Most of us feel part of something special today. But that wont last forever.
The big community boundary, hating George Bush, has flown back to Texas. The majority of outsiders are insiders. The major objective has been achieved. Links between members are already weakening.
Successful communities are at danger. They become diluted and less meaningful. A successful community has to evolve, mercilessly. Begin again at the micro level and create a community within the community.
If your community is too big, split it. Cater to more unique needs. If your former boundary was group-hate of George Bush, your new boundary might be groups suffering from bad health care and hating pharmaceutical companies. Or living in Detroit and unemployed. Set new objectives. Evolve the story. Begin a new chapter of your community's history.
Make it possible for members to feel a part of something even more special.
The problem isn't always creating a sense of community, it's keeping it.
You don't want to give up your 1122 posts.
It doesn’t matter how good my new community might be. You’ve invested a lot of time to collect 1122 posts. It gives you a VIP status.
If my community lost the first-mover game, I'd start an exchange rate.
Your 1000 posts can buy you a VIP star badge on your profile at my community. Or you can get special products from my client. Or you can have first-look and unique feedback opportunities.
Or anything that makes it easy, fun and worthwhile to trade and transfer your status to my community. Try it.
Try to get more people interested in your topic, otherwise you’re missing out.
If you’re a Parkour clothing designer, you might launch a community to reach people interested in Parkour. It’s a good idea. But why not use that community to increase interest in Parkour?
Ask every member to start a small, regional (local town, or even street), Facebook group on the topic for their friends to join. No pressure or intimidation there. As they develop, they join the bigger group.
Encourage your members to write their top ten newbie tips, basic guides and things they wish they had known when they started. Have a Parkour mentor of the month award, given to the member that trains a friend to a high standard. Have a newcomer of the month award too. Have a ask a pro button for newcomers to get advice from experts.
Invite every member to submit their best clips and create a commercial from it. They’ll show it to their friends.
This develops your community into a gateway for newcomers. It’s the perfect place to be.
PsyBlog explains you enjoy an experience more when you know it’s going to end. You're more motivated to enjoy the time remaining. You feel happier afterwards.
Your community can have many ends. Yankee stadium’s last night did brought fans together better than their victories. The fans knew it was coming. They paid higher prices for tickets and got plenty of closure.
If you’re moving site, that’s the end of an era. If a key member is leaving, that’s the end of an era. If you’re about to grow beyond your original membership, that’s the end of an era.
Remind members in advance the end is coming, offer plenty of closure, then begin the new era afresh.
From Kevin Connolly, BBC News.
Membership of the Madoff fund was very strictly by invitation only – merely being rich was not enough in itself. […] The very respectability of the clientele helped with further recruitment.
Your community will attract more of the members you have.
If you want keen photographers to join your community, ask as many keen photographers as you can find to join. But if you want the best photographers to join, only let the best photographers join.
Your membership list matters more than your website.
Don’t start big, go as micro as you can get and build from there.
Forget the big splash. Don’t promise huge publicity. In July, Cuil made headlines in every tech media. It couldn’t convert those clicks into a loyal community. Now it’s a dying dodo.
Aim for steady growth from a loyal membership base. You want 10 members this week, 100 this month and 1000 three months from now. Keep your costs low, be patient…this takes time.
Invite 10 people to test your product and help run your community. They get free accounts for life. They can each invite 1 friend to have a free account for life. That’s twenty members. Introduce these members to each other. Launch debates and challenges for members to get involved. Every member has to know the others (and like your product!) before you progress.
Now headhunt people to join your community. These ideas might speed things up. Ask members who else will love the service. Give your old-timers unlimited invites as a loyalty reward. Give 20 points for whoever recruits the most members. The winner wins member of the month, and a worthwhile prize (not cash).
Once you get to 100, try to delegate the work you’re doing (recruiting individually, content, member of the month, events/activities) to your top community members. Coach them to do the job better.
Work on reaching 1000. Invite top bloggers and those with big social networks to give feedback on your product. Begin a dialogue with them. Create bespoke accounts/pages for their members. Talk about relevant groups in community debates. Make a linked list of people you feel would most benefit from using your service, then ask members to tell them about the list. Give members customised badges/logos they can display on Facebook/blogs etc.
That might get you started.
Remember, you don’t want users of your service, you want members of your service. You only want people who have links to other people that use your product. Using the product is merely a boundary people have to cross to join your vibrant community.
Are you developing individuals or a group? Neither is bad, but they’re very different.
If your community is for individuals to improve themselves, you can highlight high-achievers, develop competitions and give individuals a unlimited chances to stand out. Build in the right game-mechanics. That’s what individuals want – the chance to demonstrate and improve themselves within a group.
Facebook is for individuals, so are most blogs and skill-focused communities (photography/fishing/gaming).
At the other end of the scale is a community where members want to feel less individualistic and more part of a high-achieving group. That means referring to the group in the ‘we’, celebrating group achievements, using mass-communication and making comparisons between other groups.
This is where some Wikipedia, some charities and various open-source communities live.
Of course, most communities lie somewhere in between the two ends of the scale. Your job is to figure out if members join mainly to develop themselves or satisfy their affiliation needs. Now mark that spot on this scale and develop the right mix of individual/group activities to match.
You don’t need a critical mass of people to create momentum. You need a critical mass of activity.
Activity is energy that causes members to do amazing, wonderful things. Things like contributing ideas, donating their resources and, sweet joy, inviting their friends.
Highly active communities are self-sustaining and self-recruiting. Making existing members more active now, pays far greater dividends than recruiting new ones tomorrow.
Every day you choose between spending your time growing numbers or increasing activity. I hope you usually choose the latter.
Schedule a time for members to visit your community.
In those first few weeks you need to stop members arriving, noticing a lack of activity and never returning to your community.
You need to concentrate your activity.
I’d schedule events to encourage the majority of members to visit at the same time. e.g. “Visit at 6pm EST, we have a guest chat with…..Click here to sign up to an e-mail reminder.”
At least 60% of jobs aren’t advertised. The remaining 40% are fiercely competitive, less fun and not so well paid.
But no-one’s too sure how to get into the 60% club. This is where Seth’s post has broader implications. If you’re looking for a job (and even if you’re not), decide where you want to work and begin building a tightly focused community in that field.
If you wrote a blog about software developers in your county, it’s likely to be read by software developers in your county.
You can interview employees from these agencies, report on the clients they're working with and the work they're doing. You can have a superstar of the month and interview people doing the jobs you want.
Why not also host an industry event. Play devil’s advocate on topical issues. Write about staff changes. Have an anonymous gossip column. Invite VIPs from international agencies to submit editorial pieces.
Now everyone in the industry you want to work in, knows who you are. That’s a good way to join the 60% club.
Communities need boundaries to exist, but too many rely on registration to distinguish between "us” and “them”. Your boundaries need to be tougher than that. If there was no registration, how would your members know who was in or out?
Living in your neighbourhood does not make you a member of the community. Knowing the postman’s name, attending local events and talking to your neighbours does.
Your community's boundary might be simple, like participation. It might be profitable, like buying the latest iPhone. Or it might be attending an industry event, befriending a considerable number of members or writing a thought-provoking post.
You can create groups for, identify and highlight the people (both new and old) are are crossing these boundaries.
You also have to make a decision. You can pick an easy boundary, gain more members and have a weaker community. Or you can pick a tougher boundary, have a stronger community, but with less members.
If your favourite organisation doesn’t have a community, start building one.
If you’re in a community you like, promote it as much as you can.
If you’re in a community you don’t like, leave…or start a better one.