Month: November 2010

Getting The Appeal Right

November 30, 2010Comments Off on Getting The Appeal Right

Which of these communities would you most like to join?

1. An online community for local residents to participate in the public consultation process and have their say on everything from planning permission, budget allocation and

2. An exclusive online community for local residents to prove their knowledge and share top tips on which local services to trust, best places to eat/shop and trade goods.

3. An exclusive online community to learn the latest gossip about your neighbours and discover who’s hot or not in your local community.

Most councils/local government authorities will say the first.

Most residents say the second option works best.

Most people would actually join the gossip community.

You can treat this as a dismal reflection of modern society or as a great opportunity. Increasingly I suspect the key to developing a successful local community (or any community) is to begin with the gossip, move on to offer value and then aim for engagement on matters that affect the entire community.

A Few Suggestions When Launching A Community

November 29, 2010Comments Off on A Few Suggestions When Launching A Community

Cairns Regional Council (Australia) recently launched this online community for their residents. Here’s a screenshot from today:

cairns

There are some good lessons here:

  • Have a small group of people willing to respond to posts before you post them. If you don’t have anyone ready to answer posts then why are you posting people. You should have a few people ready to respond once the community is live.
  • Never launch a community at a weekend. It lingers quietly for several days before getting used. Tuesdays/Wednesdays are generally the best days to launch a community.
  • Don’t seed the community with 6 questions posted within 15 minutes. Post one, possibly two, get a response before you post more. Six empty questions just makes the community appear dead.
  • Message individual members to respond to the questions you post. You need to nudge people frequently when you get started. Privately message a few people and respond to questions. Better, have your employees/staff give their opinions on your questions. Don’t be sneaky, just be transparent.
  • Don’t name your account CRC Administrator. Don’t be anonymous, be a real person. People like interacting with real people. Especially if these real people are from a company.
  • Keep questions short. It’s surprising just how much this matters. People don’t read lots of text. Keep sentences short.
  • Keep questions interesting. There’s a wealth of information about local online communities that will encourage people to participate. These questions really don’t do it.

Feel free to add your own comments.

Say No To Consolidation

November 28, 2010Comments Off on Say No To Consolidation

Just don’t do it.

If you have dozens of separate communities scattered across a plethora of platforms, it’s tempting to bring them together onto a single, better, platform.

You could manage them better, give them better service and it would certainly be more efficient.

The problem is that these communities quite like their own unique, quirky, identities. They don’t like being treated like several other communities. They’re quite familiar with the platforms they’re on and don’t feel a need to change.

So don’t consolidate, it’s just too risky.

Amazing Work

November 26, 2010Comments Off on Amazing Work

I sometimes speak to a demotivated community builder/manager.

This shouldn't need to be said, but sometimes it does. The work you do is amazing. Your community work is incredible, beyond incredible. You bring people together and give them a sense of belonging. Dozens of studiess show that sense of belonging makes people happier, healthier, wealthier. People that belong to a group live longer and better. That's all because of you.

To take a group of disconnected individuals and foster a sense of community between them is an unbelievable achievement. It’s work worth doing. It’s work worth believing in. It's work worth getting out of bed in the morning simply to see what else you can make happen for your members today.

It's worth remembering that if you're having a bad day.

Common Sense Revisited

November 25, 2010Comments Off on Common Sense Revisited

Dick thinks the GolfGTI forum has a lot of problems.

He says it looks like crap. It should allow for videos and photos. It’s too word specific and looks dated.

There is an irresistible temptation when developing a community to assume we know what should be on it. Of course it should be branded, right? Of course it should look great. Of course it should allow for videos and photos. Of course it should use a modern platform. 

We need to learn just how little a community needs to thrive. You can assume you know what’s best for a community, or you can follow the great examples of online communities that we have.

GolfGTI has 1.2m posts from 26,137 members. We should learn that we need to do less to be successful.

When You Have Lots Of Members, But No Activity

November 24, 2010Comments Off on When You Have Lots Of Members, But No Activity

The LV= community has over 7,500 members but less than 5 posts in the past week, 3 of which were from the community manager. It’s a failing online community.

If you have lots of members, you’re asking good questions but you’re not getting a response you have a problem. Few people are returning to your community.

Resist the temptation to reach out to more people. The numbers game (more members = more potential posts) isn’t the solution. You don’t want potential members seeing a dying community.

Instead go micro. Start a thread everyone can participate in. Ask for opinions or recommendations. Individually message more active members of the community asking for their expertise on the matter. Then as you get a few responses message, reach out to more people. Summarise the post and thank those that participated.

Now repeat this again. Start another thread, write a personal note to members and include a few extra ones that didn’t participate last time. You want their expertise/opinions. Always use personalized messages, resist the urge to mass-mail.

Soon members will return out of habit. They will post and respond to each other’s comments. Now you can message others who have gone missing. Ask them what would be the perfect community for them.

