Month: September 2009
Why don’t you already have an online community?
Why haven’t your customers, fans, employees already set one up on your behalf.
Are you not interesting enough? Do you not have enough customers? Do your customers not use the internet? Is your product not social?
If you answer yes to any of these, then don’t bother building a community. You have bigger problems to fix. Building a community isn’t right for you yet, it’s always going to be an uphill struggle.
The answer, hopefully, will be that customers don’t know how to find each other or your customers need leadership .
But don’t assume these answers simply because it helps you. Make an honest appraisal, why don’t you already have an online community? Thousands of other companies already do.
I worry if the ‘online’ is getting in the way of the community idea.
Not every business needs to have an online community. But nearly every business should be trying to develop a community of customers.
Tell a businesses they need a community of customers and their eyes light up…they get it. They know they need a group of customers that talk to each other.
If you tell a business they need an online community, the reaction isn’t the same. It’s less clear. It gets confused with e-marketing, websites and web 2.0.
Online community seems to reduce the great community idea to a subset of online marketing. This shouldn’t be the case. Online should make the community idea better. Online makes it easier to spread this great community idea.
Lets please not relegate such an important business concept to a subset of e-marketing.
That…is the question.
Should you guide your community or should your community guide you?
Make the decision before your launch. Most of your actions and strategy stems from this question.
Should you guide your community and keep them on track to achieve your corporate goals? Or should you follow your community and discover where they want to go, then adapt what your company does to match?
What happens when you launch a community for your new Mercedes and your members begin gushing about a new BMW?…or worse, they begin talking about their families, their hobbies or many other irrelevant things? What if they just talk about features your cars don’t even have?
It’s too tempting to try to guide your community to where you want them to go. But that’s an uphill battle. To get the most out of your community, it’s usually best to let your members guide you. Adapt your business to serve your community.
Here is a quick tip, take a short-cut when you launch your community.
The communities that launch with a bang usually have one of two advantages.
- Their members already talked to each other offline (e.g. Facebook, LinkedIn).
- Their members already wanted to talk to each other (e.g. ModelMayhem, Cramster, MyBuilder etc…).
But wait, this doesn’t cover many successful communities you know does it? That’s because these communities you know spent years building up those membership relationships. That’s a long time to wait. It’s easier to take a short-cut. Get potential members to meet offline or create that desire to speak with customers first.
So if you’re planning to launch a community, don’t invite everyone you can reach to join your community. That’s the long way round.
Instead, try inviting your database list to offline events near them (you provide the snacks). Begin writing about what other customers like them are doing. Spent time creating customer-centric content so others will want to contact each other. Build up the anticipation and desire to talk before you provide the means.
If your community has a job to do, then you should remove as many members as possible.
First, getting something done in knowledge-based tasks requires as few people as possible. Extra people don’t help, they burden. They make communication more difficult. They add to the frustration and reduce the consensus amongst the group.
Second, people are participating for fun not profit. If they don’t feel involved, which they wont as the community grows larger, then they wont be involved. You can’t have 60 people around a 10 man table discussing a project. So remove the people that can’t fit in and the whole group will benefit by being part of something slimmer, closer and more exclusive.
If you run a community that wants to achieve something, then remove as many members as possible.
There are lots of opportunities to make money from communities like this:
MyBuilder is an online marketplace that brings together consumers, builders and tradesmen, offering an open and transparent platform that promotes and supports high-quality work.
How many other industries need a similar community? Now trust is enforced by transparency, I’m betting it’s a lot.
Purpose is overrated.
Many communities with weak or no real purpose do just fine.
More important than purpose is members fulfilling basic human desires. Make more friends, have more power, earn more money, reduce the risk of pain.
Every successful community, makes it possible for members to achieve at least one of these things (often by accident). This is the element that great community strategists can map out as a blueprint and transplant from one community to the next. It's the only element that strategists can transport directly from one community to the next.
When we say it’s not about you, it’s about them, this is what we mean. Communities fulfil our basic human desires. Help your community fulfil these desires and it will thrive – regardless of the community’s core purpose.
Online community guidelines are usually a waste of time.
The people that read the guidelines aren’t the people who cause problems. The people that cause problems aren’t the people who read the guidelines.
For sure, boot out the racists, spammers, sex predators and criminals. That’s common sense. You don't need guidelines for this. You don’t want these people in your community anyway.
Instead of writing guidelines as a restrictive measure, telling members what they can’t do. Why not write guidelines as a positive measure, telling members what they can do? Call it the welcome guide, members get a copy when they join to help them get started.
Create souvenirs that members can buy.
Very few communities offer souvenirs. It’s a shame. People buy souvenirs to remind them of a positive experience. These souvenirs, like your community, are usually based around shared experiences. Persuading members to spend money in your community is the hardest of the four investments a member can make.
T-shirts, mugs and refrigerator magnets are easy targets. But why not go further? What about a yearbook? Featuring profiles of the regular members ($30 gets you featured – and buys you a copy). How about a commemorative coin or a deck of playing cards featuring profiles members?
Better still, what about branding some of your products after topics/members/groups in the community?
Souvenirs is the easiest way to make money from communities. You create the feeling, then sell the feeling. Most importantly, souvenirs solidify a member’s involvement in the community. You might even find superiors are more enthusiastic about your community when it can generate some revenue.
If your community doesn’t have souvenirs, today would be a time to introduce them.
I don’t blog about too many jobs, but this looks like a great opportunity.
The Knight Foundation are a highly influential foundation based in USA (Miami) trying to take journalism into the digital age. It’s difficult to overestimate the impact they might have upon the future of journalism.
The Knight Foundation are looking for an online community manager. Your role will be to:
- Play a key role in making Knight the first truly interactive foundation by creating genuine, two-way digital communication thereby enriching the connections with the big thinkers and innovators we seek to invest in;
- Be both an evangelist and player-coach who helps Knight staff and the foundation’s community of grantees use social media and technology for the greater good.
- Establish the foundation as the leading proponent of community engagement in the digital age and as a leader in our field in the use of digital resources.
Click here for the full job description. It really is a great opportunity to work at an influential level within an organization that makes a difference.
Do you have any work to give to people that want to help you?
Non-profits are big culprits. They gather a large community of people eager to help, then only ask small things. Donate $10. Tell your friends. Write a letter to your local politician.
People want to do more than that. They want to use their web-design skills to help build your site. They want to use their marketing skills to assist you with your campaign decisions. They want to use their journalism skills to help write content for you.
I’d happy offer some community consulting to organizations I liked. But none have a means for that. Not a single community of which I’m a member, nor any company I really admire, has a volunteer your skills area.
Create a program for people that want to help you. Put together a brief list of tasks that need doing. Let people register their skills and their time. Let the group self-organize as much as possible, you help co-ordinate and motivate.
You might find that a) the results are impressive b) recruiting becomes easier and c) the people that help become even more loyal and and evangelistic about your organization.
Find your top 5 members and invite them to join your community leadership program.
It’s a special program you run twice a year.
You coach members on writing great content, managing their reputation, interacting with other members, sending messages, recruiting members and managing areas of the website.
Now you have 5 people who enjoy helping you do your job and dozens more jealousy wanting to be in the next community leadership program.