Month: November 2008
If your online community aims to connect two groups, you have a problem. Neither group will join until the other group is already there.
Buyers wont join a community en-masse if there are no sellers. Estate agencies wont join a community without house-hunters. Job-seekers wont join a community with no employers or recruitment agencies.
There are only two solutions to this.
1. Tiny Targeting. Target a tiny group with as much in common as possible. Perhaps people who live within one mile of each other. Or people looking/recruiting for one type of job e.g. community manager.
2. Ladies night.
Ladies night isn’t fair, but it worked. Women go because they get the best offers, men go because the women are there. The lesson is, don’t treat both groups equally.
Cater to one group more than the other. Give one group huge incentives to join. Give them great content. Invite VIPs to give live-chats. Have a brilliant FAQ wiki. Offer product discounts. Give them an inside communications channel to your client. Let them decide what they want to happen in the community.
Next open membership to the second group, but limit the number of people who can join. Don’t overwhelm your first group. Create a waiting list for people who want to join, and keep them updated in the meantime. Warn the people in the community they need to be active participators, you’ve got people waiting.
Contact the HR departments and ask if they would direct any employees they’ve been forced to lay off to join your online community.
Your online community helps people find the jobs they want, it attracts recruitment experts and gives people in the industry a chance to get noticed.
You’ve also created a special place just for those that have lost their jobs in the last few months.
Be sure to contact other HR departments and recruitment agencies about the huge number of talented members your community is attracting.
Apply game mechanics to your online community.
It’s a huge concept, but here’s a few things you should consider implementing.
- Collecting. Give members something they can collect. Maybe friends? Maybe badges? Maybe awards? Perhaps moderation powers over the community.
- Points. Let people earn points. Points for answering a question, or accumulating high ratings from others. Points for writing a great post or winning new member of the month.
- Feedback. Rank the people by their points. Or by how much they have participated each month. Encourage members to give feedback on each other. Make a habit of it, no post goes without a reply. Automate feedback as much as possible. A league table of people with the most points.
- Exchange. What can members exchange with each other? Badges? Pictures? Status? Just great advice? Is advice enough? Find things of value that members can exchange without much effort.
- Customise. Let people have some ability to customize their profiles or how they see your community. Encourage them to top each other. Highlight the best profiles and ideas for following/engaging in your community.
How important is game mechanics to online communities? Peter Kim believes game mechanics defines much about social media. It's difficult to see how an online community can thrive without any of these elements. It should certainly make your online community more fun.
Find 4 or 5 people that do the same sort of work that you do. Collect their e-mail addresses and send a group e-mail introducing everyone to each other.
Ask them a question you need help with. Ask them what problems they have, then help solve them. Keep the e-mail list going. Keep it short and valuable.
Add a few others to the e-mail list. Use the e-mail list until it becomes cluttered then move to a forum. Give people with a special expertise their own sections.
Let more people join. Solve more problems. Share more advice.
Give power users something no-one else can have.
Give them something that shows up on their profile. Maybe their name in a different colour font. Maybe a specially designed badge they can display on their profile. Perhaps unlike anyone else. Let them customise their profiles more. Or celebrate their birthdays with a special post (even logo?) and good wishes.
Find ways to publicly recognise them. Better still, find a way to let them show their status without bragging.
Many communities would be 100% more successful if they could convert 1% of their lurkers to become creators.
Typically, Lurkers read but don’t participate. Lurkers are likely to reply to direct personal message, but not mass messages. They’re unlikely to get involved in the major events and debates of your community.
With this in mind, here’s 11 ideas to get lurkers to participate.
- Skilled Projects. Many lurkers don’t feel they have much to add. Create a project that needs certain skill sets. Then ask members with those skills to get involved.
- Create A Lurker List. Create a list of lurkers. Nothing more, nothing less. Each week add a few more names of lurkers to the list. If they participate, remove their names.
- Talk About Lurkers. Start discussions about lurkers. Lurkers have the expertise to participate in this debate. Ask people that typically lurk for their opinions. Make sure their voices are heard.
- Lurker Competition. Anyone with 5 posts or less can participate.