It will take more time and effort, but gradually you will bring back a core group of regular members.

Bonus: 9 ideas to revive a stale online community.

Different Types Of Communities

November 23, 2010Comments Off on Different Types Of Communities

There are, broadly speaking, five different types of communities.

You can classify every type of community by the purpose that brings them together.

  1. Interest. Communities of people who share the same interest or passion.
  2. Action. Communities of people trying to bring about change.
  3. Place. Communities of people brought together by geographic boundaries.
  4. Practice. Communities of people in the same profession or undertake the same activities.
  5. Circumstance. Communities of people brought together by external events/situations.


Online community resources

About 90% of community projects, especially branded communities, try to develop a community of interest. But a community of interest competes with our mental leisure time. Communities of interest are the hardest type of community to develop.

If you want to see examples of these different types of communities, click here.

Why not consider exploring the other four types of community. It might set you apart from the competition and broaden your audience considerably.

 

Learn more about the different types of online communities in our on-demand course, How to Start an Online Community.

7 Things A Successful Online Community CAN Live Without

November 22, 2010Comments Off on 7 Things A Successful Online Community CAN Live Without

DesignReviver believes a successful online community cannot survive without 10 key elements elements.

Looking at some successful examples of online communities. I believe you can succeed without most of these. Especially:

  1. Great Design. Design can be nice. But judging by the many, many, online communities with nice design that have failed – compared with the thousands of crappy designs that succeed, I think this is one aspect your community can live without.
  2. Content. Contentious one this. Content can help with most online communities, but it’s not essential. Most of the successful communities using forums thrive quite happily without any central content.
  3. SEO. No community really needs SEO. Again, it can help, but I wouldn’t put it anywhere near the must-haves when getting going.
  4. A leader. Leaders tend to develop followings rather than communities. Having a manager to keep order is fine, having a leader to break new ground really isn’t essential.
  5. Widgets. Anything that doesn’t absolutely have to be there for people to participate can be left out. Very few widgets add anything to the community. They distract from the key elements.
  6. Multi-platform. Being multi-platform accessible can be cool, but if you picked the right platform in the first place you’ll be fine.
  7. Facebook/Twitter. Few communities receive much benefit from social media platforms. They can help, but the benefits are limited at best.

The only element a community can't survive without is activity. No activity, no community. Focus on that.

Common Sense To Developing Communities

November 21, 2010Comments Off on Common Sense To Developing Communities

GenerationBenz spent a fortune developing this rubbish. It gets very few discussions from very few members. It’s a huge failure…but it looks lovely. 

This is a thriving community for the GolfGTI. It doubt it cost much. Which has 1.2m posts from 26,105 members. Probably the sort of size and activity you're looking for.

Now, it would seem common sense to follow the GolfGTI example. 1.2m posts –vs- about 20. Yet the majority of companies I speak with insist on the GenerationBenz approach. 

So, for sure, add your branding, a custom layout, ask lots of questions before people join, include game mechanics, and anything else that fits in with your marketing plans. Just don’t be surprised when you end up with a GenerationBenz style community.

Big Crowds

November 19, 2010Comments Off on Big Crowds

Unusual things attract crowds. Big events, celebrations, ceremonies, police arrests, traffic accidents. Big, unusual, things nearly always attract a crowd.

Marketers are fantastic at getting crowds. They do something big, promote it, and a crowd gathers. It doesn't matter if it's online or offline, unusual things will attract a crowd. 

The problem with crowds is they’re temporary. Sure, they can be big, but they dissipate once the event/activity/whatever brought them together is over. They don't form bonds with others that encourages them to return.

Don’t ever mistake a big crowd with a community. The skill of weaving relationships between people is the opposite of attracting a big crowd. Relationships take time to develop and can last forever. Your crowd will be gone very soon.

Marketers attract crowds, community builders weave relationships.

Which do you want to do?

Searching For Online Communities

November 18, 2010Comments Off on Searching For Online Communities

Every few days I’ll receive an e-mail asking if I know of any good communities in a specific topic.

I rarely do, not unless it’s a hobby of mine.

However, I can offer this pointer. Searching for “{topic} online community” probably wont get you good results. Try “{topic} chat” or “{topic} forum” or “{topic} fans” and other terms along those lines.

For example, searching for an online golf community is futile. Few communities call themselves communities (why is that?). Searching for Golf talk, golf chat, golf fans, golf forums. Will soon bring you a list of thriving online golf communities.

Good luck.

‘Discuss This’

November 17, 2010Comments Off on ‘Discuss This’

If you’re creating a lot of great content. You should be sure that you include a ‘discuss this’ link which leads back to a recent discussion on the topic people can participate in.

It’s a simple means of promoting your community. If you’re really smart, you will include multiple opportunities throughout the content for people to agree/disagree/discuss in different places. Or, perhaps, a ‘add your opinion’ link works better. The text isn’t so important.

It’s simple to introduce and could gain you engaged members at great speed.

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