Month: November 2008

Board Of Directors

November 10, 2008Comments Off on Board Of Directors

Crazy idea, but what if you recruited a board of directors for your community?

Recruit a board of experts from a range of different fields advising on the management of your online community.

Be picky. Select the top member from your community, yourself, someone from the company, a major industry figure and one or two community experts to serve on your board.

You might just get great advice, solid management and plenty of great promotion.

People Are Balls, Not Mud

November 10, 2008Comments Off on People Are Balls, Not Mud

You can't launch a community with a 'seeing what sticks' approach. 

This usually means mass-mailing everyone on your lists, securing some media coverage and hoping for a high conversion rate, like 20%.

You can't do this because people aren't mud.

They don’t stick or slide waiting to be thrown around. If they visit the community and don't like it, they bounce. It’s much harder to get them back for a second look.

If you have to use a metaphor, try this. People are balls. Your community is a hole (oh dear). Your job is to guide every available ball into the hole. If any bounce or miss, you’ve made your job harder.

Have a soft launch. Grow slowly and deliberately. Cater to one group at a time, invite select people in batches.

13 Ways To Get Press Coverage For Your Online Community

November 9, 2008Comments Off on 13 Ways To Get Press Coverage For Your Online Community

Once your community has been going a while, you might want to go big. This means either implementing tactics that will ensure most members invite more, or gain mainstream media coverage.

Here are a few ideas that might get press coverage for your online community.

  1. Get Journalists To Join. Invite journalists to join your online community and keep them engaged. Treat them as a VIP and the press coverage will follow. It’s difficult though.
  2. Talk About Journalists. “Who do you think is the top journalist in {Niche}. Talk and rank them. Journalists hopefully register to join the community. Keep a list of their latest articles each journalist has written, maybe give each a user averaged rating.
  3. Talk About Articles. “Did you see what Cory Bowell wrote about {big issue} in {important media}? He’s so wrong, here’s why…” Start discussions about articles and drop an e-mail to the journalist asking them to see the response their article gets. Don’t ask for anything more.
  4. Let A Journalist Represent You. Don’t give a journalist a choice, pick a journalist your community admire as a figurehead or star for your community to admire. This works well in environmental and cause-related communities. Ask your community to congratulate them every now and then.
  5. Ask Your Community To Write To Journalists. If you want a journalist to write about an issue important to your community, ask your community to write to him/her. It’s harder for a journalist to ignore 23 e-mails from the public on a big issue. Use sparingly.
  6. Create A Sub-Group For Media Types. Great a sub-group in your online community just for journalists. They can discuss stories and talk about issues important.
  7. Pitch A Feature Idea Involving Your Community. Ask your community what ideas they would love to read about in the news, then pitch them to journalists.
  8. Be The Pulse Of Opinion and Trends. Become the pulse of opinion for your community. Openly put together a roundup of trends in your community and the general opinion on the big issues. E-mail it to select journalists who join your community.
  9. Compile A Collection Of Stories. Invite members to add their stories of how they became involved in your community and anything related that they find interesting.
  10. Offer Experts. Your online community is the hive of experts for your niche. Offer interviews and become a source where journalists can post queries for case studies.
  11. Be Controversial. A little PR 101, take a side on an issue and state your opposition. Don’t forget to let journalists know.
  12. Offer Pictures. Journalists struggle with pictures, if your members can provide pictures of people
  13. Get Your Community To Comment On News Stories. Many online news sources allow comments. Use them, send your community members to comment on relevant stories.

The problem with a sudden rush of new members, is it might crush the existing communities. Prepare and make room for the rush. Give existing members somewhere they can go and talk, or don’t allow new members full access for the first 21 days.

Community Building Pre-Launch Checklist

November 8, 2008Comments Off on Community Building Pre-Launch Checklist

Here’s a quick pre-launch checklist, it’s only got 10 things so far. Maybe you can add more?

  1. Developed a strong appeal for members to participate.
  2. Persuaded internal gatekeepers of the opportunities this community offers.
  3. Determined specific metrics of success.
  4. Identified and developed relationships with key members.
  5. Decided how many people you need in your community.
  6. Removed every unnecessary feature from interface.
  7. Planned who to contact once you’ve launched and what to tell them.
  8. Provided a motivation for members to invite friends, and their friends invite more friends.
  9. Created a structure that entices members to take on a share of the work.
  10. Seeded the community with gripping content and debates.

