Month: June 2009
World of Warcraft has millions of active members.
That’s what happens when every member is encourage to join or start their own guild, tackle objectives together and compete against other guilds.
It’s really quite impressive.
Imagine what elements you can use to make your community a success.
Every week review your community.
Who is new?
What new opportunity emerged?
What isn’t working?
Just asking the questions should focus your efforts. It's amazing how many people never do this.
The key to reviving a community is reinventing it. Give people a strong reason to return, not more of what it used to be.
The change needs to be undertaken at the core of your community. Some ideas you can use include:
- Change the core. Change the very core of the community. It’s not the same as it used to be. It’s something different, better, more relevant to the daily lives of members. Offer a new condition, redefine the purpose, change the boundary or common interest.
- Contact previous members. Contact previous members and ask for their advice. Offer them senior positions and ask for their help in rounding up some of the older members. You will need them to help the newcomers.
- Where are they now?. Begin with some ‘where are they now?’ content about your previous members. This should attract former members to return and find out how they’re old friends are doing. Put an open call for members to contribute a piece on themselves.
- Focus on the big issues and important members. Don’t ignore your previous community. Spend a few hours and draw up a list of the biggest topics, key members and personality. Then ask members to contribute their thoughts on what’s changed since they were last there.
- Consider using something simpler. Perhaps you should archive the existing site? Start a Facebook group instead and see how many members join? Once it grows launch a new site.
- Choosing to talk again. Before you decide to launch the community, give people a reason to talk again. What’s the big major new thing that matters to your community, focus on this from now on.
- Have a poll. Be simple, have a poll of the top issues, ask members which they care about most and write more about the top answers.
- Write member focused contest. Write a list of the top 5 members. Or “5 members this community can’t live without”, or “5 members our community loves to hate”. Surprisingly effective this. Everyone has an opinion on people.
- Change the personality. Become less polite and more tabloid. Be a little snarky. Or, vice-versa, make it nicer and politer. Kick people out.
Reviving a community is extremely difficult. You need to go beyond what your community used to be and push very hard for several months to make it work.
Moderation isn’t about filtering away the opinions you don’t like. That drives people away. Moderation is ensuring everyone who has an opinion contributes it.
To contribute an opinion is to make an investment in the community.
The second a member says “I think…” or “I believe…” you can be certain they will return to your community again. You can be certain they will develop a relationship, positive or negative, with the people that reply to their opinion.
You can help by sending messages to people with similar opinions, or conflicting opinions. Invite them to contribute their views. It takes very little work to start intelligent discussions.
This week at the United Nations Refugee Agency we launched our Causes page. We’ve reached 50,000 members in just under 7 days, which is a huge achievement. We’ve raised just over $50,000 and boosted our Facebook fan page to 20,000 fans.
Some quick thoughts:
1) Facebook is the best tool to build a huge community at high speed. Never let anybody tell you that Facebook doesn’t work. It works if you use it properly.
2) People had a reason to join that aligned with our goals. If they’re willing to join to help raise money, will they be willing to participate? If 10,000 people join your community what will your business do? Why not start your own membership petition list?
3) Spend hours working on related causes, groups, influencers, bloggers and everyone else relevant to have a big launch. One key influencer can mean 20,000 people.
4) If you can explain why your community is going to be big, have no fear of asking for help from partners. Get yourself featured on YouTube, Facebook, MySpace and anyone that might have a relevant interest.
5) The real work is just beginning. It’s easy to stop working when you get big. The truth is membership size is fantastic, but we need to work even harder to forge a community from this. The real work is only just beginning.
If you send a tweet to the UN Refugee Agency (@refugees), you might get a reply, you might not. We have 250,000 followers. That’s too many to have conversations with everyone.
We, like you, are lucky that we don’t need to have conversations with everyone. That doesn’t scale one bit. We don’t want to talk to every follower, we want every follower to talk to each other. This forms a community. Communities scale infinitely. If you're reading this blog, you probably want one of these.
Begin by talking about your current social media followers. Talk about what Alex is doing, then ask your community what they think about Alex’s actions. That’s a conversation, try to develop lots of conversations about members.
Next interview another member. Highlight key messages and actions from other members. Do a round up at the end of each week. Stop writing content directly and use your presence to showcase content from others – this stimulates more content and activity.
