Month: January 2010

Try The Davos Approach

January 27, 2010Comments Off on Try The Davos Approach

You would benefit from setting a fixed number of people they will allow to join the group. You can be picky about members and accept the ones with real influence, skills, resources or commitment to offer.

You can draw up a list of potential members and only invite the best of the best. These are most likely to join because it’s exclusive (and they feel appreciated for being the best).

This week I’m with UNHCR in Davos (a tiny Swiss town in the mountains). 2,500 of the world’s most influential people are here to solve the world’s most important problems. Davos was specifically chosen because it was small and private. It’s invite only and hotel space is limited (exhausted).

If you want Eric Schmidt, Martin Sorrel, Nicholas Sarkozy, Ban Ki-Moon and the most elite people in your field to join, you can’t create a community for just anyone you have to create a community just for them.

I’m betting right now you can create a community for everyone to join or you can create a community for just the elite people to join.

Simple Tactics To Encourage Your Members To Talk More

January 25, 2010Comments Off on Simple Tactics To Encourage Your Members To Talk More

There is one big secret to getting people to talk in an online community, ask them about themselves – not about your products.

If you scan a few active communities, you will notice most conversations are similar. People talking about the same things, just in different topics. You should copy the best types of conversations for your own community.

If you are struggling to get people to talk, try one of these approaches.

  • Ask them generically about themselves. By far the best way to get people to talk is to ask them a question about themselves. People are inherently self-interested. We love to talk about ourselves. e.g. What’s your average day like?
  • Ask about likes/dislikes. Ask people to name things they like or dislike. e.g. What is your favourite single-origin coffee bean?. Asking for top 10 or worst 10 always works well too. We enjoy talking about things we like/dislike – it helps us identify friends in a group.
  • Get people to agree/re-affirmation their beliefs. Start a topic about what people already believe. What brings your group together and re-affirm it. Give people good opportunities to reaffirm their self beliefs. e.g. The best thing about the Mac is…
  • Discuss seasonal stories. Try to keep the news story remotely connected to your industry. e.g. What do you think Obama’s banking regulations mean for our company/industry/town?
  • Anxieties. We like to talk about things we’re afraid of. These are often the best source of invaluable content. Many are scared to ask dumb questions, so you ask them. e.g. First handgun purchase or What advice would you give to a newcomer…?
  • Ask for advice. Ask people for advice about a topic many will have a good level of expertise in. Advice that will benefit the entire community. e.g. What do you look for in a model’s portfolio? You can also ask super-technical questions here too.
  • BREAKING News/Gossip.  Like seasonal but related to your industry. Break the latest news in a discussable manner. e.g. I just heard….
  • Reminisce. Everyone loves the nostalgia of reminiscing. Old timers will especially love it. Don’t you miss….?
  • Aspirations. People talk about their aspirations a lot. e.g. What do you hope will happen to…

If you’re a brand, then it’s possible to slip your products in to this framework. But don’t rush it. Take your time and ensure your community members are talking to each other before bringing any of your own products.

How Do You Get Members To Work For Free? You Pay Them Well

January 22, 2010Comments Off on How Do You Get Members To Work For Free? You Pay Them Well

How do you get members to contribute their time, knowledge or skills for free? Many business models rely upon it.

You can’t. People don’t work for free. Ever. But we do work for things other than money. We work for love, appreciation, power, fame and a dozen other things.

Your challenge isn’t to persuade members to work for free, but instead to pay them in a currency they value more than money.

Try this. Assume that your members want to feel important. This was the key insight of Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends & Influence People (make sure you've read it).

If you want members to work for free, you may try to pay them in importance. You might let it be known you consult the top members for advice or give best members their own custom URL for their profile. Perhaps you might consider giving admin access to areas of your site or awards to the top member of the month.

The message is if you want people to work for free, you have to ensure you pay them well and let it be clear to the entire community of the benefits from contributions.

How To Test Your Great Idea For An Online Community

January 21, 2010Comments Off on How To Test Your Great Idea For An Online Community

Unlike a product, you can thoroughly test your idea for an online community before you launch it. In fact, you would be a fool not to.

You have to find out if the people you’re trying to reach want to talk to each other. If they don't, you can put a halt to the idea before you waste too much time and money. You also need to know what they like to talk about and how you can get them talking.

It's incredibly easy to test your idea. Start a simple forum or mailing list and invite a few of the people you intend to reach (if they don’t join, you need to add greater incentive to your approach).

Now make the introductions, start a few conversations, ask people for their views and see if the conversation takes off. Do people care what others think? Are you doing all the work?

Before you invest a lot of effort in creating an online community – test your idea. See if you can get a small group of 50 people to talk to each other. You shouldn’t really need permission to do this.

Most organizations are doomed early on because the people they want to talk to each other have no interest in talking to each other.

If You’re Not Allowed To Start An Online Community…

January 18, 2010Comments Off on If You’re Not Allowed To Start An Online Community…

…then join one. Or two, perhaps three.

