Month: March 2009
Start a community, then find brands to pay you. Jeremiah Owyang thinks this is the future of PR Agencies. It’s really the future for community professionals.
It’s easier to build your own community than one for a client. Clients need objectives, restrictions and expectations. If the client doesn’t feel it’s working, the community project gets canned. Working solo, you can focus your entire efforts on making your community fantastic.
Follow in Martin’s footsteps and begin creating your own communities. Become a serial community builder. Refine your process for building communities. Fail quickly, succeed steadily. Pick profitable markets and monetize your communities.
Charge brands for access. Better, charge for tailor-made products, books/ebooks, group discounts, events, premium memberships and any more services or products your community would find useful. It’s far easier to find products for your audience, than an audience for your products (h/t Seth).
Treat your community like it’s your country, make it as great as it can be and remember any member can walk away at any time.
If you can refine your process for building online communities, and build 4 successful communities a year, you will become Jeremiah’s next generation agency.
If you want a successful community launch, you need a huge number of people ready and eager to join the day your interface is live.
If you’re planning to start an online community in April. These ideas might help.
April: Laying the foundations to become a community member.
- Identify relevant online communities and key people.
- Launch an industry blog.
- Introduce yourself to two people bloggers/influencers per day.
- Start a database/spreadsheet of people you have permission to speak to, record the conversations you have and when the next contact will be.
- Interview key influencers for your blog.
- Learn the unwritten rules of your target audience (i.e. begin writing them down for yourself).
May: Building relationships that matter.
- Use existing resources/assets to help biggest influencers/connectors. Don’t ask for anything in return.
- Starting a mailing list for people you feel want to be a part of something/make a difference in the industry. Invite them to join.
- Continue e-mailing 2 new people per day. Make sure each e-mail is unique and tailored to the individual.
- Create a technological profile for the average member (what technology do they use? Why? On what platforms are they most prevalent?
- Pick the 3 most important communities and begin participating in a range of issues.
June: Cement friendships, involve the client, plan the interface
- Ask for advice on what people would want from a community. Use as much of it as possible to design your community.
- Arrange an online or offline event for members to be involved with. Invite special VIP guests to give a webcast/speech.
- Continue e-mailing 2 new people a day.
- Compile your research and approach your company/client with your recommendations on what they need to do to build a community.
- Agree business constraints/resources and create a list for the community needs.
- Involve web teams/agency to design the community interface.
- Host a best of series on your industry blog featuring the best posts from the top bloggers.
- Invite your most enthusiastic contacts to test the community.
- Ask them to invite 1 friend to try the interface.
- Design a rewards program for members that discover the community early and seed content.
- Launch your online community.
A few notes here. The client-side work is extremely more complex than detailed here. Finally, spending time on developing these relationships always pays off when you launch. Always.
Conferences are terrible at creating communities.
They almost do everything right. They bring people with a shared interest together. They create insiders, and outsiders. People leave with a shared experience and new friendships.
But that's the end of it
Next time you come back from a conference, don’t rush to add the people you met to LinkedIn, add to start a LinkedIn Group, or an informal e-mail newsground, or anywhere online where people can continue their discussions. It’s a glorious community opportunity going to waste.
If you’re speaking or hosting at a conference, then you can make life easier by doing this for your audience.
1. It's harder to find your community. Once you password or block content, it can't be used to attract members. It wont show up in search results. It wont be linked to by bloggers/websites. It wont be discussed outside of the community. You make it less likely existing members will pass it on to friends. These are big problems.
2. You're more likely to repel potential members. Registration is a time and information risk. You risk your time and your personal information in exchange for participating. If you can't show members what they're going to experience, why should they join.
3. Registration means nothing without participation. A member that registers just to read the content is as valuable (or as worthless) as the anonymous ip address who reads the discussions.
It's participation that matters. If you keep your content visible to all, members will only join when they want to participate. No sooner, no later. This is a good thing.
Don’t force me to register as a community member to download your free report/ebook.
That’s backwards thinking. It's far better to include a link at the end of your free report where I can discuss the findings and implications. Highlight specifics debates I can join right now relating to what I have just read.
Now try to spread that report like wildfire. You want as many people using this as possible. Add a “Twitter This” script at the end of your report that lets me post the link and a short message directly to my Twitter followers about your ebook. Why not also add a box showing the latest tweets about your #ebook?
It's an instant community.
Don’t bribe people to join your community. No freebies for registering. Instead decide what the problem is and change your approach.
Your audience isn't joining your community because either:
a) Your audience doesn’t know your community exists.
b) They know your community exists, but they don't feel like joining.
If the answer is a), you can begin building relationships with people who can promote your community in the future. This takes time, so spend time doing it. Leave two comments on his forum today, offer help to a top blogger. Better, run events designed to attract attention. You can offer rewards for existing members who invite friends.
