Month: May 2010

Launching Multiple Online Communities: How To Do It Right

May 31, 2010Comments Off on Launching Multiple Online Communities: How To Do It Right

Launching one online community is hard. Launching 3 at the same time is just dumb. You can’t concentrate your effort if you’re launching 3 online communities.

If you want to launch multiple communities, especially if they’re related, then launch sequentially. Begin with one community. Build up that community then leverage this community to launch the next. It’s an art that Martin Reed of Community Spark has mastered.

Martin launched JustChat in 2000, later bought Soap Forum in 2006 and, finally, launched Female Forum in 2008. Three related communities with an audience overlap over the course of a decade. That’s smart thinking.

Launching communities for your organization’s different product segments is smart. Just launch one at a time then leverage that community (members, topics, experience, staff) to launch future communities.

It might even make sense to spin the most popular threads/topics into their own sustaining communities.

Using Your Initiative

May 28, 2010Comments Off on Using Your Initiative

Why do members need you to create the community?

It’s not the lack of web design skills, there are dozens of cheap/free online community platforms. It’s not the lack of content, there are better places to get content. It’s not anything knowledge-based neither (you’re probably not the smartest member of your community).

The only thing you really offer, is your initiative. 

You didn’t wait for serendipity to connect everyone. You connected them. You took the social risk of rejection, you took the time-risk of failure, you may have even have taken a financial risk of creating a web site.

As your community grows it's easy to lose your initiative. You become distracted by putting out fires and responding to dilemmas. This is a waste of your value. Keep trying new ideas, push ahead with activities, reach out to new people, engage existing members more, organize events/guest visits, recruit volunteers.

There are some tasks only someone with your initiative will do.

Awesome Questions To Ask New Members Of Your Online Community

May 26, 2010Comments Off on Awesome Questions To Ask New Members Of Your Online Community

Filling out your profile when you join a community is a tedious task. You’ve done it on dozens of other communities and very few people are going to read it. 

It’s also damned difficult to talk about yourself. You walk the fine line between arrogant and boring. 

So ditch the About Me section and ask specific, interesting, questions instead. Here are a few of my favourites:

  • How did you first become interested in {topic}?
  • What was your best experience in {topic}
  • Who do you most admire/who is your favourite {topic person}?
  • What do you think will happen in {topical issue}?
  • What do you want to get from this community?

The questions are easier and more interesting to reply to. Nearly every answer will be interested too. Also by revealing this information your also disclosing personal thoughts about yourself which increases your level of engagement.

Finally, it will give you great content to introduce newcomers to others in the community. 

This Is Important

May 25, 2010Comments Off on This Is Important

I don’t do this often, but this is important.

I’m working with The Global Fund on a campaign which we hope will finally prevent mothers infected with HIV from passing the disease on to their children.

Over 430,000 children every year are infected by HIV and live short, painful lives. Yet this is entirely preventable. The treatments already exist, we just need governments to ensure mothers have access to these treatments. They wont do that unless you sign this petition telling them that you support this.

So please spend 1 minute of your time to sign the petition to support the Born HIV Free campaign.

Spending 1 minute to prevent children being infected with HIV at the beginning of their lives is probably the second best thing you can do today. The best is helping persuade others to sign up through your blog, Facebook profiles or whatever other resources are available to you.

How To Making Your Community Interactions Matter In A World Oversupplied With Interactions

May 24, 2010Comments Off on How To Making Your Community Interactions Matter In A World Oversupplied With Interactions

Noise used to be caused by advertising (the average American sees 3000 per day), soon it will be interactions. In a world oversupplied with human-generated interactions, how do you make the interactions in your community count?

Make your community experience entirely unique. An oasis, even.

Ditch the insta-click interactions and automated messages.  From the moment a member joins community they should know that it’s different. Real people write real messages to real members.

Members are welcomed into the community. They’re asked questions about themselves. They’re asked to give opinions on topics they care about. They get to have live chats and are included in internal debates about the community. It’s much like the real world clubs, only online.

Ignore other communities trying to model themselves on rest of the internet, you would do well to ake your community an oasis apart.

The Best Community You Can Begin Today

May 21, 2010Comments Off on The Best Community You Can Begin Today

This is the beginning of something big.

What happens if every resident on your street participates in your online community?

Wouldn't it improve the value of your community? You could borrow a ladder, bulk-buy products, sell unused goods, arrange BBQs and tackle troublesome neighbours much easier.

This is the best community you can create right now. Begin a place for members to chat, s, to give their opinion on issues, share their advice and for newcomers to introduce themselves. Now distribute a few leaflets. See what happens.

It might flop (don’t worry, there are other streets), or it might make your street a better place to live. If you have so little to lose, and so much to gain, you should try it.

Outliers: The Major Distortion of Community Projections

May 18, 2010Comments Off on Outliers: The Major Distortion of Community Projections

The overwhelming number of communities you hear about have hundreds of thousands or members. They grew overnight in a huge explosion. Facebook has 500m members in four years.

This is a huge distortion of reality. These are the outliers. They get the most attention, but they don’t reflect the truth.

