Month: May 2009

Helping Time Restricted Members

May 31, 2009Comments Off on Helping Time Restricted Members

Some communities get too busy. Members can’t keep up. Members miss important debates, lose track of development and soon don't feel part of the community anymore. 

The solution is to have a round-up of the week, and invite comments and participation. Time-restricted members can still be involved.

At the other end of the scale, some communities are too inactive. Little is happening, members aren't participating, there is no activity. 

Start a weekly “What’s happening this coming week” mail out. Every Sunday, everyone gets a list of what’s happening the coming week. Of course, you need to plan things to happen. But, hey, that’s your job.

Pick Your Side, Not Your Battles

May 29, 2009Comments Off on Pick Your Side, Not Your Battles
Do you represent your community to your company? Or your company to your community?

If your community criticises your company, how do you react? 

Do you take your community's side? i.e. "I agree, we deserve to be treated better than this. I'm going to do my best to get an apology for you". 

Do your take your company's side? i.e. "We're sorry about that. You deserve to be treated better, we're going to try and make sure it never happens again."

The advantage of taking your community's side is popularity. You're their champion. You're the inside guy fighting to make the voice of the community heard. The advantage of taking your company's side is reliability. The community gets an honest answer rather than a passionate  fighter. This also makes you the 'corporate' punching bag.

Can you do both? No. 

You can still work co-operatively and positively, but you do need to pick a side. You can't represent your community when you think you will win and represent the company when you're sure you can't. It doesn't matter, entirely, which side you pick. It matters that you are consistently representing one side to the other – and both sides know it.

6 Social Psychology Hacks For Online Community Managers

May 28, 2009Comments Off on 6 Social Psychology Hacks For Online Community Managers

One of the best possible books you can read for online communities is Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. Robert explains the basic psychology behind many of our actions.

Importantly, you can use these as psychology hacks for your community efforts.

  1. Do something for them first. If you want someone in your community, or your community as a whole, to do something for you – try doing something for him/them first. The results are staggering. The more you do for others, the more others will do for you. If you want someone to join your community, join their community first. IF you want your entire community to do something for you, then make sure you're doing something for them first.
  2. Ask for a commitment. When people join your community, have a brief chat with them. ask them what they will contribute, what they want from the community and hold them to their goals. Or better, set them as profile goals. People stick rigidly to their publicly stated goals. Ask your community to state if they want a forum, then add one.
  3. Spotlight the positive examples. When confused, we look towards what others are doing. When some members of your community are doing something you like, publicise it to the rest. Shine the spotlight on the members taking actions that develop the community.
  4. Develop authority figures. People obey authority. Christ, policemen, teachers and doctors fall into this category. Authority isn't power. You don't need to be the authority in your community. You need to identify and support others to become authority figures. Then when you need to send a message to your community, invite the authority figures to do

  5. Use liking to grow your community. Liking is the key to viral marketing. People are more influenced by people they like. This is why it's far more effective to encourage existing members to invite more members, than hunting for new members yourself.

  6. Reduce quantity to stimulate demand. Give people a limited time to join your community, limit the number of volunteer positions, only give a member 1 invite (which expires) each month.

There is more to this, so buy the book.

If Creating A Community Is Too Hard…

May 27, 2009Comments Off on If Creating A Community Is Too Hard…

…start unofficial communities instead.

Unofficial communities are more popular than official communities anyway. It’s much less work for you.

Instead of creating an official community, write some instructions for creating an unofficial community. Send them out to your customers, see what happens.

It’s much less work.

What Does A Community Talk About?

May 26, 2009Comments Off on What Does A Community Talk About?

Mostly, people in a community talk about people in the community.

On the surface it seems they talk about their common interest. The tech community talks about tech, the sports community talks about sports etc..When you get into the cafeterias, bars and meetings – they really gossip about people in the community.

It’s how we develop our self image. Marketing bloggers rank themselves against marketing bloggers. Celebrities rank themselves amongst celebrities, scientists amongst scientists. That ranking can’t happen if we don’t know others are doing. We crave this gossip.

Too often the talking about people element is overlooked. It’s easier to pump a tech community with tech news. That’s a commodity. It’s better to pump them with news about other tech community members. That’s an addictive luxury.

A Great Example Of Game Mechanics In Online Communities

May 25, 2009Comments Off on A Great Example Of Game Mechanics In Online Communities

This is Michael Radford’s profile on the SK-Gaming community.


Michael is ranked 38 out of 10,000 members. Notice he is “Super Old School”, having been a member for more than 6 years. He’s made 15,007 visits and spent 178 days, 23 hours and 5 minutes on the website.

