Month: November 2009

Never Reward Your Volunteers

November 30, 2009Comments Off on Never Reward Your Volunteers

This brilliant post on Psyblog explains why you should never pay volunteers or set fixed rewards for any behaviour.

What they had been motivated to do intrinsically, they were now being given an external, extrinsic motivation for. This provided too much justification for what they were doing and so, paradoxically, afterwards they drew less.

Not only this but rewards are dangerous for another reason: because they remind us of obligations, of being made to do things we don't want to do. Children are given rewards for eating all their food, doing their homework or tidying their bedrooms. So rewards become associated with painful activities that we don't want to do. The same goes for grown-ups: money becomes associated with work and work can be dull, tedious and painful. So when we get paid for something we automatically assume that the task is dull, tedious and painful—even when it isn't.

This is why play can become work when we get paid. The person who previously enjoyed painting pictures, weaving baskets, playing the cello or even writing blog posts, suddenly finds the task tedious once money has become involved.

When tasks are inherently interesting to us rewards can damage our motivation by undermining our natural talent for self-regulation.

Make sure you read the full post, it’s brilliant. Aside, Psyblog is one of those rare blogs which makes you feel smarter with every post you read. 

Community Health

November 29, 2009Comments Off on Community Health

Lithium has published an excellent paper on diagnosing and understanding the health of your online community.

Be sure to read it (registration required).

You Can Launch An Online Community In 10 Seconds

November 27, 2009Comments Off on You Can Launch An Online Community In 10 Seconds

You can launch an online community in about 10 seconds.

That’s how long it takes to write a Twitter message, add a hashtag and see who else joins in. It’s the simplest web registration system ever.

Twitter isn’t the only option. Write a status update or invite a few contacts to Google Wave/MSN/Skype/Yahoo group chat and you have the beginnings of a community. Quite literally, it takes seconds.

Now it’s entirely free to create an online community and it takes only a matter of seconds, why isn’t your business trying to create as many tiny communities as possible? Most wont take off, no matter, you can focus your efforts on those that do.

Bringing The Community To Members

November 26, 2009Comments Off on Bringing The Community To Members

When your community is a destination members need to visit, rather than something that visits them, you have to work much harder. It’s much easier to participate in a community when participating is embedded in something you already do.

This is why mailing lists work so well. You get a discussion e-mail to reply to. You have to make a decision to delete it or respond. Quite often you respond. You can’t ignore it. You have to make a decision.

Compare this with communities hosted outside of our daily routines. Communities that are based on destination websites, in which members have to remember to visit, struggle much more for participation.

This isn’t to say that every community should be based upon e-mails, Twitter updates, Facebook notifications and everything else of our daily routines. Larger, more active, communities would overwhelm the common user.

If you’re just starting out and suspect activity might be an issue, bring your online community into the daily habits of members. When you’re ready to grow and feel your community has become a habit in itself you can move somewhere bigger.

(Likewise struggling communities might want to invite their most active members into a mailing list to rejuvenate activity before moving back).

10 Examples Of Great Online Communities

November 25, 2009Comments Off on 10 Examples Of Great Online Communities

2018 update: You can now find 1,300+ examples of great online communities here.

We need great examples to follow, here are ten of my favourite online communities along with a brief explanation of why I love them.

1. Community of Sweden. One of the most beautifully designed websites with a very strong community and a great use of game mechanics. Tommy Sollen is a community genius.

2. SK-Gaming. If you play games online, you’re probably a member of this near 1m strong gaming community. It’s a hugely popular community with plenty of content about the community. Possibly the best use of game mechanics out there.

3. PoliceOne. A great example of building a community for a more difficult group. Most of the community anyone can access, but cops (once verified through their precinct) can talk in private areas. This community appeals to cops by offering great advice and satisfies affiliation needs well.

4. Harringay Online. You don’t need strong technical expertise to build a community for your local neighbourhood.

5. Texans Talk. You can pick almost any NFL team and find a strong online community. The usual features are 1) It’s unofficial 2) It uses a very simple blog/forum 3) Very clear line between the top members and everyone else.

6. Gamer’s Voice. An active community using a Facebook group to tackle anti-video games policies and media. A good example of what a Facebook group can be.

7. Barista Exchange. The world’s top online community for Barista’s. Study the types of conversations carefully, you can use these in almost any community of practice.

8. Prisoner Life. Huge boundaries between insiders and outsiders. Easy to find affiliation and develop relationships within this community.

9. 4Chan. Best example of insiders entirely getting it and outsiders not having a clue. This community has it’s own language, culture, rituals and many aspects that make a community strong. What happens when you relax the moderation rules?

10. Kiva. Excellent use of sub-groups to stimulate activity, good inclusion of game mechanics and it’s all for a good cause.

You can learn something from each of these communities. In addition to the features mentioned above, spend time learning what common elements are present in each of these 10 successful communities.

To learn about building successful communities, take our on-demand course: How to Start an Online Community

The Alan Weiss Approach

November 24, 2009Comments Off on The Alan Weiss Approach

Alan Weiss runs the Million Dollar Club.

It’s a small community of elite consultants (you need to earn over $1m per year). The community talk online and regularly meet in ridiculously exotic locations to discuss ideas and improve each other's businesses.