- Recognise Great Contributions From Non-Regulars. Personally, or publicly, tell someone who isn’t a regular how great their contribution was. Make it non-regulars feel comfortable with getting involved.
- Provoke A Strong Emotion. Do or say something so great (or terrible) that lurkers have to get involved.
- Celebrate ‘First Posts’. People celebrate a player’s ‘first-hit’ in baseball. You can celebrate a member’s first post. Make it a tradition when you see a comment by a 1-post member to give a quick welcome and congratulations on their first post.
- Ask Lurkers What Would Make Them Become Creators. Time intensive, but worthwhile. Ask one lurker per day what would make them become creators. If your community has 36,500 members or less, you’ve just doubled your content in a single year.
- Lurker Day (or theme). Have a day or weekly theme tailored just for lurkers. Have introduction posts, stupid-questions threads and “Everything you wanted to know about ____ but were afraid to ask” content. Create downloadable primers on how lurkers can become super-members of your community.
- Lurker Representatives. Recruit people to represent your lurkers. When giving feedback, this representative messages as many lurkers as they can and forms their opinion. Bi-annual elections of course.
- Kick Out Some Lurkers. Declare that people that read and don’t participate are leeches and kick a few lurkers out. The rest might participate more.
Once you attract the attention of a lurker, point out the next steps they can take and develop a natural arch for them to become creators.
Like pumping up a bike tyre, you need to build pressure. You need a point where the messages you send out hit a wall and start bouncing back. You can’t do that if you target everybody.
Target single groups at a time, not the mass audience.
Segment the total audience you want into the smallest groups possible. Perhaps just 50 to 100 people. Invite them to join, cater to them and find a representative to continue growing the group.
Set a time-frame for how long you will spend on each group. If one group fails, try the next. It it succeeds, keep pushing it to get as many members as possible.
Community members that only contribute negative comments should be kicked out.
Community members that don’t add anything to the conversation when they post, should be kicked out.
Community members that don’t increase the value of the community, should be kicked out.
Any member who don’t improve the community should be kicked out.
It’s not as harsh as it sounds. If your members don’t add value, they’re adding flab.
They’re cluttering your interface. They’re distracting your community from it’s goals. They’re taking up your time. They’re slowling down the meaningful stuff from happening.
You'll be doing your community a favour.
Most online communities have an e-mail a friend feature. It’s probably not used much.
It’s too much effort to find your friends’ e-mail addresses.
You need to simplify the process.
Don’t ask for e-mail addresses, ask for names and any details that will help find the person. e.g. place of work or location.
Now you can use Google, LinkedIn and Facebook to track the person down and send a personal invite. If you’re really clever, you can write a code that does this for you.
If you can’t change the coding of your website, then start a thread every 6 months on the forum. Invite members to list any friends with the most basic of details to help you find them.
You don’t need to be an expert within the industry to build an online community. But you do need the ability to recruit and motivate experts.
Your job isn’t to produce the content yourself. Faking expertise is a terrible idea. Your job is to recruit experts who would love run an online community. You don’t manage the community, you manage these 5 – 10 people.
That means coaching them, motivating them and finding rewards for their time.It means designing the architecture for the community to succeed. It means coming up with ideas they would love to implement.
Most of all, it means giving them everything they need, then getting out the way.
Final note, this means you might not get the credit. Does that bother you?
Create league tables of the top bloggers in your field.
You have the A-List table, the B-List Table, the C-List table and down it goes. Ask current bloggers who to add to which list. It gets them involved at the beginning.
Now find a coder to create a DIGG’ish ‘SCORE’ tag bloggers add to their posts. Whenever the blogger writes a great post, your community can click ‘score’ (next to the Stumble It!) and the blogger automatically get points on your community’s league table.
It takes a bit of coding, but the results are worth it.
Every 3 months you have promotions and relegations, no playoffs. You could even have trophies.
Now your community decides who are the A-list bloggers and who are the D-list bloggers. And it’s not a bad resource too.
People only complain about things they have an interest in.
If someone complains about an aspect of your community, ask them if they want to help fix it. Or better, ask them how they would like it fixed and provide the resources they need to get the job done.
You might just turn a disgruntled member into a proud power user.