Month: January 2009
Two things makes inviting new members much easier: 1) If they know you and 2) If they receive the invite from a friend.
If someone doesn’t know you, don’t invite them to join your community. The response will be poor, the members will be less motivated and most wont stick around for long. The less connected a newcomer is to your community’s existing members, the harder you have to work. Too many strangers and you’ll struggle.
You have two good options to invite people to join your community.
1) Build a relationship first. Don’t invite a stranger at the first message. Instead, explain that you have the time and resources to build a community for him and his friends, what does he think would be best? Work out the details. Let him take ownership, give him influence and you’ll find he invites his friends along too.
2) Find others to invite their friends. Invest the time on existing members. Give them ownership, influence and that feeling of pride. Then create a nudge to invite friends.
Stephen Covey would call this sharpening the saw. Do this in the beginning and the process is much better.
I recommended to one community manager that he give each community member 10 invites they can use throughout the year.
He spent $853 on a programmer to write this code into a website.
Why not just tell members “you each have 10 invites throughout the year, use them wisely”. If they ‘use’ more thank 10 invites, great. If they use less, then you didn’t need the code anyway.
Two lessons here. First, most of your community members want to play by the rules. Two, before every single technology expenditure ask: Is there a social alternative?
Critical Success Factors (CSF) creep up with sociological and technological changes. But the modern convergence of the two has created something so distinct from any other CSF that it deserves it’s own name; The Community Success Factor.
Do your customers like each other? Do they feel connected? Do you have the ability to connect them? This is where it’s all going. This is the skill you need today.
Every company is a clubhouse now, some empty, some packed. Your product is the entry ticket. It singles out those with genuine chance of connecting (your customers), from the rest.
Who do you have in charge of your clubhouse? What keeps people in? What activities are you running to connect people? What experiences forge long-term friendships? This is what keeps members coming back, and buying the entry ticket every time.
What are you doing for your customers beyond the product?
If the product is the entry ticket that lets you into the club, how much time and effort are you going to spend developing the club? It’s getting more important every second.
If you do this well, you forge relationships. People take pride in the clubhouse, they help maintain it, help run it, help repair it if it’s damaged. They rally against threats. They give you ideas to improve the clubhouse. They buy souvenirs of their time at the clubhouse. They take on extra work for merely the recognition amongst their new peers of doing it. And, sweet-holy-grail-of-marketing, they invite their friends to join.
You would be crazy to neglect your clubhouse. Your members can’t be peeled away by competitors, low prices, rival advertising, even bad PR. In an economic downturn, a strong clubhouse makes your product more important over those without any social connections. Members will sacrifices their gym membership before leaving their friends behind.
And that’s what the Community Success Factor is all about. It’s a clubhouse that you run, whether you like it or not. It’s not the product that matters, it’s who else is using it and if they like each other.
You have admin powers to enable your community to do things, not influence what they do.
Don’t use your admin powers without good reason. Every time you use these powers you remind members they don’t control the community, you do. The less members feel ownership of your community, the less loyal they are and it will decrease their participation.
If you have a message for the community, don’t mass-message members. Have private conversations with several top members and invite them to tell anyone they think needs to know. Your message will only reach the people you want it to reach, and more effectively.
If you have an idea you feel would be good for your community, ask members you know for feedback. Let them improve the idea, and offer your support to implement it.
Every member should have the same opportunity to influence the community. You shouldn’t have an unfair advantage.
Create an area within your community for people that use your competitor’s products.
Search for people on Google, Facebook and Twitter. Invite them to join and run this competitor division of your community. Don’t try to sell them, don’t spam their accounts or force them to do anything different.
You want your competitor’s customers to like your customers. You want that like to become trust. You want your competitor’s customers to envy the established community and want to become a bigger part of it. They want to participate in more activities, discussions and be treated the same as other members.
Side note: Any organisation that hasn’t started building a community amongst their customers might want to start now. Or you might do it for them.
Today we’re officially launching Commania.
It’s an organisation for community people (developers, designers, builders, managers etc…) to discuss ideas and work on community projects for interesting clients. You might even earn some money.
More importantly, we’re going to talk about building communities as we build ours, together.
We don’t want too many members. Signups are open for one week. If you want to join, make sure you register before this Friday at 11pm (EST).
People want to be recognised, motivated and connected. These are usually the missing elements to successfully collaborating online.
Most online collaborations don’t fail through lack of skill, they fail for lack of team spirit.
They fail when people don’t make the time to work on the project, nor attach the success of the project to their own ego and self-verification. They fail when people haven’t connect, nor care if they’re disliked by other members of the group. They fail when people put in what’s required rather than what’s needed.
37 Signals, Google Docs, DropBox are brilliant tools for collaborating online, but you need something more. You need a local newspaper. You need to start an internal blog, newsletter or a daily forum to recognise, motivate and connect people.
This is where you interview the high-achievers each week. This is where you highlight the difficult milestones ahead and celebrate those you’ve achieved. This is where you foster connections between people (be sure to allow comments) and invite columnists to contribute. You can even have an events section of the week ahead (drinks Tuesday? sure!).
Recognize the work your team is doing, motivate them to notice the internal/external rewards for such work and really connect your team to each other.
You want to create an in it together feeling.
Five people in an elevator are strangers, until it breaks. Then they’re in it together. They have:
- A common boundary: Elevator walls/doors.
- Insiders: Others in the elevator
- Outsiders: People not trapped in the elevator.
- A common purpose: To get out.
- Shared Experiences: The experience of being trapped.
- Time to interact: Minutes, hours, days…
- Motivation to interact: Talk or be bored/lonely/scared.
- Common emotions: Frustration/boredom/anger/fear
Good experiences work too. Five strangers in a restaurant might spot a celebrity, now they’re in it together. You might bet on a winning horse and feel connected to the five others that also won. You might be on the dance floor with strangers, in it together.
Is your community a list of members and debates? Or is your community in it together.
What is a community?
Does it matter if (ironically) we can’t come together and agree?
If I can get a group of people to feel they’re in it together, I’m happy.
P.S. The only people in your community are those that think they are.
You need your members to invest in your community.
You need their time, their energy and their emotions. If they don’t invest, they have nothing to lose if they never return.
- Forum Posts
- Customising Profiles
- Making Friends
- Learning the Community’s History’s
- Feeling passionate about issues
- Identifying with community ethos
These are all investments members can make.
The secret is to encourage a tiny investment from every member on day one, and show a return (a response, an impact etc…). Then ask for a slightly bigger investment.
Give your members badges to display, but only ones with real meaning.
You wear a badge for pride. You want others to know your associations. You want to recognise people that have the same associations.
On the internet people can display a badge on their blog, social networking profiles, forum/e-mail signatures and on almost any customisable digital site you can imagine. These are powerful promotional tools.
Nobody displays a badge anybody can have.
Personalise every badge. It takes a minute to edit a member’s name to a photoshop layer. A badge should have the member’s name on.
Finally, create more reasons for people issue badges with meaning. What if you were Dell’s Digital Nomad of the month? Or you were one part of a select group of Dell Digital Nomad Experts?