Month: October 2008
Google Analytics is good, but it is not superman. It can't measure everything
that matters in your online community.
It can't tell you how many discussions are positive, or how many
super-members you have. It can't tell you how many members are creating content
and how many are merely lurking. It can't tell you which groups are inviting
friends and if those friends are engaging in the community. It can't tell you if
you're fostering relationships that matter.
For some of this stuff, you need to track it yourself. Do you need to track
every member? Of course not. You need to track enough to know what's improving
and what's not. You need a quick poll that reflects the general trends.
I'd pick one new member per day, and see how s/he is doing 1, 2 and 3 months later. Keep it simple and keep it brief.
Make your community valuable and your invites scarce. That's a good way to
Many community members, if offered an invite, still wont use it. They will
get another one next month though right?
What can you do about that?
Tell members to use their invites or lose them. Either they use their invite
this month, or they wont get any next month.If they do bring someone into the
community, they get twice as many next month.
Now your inactive members have a fear or loss to contend with. Your active
members have twice as much to gain (and lose).
I hate it when my name is taken. I bet John Smith does too. If you’ve tried to register a Yahoo or GMail account recently, you know what I’m talking about.
If you want a big influencer to join your online community, why not reserve their name in advance? It shows a great deal of respect and should appeal to their ego.
You can also attack their fear of loss. In these brand-hijacking days. How many key influencers would hurry to claim their reserved name if you explained it was only going to be reserved for 5 more days.
Why not reserve the names of all your customers and drop them a quick note asking them to claim their name before it’s opened up to everyone?
This also works if your transitioning from one website to another. Everyone’s name is reserved for them, so long as they claim it within a week.
You need to answer this about your community. You’re allowed 12 words max, so make them count. The more specific, the better. You’re not allowed an ‘and’ or an ‘or’.
One more crucial rule, it has to improve the life of the member. No-one’s going to participate because it boosts the company’s quarterly earnings.
So for example:
People will participate in this community because they want great advice from recovering alcoholics.
People will participate in this community because they want to build their reputation as a great gamer.
People will participate in this community because they might find perfect partner.
People will participate in this community because it helps them get a dream job.
Don’t rush, there is plenty of time to get this right.
Be very precise with the wording. Precise actions, precise people and precise benefits. Take a week or so, do some research. Ask your target members what they would love and try that.
This is your mission statement. Day by day you work to make that single appeal even stronger.
Help your members grow their own followings.
When a member emerges from the pack, drop him an e-mail. Congratulate them on being a top member and offer advice they can use to build their following.
If it works, they'll be working hard to build their own mini-community. Wouldn't it be great to have 100 mini-community builders in your community?
Statistically speaking, you’re probably going to fail.
I know, it’s gloomy stuff.
If you’ve tried everything and you’re not getting anywhere, it’s time to ask for help. Find 15 influential people and ask for their expert advice.
Most people are nice. If you ask them for advice they’ll give you some. They might even offer to help.
Hate is a short-cut to building an online community.
Arguments are easy to get sucked in to and hard to walk away from. If your online community is filled with arguments, you’re going to get people joining quickly and visiting often. It’s addictive.
But you attract the lowest common denominator of people. You attract people that don’t want to achieve anything. You attract people that love arguing.
Have you seen the “We hate [celeb/group name]” groups? They’re popular, but they never get much done.
A hate-filled online community is a live grenade. They will always be looking for people to hate. Sooner or later, they’ll target you or someone smart enough to report your online community to your ISP.
Then it’s game over.
Every night, from 4am to 6am, a hosting bug messed up our iGUK website. The format went crazy and precisely 32 anonymous users were erroneously reported online. It become a running joke, our website had ghosts! Whenever anything went wrong, website or with the company, the ghosts took the blame.
I started that joke, which leads me to believe that you can start in-jokes for your community. If not directly, then you can increase the odds something will become an in-joke. Here are a few ideas I’ve seen work in my community and elsewhere.
- Steal, Steal, Steal. Find a community you love, look at a few of the in-jokes and colloquialisms, and adapt them for your own community.
- Name actions after people. Pick on people that can take it. What are they known for? What have they done? Can you name it after them?
- Refer to a funny comment/incident from one thread in another. Perhaps the only practical advice in this post. If something’s funny in one thread, refer to it in another, and another. If it catches, you’re in.
- Frequently Recite Strange Phrases. Did someone say something that sounds a little odd. Can you repeat it more often and in nonsensical ways?
- Create ACRONYMS. Now no-one will have a clue what you’re talking about…unless they do.
- Mimic Someone’s Writing Style. Does someone have an annoying habit of misusing capital letters and ending bullet points with an unnecessary .’s ? Repeat.It.Often.
- Mis-Apply Topical Terms. Pick something quite relevant, and apply it in strange and bizarre ways. Has your community got any Mavericks? Can you see the moon from your house? What about bailouts?
- Quotes of the Month. Create a quotes of the week thread. Let people add their funniest quotes. Let people steal and recycle them as they see fit.
- Turn Big Mistakes Into Big Jokes. Skip this one if it was YOUR mistake. What’s the most famous blunder in your community? Do you have your own community-gate? How about an
- Never Forget Terrible Excuses. I don’t know why, but terrible excuses about anything make for great in-jokes.
- Refer to Real Life Meetings. Things tend to happen in real-life meetings that are endlessly repeated. Who got lost? Who forgot to tip? Who tripped over?
- Top 10 In-Jokes List. Yes, well, it works.
- Do Something Random. Sometimes I eat brown bread.
Here’s a good list of in-jokes at MetaFilter. What in-jokes does your or your community have? Did you help start them?
- Average time on site.
- How many members are actively participating once a week.
- Members meeting new people who can help them.
- Whether the debates are positive/constructive or negative/destructive.
- You’re doing less work than last month.
- You have more super-members.
- More members are volunteering to help you out.
- The ideas and feedback the community is generating.
- Whether employees have embraced the community.
- How many of the discussions are generated by you, and how many by the community.
- The community is recruiting new members themselves.
- How many people you approach join the community.
- Your business is committing to serving its community.
- Members feel they are part of your business.
- Is the community growing or shrinking?
- Offline events and real-world meetings.
- Technical problems.
- Are you closer to quitting?
What doesn’t matter?
- Number of members.
- How many ads are clicked.
- Page views.
- Does it look good?
- PR coverage.
- The number of links you’ve received.
- Income -vs- Expenditure
- Invites to conferences.
Maybe, it depends.
It depends if you’ve established yourself as an authority beforehand, or you’ve got the respect of those who have.
It depends if you’ve got 5 to 10 community builders to help you out, or a small legion of volunteers.
It depends if you can offer huge prizes for a competition, or reward each and every new member.
It depends if your audience is extremely welcoming to mail-merge, or are predisposed to invite all their friends.
It depends if you’re only interested in numbers, or have a big list of customers who have expressed an interest.
To adapt an old saying, you can build an online community well, fast or cheap. Pick two.