Richard Millington is the founder of FeverBee, a community consultancy and Professional Community Management course. Richard's clients have included the United Nations, The Global Fund, Novartis, Oracle, OECD, BAE Systems, AMD and several youth & entertainment brands. Richard is also the the author of the Online Community Manifesto.
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org T :+44 (0)20 7792 2469
We have two mental buckets; work and play.
The work bucket is where we place all the activities we have to do. This bucket is incredibly crowded. It’s tough to rank highly on any list of priorities here.
The play bucket is where we place all the activities we get to do. This bucket is relatively empty. You might have TV, surfing the internet, spending time with friend and family.
Many people work ferociously during the day, complain about a lack of time, and then spend 3 hours watching TV in the evening.
Most communities do everything they can to get themselves placed within the ‘work’ bucket. They tell people to participate, they talk about the tangible benefits from joining and participating in the community, and they ignore all the potential ‘fun’ aspects from the community.
As you’ve guessed, it’s far better to be placed in the ‘play’ bucket. Reddit is clearly a community in the play bucket. No-one would consider it something they have to do.
The only way to get yourself in the play bucket is to make your community fun. That means livening the mood at times and catering to an individuals social needs – not just their information needs.
Here’s a common (and tedious) question in community circles; how do you prevent burnout?
This question allows people to talk about themselves. It allows people to brag (and lie) about what they do with their spare time.
Most participants declare they prevent burnout by doing sports, travelling to exotic places, going to cool bars, doing interesting hobbies, or anything that reflects positively on them.
People are desperate to impress their peers. They love to participate in off-topic, status-jockeying, discussions. It’s why some people tweet every run they take or every airport they visit. They’re trying to impress their peers “Hey, I’m healthy AND on business trips!”
However, bragging has an inverse correlation with an individual’s self-esteem. Broadly, the more you feel compelled to brag, the lower your likely level of self-esteem. Since those with high self-esteem are also likely to be powerful, self-actualizing, people, you might lose valuable contributors by catering to the bragging crowd.
It might be an easy way to facilitate discussions, but it has long-term consequences.
Set up Google alerts for your topic and the word book.
You want to find people that are publishing a book relevant to your topic.
Invite them to a live interview for the community and ask for 20 copies to giveaway. Authors are very keen to reach this specific group of people.
Look on LinkedIn for people that have recently joined a relevant company at a high position. Invite them to do an interview for the community talking about their life and career. Create a regular column of people on the move within your sector (Jeremiah did this well for years).
Afterwards, ask if they would like a regular column or can give your community exclusive first look/trial versions of the product to generate buzz.
Search for terms relevant to your topic and the word conference/event/exhibition/tournament. Find who runs the event. Ask for a discount for members from your community. Interview the person behind the event.
There are many key people in your sector. Your community should build relationships with every one of them.
You want these key people to endorse your community, help you get exclusives for members (news or products/services), participate in your community, and promote the community to their own audiences.
For most communities, awareness is your biggest barrier. This is easy to change.
If you don't try to prevent your community from doing something bad, you're morally responsible for the outcome (perhaps legally responsible too).
It might be fun to join the Amy Baking Co fan page and watch the increasingly furious, aggressive, messages. It might be fun to let your members relentlessly hound someone they (and you) dislike.
Yet actions have consequences. You can't predict what happens when your members hound an increasingly unstable person. Especially one whose business and reputation has been publicly destroyed.
History suggests this has the potential for tragedy. It's the potential for that tragedy which should prompt you to action.
There are many grey areas in moral responsibilities for community actions. This isn't one of them. Online bullying is real. It has proven, fatal, consequences. No-one, especially not the members doing the bullying, wants that outcome. Be sure to tell your members that.
...and this goes for our fellow community professionals too.
As part of our consultancy, we spend a lot of time reviewing a client’s existing plans for a community.
There are a variety of things we look out for. Some we’ve listed below:
Events & Activities
Let’s try this again, we’re hiring.
We’re looking for someone that wants to change how people build communities.
The current approach is completely wrong. It is too reactive, too focused on platforms, and too similar to marketing. As a result, most communities fail.
Even those that succeed struggle to reach their potential. By applying the principles of social science, we can change this.
This is a message we want your help in spreading
We’re hiring a community advocate.
We’re hiring someone that can build positive relationships with a range of groups/organizations, help promote and advocate the use of social sciences in communities, and take on and deliver projects to completion without fail.
We’re looking for someone that has a passion for communities and a great track record for making things happen.
We’re looking for someone with a genuine desire to help people build better communities.
