Month: April 2009
10 groups of 40 members is better than 1 group of 400.
Smaller groups are more intimate. Participation rates are higher. Activity levels increase. Messages resonate through friends, not through your organisation. It’s less work with better results.
Invite your Twitter followers, Facebook fans, YouTube subscribers and blog readers to create their own regional group. You can have communities in Chicago, Denver, London and Beijing. Every founder is a volunteer ambassador for your company. Treat them well.
You’re now managing a group of highly active people that run their own communities. You train them. Teach them how to build communities. Help organise events and competitions with other communities. You give them the resources they need to build as big a community as possible.
But better, adding one member to your community means adding one member that actively wants to help grow their own community. For Manchester that’s certainly a few thousand people, for Albuquerque probably just a hundred. Not great, but better than 1.
It’s a much more effective way to spend your time.
Back in September I suggested 10 ideas to make money from your online community. Now we’re going to go for 50. As a rule, you should only try to sell things that your community wants to buy, items and services that mean something to your community
- Adverts. If you’re lazy, use Google Ads. If you’re smarter approach proper advertisers.
- Hosting events. Arrange events, sell for tickets. Charge for sponsorship of the event too.
- Hire a photographer. Hire a photographer at the event, sell framed images of the events.
- Sell community bracelets. Imagine wearing a bracelet that only fellow members would recognise. That’s cool…for some people.
- Sell t-shirts. How cool is your community? Cool enough for me to wear a T-shirt? Then let me sell some.
- Build communities for a living. Works for me.
- Tell others how to build online communities for a living. Good work, if you can get it.
- Offer custom forums for individuals. Want to have your own forum on the site? Pay up.
- Charge for membership. Make your community valuable and charge for membership.
- Charge to remove members. Want a member removed, that will cost $25. Try not to use this too often.
- Yearbooks. Create a hard copy yearbook every year, charge $20 for a copy.
- Ask for donations. Works for some communities.
- Limited edition products. Offer limited/customised products from your client only to your community – at a premium.
- Sell market research opportunities. Invite market research firms to conduct research in your community.
- Write a community ebook. Sell the eBook to non-members.
- Sell adverts in the eBook. If all your members are going to read it, get a good deal.
- Offer profile customisations. Want a special customisation, charge a reasonable price.
- Negotiate bulk discounts. Buy books/products your community is likely to buy in bulk, and sell copies on the cheap. Agree discount codes, magazines do it all the time.
- Sell shares in your community. Turn your community into it’s own business and sell shares to its members.
- Secure speaking opportunities for members. Charge a % of the fee.
- Job boards. Still advertising, but more useful advertising.
- Partner with head-hunters/major recruiters. Give head-hunters/major recruiters access to your community.
- Become a head-hunting/recruitment business. Who knows your industry better than you? Surely you can fill vacancies in your industry?
- Sell the community site. Not very nice, but you could just sell the community and move on.
- Create a weekly TV show. Sell for access to watch it.
- Charge to let banned members return. Let banned members pay a fee to rejoin the community.
- Charge a listen-only fee. For lurkers that just want access, charge a fee. The more a member participates the less they pay.
- Open-source opportunities. You have a group of people enthusiastic about the industry, let companies open-source elements of their work to your community. For a fee.
- Custom eBay. Help members sell products to each other, and charge a small % of the fee.
- Sell training/coaching. Where appropriate build a mini-business where your top members can sell training/coaching to each other.
- Ask members to help design their dream products. Then create them and sell the products to the community.
- Invite VIPs/Experts to give online lectures/sessions. Sell either advertising within them or access to watch them.
- Affiliate marketing. Timeless classic, take a % of products members buy through your community. Rate and screen for quality.
- Virtual gifts. They’re annoying, but a lot of people like them. Charge a tiny fee to send virtual gifts to each other.
- Create a currency. Create a scale whereby members can convert their ratings/scores into an online currency which can buy other items on this list. They can also buy/sell this currency to each other.
- Idea-storms. Let a business throw a problem out to the community, and the community try to generate as many solutions as possible.
- Start official communities. If a business is having trouble starting their own community, offer to promote it in your community for a fee.
- Gambling. Illegal for most communities. Start a predictions service where members can make predictions on the future of your industry.
- Design and sell posters. Design and sell posters that have a special meaning and significance to your community.
- Charge for a new site design. The Ryanair approach, charge members for the things they want changed in the community. Take a cut for your effort.
When you try an idea, let me know. Above you have some good, bad and rather whacky ideas. Good luck.
Fighting is good for your community. It means that members care what other members think of them. You’re doing a good job. Seriously. If members are fighting you’ve created a close community.
You should be more concerned if members don’t fight. If members easily walk away from provocation, or retort with “i don’t care about your opinion”. These are the moments to be worried. Step in and ask “why don’t you care about her opinion?” – get to the bottom of it.
