e-mail such as:
I noticed some of the contributions (or contacts) you’ve made to the community in the past 3 weeks.
We try to spot people that we suspect can be important contributors to the community and help them have as big an impact upon the group as possible. I think you’re going to be among that group and I’d like to give some tips for getting there.
Would you mind if I shared a few ideas about increasing the visibility of your contributions to the community?”
Don’t be too overt or send unwanted, unsolicited, advice upon a member.
You want to help them to be a top member, not force them to be a top member.
Coaching And Supporting Future Community Leaders
If the response is positive, you can share examples contributions that have worked well in the past, highlight areas with members need help, and give advice on the traits of top leaders (e.g. they tend to respond to far more questions than they ask).
You can draw attention to the content these members create in your blog posts, newsletters, and other channels. This has to be subtle at first. Existing members dislike unknown newcomers overtaking them.
Mention these contributions in passing alongside the contributions of other members. Then gradually increase this by mentioning the contributions in longer-form and finally in their own unique news posts, interviews, and giving their own webinars to the group.
You can match this with increasing levels of power and responsibility within the community.
The key is to make this a continual progression that ensures the member knows their status is gradually increasing among the group. The moment they feel they have peaked, they begin to drift away.
The impact of increasing the core group just by a couple of members is huge. It also has a trickle-down impact of increasing contributions from all the other members. If you can understand, identify, contact, and coach future community leaders, you should begin to increase this number significantly.