In that time he’s received 2918 thumbs up, 2558 thumbs down and given 733 up, 1309 down (!) himself. He’s won 84 bets and lost 38 bets.

Michael’s not going to leave this community any time soon.

Some key points of using game mechanics:

  • Use passive data. Most communities, with a little tweaking, can take passive data (no. logins, time spent online, years in the community) and turn it into a collectible item.
  • Implement rankings and leader boards. We need to show our status and rank ourselves against each other. Competition is healthy.
  • Ensure everyone can competitively collect something. You will never match Michael’s online time, but you might win more bets than him, or gain more thumbs up. You can certainly give more.
  • Introductions game mechanics slowly. SK-Gaming didn’t introduce all these features at once. They introduced them slowly, giving each a chance to gain attention and achieve prominence.
  • Let members show which features they like. The only stumbling block is all these features are permanently on show. Let members decide which features they would like to show on their page.

Here is a fantastic presentation on game mechanics from Amy Jo Kim.

(Thanks Michael).

Recruiting Helpers

May 24, 2009Comments Off on Recruiting Helpers

People never work for free. They say they do, but it’s a sneaky lie.

They’re really working for a reason. It might be obligation, recognition (“hey, I’m working for free!”), prestige or power. Did you volunteer to help Obama or did you volunteer to tell your friends you’re working for Obama?

If you want volunteers to help your community, you need to make the volunteer spots sacred and powerful. Why not have 6-monthly elections for volunteer spots. Limit the number of openings. Make it tough to become a volunteer. Have strict rules (you have to have 300 posts and 500 thumbs up).

Or don’t do any of this. Keep the names of volunteers a closely held secret. Headhunt and recruit key people in the community, quietly. Who moderates the forum? A secret helper! Only the insiders know who the insiders are, and they wont tell.

Or rotate the volunteers. Everyone does it for a month and then rotates. It’s like jury duty. Some members are drawn randomly from a ‘pool’ of people. You have an obligation to try hard. Do a good job, your peers are watching.

There are thousands more ideas than these. Be innovative and try several approaches. Find what works for you.

Endorsing People

May 22, 2009Comments Off on Endorsing People

The veterans of Switzerland’s English speaking forum know more about renting accommodation than the officials. They know more about the paperwork, more about residency permits, more about recent scams and more about going rates for accommodation

They simply know more than the people running the country.

The only viable option for the Swiss government, and your company, is to endorse these people. Bring them in to you. Ask how you can support them. Send people to the forum. Highlight the best posts. Create monthly unofficial guides from the top content. Recruit moderators as volunteer advisors.

Official recognition is a wonderful gift. It only means something to those that care. To the people that care it means everything.

Connect With…

May 21, 2009Comments Off on Connect With…

If you can ignore the dodgy voiceover, there are some great ideas here.

As times goes on, more and more communities will abandon their registration pages for Connect with… alternatives. The cross promotion is a powerful concept.


May 20, 2009Comments Off on UNHCR

Last week I accepted a Social Media/Online Community Manager position at the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR). I’ll be moving to Geneva, Switzerland in June until the end of the year.

It's a big challenge. 6300 staff across 111 countries all working ferociously hard to protect and help the world's refugees. On my part the UNHCR has a following across various online tools exceeding 140,000 people.

Wish me luck.

Recommend Forums More Often

May 20, 2009Comments Off on Recommend Forums More Often

“Tools don't get socially interesting until they get technologically boring” – Clay Shirky.

Don’t feel pressured to recommend new technology over e-mail lists and forums. The older tools are often the best possible platform for your community. More people know how to use e-mail and forums than any other online technology.

Many of the most active communities today use forums because they work. If you’re going to venture into unchartered waters, with a less-tested platform that users don’t understand quite as well, you better have a fantastic reason.

The problem here is clients are against you. They want you to recommend technology they have never heard of. The result is an expensive mess. Don’t be sucked in. Recommend the right tool for your job and stand your ground.

The Secret History Of Big Successful Communities

May 19, 2009Comments Off on The Secret History Of Big Successful Communities

Craig Newman started Craigslist by listing events taking place in San Francisco. Jerry Yank and David Filo began Yahoo as a daily list of interesting web links. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook for Harvard students to share their profiles.

These huge community-based empires began with single, useful, actions. There were no grand plans. No strategies for growth. No objectives to determine success or failure.

This is the missing secret of starting successful communities; do a single useful thing. Then keep trying to be better than you were yesterday.

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