To join this community you need to fit the following criteria:

  • Seven-figure revenues for your firm over the year prior to the meeting.
  • You must be either the owner or co-owner of the firm, or a solo practitioner.
  • You must be willing to share your intellectual property, ideas, and advice freely, without ego, and without reservation. (I vet members to ensure the “chemistry” will be good.)
  • Commitment to attend the annual meetings as a top priority, not “bumped” by business or professional issues.
  • The first meeting would be in 2010 at a mutually convenient time and mutually appealing place. The meeting fee is $15,000{…}

These are dozens of failed attempts by businesses (FT amongst them) to create similarly elite communities of top business professionals. 

If you're trying to create an elite group of people together in your community have two options. The first is to be a peer amongst them. Alan succeeds where FT fails solely because of this. The second is to find an elite person or persons to be the public head of the community. You take the back seat.

Why Amateurs Build Better Online Communities Than Businesses

November 23, 2009 Comments Off on Why Amateurs Build Better Online Communities Than Businesses

There are few successful online communities founded by businesses. Amateurs usually do it better.

  • Contacts. Amateurs are typically passionate fans with lots of friends they can tell about their new online community. This helps a lot. They have trust and respect from the people they want to join.
  • Knowledge. They know what the big issues are, who the most influential people are, the personality of the people and what the audience intends to talk about.
  • Passion. They’re passionate about the subject, they work on the online community during off-work hours (the times when people can visit and participate). They enjoy doing this. 
  • No Objectives/Time Frame. Amateurs aren’t concerned with objectives, ROI or time frames. They’re not burdened with anything other than creating an awesome community for the community. No extractions are necessary.
  • No Budget. Amateurs aren’t burdened (yes, burdened) with a budget. They’re not forced to waste a five-figure sum and countless months on a bespoke community site reflect an organization’s brand image.
  • Technology Luddites. They pick a simple technology they know how to use. By coincidence, this is also a simple technology their audience knows how to use.
  • No plan for growth. Amateurs don’t try to grow big. They focus on making the community fun rather than huge. If they don’t want more members, they don’t  try to get any more members.
  • They stick around for longer. Amateurs don’t abandon the community when they find a new job, or get given a promotion, or their work load picks up. They make the time every day (or evening) for the community.

You’re competing against amateurs. If you can’t run a better online community than the amateurs, members will leave for one run by one. The very online communities that most businesses want are the communities they would have if they acted less like a business and more like a passionate amateur.

For The Price Of One Prime Time Advert

November 22, 2009Comments Off on For The Price Of One Prime Time Advert

…you could build and develop several thriving online communities.

A 30 second, prime-time, advertising slot will cost you about $300,000.

That could hire you a small team of community builders creating several thriving online communities around your brand. You would never have to spend a penny to reach these people again.

Retail Buyers

November 20, 2009Comments Off on Retail Buyers

Getting retail buyers to join your online community is a hard sell.

They’re pushed for time, they’re hard to reach and they don’t especially want to talk to each other. Worse, you could be competing against every other company they buy from.

This isn’t to say that a community for retail buyers is a bad idea. I’m sure it isn’t. It’s to say that a community solely about your brand for retail buyers is a bad idea.

What can you do? You can be a bit player in a larger online community. Think carefully, if you were a retail buyer what would a dream online community look like?

You can create a community for retail buyers, at your own expense.You can create a community, that isn’t about you, but would give you permission to speak to every retail buyer you want to reach. Imagine hundreds of retail buyers are in a community you control.

It’s still a hard sell, but it’s a far more realistic sell.

A Simple Example Of A Great Online Community

November 19, 2009Comments Off on A Simple Example Of A Great Online Community

Most businesses would kill to have a community like this.

Nearly 400,000 posts by less than 10,000 members. It’s exactly the sort of engaged, highly active, online community most businesses crave…and never get.

It’s a perfect combination of general chatter, advice and events. But note the three most popular forums, ‘General discussion, ‘stories and pictures of finds’ and ‘off topic’.

Stop forcing members to talk about you. Encourage members to talk about their passion, talk about themselves and talk about whatever they like. The results will be stunning.

There is another clear lesson here. Use simple technology. Forums work fantastically for your members. It’s you that needs an attractive website.

Your Dream Community

November 18, 2009Comments Off on Your Dream Community

Most businesses trying to create communities are deluded.

They assume they matter far more to their customers than they do. They assume people want to hear about their latest news and products. Most fundamentally, they assume people want to talk about them, that’s horribly wrong.

If you made a list, right now, of a community you would love to join, it might look like this:

  • It will be a community about {your interest}
  • It will have a few hundred members, possibly a thousand. Not too few, not too many.
  • You will have fun, conversations wont be too serious not restricted
  • You will get to make new friends.
  • There will be events that you can attend.
  • You will learn interesting stuff.

Can you spot the problem? There is nothing in here about products, businesses, crafting messages for supporters to rally behind and being seduced by a business.

You’re looking through the wrong lens. The lens through which you see yourself is very different from the lens through which your customers see you.

Perform this task before creating a community. Brainstorm what a dream community would looks like for you. Make it about your personal hobby. Now create a community like that.

Write An Epic History

November 17, 2009Comments Off on Write An Epic History

You should document your online community’s history.

Don’t just document it. Make it an epic story. Your community should sound as interesting as possible.

Talk about the motivation behind it’s founding. Who were the first members to join? What were the big issues? Where was the conflict and drama? Who fought who, what opinions divided the community? Who became the most popular members? What events brought the community together

You should also update your epic history every 3 months. 

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