Month: December 2010
Mumsnet has interviewed two former prime ministers.
Threadless rented a van and went travelling around the country to meet its members.
I think a good resolution for every community manager to make is to be more ambitious. Write to companies in your sector and secure first-look or trial products. Contact magazines and get a regular community section. Create your own products and sell them to members.
There is little downside and maximum upside.
Be more ambitious. You serve a connected group of like-minded people. Do amazing things for them.
…why do you think you can engage the members you don't have?
People love to talk about themselves. Aside from the oversharing eccentrics, this is generally healthy. Self-disclosure increases activity in your online community.
I think your community should encourage and make it easy for people to share major news about themselves. News such as job changes, promotions, marriages, new family members, departing family members. You can summarize news about members on the news page.
Off-topic discussion is good. Off-topic discussion which lets people congratulate and commiserate with each other is better. When community members treat each other like good friends, they’re likely to become close friends.
There is, put simply, only one book I would demand a community manager has read. It was first published in 1937 and has sold almost 17m copies worldwide.
There simply isn’t a better book out there about how to handle diverse and difficult people.
If you haven’t read it yet, I suggest you make it your new year’s resolution to do so.
Bonus: You can read the summary on Wikipedia, but this doesn’t nearly do the book justice.
Fast growth usually leads to lots of inactive members. Great if you want to brag to your boss and colleagues about how many people have joined your community, useless for all other purposes.
Slow, steady, growth is much, much, better.
When you grow slowly, you can spend more time converting every newcomer into a regular member. You can personally welcome them. You can introduce them to the community. You can spend time engaging with them and making sure they make friends in the community.
You can do all the things tat keeps members active.
Only a tiny miniscule of communities have more than 1000 active members. You can beat this number, within a year, by growing by 3 members per day.
Are you working on your community awards for 2010?
It’s an easy event that can be added to your community’s history, increase levels of participation, start traditions, develop the community’s culture, show recognition and establish status.
Awards are perfect. 8 years ago I helped organize the community awards for 2002. You can find the results here. It certainly encouraged a lot of discussions, and people love to nominate and vote.
- Personality of the year. At UKT this was our highest honour. This was the community rating other members not by their skill (as is accustomed in gaming personalities), but by their personality.
- Member of the year. To whomever made the highest levels of contribution to the community.
- Funniest member. Who is the funniest? Let your members decide.
- Newcomer of the year. Which newcomer to your community has made the biggest impact this year? It’s time to recognise that.
- Author of the year. Who has published the best guest/opinion post?
- Samaritan of the year . Who has been exceedingly generous in your community this year?
- Best comment. Has there been any one, single, comment which is clearly the best of the year. Maybe it’s very funny, very useful or just powerfully delivered.
- Special recognition. Give special recognition to the members whom made unique contributions to the community.
You can choose whichever awards you like, it’s an activity to build excitement in the community. If you have a small budget, then award £20 in Amazon vouchers for each award winner or free samples of your product.
Maybe local communities would benefit from doing this too?
If you’re developing a community where you want members to do something, say, generate ideas for your organization, you’re going to stumble across social loafing.
Members participate less in a group (or to be more specific, do simple tasks better but perform complex, brain-related, tasks worse). You conquer this by impressing upon the importance of the task, stressing the importance of the community or rewarding the individuals who make positive contributions
The first two aren’t sustainable. Not every task is that important. There are a limit to how frequently a community can be reminded how important they are. The only remaining option is individual rewards.
If members in any group feel their contribution wont be individually recognised, they wont make them.
- Don’t set the goal as a group. As a group, the individual members will do less. Set goals for individuals. Ensure individuals are driving it forward.
- Mentions in news story. Mention the contributions of these individuals in news stories, often. This should be standard practice for you anyway.
- Interview members. Interview members who make the positive contributions. Interviews show others what they need to do and establish status within the community.
- Game mechanics/rankings. Rank members who are participating (and those not participating). Rankings are addictive and show individual recognition for the contributions made.
- Award titles. This is a favourite, give them awards or titles as an outcome of contributions they have made. This spurs on their efforts and the efforts of others.
- Call for members to participate. Issue an open call for members to participate and take responsibility for certain tasks. People are usually keen to put themselves forward to help and lead others.
- Give individuals more power. Increase the level of power you can offer people who do make positive contributions.
- Target specific members to participate. Ask specific individuals with a history of contributing to make certain things happen.
If you can engender the individuality of the task, rather than it’s collective effort, you’re far more likely to gain the level of participation you need.
Christmas is an unmissable opportunity to start some fun, off-topic, conversations which all of your members can participate in. These are the sorts of conversations which allow members to get to know each other beyond the shared self-interest.
Here are a few ideas you can consider.
- What do you want for Christmas? Everyone can talk about what they would want this Christmas. If you're really lucky you might be able to tie a secret-santa into this. You can round the answers up and publish it as a soft news piece to your community.
