Month: October 2008
If you want someone to join an online community, try talking about them. People are staggeringly self-interested.
If you want a group of people to join your online community, talk about the individuals within the group.
If I wanted employees of Edelman to join my community, I would start debates about who my members most admired at the organisation. Who’s the most overrated Edelman employee. Who would be the biggest loss to Edelman. Maybe rate Edelman’s prominent bloggers out of 10.
It’s good content (content about people usually is) and it’s likely to be passed around the offices.
The stronger the emotional pull, the easier it is to overcome the joining barriers.
It’s basic customer service.
If you’re building an online community, handling problems and helping people, then make your phone number available.
You will probably solve problems quicker and your community will appreciate someone they can call.
Mine is 646-241-1536 (US)
What’s your big play this week?
What’s the fun tactic you’re using to grow your numbers? You should execute one every week. You can theme the weeks, set the ideas in advance, even have registration pages.
All your other work is housecleaning, you plays are the important stuff. Try to execute one per week. It’s fun for you and your community. It shows commitment and builds relationships between members.
If just one idea per month succeeds as you hope, you will never have to worry about membership numbers again.
Building the first online community of it’s kind is tough.
You have to overcome resistance to new technology and distrust of people online. You have to work much harder to demonstrate the benefits of being a member of an online community. You might have to convert 3 hour per week internet users to 6 hours a week.
It’s tough work, but it can be done. Here are some ideas that might help.
- Build An Offline Community First. Focus on connecting people offline first. Perhaps introduce regional customers to each other. Build up regional groups that can meet often. Then stress the benefits of the internet for connecting them to each other.
- Invite People Who Have Shown An Interest. People who have written to customer service, trade magazines participated in related online forums are great people to invite. They care. Invite them first.
- Ask Your Key Members For Advice On Building The Interface. Get popular people involved before you begin building the online community. Be sure they write the guide about signing up and the benefits.
- Use One Key Event To Get People To Join The Community. Use one major event or opportunity to get people to join. Like receiving a free copy of film if you join the online community first. Or a major debate with a popular figure only on your community.
- Champion Stories Of Your Member’s Online Achievements To Offline Customers. Celebrate the achievements of your online champions. Make sure your offline users hear about them often. Success stories work wonders.
- Train And Recruit ‘Just-Like-You’ Experts. You, big brains, are cursed with too much knowledge. Train up some people from your community to teach and assist others. Find a way to reward them.
- Use The Easiest Technology Possible. Strip out every possible feature which doesn’t absolutely have to be there at the launch. If most of your target members are on Facebook, begin with a Facebook group. Then upgrade to your own website/forum/socialnetwork once you’ve got a tight group.
- Panic Buttons. Have a big button people can click for help at any stage with technology. They click the button, enter their phone number/convenient time and you or one of your helpers give them a call as soon as possible.
It’s harder to build an eco-system than join one. It’s harder to build a community for steelworkers than another Apple-fans community. But it’s not impossible. Work harder, find smart ways to overcome the technology hurdle and don’t let any member slip away.
A blog is a brilliant tool to spread ideas, but it’s not usually the best tool to build an online community.
A blog doesn’t allow multi-way relationships between members. It’s usually two-way, you and the member talking to each other. You via the content, the member via the comments.
A blog doesn’t show who’s friends with who. It doesn’t allow for an unwritten culture to really develop. It’s not easy for two members to have a side chat.
Worst of all, it’s all about you. If you stop blogging, the community dies. That’s no good at all.
By all means have a blog for your community, but keep it as part of something bigger. Perhaps the blog is the rallying point, like a newsletter.
A great community will inspire members to write their own brilliant blogs.
Ask each of your 10 helpers to find someone they think will love the community to test it out. They report their feedback, and you can improve your community.
You can even invite these 10 people to become the official tester group. They get to test out any new tweaks to the community interface before anyone else. Why not even give them the final say?
Getting the first 10 members is tough. Many just don't stick around long enough. Sometimes they don't put as much effort in as you hoped. There is a solution to this.
Don't ask 10 people to join your community.
Invite 10 people to help run your online community.
It sparks more interest and brings them together. They are more likely to invite their friends, and it's less work for you.
In my last community, one member paid another for their membership number. It was a cool number, 007.
