Month: September 2009

How To Handle Troublemakers

September 16, 2009Comments Off on How To Handle Troublemakers

This topic comes up a lot. How do you manage people causing problems in your community?

There are remarkable few options.

  • Do nothing. There is a difference between causing friction and doing irreversible damage to the community. If they’re in the former, let it go. You’re not the opinion police.
  • Kick and ban them. If they are doing real damage to the community, inciting hatred, planning terrorist atrocities, engaging in illegal activities or insulted your parents – boot them.
  • Suspend them. You don’t have to kick people, just suspend them from posting for a few days. Do this often enough and they will either lose interest in the community altogether, or recant their past behaviour and work for the common good.
  • Punish them. Every time they do something wrong, reduce their karma points, or prevent them from posting, reduce their post counts, change their profile picture or simply edit their messages to something funnier – or just delete them entirely.
  • Reason with them. Not you, the community. Ask a few regular members what damage they believe Mr. X is doing and present quotes (anonymously) to the person. They might see the light of day.
  • Sidetrack them. Put them in charge of incredible irrelevant projects, unimpressive forums or agree to let them voice their opinions in their own column/forum.
  • Let the community decide. “Well beloved community, do you want this member to continue doing what s/he has been doing? Or should we kick him/her out?”
  • Bribe them. If you stop doing {x}, I’ll give you your own forum, VIP status, extra karma points, a regular column.

Two more thoughts. (1) Be careful that the behaviour you don’t like and the behaviour the community doesn’t like align. (2) Just because the community doesn’t like one person’s behaviour doesn’t mean his behaviour is wrong.

Cheap Web Traffic

September 15, 2009Comments Off on Cheap Web Traffic

Try to avoid the word ‘cheap’ when discussing online communities. Online communities are not cheap. They can get rather expensive.

You have to plan a community, engage with the audience, tailor yourself to what the community wants and hire people to run the community. It’s time consuming, slow and expensive.

But cheap web traffic isn't the point. You’re not trying to find the cheapest web traffic. You’re trying to find the most valuable web traffic.

You’re not trying to find someone that is willing to click a link to read some information. You’re trying to find the the most engaged, enthusiastic and loyal group of people possible.

Developing an online community is the most cost-effective means of online marketing, not because it’s inexpensive, but because the outcome is so valuable.

Essential Reading For Building Online Communities

September 14, 2009Comments Off on Essential Reading For Building Online Communities

I don’t think we’ve seen a definitive book about online communities yet. Not in the same manner that other books have defined their industries.

But the practice of planning, designing, building and managing a community remains largely unknown. So what are the best books about online community management?

I’d recommend:

  1. Amy Jo Kim – Community Building on the web. Probably the best author solely about the topic of online communities. Amy deals with game mechanics and the sociology/psychology of communities better than anyone else.
  2. Joshua Porter – Designing for the Social Web. Joshua is the expert on social design, follow his tips to increase your membership and engagement with simple changes. 
  3. Clay Shirky – Here Comes Everybody. An exciting look at what’s possible with online communities. Clay’s book was the definitive book last year.
  4. Duncan Watts – Six Degrees: The Science of a Connected Age. A little old, but a classic and more scientific read about the networks and levels of engagement between people in any community. Not to be confused with Mitch Joel’s book.
  5. Guy Kawasaki – Selling the dream. An important book about the spirit of building online communities. This created the genre of evangelism.
  6. Seth Godin – Permission MarketingMuch more useful than Tribes. Learn how to gain permission to talk to the people you want to reach. Crack this and you’re half way there.
  7. Robert Cialdini – Psychology of Influence. It’s vital to understand the theory behind influence. If your organization wants it, if you want it, if you want your key members to have it (and you should), you need to read this.
  8. Jackie Huba & Ben McConnell – Creating Customer Evangelists. An updated version of Guy’s work, Jackie and Ben explain what makes people passionate and talking to each other. Most importantly, they explain what organizations need to do
  9. Angela Connor – 18 Rules Of Community Engagement. A great look at the day to day role of managing communities. Angela’s been through it all. Good times, bad times, threats, deaths, meets and daily discussions.
  10. Randy Farmer and Bryce Glass – Building Web Reputation Systems. I’ve cheated, this book isn’t out yet. But judging from the chapters posted on their Wiki it’s going to be the definitive resource about building web reputation systems into online communities.

Feel free to add your own in the comments. Also be on the look out for my own eBook due Oct. 27.

Steering A Community

September 11, 2009Comments Off on Steering A Community

Focus on the people that are doing what you want them to do.

Don’t tell them what to do, don’t tell others what not to do. Just shine the spotlight on people what they should be doing – ignore the rest.

If you want members to talk more about any issue, focus on the people that are talking about it. Write news posts mentioning the names of these people, create a forum for these people and give these people op-ed columns. 

If nobody is doing what you want, that should be a good sign that you want the wrong thing.