It’s Friday, Lets Talk A Little More About Fun

November 7, 2008Comments Off on It’s Friday, Lets Talk A Little More About Fun

I can’t string these thoughts into a post, they might work better like this:

It’s good to plan some fun. House parties would be terrible if no-one remembered the alcohol.

People are more willing to do things if it’s fun; Turn up, donate money, write software code, cycle across Africa, e-mail a senator, meet up in person, buy your products!.

If your community is more fun than television, you win big.

If your community feels like work, you lose bad.

Fun is worth measuring. Every 3 months ask: “Is the community more fun now than it used to be?”

Use the sentence “getting out of hand” with extreme caution.

Fun Fridays are a good idea. So are Caturdays.

What’s everyone got planned for this weekend?” is a valid question.

Silly avatars, in-jokes, pointless phrases and a healthy does of jest, are good.

Congratulating people about engagements, babies and promotions is fine. Congratulating their appearance or body characteristics, is not.

Publicly denounce things that have gone too far. But use with restraint.

Steal from tabloids. The same people who hate books, spend hours every day reading newspapers. Steal some ideas. Gossip columns?

If it doesn’t feel like work, you wont be held to work hours, or compete with work projects. Fun is always worth the investment.

Making your community fun is part of your job.

The School Play Tactic

November 6, 2008Comments Off on The School Play Tactic

School plays work because they include every child. They include every child so every parent buys a ticket. These parents convince friends and relatives to come. Like any social event, once everyone seems to be going, everyone else goes.

That’s thinking 3 moves ahead, you can really ramp this up on the internet.

Create an eBook project, 100 community members each get a page to share their best advice. Everyone featured will be eager to promote the eBook, you can advise them how. Encourage them to post it on their Facebook profile to their 150 friends.

That’s over 15,000 people. Now be sure to add a line in the eBook such as “tell us and fellow readers over Twitter which chapter you liked best. #ebooktitle”. That’s 15,000 people who are now promoting your eBook to their 70 followers on Twitter.

You’ve just reached over 100,000 people.

Have Fun

November 6, 2008Comments Off on Have Fun

Jon organised a community event in Cheltenham last month. The event was to decide how to improve the lower end of the high-street. No-one showed up. It didn’t sound fun. It didn’t kick start the community.

It’s nearly impossible to build a community if your members aren’t having fun. If you make your community fun people will participate more. They invite others. They work hard to make it better.

So encourage the fun, silly, things in your community. Have awards for craziest avatars. Build forums for the off-topic stuff. Let the casual chatter thrive, it’s mostly what friends discuss anyhow. Focusing on the fun, is a good way to bring people together.

Use Your Current Clients To Build A Community Around Your Business

November 5, 2008Comments Off on Use Your Current Clients To Build A Community Around Your Business

If you run an agency, building a community around your business is a
brilliant idea. It adds value, develops a lock-in and you can invite prospective
clients. It might become a new sales funnel in itself.

But it requires you taking some steps. Here are 10 steps that might help.

  1. Begin By Building An Online Hub of Quick Tips. Tips that
    you usually wouldn't charge for. Highlight things that have worked well in other
    industries. Suggest ideas that would work well in the near future. Pitch a few
    wacky curve-balls.
  2. Create A Tip Sheet Invite. Compile a short-tip sheet for
    your clients. Put in 5 practical tips they can use immediately, and invite them
    to register for the community to see the rest.
  3. Ask Clients To Post Their Top 5 Problems This Month. You
    and your community's other members can solve them. Make a culture of helping
    each other solve your top 5 problems each month. It's worth the time investment.
  4. Introduce Clients To Each Other. Be clever. Don't say
    "Bob, I'd like you to meet Joe". Say "Bob, I think Joe might be
    able to answer your tax questions
    ".
  5. Highlight The Work You're Doing For Other Campaigns. Post
    about the work you're doing for each client. If a client likes what they see,
    they can ask for it too.
  6. Welcome Newcomers. Invite any perspective clients, or
    perhaps a few business friends, to join the community. Perspective clients get a
    taste of what you can offer, and your business friends increase the value of
    your community.
  7. Develop Fun Events, Like Client Of The Month. Don't base
    this on your favourite clients, but rather the client that has had the most
    successful month. Why not given them a small trophy for it too?
  8. Start Debates About Your Services. "What more would you
    like us to do for you?".
    That's a good way to start. Let them tailor-make
    an agency that suits them.
  9. Let Clients Invite Friends. Keep the invitations scarce,
    but once the community starts going – encourage clients to invite their friends.
    It might be a great source of new business.
  10. Commit. A slapdash effort will do far more harm than good.
    Make a real commitment to this for 3 – 4 months. Either find a staff member who
    can spend at least 50% of their time on it, or hire a specialist.

