Month: October 2009
Why not automatically send out a welcome pack to new members (digitally of course). You might include the following:
- Community guidelines. A good list of how to get involved in the community and make a lot of new friends.
- Latest monthly newsletter. Include a monthly newsletter detailing the latest drama. Be sure there is an element of conflict in there. Include links to the latest topical discussions and voting polls.
- Community History. Include a good history of the community, how it started, topical issues and major events in the community’s timeline.
- Profiles of top members. Who are the A-list members? Profile them.
- Etiquette, Language and Running Jokes. What should newcomers be aware of when they join the community? What is the common etiquette, unusual use of language and running jokes?
- Upcoming events. What are the upcoming events members can participate in? Why should they be excited?
- Suggestion box. Include an e-mail address where members can send in their suggestions.
If you run a really small community, you might consider sending out these details in a proper, physical, welcome back.
Just a few people and organizations who could use online communities in new and fascinating ways.
- Journalists/Regional newspapers. There are great experts (and expectations) here. Any journalist or newspaper who isn’t painstakingly building up their community might struggle to survive the next few years.
- Any TV show (esp. pilots). Any TV show that doesn’t leak their pilot and news on to the internet is crazy. I bet it’s much easier for execs to say yes to a new show (or keep an existing show) with a thriving online community.
- Local bars and clubs. Local bars and clubs should be using elements of online dating, gossip pieces and much more to build loyalty.
- Marketing, Design and interactive agencies. Connect your clients with each other, then include clients with those of your design, internet, PR and other partners you have. Soon you have a thriving B2B community.
- Airlines and hotels. What if you could connect with people today who would be on the same flight as you next week, or staying in the same hotel? There’s some networking opportunity here.
- Recruitment agencies. Why weren’t Brazen Careerist, LinkedIn and other community career sites not founded by recruitment agencies. Why don’t recruitment agencies foster a thriving hub of talented individuals for their sector?
- Book authors and publishers. What happens when an author has a 50,000 strong community? What happens when a publisher manages and curates the community? There are huge opportunities for first-movers here.
- Estate Agents. Why don’t estate agents connect people living in the same area? It would be great to meet similar newcomers to the area. Share advice and tips. Build longer relationships.
Don’t hesitate to add your own in the comments.
Google SideWiki, Brands in Public and many other pieces of software let anyone build content around your pages without your permission.
You shouldn't be afraid of people doing this, you should be afraid if people don't do it.
The barrier to creating communities for brands we love has totally collapsed. Anybody can build a community about your brand in a matter of minutes.
…so why aren’t they? Shouldn’t you be more disappointed that people aren’t grabbing these simple technologies and going crazy with it?
Seriously, why aren’t they?
When someone buys your product online, the next step (after ordering) should take them to a page where they can join the online community for the product (or industry).
You should do this whether you're a small design agency (your community might be a mailing list of clients) or whether you're a large online retailer.
Better still, if you know what product they bought (and you really should) you can take them to not only a community landing page, but a page which shows the latest discussions about the product they bought, best tips about the products and most knowledgeable members about the product.
Even if you don't have your own community, you can take them to a page where they can join a relevant online community. Imagine the benefits of flooding an online community with your customers – they can spread the word amongst people that are interested in your products.
David Logan shares a lot of great wisdom here. Tribes (and communities) operate at different levels. Be careful not to jump to a stage 4 level when the rest of your group is still at the individualistic stage 2 level.
Talk to your community at the level they are on, then set goals to move them up to the next level. Shared events, greater world vision etc..
You should create your own personal online community.
The problem with most bloggers that claim to have online communities is the community is dependant (or entirely about) the blogger. If the blogger dies (god forbid) the community ends in a heartbeat. That shouldn’t be the case.
Me, Charlie, Jeff, Matt, Jess, Ryan, Aidian and Chuck have a very private community. Every few months we send a few e-mails round to catch up. They are a staggeringly talented and fast-moving group. It’s a pleasure to interact with them.
This is how personal online communities should work. You find a group of ridiculously talented people you want to associate yourself with. You begin exchanging e-mails with one person, then invite another. Then another and perhaps even another.
Nobody owns the community, but, the community can survive without you. In the meantime, you get a fantastic networking, knowledge sharing and a good group of friends to interact with. Try it.
First snippet from my upcoming ebook:
The final step in bonding a community is shared memorable experiences.
The problem is most experiences on the internet aren’t memorable. We interact with so many people online, how can any single experience be memorable? The drip-method doesn't work. One thousand unmemorable experiences don’t build up into anything memorable.
So what do we remember? We remember experiences that are intense. We remember experiences that caused us to reach emotional peaks (high or low). We remember experiences that involved our concentration and that challenged us. We remember experiences that engaged us in the moment.
Creating more intense moments within your community becomes crucial. There is a wonderful shortcut to creating an intense experience. You take almost any normal experience and speed it up. Reduce the time delay between interactions.