Remember why most people leave communities. Few leave a community because they get into a fight, most leave a community because it’s gotten boring.
I wouldn’t just let fights happen, I’d actively provoke a few. I’d draw attention to areas of disagreement. I’d highlight the major debates and give a “heated” rating for each. 9 means, woah…it’s getting personal in there. I’d chronicle the history of fights between members and give an opinion of who won. The stakes are high.
Bad grudges are part of the concept of a community. Fierce open disagreements help forge the principles of a community. It counters the sheep mentality, it opens the door for individuals to each stand up for their own beliefs within the community.
If it gets personal, you can step in. Otherwise, let fights flourish.
A community homepage should be a snapshot of everything that's happening in your community. Make sure you show the latest activity on the homepage.
I love this quote from Andrew Warner at Mixergy:
“Online community organizers talk about their communities as if they were hippie communes where members participate because they only care about a greater good.”
The sad truth is most people don't care about the greater good. Even when they do, they're unlikely to act on it solely because it is the greater good.
If your mission is to create a greater good, you need to do it through tactics that appeal to the immediate self-interests of members.
Which makes the greater good irrelevant. You can replace ‘the greater good’ with ‘huge profits’, and you would succeed, as long as you can appeal to the immediate self-interests of members.
Content is a powerful weapon for building a community. The secret is to create content that brings people together.
Asking your community’s top 10 members to give their opinion on a topical event, and publishing the piece, brings people together.
Arranging an interview with your company’s CEO and asking the community to submit questions, brings people together.
You might also write what your members have recently achieved. Even if it's not specifically related to your community. Or write about what your members hope to achieve in the near future.
Write more about your community's members and less about your community's industry.
Think of yourself as a venture capitalist. Do you invest in the people with a good idea for a business, or the people already running a growing business?
If you can't get 100 people to join your free Ning site, why spend $50,000 hiring an agency to develop a professional community? That's madness. Ignore how successful you think the community will be. Focus on how successful the community is.
Don't invest in a community site before you have a community. The best time to build a website for your online community is when you have one, not before.
Every professional community site should be a sure-bet.
One of my favourite companies, Make Your Mark, has a community building job going.
Make Your Mark is a non-profit organisation helping young entrepreneurs to make their ideas a reality. Your role will be “To facilitate participation in our online communities and to stimulate the growth of active members”.
Click here to download the job description. The deadline for applications is May 22.
There’s a simple formula you can apply to any online community idea. It’s like this:
Specific Audience + Clear Benefit + Existing Desire – Business Needs
Specific Audience means targeting an audience that you can identify by their behaviours and past actions. They should recognise each other as a member of the community and must have crossed a boundary that outsiders haven’t.
Clear Benefit is the reason why having a community is better than not having one. Why would the specific audience talking to each other benefit every member?
Existing Desire is the desire to speak to each other. The specific audience should already speak to each other, or have the desire to do so.
Business Needs are the restraints you put on a community so your business benefits. You might have found the specific audience, identified clear benefit and recognised an existing desire all to ruin it by making them subservient to your interests. Anything that benefits you and not the community, is a business need. Eliminate them.
Looking to start your online community? Need some ideas? Here are 100 to get you started. Some are personal, some are business, some are something else entirely.
- A community for entrepreneurs in Riga.
- A community for users to talk to the product development team.
- A community for residents to meet past and future occupants of their house, and share advice.
- A community for people of all religions who want fiercely moderated, intelligent, debates.
- A community for local marketing agencies to talk about billings.
- A community for Manchester United supporters under 16.
- A community for Manchester United supporters over 70.
- A community for your former employees.
- A community for prospective employees/interviewees.
- A community for teachers at your school.
- A community for Ohio farmers to arrange meetings and discuss trade agreements.
- A community for major industry players to agree standards.
- A community for lottery winners.
- A community for residents in your building.
- A community for your family members.
- A community for people that have visited every country.
- A community for space tourists.
- A community for women’s magazine writers.
- A community for customers who have bought every product of a product line, or one product from every product range.
- A community for customers who can prove they’ve visited 75% of your stores.
- A community for residents who want to clean up the local area.
- A community for financial experts that want exclusive advice from experts.
- A community for clubbers in your town.
- A community for people attending an upcoming festival.
- A community for your favourite author.
- A community for a major issue issue in your town.
- A community for your moderators/admins running your community.
- A community for attractive people only.
- A community for wives/husbands of famous people.
- A community for the 100 most important people in your city.
- A community for tourists to receive advice from resident experts.
- A community for those that want to be one of the first 50 to see your new product.
- A community for celebrities.
- A community for your clients.
- A community for companies that have decided to reduce their waste by 25% in your town.
- A community for people on your flight to New York.
