Month: December 2008
Tiger Island isn’t really called Tiger Island, it’s called Rapota. It’s one of the Cook Islands. It was named Tiger Island by the producers of Shipwrecked, a UK reality show.
14 months after the 2007 show ended, a former contestant remarked “At heart, I’m definitely a 'Tiger' for life”.
That’s remarkable. In a few weeks the Shipwrecked producers created a new nationality with no more than a name, a place, a flag, a few pendants and a rival.
Symbols matter. And they don’t just happen. You create them.
There are times to be passive, to let your community develop and see what happens. This isn’t one of them. This is a time to introduce a flag, introduce your common symbols, carefully decide a name and define your rivals.
This isn’t a democratic process. You can’t let people vote on a flag, it’s too important. 49% of voters wont line up behind symbols they didn’t choose.
If you’re eager to build online communities, the best article you can read is Sense of Community by McMillan and Chavis. This article holds more useful advice (and a great practical framework) for developing an online community than any other.
It was written in 1986. Which means, unlike the post-twitter articles, it gets better every year.
If you’re lazy, here’s an easy-reading version.
If your product is better when shared, you should really have an online community.
University would be terrible if you experienced it alone. Loners usually drop-out. UK students have a 30% drop-out rate. That’s a huge cost to Universities, yet not one has anyone reaching out to the hundreds of informal groups that develop at University and helping them to grow, develop and include as many members as possible.
Even a 1% reduction in drop-outs would save £30k. It’s madness.
There are hundreds of other guilty culprits. Take gyms whose members don’t feel part of a group. Why are so few doing what Ezekiel does brilliantly? And why don’t estate agents connect tenants in the same building/area together?
But where there’s a problem, there’s a recession-beating opportunity. There’s an opportunity to build communities for these organisations and take a cut of the savings.
These are some things your community can celebrate each year.
- Birthday. Your community should have a birthday. Plan some small events, give presents to the top members, have the CEO give a small online talk and ask for volunteers in some planning.
- New Year’s Eve. Not this year, from last year. Remember when everyone made their community-related resolutions and/or predictions? Now you can celebrate the members who were right, or achieved their goals.
- JohnnyFab’s Day. Like Columbus day, but rather celebrating something terrific one of your members did the year before. Did they achieve something monumental in your community? Write a groundbreaking article? Get your community mentioned in the New York Times?
- Four Figure Day. The day you got 1000 members in your community. Highlight the 1000th member. Give a reward to the first 1000 members. Talk about some of the key contributions of those first 1000 members.
- Charity Day. Did your community raise a lot of money for charity? Celebrate that too.
- Hall of fame day. Have one special day a year where members get inducted to your community’s hall of fame. Make a big event from it, accept nominations.
- Survival Day. Was your community nearly shut down? Did you come close to not being a community anymore? Celebrate your survival.
A countdown clock with a call to action for members to get involved would be a great idea.
You shouldn't be a celebrity in your community.
It's perfectly ok if the majority of your community have no idea who you are.
Your work is to develop a great community by motivating and connecting star players. These star players should be celebrities in your community. You should be uncovering, promoting and motivating them to get as involved as they can possibly be.
If you are the celebrity in your community, if people depend upon you for the community to prosper, I don't think you're doing your job right. Worse, if you need your community to admire you to get your work done, you've got a real problem.
The best thing you can do today is drop a message to your 5 most respected members, and ensure they're talking to each other.
Apparently employees shouldn't build their own online communities because:
- It would be easy for recruiters to identify the company’s top employees and poach them.
- The company might over-rely on the employee to represent them.
- The employee might have too much influence within his community (i.e. it would be difficult to fire them for fear of a negative backlash amongst customers)
- The organisations’ online community efforts might be overshadowed by their own employees.
These all sound great to me. If I worked at an organisation who used one of these excuses, I'd start building my online community now.
A moderator keeps things normal. A moderator removes the extremes from the community. Moderating isn’t as hard as moderators would have you believe. You can typically find community members to do it.
A facilitator makes it easier for the community to communicate. A facilitator takes the community through a process, and does it well. A facilitator points out common objectives. A facilitator draws out opinions from less-vocal members. A facilitator helps the community tackle any stumbling blocks.
I think you should be a facilitator.
Holidays are great opportunities to find people willing to be more involved in running your online community.
Share a calendar of when you're not going to be working. Let people nominate themselves to run your community when you're not there. Let the rest vote who they want to run the community during that time.
Train volunteers to do your job.
And if you find anyone willing to work on Christmas, treat them like royalty. They're worth it.
Why not shut your community down until the New Year?
Shut it down. Tell everyone to spend the holidays with their families instead. Have a countdown clock to Jan 02 – 6pm.
Now you wont have a weak community for over a week. You will have a community that launches with enthusiasm in the New Year.
It’s a great time to backup and update the site too.
People hate waiting. If you’re going to give a member of your community recognition for doing something good, you should give it now.
This goes for all rewards; money, fruit-baskets, thank-you e-mails, new opportunities, moderation powers, a call from the CEO etc…
The longer someone has to wait to be rewarded for something good they’ve done, the less important that reward will be. The less they will associate the behaviour with the deed. They might not do something good again.
Likewise, the rest of the community wont connect the reward with the member's good deed. They wont immitate his efforts.
The sooner you reward others, the better they’ll reward you.
What do you do when your community website goes down?
Do you call the tech guy and wait for it to come back online? How long will that be? Minutes? Hours? Days? Communities quickly dissipate without a home.
Do you have a backup home? A chat room or forum hosted elsewhere? Do you have a mailing list? What is your plan B and do members know what it is?
Better, can you make it a fun experience? Can you ask your community to find experts who can fix the problem? Can you host a competition in the downtime? Can you set tasks that people can tackle?
Now for the more fun question, you can answer this.
What do you do when your competitor’s community is down?
Why do so many websites hide their online communities behind a special Community tab? It makes building a community harder.
If you can’t integrate the two, make the community your homepage and hide your static content behind an Information tab.
New visitors will see hundreds of delighted customers, rather than marketing copy. Customers wont just buy, but they will join and engage. And you send a message to your community members, you prioritize them first.
This action can double your community building success.