Month: December 2008
So please download my Online Community Building Manifesto.
Also, please, share it around if you can.
This is my one post I would love as many people as possible to read.
If your online community has accounts on dozens of social-media platforms, you have a lot of distractions.
If you don’t have a strong reason to register a MySpace account, don’t do it. Every new account must add something valuable that your community wants.
For example, if members of your community have a lot of pictures to share pictures, create a community Flickr account. But find someone to run it.
You will need someone that keeps people updated about new pictures
and picks out a selection of the best each week for the community to
see. Someone that stimulates discussions about pictures and will
happily put together a team of people to tag the pictures properly.
Otherwise, single-mindedly focus your efforts on developing a concentrated community.
You should be developing your community, not maintaining it.
Spend your time bonding your online community. This isn’t the same as fire-fighting. It’s not resolving disputes, responding to queries or deleting bad posts. It’s proactively doing things that make members feel a greater sense of community.
Make members feel they are in your community. Create boundaries and rituals to follow. Focus on developing some rewards for members who participate. Give each member a chance to influence the community, no matter how small that influence might be. Hold events and highlight issues that provoke emotional connections.
This is the really, really, important stuff. Do the maintenance later.
It’s easy to get tangled up trying to create great content. You could spend most of your time doing it. But content isn’t as important to building an online community as we like to think.
Great content is a by-product of a good community. If you have a thriving community, the content should come easily.
You can write about what members are doing. You can write about upcoming events. You can cover the latest news about the community. You can round-up the week on the forum. You can launch initiatives and write about how they’re doing.
You should never be short of things to write about. If your content isn’t coming easily, you have more important things to worry about.
People want to share emotional highs and lows with others. It's a big opportunity.
Thousands of people braved the cold to celebrate Obama's victory in Times Square. They could have stayed at home. At home they had chairs, alcohol and bathrooms. But they wanted to be with others on the same emotional plateau.
Your community is going to be happy, sad and angry about a lot of things. Each intense emotional state is an opportunity to invite outsiders to join your community. Find people that feel the same as your community and ask them to join.
You can find these outsiders by what they say on Twitter, via blogs, on Facebook, in comments on news stories and in related groups. Your cousin might even know people. You can ask your members to reach out to others who are on the same emotional high/low.
A shared emotional connection is a powerful factor in developing a sense of community.
In any community, are dozens of sub-groups.
It’s ok to treat each group differently.
When you launch a new online community, you will soon see groups of friends forming. You can spot this by how they refer to each other or by who they add as friends.
Be sure to drop these groups a message inviting them to have their own forum. Send a group e-mail around for their opinions. Give different groups different access to your client. Sometimes just acknowledging their friendship will do wonders for the group.
Turn each group into a small community.
Each community will develop tighter bonds with a smaller group, which is a better reason to come back often. Give each group advice and resources to let them grow, but only if they want to.
You don’t need approval to get started on building your company’s online community. You can start right now (after reading this blog post).
You can start building relationships with bloggers. Comment on their blogs, send them e-mails when they write great posts. Offer ideas for future posts (they’re always welcome). Introduce them to people are your company they would love to meet.
You can start researching what content is popular and what the dicey issues are.
You can tag a bunch of important articles.
You can work out who really has influence in your community. Who’s the top dog? What made them so great?
You can build a good blogroll of top influencers and know precisely what people are interested in at any given time.
You can research your intended audience. How many blog? How computer literate are these people? Does everyone have a Facebook profile? Is anyone on Twitter?
You can work out which journalists your audience admires, and which they hate.
You can check out your competition. What are they doing? Who’s participating in their communities? Who can you pinch? What are your benchmarks?
You can build a communications channel via Twitter/Facebook/e-mail of people who want to know the second your community is launched.
You can find out what people are saying your industry, or your competitors, or even yourself.
You can ask people for advice about what you think their client should do to reach people like them.
There is plenty to be doing. Don’t worry so much if the management shoot the project down. You’ve just pulled way ahead of anyone else in the organisation.
Community members that aren’t self-motivated, are motivated by rewards. You need to create these rewards.
These members are motivated by 4 things, fame, money, sex, power. Putting sex aside, your rewards need to align with these motivations. Here’s some ideas:
- Have a hall-of-fame for people who achieve something.
- Organise competitions to help people become famous in your community.
