Month: November 2008
Convince a CEO to tell their employees to join your online community.
At a small business, that means 3 new members. At a Fortune 500 company, that’s 30,000 new members.
Reaching these people is hard. Thousands of salespeople fail every day.
Use the assets you have, your existing members. Put together a template e-mail and list of advice to persuade they can send to their boss. Something that will make an outstanding case for joining your online community. Maybe improve knowledge, find sales leads, better customer service or improve your reputation.
Collect a list of ‘e-mails that worked’. Let others see them. Reward the employees who succeed, encourage them to help the rest.
One solid recommendation is worth thousands of new members.
Why not create a private blog for just 10 specific people? Or a social network just for the 20 greatest minds in psychology?
Why do we need as many people as possible?
Why not create a community with the specific goal of bringing your top 5 distributors, customers and employees together to create a code of best practice?
Why not target the specific people you need for a specific outcome?
If your community is an open one, perhaps it’s time to ask why?
I’m stealing this from my distilled interview:
If you come to someone with an idea for an online community, they might say no. There’s no budget for it. It’s too risky. Or “Why can’t we advertise to our own community”?
Just to do it anyway. If you want to build an online community for someone, just go ahead and do it. They can’t stop you. You don’t even have to be directly involved, just enthuse a few great customers with the idea and support them.
If you come to someone a few months later with a community of 3,000 people are they going to turn you (and their loyal customers) away? Are they going to pass up on the free-advertising and word-of-mouth marketing for life? Are they going to turn down the free market research?
I bet they wont. In fact, I suspect they’re willing to pay a good price to keep you and your community right where it is.
If you run a sports team fan site, and the manager is sacked, it’s big news. It’s also a huge opportunity to grow your community at lightning speed.
Invite your members to post every scrap of information they can find on the topic. It might be a news stories, blog posts, tweets, what a friend in the industry knows, perhaps a round-up of chat-room discussions.
Task a group to put the information into 3 categories. Fact, Rumour, Fiction. Make it clearly visible from your homepage.
Now get the word out in comments of media news stories, to journalists, on relevant blogs and through people you know in the industry. You can even call a radio station or two.
Try to become the major hub of latest information and the official stamp of what’s a fact, what’s fiction and what’s a hot rumour.
If you have a customer service team, you’ve got a handy list of customers you can apologise to.
If you haven’t got a customer service team, rummage through your inbox and find some people who have written in.
Now, by way of apology, send them an invite to become one of the first members of your new online community. Perhaps give them VIP status. If they have stuck by you, they’ve earned it.
It shows you still care about them. I’m also willing to bet you’ve just recruited a vocal group of participators.
Your members needs prompts to invite friends. But asking friends to invite their friends doesn’t always work. It’s a cliché and it looks selfish. There’s no real reason for them to do it.
So create a reason.
Launch a specific project their friends can help with. Or begin debates you need expert opinions on. Keep it relevant to your community. Try a sub-niche.
Now ask your members to invite specific friends who can contribute. Perhaps a friend who recently moved house? Or a friend who’s just gone through a divorce? Maybe someone that works as a teacher.
You will hopefully get motivated members with something to offer your community.
The secretive Skull and Bones society asks all new members to recount their sexual history with the rest of the group.
This is a deliberate shortcut to bond the group together. The secret is intimacy and experiences.
Recovering alcoholics share details of their problems, it helps the group develop. Strangers bond when the elevator breaks. Employees bond when they overcome a challenge, the rugby team bonds on tour.
Bonding is as important as growing. Create the space for bonding to happen. Launch events for your community to participate in. Encourage sub-groups and competition. Highlight challenges to overcome and find successes to celebrate.
Give every new member a small job to tackle when they join.
This gives all members ownership over a tiny piece of your community. It gives new members the chance to feel involved and build early relationships. It gives new members a taste of early success.
You might task a new member with rounding up the latest industry news. Or you might ask one to create an OPML file featuring you all the blogs of your members.
You might ask them to moderate the newcomers forum or translate your content to an overseas audience.