Simple Steps To Create A Community

September 10, 2009Comments Off on Simple Steps To Create A Community

You really don’t need to spend much of your time, nor money, to create a simple community. Here it is:

  1. E-mail 10 customers a day asking if they would like to join your online community and meet others like them. You can also include an invite note with every purchase.
  2. Add each person who responds to a mailing list (be sure to introduce them).
  3. Start the conversations then chime in periodically with your thoughts and asking for their opinions on your products.

It pains me that this is so, so, simple to do, yet so few people do it. If you’re running a small business, or stuck trying to get approval for a community project at a larger business, you should absolutely be doing this.

For a small business, the moment you start connecting people the world of possibility grows infinitely. The more your customers like each other, the more loyal they become to you.

For those in larger organizations it’s a fantastic prove of concept. If you can demonstrate that a community of just 30 people recruited dozens more, came up with great ideas for your next advertising campaign and have bought more products than they usually would – getting approval (and a healthy budget) becomes much easier.

It takes just a few minutes each day. Do it.

One note, don’t let a single list grow beyond 20 to 30 members. After a time, create a second list. Then you can set challenges for your two communities. If activity dies you can always merge the two.

How To Reach People Not On The Internet

September 9, 2009Comments Off on How To Reach People Not On The Internet

Years ago, my mum joined Friends Reunited. She had to buy a laptop to do it. My mum isn’t a technology person. She hadn’t used the internet for anything before, nor anything since.

Friends Reunited offered one major benefit to joining; connect with old school friends. People like my mum were willing to learn ‘the internet’ to join.

Reaching the people that don’t user the internet much is possible if your appeal is strong enough. This appeal is always about the people in the community and what those relationships can offer. It’s not about advice, skills or technology – it’s about people.

If your membership list is the biggest appeal of your community, you need to be ruthless about who you let in. This doesn’t mean you only accept VIPs of the industry, it means you only accept people who closely identify with the criteria and ethos your community represents.

The Latest Technology

September 8, 2009Comments Off on The Latest Technology

You're probably under pressure to use the latest technology. Your client wants to use it, your boss wants to use it and your vendor certainly wants you to use it. 

A small percentage of the people you're trying to reach want to use it too.

The problem with the latest technology is that most people don't use it yet. Worse, most people probably don't want to learn how to use it. It's too new, no mainstream appeal. You're cutting down on potential members by using something shinier. 

Simply being old is not a good enough reason to replace a medium that everyone knows how to use.  E-mailing lists, forums and chat-rooms still work perfectly fine. 

It's nearly always better to pick a medium that most of your community knows how to use. 

How To Design Your Online Community

September 7, 2009Comments Off on How To Design Your Online Community

This is by far the greatest presentation I've come across about designing your online community for engagement.

Everyone who is involved with online communities should go through these slides.

Designing For Social Traction

View more documents from Joshua Porter.

You should also take the time to visit Joshua's blog.

(Via Guy).

Be Scarier

September 7, 2009Comments Off on Be Scarier

There is a lot of fear about scaring new people away. It’s bad right, if new people get scared away by the regulars?

I’m not so sure. Not always. I can’t recall any community, nor any group, desperate to be bigger than they were. No community ever asked me to find more members. Clients certainly did (and do) but not members.

The reason is simple, groups don’t want newcomers. They only want to be closer. More members don’t help – they’re more likely to weaken the group.

Before you break up any clique in your community, think carefully if that’s what the community really wants. If old-timers are scaring away newcomers, that might be a good sign.

This might not fit well with your business objectives, but tough. The community wants what it wants.

Seeding Your Online Community

September 4, 2009Comments Off on Seeding Your Online Community

Superficially seeding an online community is easy. Find 5 big topics and write about them. Leave a few open-ended questions. But this misses the point.

Seeding an online community should be cultivating a group of 10 to 20 people who are creating the first discussion posts, launching polls and interacting. They are the core people. They are the rocks that can you rely upon to continue stimulating activity in those rocky early days. 

If you do this right, you offer members more than a glimpse of what future discussions will look like, you offer newcomers a glimpse to what the future community will look like.

What A Dream Online Community Would Look Like

September 3, 2009Comments Off on What A Dream Online Community Would Look Like

The dream is an organization that serves its community.

Its products and services are more fun when shared.

It’s press releases are about what it’s customers are doing.

It’s Chief Community Officer is also the CEO.

Customers pay to be members of the community, they receive the products for free as a bonus.

The community site is the website. The static information is findable, the vibrant active stuff is what people come for.

Every member receives a monthly magazine featuring the latest news about members.

Every member is assigned to a customer service rep and treated like royalty.

To ensure great quality, there is only a limited number of places.

Community members chip in to help do some of the real work.

The community has a representative which has real power on the organization’s board.

If you can implement just a few of these, your organization should be in fantastic shape.

The University Curriculum

September 2, 2009Comments Off on The University Curriculum

I vote to put online community building on the curriculum.

I can’t think of a more challenging (and fun) assignment for students to conceive, develop, launch and run their own community.

You would learn how to use web tools, how to market ideas and beliefs, customer service, SEO, analytics and a bunch of other skills.

It would look good on the CV (resumé) and I suspect a student who runs a strong fashion community might prove very attractive to employers in the industry.

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