If this sounds like an expensive or time-intensive process, imagine having
clients that can't be swayed by competitors and find news business for you. It's wort it.

Five Close Online Communities Are Better Than One Big Mess

November 4, 2008Comments Off on Five Close Online Communities Are Better Than One Big Mess

Don't build a big online community if 5 smaller ones are better.

If you sell a diverse range of products, your customers are going to be very
different. You shouldn't try to unite them all under one big community umbrella.
It'll be harder work and they will have less common interests.

Instead, build communities around each product group. Keep them very tight,
very focused and offer as much value as you can.

A Big Success Needs A Huge Follow Through

November 4, 2008Comments Off on A Big Success Needs A Huge Follow Through

At Team AMD Gamer, we created a 15-minute movie featuring highlights of the
most popular gamers. We hosted the movie exclusively on our site. The most
popular players all linked to the movie. 17,000 people joined our online
community in 72 hours.

The next week we asked members for ideas about the next movie. Who should be
in it? What should it feature? We called upon amateur editors to submit clips. We developed monthly
awards for the top players (and the worst).

We asked popular community members to form a committee to decide who was good enough to be
accepted into the next film. Members returned often to see who might be in the
next movie. Clips that didn't make the cut became promotional material, we
released them as teasers (members only).

Nearly the entire second movie was open-sourced. It was much less work. The
second movie gained just under 41,000 downloads, and included two ads.

You can use a big tactic to get registrations. The real magic is to keep
these newcomers coming back without betraying them. Develop the tactic into it's
own community, it should bolt on to what you already have.

Have A Quiz

November 3, 2008Comments Off on Have A Quiz

Invite your members to submit questions for a quiz about your online
community.

Have half the questions about the topic matter of your community, and half
about the people in your community. Members can answer individually or in teams. Teams split the prizes.

It's a good way to tighten the group, and gives newcomers a decent insight into your community.

How To ‘Borrow’ Members From Rival Online Communities

November 3, 2008Comments Off on How To ‘Borrow’ Members From Rival Online Communities

Because stealing isn't very nice.

Competitors have done the hard work for you. They've educated members about
the tools and benefits of joining online communities. Targeting competitors is a
speedy way to grow your community.

Here's a few tips and tricks:

  • Write About Rival Communities. If you talk about a major
    event, key members or debates taking place at rival communities – people will
    want to know what you're saying. Ask them or their expert opinions.
  • Start A Cause/Attack A Common Enemy. Find something you and
    your rivals believe in, and lead the charge. A common enemy helps too. Become
    the unifying tip of the sword.
  • Be A Big Participator. Spend a lot of time participating in
    the sites of rival communities. You'll make lots of friends, stay close to the
    issue that matter and be the hub of the eco-system.
  • Or Send Your Members To Participate, Often. Send your
    members to participate in relevant issues. They carry the debates and more
    members back with them.
  • Interview The Founder. You interview them, they promote it
    on their community, it builds a relationship and sends traffic your way.
  • Message Conversation Starters. Who starts the most debated
    conversations? Why not message them and see if they will start the same on your
    community too? Add another perspective.
  • Challenge Them To A Competition. Competitions work.
  • Headhunt Big Influencers. People love being headhunted.
    Make the big influencers as rival communities an offer they can't refuse. Maybe
    as head forum moderator? Chief Columnist?
  • Focus On One Important Issue. Pick an important topical
    issue on one community, and develop content, debates and actions around it.
  • Form Alliances.  Not quite as successful as enemies, but
    having alliances with communities in similar fields can work. It has to be
    related but not directly head-to-head. Cover the same issues from time to time.
  • Secure Exclusives. Like being in the publishing industry,
    secure exclusives that your competition can't match. It helps if your client can
    offer something. Maybe a sneak preview of new products or live chats with the CEO?
  • Special Offers To Certain Members. Anyone joins this week
    from [rival community] will be sent a free, relevant, ebook, or gain special
    bonus points. One week only.
  • Votes/Polls. Rank the top ten communities for your
    eco-system.
  • Sub-Groups Of Members. Start a sub-group in your community
    for members from your rival community. [Rival community] expats group. Put a big
    influencer in charge.

Don't be surprised if your competitors start copying your ideas. You just
have to work harder.

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