We’re looking for someone that truly loves connecting with their fellow community professionals and building positive relationships.
You should be…
1) 100% reliable. This is a job for a doer. You making things happen. You crush deadlines with time to spare. If you struggle, panic, or withdraw when confronted by deadlines, this isn’t a good fit. If get a charge from getting things done and making things happen, drop us a line. Reliability is essential here.
2) A great communicator. You should be happy introducing yourselves to individuals and groups, building strong connections, selling your ideas. Strong self-confidence helps a lot here.
3) A community expert. It’s going to be tough to do the job if you don’t know the material. It helps if you’ve read our book, understand our principles, and developed communities of your own.
4) A terrific writer. You need to be able to create material that helps people build better communities. If you can’t write articulate ideas in a concise manner, this isn’t for you.
5) Eager to change the world. I know, this sounds lame. This isn’t a spreadsheet role. This is about changing the world. The world would be better if there were more successful online and offline communities. People active in communities are happier, healthier, and wealthier. This is work worth doing. This should drive you.
This is an intense role. It will involve connecting with key people and organizations, producing regular material, attending events, and achieving real, visible, results.
Benefits of FeverBee
At FeverBee, we hire terrific people and provide a platform for them to do their life’s work. To help you do that we provide the following:
Please no cover letters, CVs/resumes. We want to see your drive and persuasive skills. Call us and persuade us you're right for the job.
+44 (0)20 7792 2469
Our accountant would prefer we hired someone in the UK, but you’re welcome to persuade us otherwise.
Social capital is the value of the connections between members. This encompasses both the quantity and quality of those connections.
Over time, communities build up social capital.
What do you do with this social capital?
You invest it in community projects. You invest (not spend) the social capital in projects which will benefit the community in the future.
This means establishing a goal. This means asking members to work on a task that is too complex for a single person but benefits the community in the long-term. This might be creating a resource for newcomers, organizing a series of live events, developing a jobs board, creating community-branded products, or campaigning on an issue.
If you invest the social capital wisely, it pays dividends over time. Just don’t let it build up meaninglessly over years. Make something happen.
Big wins are rarely in community development.
Gamification has a minimal, short-term, impact (about 5%).
Moving and changing platforms has a tiny impact (unless you’re using a terrible platform, then it has a big impact).
Adding a new feature has almost 0 impact.
If you want to significantly increase levels of participation, there are several big wins.
1) Attract the most interested members/narrow the focus of the topic. The biggest determinant upon levels of participation is interest in the topic. Our interest are usually narrow. We might have an interest in cars, but we’re more likely to have an interest in fast cars, pretty cars, driverless cars, green/electric cars, classic cars, Italian cars etc…
Narrow the interest, cut out a big chunk of members, and focus on what a small group of people really care about. Make sure you find ways to attract specifically those that have the highest level of interest in the topic.
2) Build a sense of community amongst members. This has the longest-term impact upon levels of participation. It’s the most sustainable. It’s not a single tweak. It’s a combination of elements designed to take a group of people that interact and foster a genuine sense of community amongst them.
3) Develop a complete calendar of activities and implement it. Implement an action plan that includes discussions, events/activities, and content. Make sure there is something fresh in the community every day.
4) Place the latest activity above the fold on the landing page of the community. This is a quick win. We did this for one client and the level of activity rose overnight by 42% before holding steady over 6 months at around 30%.
5) Tweak the notification system. The notification system has a huge impact upon levels of participation. Tweak who the notifications are sent from, what they sent, their length, and what people are asked to do. Ensure it’s opt out, not opt in.
To increase activity, most organizations will demand expensive platform changes or promotional drives. This doesn’t work. All of the above are far cheaper and far more effective.
You probably have several highly active members.
They participate most frequently. They contribute the best content.
How do you reward them?
These aren’t the members you need to worry about. They’re already doing what you want them to do.
Members don’t leave a community because they didn’t receive appreciation/rewards/gratitude. They leave because they don’t feel part of the group, become bored of the group, or lose interest in the topic altogether.
When you reward the people that are already doing what you want, you risk unsettling them. It creates jealousy. Some members will be below the reward cut-off point. It also risks changing their motivation to something less sustainable.
The members you need to worry about are those which have joined within the previous 48 hours, those average level of activity is declining, and those who could be brought up to top member level. Finding ways to encourage these members to participate is far more productive.
Top members have their uses. They give you influence. They’re also those who most likely want to be more involved as volunteers. Just don’t assume that because someone is a top member, they need to be rewarded. Simply being a top member is their reward.