- A community for customers that answer questions about your product online.
- A community for a young politician who you believe in.
- A community for people that hate all the newcomers to your community.
- A community for customers who want cheaper versions of your product, with less features.
- A community for customers to interact and receive training from your customer service team.
- A community for people that want to teach others about your product.
- A community for recovering addicts.
- A community for people looking to tackle a maybe challenge; travel from London to Auckland without flying.
- A community for bloggers with 1000 subscribers or more.
- A community for people looking for accompanying products to your own.
- A community for people with unique and matching dating interests.
- A community for fans of your favourite businessman (Steve Jobs, Richard Branson etc..)
- A community for people that want to bring back a good television show.
- A community for people that hate your products.
- A community for your graduating class of ‘97.
- A community for your company’s elected ambassadors/evangelists.
- A community for people with 100+ recommendations on LinkedIn, and the top head-hunters.
- A community for billionaires.
- A community for expats in your country.
- A community for recent victims of redundancies in your industry.
- A community for survivors of natural disasters.
- A community for published authors in your sector.
- A community for people that can speak 10+ languages.
- A community for customers moving abroad and need alternatives to your product/service.
- A community for people who want to enter tags, find likeminded people and start their own communities.
- A community for former reality-show contestants.
- A community for your top amateur filmmakers (people who upload related YouTube videos about your product).
- A community for your top photographers (people who upload pictures related to your product).
- A community for people that run communities about your industry.
- An unofficial community for a major organisation that really should have it’s own community.
- A community for a club/group you used to belong too but no longer exists.
- A community for each of your classes.
- A community for freelancers/consultants to discuss how to invoice and get paid from difficult organisations.
- A community for programmers that can write something that only a handful of people can do.
- A community to give feedback and discuss academic articles.
- A community for people that want to create the next Twitter.
- A community for fans of one member of your staff.
- A community for one product or advert of your company.
- A community for patients of a doctor/dentist.
- A community for people that have received a link from Seth Godin’s blog.
- A community for the top 10 experts in your field.
- A community for your former customers or clients.
- A community for people who have given blood.
- A community for people to resell your product to customers that can’t afford to buy it.
- A community for disgruntled members of a corporate-controlled community.
- A community for people that want to learn a new skill.
- A community for people that refuse to join Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace or other mainstream sites.
- A community for the designers of products in your industry.
- A community for everyone in your supply chain, from sourcing materials to the consumers.
- A community for everyone involved in planning your wedding, party or social event.
- A community for an idea/law that needs greater political attention.
- A community for people to submit pictures of the biggest fish they’ve ever caught.
- A community to co-ordinate bus-runs, school transport, car-pools.
- A community for people struggling to pay their bills and want to share advice.
- A community for relatives of a disability to share best advice.
- A community for people training to be a chef/lawyer/police officer.
- A community for a Facebook groups/e-mail list that’s outgrown itself.
- A community for people saving up to stay in a water bungalow.
- A community for your employee’s friends and relatives.
- A community for very young children to learn about the positives and negatives of the internet, together.
- A community for your friends/employees/customers that want to eat healthier, go on a diet, save money or another self-improvement.
- A community for people that want to bring a famous VIP/event to their town.
- A community for products and services that haven’t been invented.
- A community for people planning vacations to the same areas at the same time.
If only executing ideas were as easy as brainstorming them. Be sure to read up on:
It’s easy to get internet veterans to join your community. It’s harder to persuade them to become active participants. The more communities someone has joined, the less they participate in them.
Reaching an internet veteran is easy. In one message, and a few clicks, they’re a member. But internet veterans, like us, have a very busy experience online. We don’t participate in most of the communities we’ve joined – we’re too busy.
Most of the effort we spend reaching internet veterans would be better spent on casual internet users. By far, someone that has never joined a community is more likely to become an active participant.
The implications of this are interesting. It means that the high-tech/communications organisations trying to build communities are going to get a lot of members, but struggle for activity (as they do). But the communities that target more casual internet users might struggle for members, but thrive with activity.
The fewer communities someone has joined, the more valuable they are.
There are three points at which you can quit building a community.
The first is when you fail. There’s no shame in failing, you tried an approach that didn’t work. You have more knowledge than your competition. You’re one step closer to succeeding.
The second is when the community is self-sustaining. You realise that you don’t need to stimulate the activity anymore. You can begin winding down your work, recruiting volunteers, delegating responsibility until you can move on to your next project. Don’t be tempted to make a big ego-pleasing announcement, just slip out the back door. Job done.
The final option is to do the opposite. Rather than doing less and less until you’re irrelevant, you can decide to do more and more until you’re invaluable. You can reach out to more groups. You can try to secure more press coverage. You can bargain for more from your client (yes, it usually is a bargain). You can build new relationships. Arrange for bigger meet-ups and events.