Joining online communities is good practice. You will develop great friends, become familiar with their online mannerisms and learn what the people you’re trying to reach talk about. This is worth more than you think.

When you want to launch your own community, you will have the respect of hundreds of members that will be willing to join. These members will be far more valuable than any others.

So if you’re not allowed to start your own community, try joining some. Participate as a person at the company, rather than the company itself. Ask questions. Give responses. Be as generous as you can be. Act like a human being.

By joining an online community you can get many of the benefits of building a community without the risk of failure.

A Good Policy To Introduce

January 16, 2010Comments Off on A Good Policy To Introduce

I received this e-mail today:

Dear Richard,
You have not logged into your account in over four months. As a matter of CouchSurfing Project policy, we simply deactivate accounts that haven't been logged in to recently.

You can fix this though! All you have to do is log in and your account will be active again! To continue your account, just log in:
The CouchSurfing Team

You should consider implementing this policy. It would remove the dead wood, give you accurate member counts and encourage old members to return.

The Right and Wrong Way To Grow A Forum

January 15, 2010Comments Off on The Right and Wrong Way To Grow A Forum

Do you think the person that created this forum really had a clue what s/he was doing? Nobody will participate in a forum that looks this empty.


There are a few lessons here:

1) When you launch a new forum you begin with just one subject/topic. As the forum grows and it becomes clear that you need more than one place, you create another topic.

2) Don’t try to predict what your community will talk about in advance. This is what leads to empty forums like those above. Just respond to what they talk about – and put an influential member on that topic in charge of that section. If your members talk about obscure widgets from china a lot, create a separate forum for it with someone who speaks about the topic the most in charge of moderation.

3) It’s really hard to be the first person to create the topic. So when you do create the second forum you transfer relevant existing threads (and if you have any, you don’t need the forum) from the old forum to the new forum.

p.s. This is my favourite example of a terrible online community.

How To Build An Online Community: The Ultimate List Of Resources

January 14, 2010 Comments Off on How To Build An Online Community: The Ultimate List Of Resources

This is a collection of my favourite and most popular posts from the last two years. It should give you a great overview about both the strategy any the process of creating an online community from scratch.

Before You Begin

Pre-Launch and Strategy

Building An Online Community Website

Launching An Online Community

Growing Your Online Community

Increasing Participation

Managing an Online Community



Branded Online Communities



Volunteer Jobs

January 13, 2010Comments Off on Volunteer Jobs

Your community would benefit from launching a volunteer jobs page.

This is a page listing tasks your members might like to try their hand at. 

It might be designing the new logo, writing a weekly industry news column, interviewing journalists in your field, running online events, adding/managing new forums, starting a Facebook group or anything else that benefits your community.

It's a great way to help your community grow and give members more opportunities to be involved. 

Remember to update it often and highlight those who do these jobs.

The Problem With Asking Members To Invite Friends

January 12, 2010Comments Off on The Problem With Asking Members To Invite Friends

I was forwarded this e-mail today:

This is just a quick note to let everyone know that Cops Online just went over 6500 members. Help us grow by inviting your friends to join. Just click on the INVITE link in the top menu bar.

Happy community members don’t want the community to grow bigger. No member of any enjoyable group wants it to grow bigger. Bigger isn't better. Too many people ruin groups. Not everyone can get heard. People either get noisier or pushed to the edges.

Don’t ask members to invite friends simply to grow bigger. How does that benefit anyone? Only ask them to invite friends for a specific reason. Ask them to invite friends for a specific event, task or purpose. Ask them to invite friends they feel have something valuable to contribute to the community.

If they like it, they might stick around. That’s how you grow.

Press Releases About Online Communities

January 11, 2010Comments Off on Press Releases About Online Communities

Never issue a press release about the launch of your online community.

It sets big expectations and locks you in to a fixed structure. Wait until you have a community you're proud of, then write press releases about what’s happening in your community.

Tell the story about members getting together to prevent another member being evicted. Write a press release about 3 of the 5 finalist in the martial arts tournament being members of your community. Share how the community has helped improve the lives of every member, with specific examples. Write press releases about the events happening in your community next month.

Announcing a community too early is bad. Simply announcing you’ve created a community is boring. Telling members what’s happening in your community is the secret to effective press releases.

Why People Get Aggressive In Your Online Community

January 8, 2010Comments Off on Why People Get Aggressive In Your Online Community

When people get angry in your community, it’s for one of two reasons. They either want to have greater status in your community or they are worried about losing their current status (it’s usually the latter).

Never remove the symptom (the fight) without resolving the cause (individual’s feelings). If you want to diffuse aggression you have to remove the fear that what’s happening will lose their status. You can praise or empower members that feel threatened.

If this fails, you an do the threatening. You can remind members that continuing the aggression will result in a loss of status within your community.

Sure some trolls fight for fun and others are naturally aggressive people. But, by far, the majority of the fights in your community can be resolved with simple affirmations that no status has been lost and more can be gained by getting along.

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