When you reduce the time delay between action and response, the experience becomes more memorable. Receiving an instant reply to a comment is far more memorable than receiving a reply 6 hours later. You can respond again, quickly and so can everyone else. The comment is no longer on the mental back burner but at the forefront of your thoughts.
The quicker (not necessarily shorter) the experience, the more memorable it becomes. You can’t get exceptionally happy or angry about conversations that unfold over months. Reduce those conversations to minutes and you wont forget it.
I bet the most memorable experiences of your life took place in a very short period of a time…a matter of minutes, perhaps seconds.
What, practically, can you do then?
First, If you run a thriving community already, you can arrange to meet. People that meet in person simply have a shared experience that others don’t. This bonds them. You don’t get more intense than a group of community members talking to each other round a table. Every conversation, body movement and facial expression receives an instant response. Conversations that might take years to take place online are reduced to minutes. That’s intense stuff, memorable too.
Second, you can decide to speed up your community. Make responses to interactions quicker (perhaps have a default rating/unique response to each?). Make the overall community more intense, more addictive. There is a way to direct influence this.
Pick 10 top members and spend a few weeks quickly responding to their actions. Get these members returning daily instead of weekly, perhaps even hourly instead of daily. As these members reply to read your responses (and responses from others) they’ll interact with others. Who then also return more frequently. The ripples spread. Make sure ping-notices of new comments is opt-out, not opt-in. More people return more often. The community speeds up.
Finally, you can pick a time. If you don’t have the power to meet in person, nor engage in interacting with members more frequently, you can pick a time for interactions to take place. Decide a peak activity time. How about 8pm until 10pm, for interactions to take place. During this peak time lots of members come and talk to each other. For these short hours, you create intense experiences together. You arrange guest speakers, have audio chats and plan interesting topics/challenges/events together.
Does your community have a guide to being a great member of your community? Not an average bozo, but a really top, influential member?
Today might be the day to write one. Get your top members involved.
Get your top members to write a guide about how to become a top member. They will enjoy the recognition and members will enjoy the guide. You might just grow your influential members from 20 to 50…
I’ve taken great delight in applying Peck’s 4 stage model of community to dozens of communities. To use a familiar example: Triiibes.
Seth Godin’s Triiibes is an excellent example of how communities develop
Pseudo-Community: First members joined and were extremely polite and feigned enthusiasm for everything (secretly, most members wanted to impress Seth).
Chaos: Then conflicts began to happen. Member's, once comfortable with each other, didn't feel the need to hide their own ego or ambitions for the benefit of the group. There were some good fights, some members left.
Emptiness: Then the community was a bit aimless for a while. Gradually, however, members began to communicate better, developed a group tone/voice and put their own agendas and egos behind them.
True Community: Now Triiibes is a very productive community. One that has written two ebooks, succeeded in getting a member to speak at TED and racked up an array of productive (and unproductive) discussions.
If you want to develop your online community, it's vital you take them through this process of development. Don't try to resolve or prevent conflicts too quickly.
Also, closing your community for months at a time can be a very good idea. Taking a fixed group through the community process can be easier than handling hundreds of members at different stages.
1. You must have a community manager. You absolutely must have someone who wakes up worrying about your community every morning.
2. Your community must have a purpose. Your community must have a purpose that matters to the people you’re trying to reach. You shouldn’t be creating the purpose, you should find a purpose a lot of people care about and build a community around it.
3. You must use whichever tool/platform your members are most familiar with. Don’t use MySpace if your audience isn’t on it. Don’t use the shiniest or most obscure tools available. Use whichever tool your audience is most familiar with.
4. You must create content about your community. Communities are about people, make sure you write about community members as much as you write about your organization.
5. You must build personal relationships with your top members. If you want to have real authority, you must be liked by the people who your community respects. You need to have good, two-way, relationships with your top members.
6. You must let heated debates happen. Good debates are vital for successful communities. You should let them happen, if not encourage debates on topics of controversy.
7. You must begin building the community before you launch the website. Don’t have a dead launch today. Work slower. Connect people before you launch the website. There should be a huge need for the website before you launch it.
8. You must recognise individual contributions from members. People should love to be recognised as much as you should love to recognise them. Recognition is free to give and the most important way to encourage further contributions.
9. You must encourage members to recruit friends. The best way to grow an online community is by referrals. You must create a referral strategy which includes tactics for members to invite their friends.
10. You must share control and power with members. You need to hand over control and power to members to help run parts of your website. This increases their involvement and ownership. In turn they will continue recruiting their friends and increasing their level of activity.
11. You must not use your admin powers unless absolutely necessary. …the best community managers are those that use their admin powers as little as possible. Every post you remove is an admission of failure. You let the wrong members in, didn’t create the right environment, can’t command authority without a big stick…
To learn our proven community building techniques, sign up for our on-demand course, How to Start an Online Community