Month: January 2011

What Tasks Should Online Community Managers Prioritize?

January 31, 2011Comments Off on What Tasks Should Online Community Managers Prioritize?

Recently I mentioned you need to plan your day in advance. You can only do this if you know how to prioritize your work. Which means, you need to know what your priorities are. What is the most important work in your community?I would prioritise your work as follows:

  1. Technical problems. If the community is down, all focus should be on getting it back up asap. This is the only fire-fighting I'd accept to delay anything else.
  2. Initiate your strategy for the week. What are your long term plans for the community? What's the next step you need to take for that to happen? What events are you working on? What amazing thing are you planning for your community? What content do you need to create, discussions initiate, messages send  or who do you need to call to develop your community beyond what it is today.
  3. Draft upcoming pieces of content. Complete your upcoming content for the next few days. This might be interviews with top members, advice/opinion columns or solicit opinions from members in a summary piece. Make sure your regular scheduled content is drafted.
  4. Contact top members. Contact your top members and find out what their views are and how they're progressing with whatever they are keen to do. See how you can help them. Ask questions about things you have in mind for the community, gain their feedback and act on it. Keep your bonds with top members strong. 
  5. Community development. What events or cool projects is your community working on? What entreprenurial things are you doing in your community to push the barrier? Reach out to potential partners, try to interview a VIP, plan a future website upgrade. Do whatever is going to have a huge impact in the near future.
  6. Invite members to join the community. Reach out to 2 –  3 people you would love to join the community and invite them to join. Take time to craft your approach, personalize it
  7. Participate. Now you're ready to participate. Respond to questions. Ensure everyone is getting a response. Give your opinion on issues. Initiate discussions which you think will generate further activity and engagement.
  8. Resolve disputes. This is far down the list, as it should be. Don't let resolving disputes dominate your work. Your work is to develop your community, not merely maintain it. Always push the barrier of what you community can be. Leave petty disputes until last.
  9. Collect and analyze data. This isn't so much on a day to day basis. However, you should be spending time collecting metrics you're measuring from the community and analyzing them to develop your future strategy. 

There is far more work on the day to day managing of communities than here. Those with corporate clients have to spend time updating them with relevant facts (tip: do it after you resolve disputes). However, this should provide a good idea of where to start in your day to day work. 

2 Community Rules Of Thumb

January 29, 2011Comments Off on 2 Community Rules Of Thumb

If your employees wont participate in the community your creating, it’s usually a safe bet that your customers wont neither.

If you can't get your potential members to respond to your e-mails, they probably wont participate in your community neither.

 

Who Do you Want To Promote Your Community?

January 28, 2011Comments Off on Who Do you Want To Promote Your Community?

A tweet from a top celebrity isn’t going to create a sudden surge in people joining your community.

However, a single e-mail from a respected figure to his established list can have a huge, sudden, impact.

Yes, some new influencers have both. But, given the choice, I’d look for people that have a big mailing list to promote a community rather than a big following on a social media platform.

Join A New Online Community

January 27, 2011Comments Off on Join A New Online Community

Would you like to join a new online community?

I’m not so sure.

Of the many reasons to join a community, new isn’t a strong motivator. A new community hasn’t reached its peak it. A new community hasn’t got the best people to join yet.

If new is the adjective you’re using to entice new members, you’re going to find it difficult to attract members.

So what appeals should you consider?

Help found a community. This appeals to the people that have a high need for efficacy.

Be the first to join a community. This appeals to people that like status. It’s a careful difference from simply join a new community, it implies a level of status as a first member.

Apply to be a community {position}. Create persons that members can fill, let people apply to fill those positions.

Tell us about your {….something…}. Start a conversation that people can participate in. Make sure it’s something people have a strong opinion on, or isn’t usually discussed.

You're going to need a strong appeal to get people to join a new community. Make sure you have one.

Positioning: The Vital Element Of A New Community

January 26, 2011Comments Off on Positioning: The Vital Element Of A New Community

Don’t compete head on with an established community.

You need a different angle. If there is already an established community in your sector you needs yours to be different. It might be more exclusive (Facebook -vs- MySpace), it might be less exclusive. It might be more focused on a particular area, or have a broader reach. It might overlap with another field. 

There are many communities for doctors out there. But what about doctors based in a specific country or with a particular speciality? What about retired doctors? What about trainee doctors? What about doctors using new technology? What about expat doctors? What about doctors in high level positions.

You need a focus or an angle that the existing community doesn’t have.

Positioning – your new community effort will fail without it. Pick your position wisely.

In The Same Room

January 25, 2011Comments Off on In The Same Room

If you have the resources to get your members in the same room, you should absolutely do it.

It will jump start your community efforts. It will build strong bonds between members. It will dramatically increase activity in your community and present great content opportunities..

It's far easier to develop online communities around offline connections, than cultivate offline friendships for online connections. Facebook thrives on this. 

It’s also a lot easier to ask someone to join a community face to face, than via the internet (it’s better to ask them via the phone). A real-time interaction gives the online interactions more validity. The internet element of the community isn’t treated in isolated governed by quasi internet-rules.

If you can get your audience in the same room, you will be doing far better than most communtiies. 

How To Convert Mailing Lists Into Active Community Members

January 24, 2011Comments Off on How To Convert Mailing Lists Into Active Community Members

You might be lucky have a big mailing list at your disposal to get your community started. It's tempting to announce the launch of your community to this entire list. This is a mistake.

Nobody cares. Nobody is looking to join a community. Worse, you will waste your first impression. Those potential members are gone for good.