Finally, invite volunteers to cover your community news stories. It’s not difficult to scale your social media actions into a community.
Susan recently sent me this screenshot of membership activity in her Yahoo group, Park Slope Parents.
If you look closely, for the first 8 months, she had an average of 5 – 6 messages per day. Any self-respecting organization would have canned the project. But Susan isn’t a self-respecting organization. She doesn’t need a certain level of activity or high membership numbers to keep playing.
She took her time, developed the content, cared a lot and today has developed a business model upon her efforts. By almost every measure, she runs a community many other organisations wish they could develop.
It took Susan 7 years to develop her thriving online community, would you work that long to develop your community?
I often lose business by being realistic about members projections.
It’s not really losing. It’s saving several months of stress desperately trying to persuade 12,000 people to join a community in a matter of weeks. It’s worth earning less money not to be in this situation.
Most projections of community members are as astronomical as they are irrelevant. You can’t project how many people will join a community based upon the success of any other community, let alone Facebook.
The best way to make a decent projection is by relationships. How many people do you know really well in the industry? How many have you done a favour? How many top influences do you know? How engaged are the fans of top influencers? How many friends do your friends have? Which other communities can you participate it?
Start to add up these numbers and you start to get close to a decent membership projection. It might be 50 it might be 5000, this is a more accurate and saner way of making a projection.
But it’s not entirely accurate. People will find you via search engines, links and other avenues. But don’t rely on these to make a projection. Relying on these bonus members will cause you to attempt to influence this number. It’s very hard and futile to influence serendipity.
If you want to make an accurate membership projection, do so from existing relationships. If your client wants more members, advise them to develop more relationships.
There is never a shortage of work you can do.
You can engage with more individual members. You can introduce more members to each other. You can write more content. You can interview more members. You can spend longer building relationships with key bloggers. You can forever monitor and tweak your website design.
You can never run out of this work, but that’s not the point.
All the work listed above, is work that helps develop, grow and strengthen your community. This is the most important work. This is the priority. It’s not sexy. It’s not necessarily exciting. But it’s the work that really matters.
Too often, it’s the work that gets put aside in favour of trivial fire fighting tasks. Too often it’s not a case of running out of important work to do. It’s that we never begin the important work in the first place.
Most community builders don't bother with traditional publicity. It's a shame. The media you want to reach, write about the people in your community. You have plenty of stories to share there. Even the launch of your community is a story.
A few years ago, a client of apt was launching a catering blog. With very little effort we had the news of this blog launched featured in several catering magazines.
Next time you're launching a community, don't ignore the traditional press. They need news and your community has plenty of stories.
Prizes and rewards are different. Prizes encourage desired activity before a prize, a reward encourages activity after the reward. I prefer the latter.
The best rewards are invaluable to the recipient and worthless to others. Here are 10 ideas.
- Interview members. Put some questions together and ask the upcoming participant their thoughts.
- Monthly awards. Give monthly awards. These include best newcomer, best comment, best member.
- eBook. Create an eBook and feature advice/suggestions from top members along with a bio of each author.
- Official letter of corporate gratitude. Have a limited supply of official letters to offer members. These are merely formal letters from the client offering gratitude to the member for their work. Perhaps frame them?
- Official status. Issue official statuses. Official ambassador, official customer helper, official digital volunteer.
- Thank them personally. A little thanks goes a long way. Drop a note to a member thanking them.
- Honours badge. Give a unique honours badge to display on their blogs, avatars, signatures, profiles and other websites.
- Special privileges. Unique access to your community. Perhaps editorial duties, moderation, access rights etc.
- Invitation to an insider’s group. Be sure to have an insider’s group within your community. Invite only highly participating members into it.
- Add a credit them on a product. If they’re really good, give them a name or a credit on the product you’re releasing. Perhaps in the manual or on the website.
Try several different rewards until you find those that work best. If one fails don’t worry, it didn’t cost you anything.
If your own employees aren’t participating in your online community, why should your customers?
The impact of having your employees talking with their fans is huge, both to the employees and the fans. It can help launch your community and attract dozens of members very quickly.
The best place to source activity when you launch is your employees, be sure you know how to get your employees involved.