The number only appeared at the end of their profile URL. They had to swap profile details to make this work.
You can really have some fun with membership numbers. They're fast becoming the new license plates. People that care about them, care a lot. Here are a few ideas:
- Personalised Numbers. Let people pay to have "ROYROCKS" instead of 175, or "McLovin" instead of 2242.
- Generate Early Registrations. If you're about to launch a new website, make a big deal about the membership numbers. Let these member customise their profiles, offer special avatars or signatures. They will try to register as soon as possible.
- Member Pass-along. Give your top member number 1. Let her select who will be number 2. Then number 2 decides who gets to be number 3, and so on. Up to 100.
- Don't Give People A Number Until They've Proved Themselves. Don't give new members a number until they have been participating for 21 days or more. Then let the high-ranked numbers select which number they get.
- Rotating numbers. Be fair and give everyone a chance to shine in the top 50. Feature these profiles for the month.
- Democratic Voting. Every 6 months let people vote for who gets the top numbers.
- Offer Popular/Unique Numbers As Rewards. e.g. 007. 666. 999. 1337. 12345, 55378008.
- Strip Inactive Members Of Low Numbers. If those with numbers in the top 100 aren't participating, strip them of the number.
- Refer To Low-Numbered Members for Advice. Use the numbers 1 – 10 as an advisory council on the community.
I'm sure there are thousands more brilliant ideas about using membership numbers when building an online community. What are your experience about member numbers?
The success of this idea amazed me. A popular gaming website once wrote to it’s 15 most prominent members. Each member was asked to write a few lines about what they thought of the other 14 prominent people.
They enjoyed doing it, and it made for great reading by the rest of the community.
Everyone wanted to be in the sequel.
Lets go big today. If you have a $40,000 budget and your competitor has a $4,000 budget. What advantages do you have when it comes to building an online community? To put simply, what will get you for your extra resources and money?
- Hire the Best. You can afford the people with the most experience. This means less time wasted on mistakes and a much greater chance of success.
- Faster Growth . You have more of the builder’s time, or more than one builder. This means more time for research, more personalised e-mails and more people joining the community at the early stages. This pay dividends for the rest of the project. You can also give builders a list of thousands of customers they can approach. This helps.
- Instant Eager Helpers. More builders/time mean more conversations. If you ever have any request, or product trials or work to delegate to the community, the builders should know the right people for the job.
- More Initiatives to Grow the Community. You should expect more initiatives a week designed at growing your community.
- Tighter Community. Your community should be closer to one another. You should expect some real-life meetings to have taken place between members. Perhaps sponsored by you.
- Big Characters. The community builders should be able to attract the most prominent people in your industry to join, and participate more.
- Sub Communities. Your community builder(s) should be able to foster sub-communities and groups with a specific focus and motivation. These sub communities might will be very focused, powerful and extremely more efficient at handling certain takes.
- More PR. A spot of PR probably wont go amiss with that size budget.
- Big To Huge. You can example that when the time comes, the resources you have should really be able to ramp the community into overdrive. Perhaps add a link on all outgoing e-mails? Or tell customer service teams to refer people to the community for extra help.
- Best Reputation. From having the man-hours to do everything right, your company should develop a reputation, like Dell, of ‘getting’ social media. Once you get it, you should be invited to industry events and interviewed by some top bloggers.
Do you have more? Add them.
New commitments will often cause your members to fade away from the community.
Don’t let that happen.
Have a proper farewell to members that are leaving. Encourage people to let you know when they don’t have time to participate anymore. Create a farewell post for them. People can add their best memories of that person.
Make a tradition of doing it. It tightens the community and encourages people to build up relationships during their time. After all, nobody wants an empty post.
If you’re building a community for sports fans, you would be crazy to take the weekends off. It’s when the games take place. It’s when you should be working your hardest.
You should be organising competitions that only last for a few minutes. Or encouraging WHRN (what’s happening right now) discussions. You should be inviting predictions and keeping score. You should be issuing 48 hour challenges for members to invite their friends and participate.
Your job is to make sure your community has a great weekend.
If people choose to spend their leisure time in your community. You have to be working hardest during their leisure time. Everything else is prep.
At least you get to sleep in.