Month: April 2009
Your employees probably aren’t keen to help you build a community. It’s more work for them. It’s not even in their job description. If you force them to get involved, you’re going to get the minimum effort.
So don’t force them, addict them. Here’s a few ideas to get your employees involved in building your community.
- Interview Them. People like to feel important. Interview an employee for the community. Ask for opinions and comments on the interview. I bet your employee joins in the conversation. Then get him/her to interview someone else for the community.
- Introduce them to fans. Introduce them to fans of their work. If they work in marketing, introduce them to people that like their marketing materials.
- Talk about them. Talk about your employees in the community. No-one can resist learning what people are saying about them.
- Community-voted employee of the month. Every month let the community vote on their favourite staff members from a list. Those with 0 votes might decide it would help if people knew who they were – and what a way to improve customer service. You might also want to turn this into…
- A popularity ladder. Keep an ongoing popularity ladder. With awards for the top members, most improved etc. Copy the sports team format, fans favourite.
- Give an employee an advice column. Give employees responsibility for a 4 week advice column on one specific aspect of your product or service. Why 4 weeks? It wont last forever. They might just enjoy the interactions and fame.
- Online customer complaints. Be bold, build a specific place for online customer complaints. Community can complaint against products, specific staff interactions, anything they like.
- Ask for feedback and improvements. Ask the community to give their feedback and recommendations – directly to the employee’s e-mail address.
- Ask the employees to run a competition. Ask an employee to run a competition, or innovation project related to their field of expertise.
- Moderation and Responsibility. Give them power to moderator and responsibility for a forum/group within your community.
- Name areas of the community after them. Sneaky, but name areas of the community after staff members.
- Bring it up in staff meetings. Make the community report item 5) in every meeting. What’s the latest news, developments, ideas and complaints?
- 20% rule. Like Google, offer a 20% rule for innovation/getting involved in your community. They don’t have to use it, but I bet they want to.
- Only let the top employees participate. Now everyone wants to participate. Once you’ve reached top employee status, you can join and represent the company to the community.
- Set an employee –vs- community challenge. What’s a big challenge facing your organisation? Set a challenge with your employees competing against the community. See who comes up with the best solution.
- Create profiles with ugly pictures. Another sneaky idea, but effective. Create profiles for each employee – but use pictures they don’t like.
- Participatory content. Start a series all your employees can be involved with. How about “Day in the life of….”. It’s easy and builds relationships with members.
Above all, look for opportunities involving responsibility, fame and their ego over financial incentives. Being rated and judged by the community is a power motivator to keep returning.
Build the websites for free, sell the community building.
Bill Gates blindsided everyone. When the competition were selling hardware, he sold software. He knew hardware was getting easier and cheaper every month. The real need of the future would be software.
Now we're one level higher. Software is getting easier. The need for tomorrow isn't in software, it's in people.
Anyone can now drag and drop a website together in a few hours. More people know more about coding – and it's only going to get better (or worse, for you). Open source is decimating businesses.
So quit selling websites. Sell community building. Build the websites for free and charge a monthly fee for building, growing and managing the community.
And they're hiring.
Here’s a challenge, start a community for your circle of friends. It’s harder than you think.
The point is to skip the difficulties of finding and persuading people to join. Instead focus on developing a community that adds something so valuable and relevant, that it becomes a major hub of news, information and gossip for your group. If you’re not in it, you’re not really a part of the group.
Organisations suffer from this problem. They have a big list of customers, a big list of incentives to offer, but they can make it valuable and relevant to keep members coming back.
So start a tiny community for your friends. You wont have trouble finding people and persuading them to join. Develop some content for the group, a forum, some questions to answer, pictures and maybe a challenge (how about a group holiday? Go further, ask questions, arrange events, have a news/gossip section. Push it as far as it can go.
You’ll be surprised at just how good (or bad) you are at this.
People join a community for one reason, but participate for another.
You join a writers’ community to improve your writing. You need to interact with fellow writers to improve your writing. In doing so, they become your peers. You begin to care about their opinions of you and your work. Your thirst for recognition, influence and friendship within this groups keeps you coming back.
From the outside, your community needs to offer a clear benefit. Self-improvement works well. This community will help you become a better photographer, or kickboxer, or marketer. Being entertaining is good too. Join and get the latest movie, music and entertainment news.
But the best communities, once you’re inside, force you to interact to achieve that benefit. This is where entertainment communities so often stumble against self-improvement communities. This is why relationships and contributions always trump the best content.
More importantly, the best communities make it impossible not to interact. They force you to invest an idea, opinion, rating or criticism into the community. You might not even have a choice, other people might begin rating you the moment you’re in.
You’re angry. You make an angry post and go to bed. The next day, the post is gone. You have a message from the moderator. Your post was in violation of the terms and conditions, be sure not to do it again.
That moderator, should be fired.
Lets try another scenario. The next day the post is still there. You have a message from the moderator. “why do you feel that way…?” “how can we make this better for you?” …"have you spoken to FrankSmith07 about this directly?"…”let me know if you want the post removed, it might seem very aggressive”,
Which response resolves the situation? Which response makes you feel you were listened that? Which response keeps you as an active member of a community and less likely to make the negative post again?
People do things for a reason. Your job isn’t to remove the symptom, but identify the reason. Get behind the problem and resolve it.
Soon street-wise (real world) community professionals will realize they can be far more effective if the use the internet.
Then they will come after our jobs.
Then we can go after their jobs.
…or live together peacefully, whatever works for you.
Sense of purpose is misunderstood.