Perhaps you can give them the arduous role of talking to a group, spotting a problem, and giving the job of solving it to the next new member?
You don’t want to teach people about your company nor technology right now. These are barriers to tackle in the next stage.
To get going, you want people who are interested in your company or your industry. You want people who are comfortable with technology.
Here is some fertile recruiting ground:
- Bloggers. Not the big bloggers, but people with a blog about your industry. They care so much they spend their time on it.
- Comments. People that comment on blogs in your industry, are great to contact. They’re interested, know the tools and have the time to spare.
- News Stories. Most news sites allow people to add their opinion to the story. Don’t be afraid to approach them.
- Book Reviewers. People that review books about your genre are becoming more approachable. Visit Amazon, eBay and other sites to find potential members.
- Facebook, LinkedIn and Other Social Networks: Learn how to search for people by interest and develop relationships with people.
- Industry Magazines. Who’s been writing into your industry’s magazines? Read the letters and Google the names. They most likely have an online presence.
- Customer Service. Anyone that’s shown such an interest that they’ve contacted the customer service team to complain or improve the product is someone you want.
- Your Inbox. Anyone that’s written to you with a question, or a comment that never really got your full attention. Invite them.
- Taggers. Who’s tagging content about your sector? Invite them.
- Twitter. Search Twitter for mentions of your company and your industry. Invite the people you find, unless they have over 500 followers.
- Conference Attendees. People that attended the industry conference are usually interested in being better at what they, or becoming more involved in the industry. You can often get the complete list of members from the conference site. Use with caution.
- Regular Visitors/Lurkers. Put up a post calling for volunteers interested in getting more involved. You can’t announce the project yet, but they can e-mail you if it spikes their interest.
- People They Know. Ask everyone you get from this list who else they think would love to be one of the first members of your new community – approach them.
Who not to approach:
- A-List Bloggers. Too busy to bother with your community. Focus on the people that comment on their blog instead.
- Current Customers. It’s too soon to invite your current customers at will. Unless they have shown an extended interest in your company i.e. they filled in the suggestions form, don’t invite them yet.
- Journalists. It’s too soon for a journalist to care. Make something they can’t ignore.
- Employees. Employees will notice that in the early days your community is looking a bit bare. It might put them off from coming back. Wait until you have something you can show them.
- Newsletters. Don’t automatically try to convert your passive newsletter deletes into members.
- Anyone From A Paid-For List. Just don’t.
- Existing Online Groups/Rival Communities. Don’t mass invite members of pre-existing online communities. You don’t want a group of people that already know each other just yet. You want passionate people that you can forge into a community. That’s a big difference.
Once you’ve figured out who you’re going to reach, be sure to remember the Dos and Don’ts of outreach.
It’s time to break out the Santa Hats and prepare for Christmas. I suggest you create a present using the resources of your community, that members can give to their friends.
Find something that your community can do for outsiders. Preferably something every member will love to send to everyone they knew. Something unique and useful.
Maybe you should appoint a committee and give them some resources to play around with?
p.s. If you are looking for a stunning animator/illustrator to create your company’s Christmas card (perhaps with your key clients in?) you should contact my friend Akvile Seseikaite. She’s the best.
It’s easier than ever to keep your members coming back. You just need to combine the best of human motivations with technology. If you get this right, you’re making your job much easier for yourself.
Put someone in charge every Friday to create a missing person’s list. Anyone can add people that haven’t posted in a while. Over the weekend it’s customary for members to message as many as possible to see how they’re doing.
Or add a “People who might find this interesting” option to every piece of user generated content. This lets the users select names of their friends and community members who they think will want to read and participate in this debate. Like a picture tag, it sends you an e-mail inviting you to participate.
Or create a program that ranks every member by number of posts or time spent on the site. Even better, by the number of karma points/votes their content has received. Every member is e-mailed their position at the end of the month.
If your outreach e-mails are getting a response less than 50%, you’re doing more harm than good.
Seriously, you’re turning potential members (and customers) away from your client. You’re making your job harder.
Stop now. Figure out what’s wrong. Fix it.