- Have high-achievers mentioned in the newsletter.
- Let super-members write their own columns/blogs.
- Frequently refer back to big achievements by members
- Interview top members.
- Host a member of the week.
- Hold annual awards.
- Have a popularity rating for members.
- Send interesting stories about top members to industry journalists.
- Don’t directly pay money, it’s bad (and expensive).
- Invite related recruitment agencies and HR types to participate in your online community.
- Encourage members to develop products just for your community (branded please, no spam).
- Mention members that have been hired by their community work.
- Keep a list of community members who have been the most successful in their work.
- Tell your members about job opportunities your client doesn’t advertise.
- Let members arrange events for the community and charge an entry fee.
- Create a guide for members that want to earn money from the community.
- Report on entrepreneurs in the industry, and ask for their advice.
- Give super-members moderation duties
- Ask super-members for their advice on key issues and even about your client’s products and services.
- Consult top members when considering what to do about a disruptive member.
- Give these members the power to approve comments/pictures/columns by other members.
- Give members initiatives and projects they can run.
- Let members run sections and elements of the community, even grow a related community using the same technology.
- Invite all top members to a board that makes decisions on community matters. They can vote who joins the board.
- Create a list of members who have these powers – let everyone see.
The great, and remarkable, thing about all these rewards is that they hardly cost a thing. Be generous with them.
Every single community needs a clear sign for people that want to be more involved. You can call it just that, “Be More Involved”. Or you can call it the “Ambassador program” or something cooler, perhaps “Special Squad”.
You click on this from the homepage, and it takes you to a page where you can sign up.
It’s for people that want to be more than just passive members. People that to contribute more to the community.
Every company should have one of these too. It gives people looking for a job a way to impress you (and it’s more fun than sending a CVs).
Set some work or small tasks they can do that help your community. If they succeed, give them a few more challenging tasks. Then take them on as special volunteers and find ways to reward their time.
Above all, treat these people seriously. Check in on them often. Make the work meaningful. Celebrate their successes. Try to have your boss stop by and say ‘hello’ too.
You can motivate members without rewards if you create the right sort of community.
There are two sorts of motivations, external and internal. There are motivations caused by the hope of reward (like recognition, money or power) and there are the motivations caused by internal drivers (like mastering a topic, controlling something or making a difference).
Your job is to provide the perfect platform for internal motivations to thrive. Here’s a few ideas:
- Create A Step By Step Guide To Becoming An Industry Genius. Make it dead simple to become an expert with a step-by-step guide. This includes things they need to read, work they can take on, members they can talk with and milestones they can achieve to become experts.
- Launch Things Worth Leading. Launch new initiatives, forums and sections of the site that let people take ownership over small parts of your community. The more they feel ownership, the more dedicated they will be to succeed.
- Advise Members To Track and Measure Themselves. Encourage members to write up what they’ve done that week, what they feel they’ve achieved and what challenges they need to face next week. Get these in writing. Advise members on the best GTD/reminder tools which will help them.
- Set A Problem To Solve. Talk to your client and ask them for a problem they face that your community can solve. Let members work alone, or even in teams and compete. The client should like this idea.
- Have Member Spot Problems. Even better, use problems members have spotted (this takes social significance) and help anyone that tries to tackle these problems.
- Create A Page Of Milestones. Create a page on the community of achievements. These are achievements that made a clearly visible difference to your client or the community. Show all members they can make a difference.
Internal motivations are not as easy as an external rewards system to develop. Be sure to create a range of opportunities, with a wide degree of difficulty, for people to challenge themselves. Make sure everyone knows they can succeed, whatever the problem.
This is from an online community manager job description:
“We’re looking for a Community Manager to develop an army of stark raving fans of our site. We're looking for someone who lives and breathes Facebook. We're looking for someone who can't get enough of updating their Twitter status and Digging articles. We're looking for someone who loves to blog and comment on other people's blogs and talk to people who knew a guy who had a blog once.”
It should probably read more like this…
“We’re looking for someone that knows how to make people feel a part of something special. We’re looking for someone that knows what incites members to spend their time participating and inviting their friends. We’re looking for someone that willingly engages in dozens, perhaps hundreds, of interactions a day and is determined to end each on a positive or constructive note. We’re looking for someone that knows what to measure, and how.