- What was your best Christmas? Everyone has a favourite christmas and would probably love to talk about it. Try it.
- How does your family celebrate Christmas? This is another one most people will be keen to talk about. Family traditions are fun to discuss.
- Where are you going for Christmas? Let people boast about the amazing places they're going to this Christmas
- Who are you celebrating Christmas with? Some of the answers might surprise you. Might be friends, might be family.
- Will it snow on Christmas day? This is a little mundane, but no doubt everyone will have an opinion on it. Let people make predictions and then compare them afterwards.
- What are your predictions for 2011? This one will probably be the most popular, people can resist making predictions about the future. You can ask people for their predictions, summarize them and maybe, if you're lucky, submit this to a relevant media outlets on behalf of the community.
- Best Christmas dinner tips anyone? Let people share their wisdom on anything from cooking turkeys to getting the stuffing just perfect.
- Any Christmas grinches out there? Not everyone loves christmas. In fact, some of us, are somewhat grouchy when it comes to festive season. Lets find out who…
- Worst christmas gifts you've ever received? The answer is usually socks from Grandmas, but..you never know…you might just be surprised.
Events such as Christmas, New Year, Thanksgiving, Easter and various other birthdays/celebrations gain emotional unity from your members. You can use this to start discussions which will bond your members. It sounds trivial, but these discussions play an important role in uniting your community.
Don’t call your community MyProduct.
Names are important. They’re symbols members rally behind. They should be something emotive, cool and representative.
Nothing screams dull corporate community as much as names like MyVolkswagen, MyiPhone, MyCannonPrinter.
It’s lazy. You’re missing an opportunity. You’re harming your community. Make sure you know how to name your online community.
It’s worth remembering this beneath the hustle and bustle of your community work. Members essential gain one of these four benefits from your community.
- Sense of belonging. Members get to feel they are somewhere where they belong. The real irony of communities is they don’t change members. They’re simply places where members can finally be themselves – more individualistic. They have security and the feeling of being included as a member of a group.
- Mutual support. They can receive support from others with the power to give such support. They help people handle major life problems or open up new opportunities such as jobs and provide resources that members otherwise wouldn’t have access to.
- Greater influence. Knowing they are participating in a group that has a bigger influence than they alone could have. High levels of self-efficacy and self-worth. Communities also allow members to have more influencer over other people.
- Exploration. They allow members to explore things with each other they previously wouldn’t have been able to. New ideas, resources, experiences are shared and discussed leading to crowd accelerated innovation.
Is your community providing one of these? Is it providing all four? What can you do to change that?
Thank you Forsyth.
Robert Putnam partly attributes the decline of community in America to the lack of memorable events experienced by today’s civic generation (not too old, nor too young).
The lack of depressions to conquer, major wars to fight and meaningful movements has given little to rally people together. Today’s generation hasn’t had that taste of civic unity and the feeling it provokes.
Your community should have big, epic, events. Aim for an annual meet-up with guest speakers and great sponsors. Aim to change things in your members’ favour. Fight against unjust laws and companies. Support people in your community being victimized.
It doesn’t matter whether you succeed or failed. It’s the community spirit of trying that will make a difference.
Plan your annual gathering now. Recruit volunteers to help you get sponsors and promote the event. It’s fun and the act of trying that people will never forget.
People spend more time interacting with their friends than strangers. This isn’t new information. If your community members are friends (real friends, not connections), they’re going to participate in the community a lot. In the best communities, members are close friends.
Friendships develop in a standard pattern. People meet, find an area of similarity (usually the reason for their meeting) and begin a series of conversations.
These conversations begin by discussing safe (common-interest) topics. Gradually, participants will reveal more about themselves. This is tit-for-tat. I reveal my opinion on politics, and so do you. This reciprocity builds trust. Gradually we’ll reveal details about our past, our hopes and fears, and many other intimate details.
Self-disclosure is why participation works. By revealing more about ourselves through our personal information, our emotions, our thoughts/feelings, our history etc and learning more about others we feel a strong sense of connection with them. The more we reveal the more we emotionally invest in the community.
Mirroring the development of friendships. You need to move members gradually from discussing safe topics to revealing more about themselves.
You begin by providing newcomers with simple profile answers to fill out. Keep these safe, fun and interesting. Allow comments on these and there should be a great reason for newcomers to make the second visit.
Then ensure there are always opportunities for people to reveal more of their opinions. There are plenty of questions you can ask to stimulate discussions that encourage this self-disclosure. Mix these up between opinions, experiences and emotions (hopes and fears).
Also draw attention to controversial issues that people have strong opinions about. Don’t shy away from conflicting opinions. Disagreements are good for encouraging self-disclosure.
You will need to stimulate this in the beginning, all founders do, but over time members will begin initiating most of these conversations themselves.
Over time this steady and ongoing process will build strong friendships between members of your community, which increases the community's lifespan, increases value and leads to high levels of participation.