If the answer is b) then you need to make the community more relevant to your audience. This means bringing your community, or creating elements of your community, which are more closerly aligned with your audiences' needs, goals and daily life.
You might create a group for his/her local area or industry. You might interview people your audience admires. You might see what they’re discussing elsewhere and bring those conversations into your community.
If you're still determined to bribe, don't bribe members to join. Bribe for participation.
Explain why you’re building a community to your members. If it’s for money, say so. If it’s for innovative ideas, tell them. You're more likely to attract the members you want.
But better, members are more likely to help you if they understand you. They're prepared for potential requests and will find recruit others who can help you.
It’s easier to feel a member of a community when you know why it exists.
In case you’re new, here is an overview of the key concepts discussed on FeverBee.
- Creating the Platform & Structure. Community builders create the platform and structure for members to get what they want. Community work leans more towards enabling than leading. You can’t force people to become together, but you can make it as likely as possible and try every possibility.
- Sense of Community. The only people in your community are those who believe they are. Registration numbers and most other metrics don’t matter. The secret to building a community is the ability to develop a sense of community within your group.
- Relationships & Technology. Being good at technology makes you average. Being good at relationships makes you a highly-paid genius. Always plan your strategy around building relationships and let technology come later.
- Motivations Provide The Strategy. People usually do things for one of 4 reasons. They want fame/recognition, power/influence, money or affiliation/sex. Plan your community’s structures and benefits with these in mind.
- Micro-Interactions Are Vital. A community is the sum of micro-interactions. The more time you spend fostering the small, unique, interactions amongst members the more content, comments and engagement you will have. There is no maximum amount of time you can spend on this. You can never get too small.
- Align your Interests with your Community’s. You benefit best by aligning adapting what your business does to benefit your business. Don’t try to change your community to benefit your business.
- Start Small, Grow Big. Start your community as small as possible. Perhaps just 10 people and grow steadily. Growth should primarily come from invites and referrals, but you need to stimulate these invites and referrals.
- Small Groups are Key Work hard to develop small groups within your community. The more small groups you have the easier every member will find a place to fit in your community. Become good at spotting friendship circles within your community and giving them a place to chat between them.
- Community is an emergent process, not a final destination. A community is not the end result. it’s an ongoing process that develops as you progress. You don’t know everything in the beginning, so don’t set fixed objectives and set metrics. .Let the community decide where it wants to go and what it wants to be. Seize new opportunities as they appear.
Be sure to join Commania to discuss these concepts with your fellow community professionals.
The terrifyingly active Dawn Foster has published an eBook: Companies and Communities: Participate without being sleazy. It’s well worth the $19.95 for her encyclopaedic knowledge of creating online communities. You can download a free 18-page excerpt first.
Angela Connor will soon be releasing her book about growing successful online communities. Angela grew GOLO from 0 members to 11,000 in 18 months. Her book digs deep into the nature of engagement and will be worth every penny. You can pre-order from $19.95 or download her popular ebook: 18 ways to engage users online.
Matt Rhodes is going industry-by-industry finding the best examples of online communities. See: Retail Industry, non-profit sector, travel industry, financial services industry and the automotive industry.
Finally, Bas de Baar has written one of the most incredible guides to online community I’ve ever read, but it’s about project management. I urge you to download Project Shrink. It will make you a better community manager.
Ask members to answer these two questions when they join your online community.
1) What do you have to offer the community? This lets members identify characteristics and skills their proud of. People like to feel appreciated for their assets. Give them a means to do so. Ask for their expertise in these fields, start conversations about them, launch projects using them.
2) What do you want to achieve in this community? This less subtle question lets you understand what a member wants from the community. Now you know what your members want and you can match it up to the skills your community has.
Set them as profile questions if you can. Members will identify with others easier once they know their skills and motivations.
There are a lot of great causes making bad mistakes.
These good causes (non-profits, mostly) are violating the golden rule. They’re talking about their work too much. Sadly they’re a good cause and they get away with it. Users, staff and peers are content to let this error play out.
Whilst talking about your work is important, it misses the fundamental objective.
“How can we make more people feel a part of our movement”.
What makes people feel a part of movements? Usually 3 things. First, when they have friends in the movement. Second, when they have power within the movement and, finally, when they feel appreciated by the movement.
To make someone a member of your movement, you need to give him openings. Ask for his opinion on a major issue. Celebrate his achievements/fundraising success. Connect him to people that live nearby. Offer him the chance to help out online, even if it’s just finding someone who can translate a page into a language.
You're probably looking for an easy way to grow your community. Here is a simple tactic.
Research forums, blogs, social networks and all other groups relating to your business. Find people who are asking with questions about your company/industry/service.
Now take the time to answer as many questions as you can. Along with each answer add: “we have actually started a community just about this if you want to join: [Link]”.