The overwhelming number of successful communities grew slowly. They began with a few members. Then they attracted a few more members. The creator invited select people and groups at a time. They invited people with something to contribute. They invite people who they specifically wanted to join an online community. Others just happened to chance on by.

If you’re banking on 10,000 active members in your first year, you’re probably going to be disappointed. You’re going to aim for big press coverage and major victories. You’re going to miss your expectations, become depressed (instead of focusing on existing members) and quit. It happens a lot. Don’t bank on rapid growth, ever.

It’s much better to predict 2000 members in your first year if you’re personally inviting 5 – 10 people a day to join. That’s a defensible figure. Once you have a realistic number (and treat extras as a bonus) you can decide how much content, time and resources you need to spend to get there.

So set figures if you need to, but justify them with defensible actions. Ignore the outliers.

Growing An Online Community: Attracting Clusters

May 17, 2010Comments Off on Growing An Online Community: Attracting Clusters

We all gather in interconnected clusters. You’ve probably seen a cluster map somewhere. Think of it like social groups in a playground. Friends gather in circles of 8 to 12 people, but one of those people might have connections to another group of similar size.

There is a cluster of technology types here in London. If you attract a few of them, it’s much easier to attract the rest. They’re in the same cluster.

If you want to grow an online community, find a good-sized cluster of people. Appeal to 3 – 5 members, then invite their support to help attract the rest. Don’t randomly approach people, target specific clusters of people you want to join.

Once you have about 5 – 10 members of a cluster you can set up sub-groups, develop unique content and specifically appeal to that cluster of people.

5 Things Every New Online Community Should Focus On

May 11, 2010Comments Off on 5 Things Every New Online Community Should Focus On

If you’re about a new online community, here are some things you should be worrying about.

  1. Developing a core group of members. Develop a core small group of members first. Spend time with each. Make the community part of something they’re invested in. Be sure that by the time you launch the website you have a dedicated group of people who are keen to use it.
  2. Sustaining momentum. An online community with a low level of activity dies very quickly. You need to plan out the first few weeks of your community so activity steadily increases. How are you going to either secure more of a member’s time or recruit more members?
  3. Appealing to a strong self-interest. Develop strong appeals to the self-interests of members. Members aren’t interested in the greater good, that wont sell. They’re interested in satisfying their egos, being recognised for their talents/knowledge/skills and having power amongst their peers.
  4. Persuading members to make a second visit. Getting a member to visit once is easy. That second visit is much harder. What are you going to ask a member to do in their first visit to ensure they return?
  5. Concentrating activity. You need to hold back elements of your website to keep the activity concentrated in areas. This creates an active atmosphere and ensures unused features aren’t indicating a quiet site.

You might think there are more than these 5, and there are, but if you can get these 5 right you’re doing far better than most new online communities.

Community Pages

May 10, 2010Comments Off on Community Pages

Millions of community interest pages are about to appear on Facebook. These pages will be formed by our stated interests. If you and I both like the ukulele, we’ll be connected to the ukulele community page.

Next these pages will have discussion sections. They might feature upcoming events and their own walls. They might resemble current fan pages but without the admin control.

The system will be clunky (at first). The key features will take time to appear. The overwhelming majority of these community pages wont go anywhere. This misses the point. Automatic registration will be huge.

We wont have control. How different will your community efforts be if you’re merely a participant? How will you lead a community without official power? How will you treat disruptive members you can’t remove? How will you stimulate activity and keep people engaged?

Some community managers are going to discover they can’t manage a community without the power. The good ones are going to realize they didn’t need the real power after all.

Clarity – What’s A Community?

May 5, 2010Comments Off on Clarity – What’s A Community?

Last week’s post generated considerable feedback. Here is some clarity:

Following

Community

Short-term Long-term
Quick growth Slow growth
Focus on growth Focus on engagement
Unlimited # members Limited # members
Limited interaction between members High interactions between members
Fixed strategy Emergent strategy
Easy Hard
Coca-Cola Innocent Drinks
Develop audiences for products Develops products for the audience
Homebase Wiggly Wigglers
Content about topic Content about community
Centralized control Share power with top members
Reactive to questions Stimulating discussions
Any products Sociable products
Audience wants info about products Audience wants info about each other
Build relationships with group as a single entity Build strong relationships with top members

Creating Titles For Members

May 4, 2010Comments Off on Creating Titles For Members

Recognise members making good contributions with titles that reflect that contribution.

If a member is answering most questions about car engines, give him a role of car engine chief, or expert and allow him to add (CEC) next to his member name. 

You can also invite him to take responsibility for answering questions about the topic, moderating discussions about the topic and even drafting advice columns. He is also well positioned to interview experts (manufacturers, top modders and representing your community on the topic elsewhere. 

If he ever leaves the community, you can start a search for a replacement to take the role. You turn a contribution one member was making into a meaningful role that members want to have.

There are no shortage of titles you can use, chiefs, champions, ambassadors to recognise individual effort in a personal manner. Be creative and go beyond admins, volunteers or moderators. 

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