You don’t set the sense of purpose for your community, you provide the platform that epitomises it.
The distinction is important. It’s the difference between “we want you to care about our new travel laptop range” and “what would be your dream travel laptop?”.
A community's sense of purposes emerges from the ground up, not the top down. Your job is to get as many people as possible involved in crafting it.
If you’re disappointed with most books about communities, I recommend you try these. By far, I’ve learnt more from these than any book dedicated solely to communities.
Robert’s book explains how influence works. He explains 6 tactics, the importance of social proof and the means by which the actions of one person affect another. For communities, this book is essential reading. If you want to build a community
I recommended this before. It’s a military read but the application is you approach most community projects as an outsider. To win you need the insiders (often distinct groups) to like and trust you. That’s not easy, this book explains how to approach from an outsider and create a new inside.
You need to know how to build a community for the future. Jeff’s book explains what you need to do today, for your community to thrive tomorrow.
The workplace is changing. You need to use the right side of your brain. Specifically, the future needs people who know design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. If you want to design and grow a community, these abilities are vital.
In an online world rampant with clutter, Made to Stick is the best book about making your message to people stand out. Follow their SUCCES formula. Simple, Unexpected, Concrete (true), Credible, Emotional and tells a Story. It will explain how to make your communications and the purpose of your community stick amongst all members.
Seth explains the tactics from turning a stranger into a member of your community. The secret is to offer a self-interest benefit at each level, it's still Seth's best book.
Bonus eBook: Bas De Baar: Project Shrink
Bas De Baar’s book about project shrink notes, at the end of the day, projects are all about humans. His book is filled with brilliant advice about working with people online and offline. Bas goes deep into the human psyche and extracts some excellent insights.
Which alternative books have helped you grow online communities?
Grow your community by converting your current customers. Include a free written invite to your community with every product purchase.
Include it in your reply to every customer complaint. Include to every question asked. Include it with your business card. Include it at any moment someone has committed to you.
If someone purchases more than one product, or spends more than $20, include an invite for a friend too.
It’s a thoughtful bonus, and it’s free.
Building a community for your street was too easy. So build a community for your city instead. Most councils and governments fail spectacuarly at this, but you're going to succeed.
Like creating an online community for your street, you still need to find people who share your passion. Identify and begin building relationships with people from different areas, streets, businesses, political and community groups. Have a group of 10 people who you feel comfortable asking for help. In most cities, your friendship group should exceed this.
Now register your city on Ning. Bring your allies to create discussions on big issues, start groups for their areas/companies/groups ask them to bring their people in to the community.
Or, if you want a shortcut, talk about them. Talk about the streets people live in, then tell people who live on their street. Talk about a local coffee shop, then tell a member of staff. Talk about the work of a community group, and call the group to tell them they’re being talked about. Mix online forums with traditional offline communications. Ask these business to participate.
The key here is groups. Don't let one small group from one area dominate your community. Let them dominate their area – nothing more, nothing less. Your community is the sum of each of these groups.
What next? Challenge the newspaper. Interview key members of your city for your community. Better, get members to interview each other for their community groups. Go hyper-local. Call companies who send you junk mail, and sell them advertising opportunities on your community.
Get the local council involved. Create an “Ask my rep” thread. Demand the council spends an hour a week answering questions from your members. Invite their political rivals to also answer these questions. Sign sponsors for these debates, and your top community columnists.
Celebrate your community’s achievements over the traditional way of doing things. Write your shared history together. Arrange meetings for community members. In no time you should have a high number of active city members.
If you get the concept of your community wrong, you’re doomed. This is beyond design and functionality, it’s the concept of what your community will be. Below are 12 more common mistakes.
- Don’t offer a unique environment. What makes your community impossible to copy? How are you using your resources to change a condition and create a unique environment? Why can’t this environment be replicated anywhere else.
- Dictate your community’s mission statement. Did you set your community’s mission before speaking to your audience? Bad move. Your community’s mission comes from your members.
- Forget about the viral feedback loop. Where is the viral feedback loop? Why will members invite friends, who invite friends, who invite friends? What is the benefit to each additional person?
- Fail to make to befriend potential members before you launch. Who are you going to tell once you launch a community? If you haven’t made friends in the community first, don’t launch it. If you can’t start conversations with your target audience, don’t start a community.
- Pick a tool that your members don’t like. Don’t use the latest web tools because you want to. Thousands of communities thrive on simple, basic forums. Find the simplest tools available, then force yourself to justify any additions.
- Make it difficult to form groups. Fail to accommodate people forming groups from themselves. Don’t allow, support and encourage groups to emerge.
- Use a Community Tab. Hide your community behind it’s own tab. Either give the community it’s own URL or don’t have one. A tab is insulting to the community you serve.
- Make a big announcement. Once you make that big public announcement, you have expectations. Expectations to do things the way you claim regardless of any feedback you receive. Don’t make a big public announcement.
- Ignore the real motivations. Don’t ignore the basic motivations and desires of people. Plan ways for members to find fame, money and power amongst the people whom they consider peers.
- Don’t plan the first 10 people. Getting your first 10 engaged members is vital. You should plan where they are, how to reach them. Then plan how to go from 10 to 100.
- Use fixed objectives and measurements. Don’t set fixed objectives before you start your community. Take an emergent approach. Develop your objectives and measurements from the community. Qualitative outcomes are more important than quantitative metrics.
- Leave no-one in charge. Who wakes up worrying about your community every morning? Who is representing you to them and them to you? Who is your expert at making people feel a part of something special. Make sure it’s someone great.
How many of these mistakes do you make?