Use these steps to improve the conversion rate of mailing list recipients to active community members. 

  1. Seed the community. Before you promote the community to this list, you need to have a community already there. You need to seed your community. You need to have people who already consider themselves members and have something to show your mailing list.
  2. Give potential members something to do. Here is an important lesson. Never promote a community, promote something members can do in the community. Initiatve something in the community that members can be involved with. This might be a discussion or an event.
  3. Segment your list. You're not going to message everyone in one e-mail. Divide your list into relevant groups. Decide who you want (and why) and what you want members in your community to do. There are several ways to can segment your group. You want those you know best, most passionate and closest to you to be invited first. Your first few groups should be 10 to 25 members. 
  4. Craft your approach. Your approach must be short and specific. Explain why you're approaching them and what you would like them to do. Don't feel compelled to explain everything. If they have questions they will e-mail you. This is the start of a conversation. Conversations are great.
  5. Test different approaches. This is key. Measure the success of each approach and adapt each time. You can give people different things to do. You can make the e-mail shorter or longer. You can try different subject lines.
  6. Follow up, once. After a few days is passed, send a follow up e-mail updating members how the activity you asked them to participate in is going, include an update about what people you approached contributed. 
  7. Plan the first 3 weeks. For those that participated (and you need to sign up to participate), plan the first three weeks. Build personal contacts with them. Schedule the next 3 discussions, events or contributions they can make. It generally takes 3 weeks for something to become a habit. Make sure you perfect your welcome for these 3 weeks.

The key here is to give potential members something they can do (something that they want to do) and to test different approaches. Start with a small segment of the mailing list and slowly approach larger and larger segments.

Twitter & Facebook

January 23, 2011Comments Off on Twitter & Facebook

You're probably not maximizing the effectiveness of Facebook/Twitter to promote your community.

Most people use social media channels to promote the latest content in the community. This is fine. But you can go further.

You can use social media platforms to discuss what’s happening in the community.

e.g. Scott just replied with a good point about using Widgets for Wotsits http://dfth.bit.ly

There are three benefits here. First, this sort of tweets is more likely to get clicked through. People are most motivated by what other peopel are doing. Second, by mentioning peopel by name you show recognition which is likely to cause others to participate more to ensure their name gets mentioned. Finally, it provides you with an ongoing stream of content to use to develop the community.

Learning From Craig

January 22, 2011Comments Off on Learning From Craig

I wonder how many people would want to be a community manager if they knew that this wasn’t far off.

He was going through emails in his inbox, then responding to questions in the craigslist forums, and hopping onto his cellphone about once every ten minutes.

Calls were quick and to the point “Hi, this is Craig Newmark from craigslist.org. We are having problems with a customer of your ISP and would like to discuss how we can remedy their bad behavior in our real estate forums”.

He was literally chasing down forum spammers one by one, sometimes taking five minutes per problem, sometimes it seemed to take half an hour to get spammers dealt with.

He was totally engrossed in his work, looking up IP addresses, answering questions best he could, and doing the kind of thankless work I’d never seen anyone else do with so much enthusiasm

p.s. How often have you tried to stop spammers by contacting their ISP?

Spreading Yourself Thick

January 20, 2011Comments Off on Spreading Yourself Thick

Ben asks what to do if you’re unable to respond to every query from member, moderate all the forums and create enough content. What happens if you can’t hire another community manager, nor recruit volunteers to help out?

The solution is to avoid the temptation to try to do everything. Don’t spread yourself thin. That benefits nobody. Spread yourself thick.

Focus on the members, the conversations, the areas of the community that matter.

Respond to queries from members that are going to have the biggest impact on your community. Spend your time creating content on the topics that matter in the community. Moderate the comments in the forum categories that are most important.

Leave the rest until you have time. Heavy attention on the few is better than a little attention on the many.

A Basic Online Community Wireframe

January 19, 2011Comments Off on A Basic Online Community Wireframe

The design of most online community sites is terrible.

Aesthetics is put before function. It's not clear to visitor's what's new in the community. You're not sure what's popular at any given moment. The best communities show this information, and they show it well. 

I recommend a simple community design. A basic wireframe might look similar to the design below:

wireframe

There are other variations here. The key point is every visitor can see, in a heartbeat, what's new and popular in your community.

 

14 Events You Can Organize And Celebrate In Your Community

January 18, 2011Comments Off on 14 Events You Can Organize And Celebrate In Your Community

Shared experiences are vital for community development. They solidify bonds, stimulate activity and provide easy sources of content.

  1. VIP speaker/live-chat. You have a guest-chat coming up with a VIP. Call for questions beforehand. Let members curate a list of 10 questions to ask.
  2. Birthdays of important members. Ask for donations, buy something nice and relevant.
  3. Hall of fame induction. Have your members done something great recently? Induct them into your community’s hall of fame.
  4. Meet-up week. This is the week where members of your community try to meet people local to them. Mashable do this really well.
  5. The annual gathering. It’s that time of the year again isn’t it? Plan your big meet-up of the year. People should be flying to visit.
  6. Newcomer orientation. The online community version of fresher’s week. You’ve got a bunch of newcomers you need to educate, entertain and induce into your community.  Good when you’ve had a sudden rush of traffic.
  7. Milestone reached. Never forget to celebrate your milestones. What are you working on now? What has your community achieved recently?
  8. Elections. There are vacant posts available in your community. It’s election day. People vote for which members they want to fill them.
  9. Achievement. Which members have recently achieved something of note? Who’s got a promotion? Started a business? Had a baby? Got married? Wish them well.
  10. VIP birthday. Which famous people does your community admire? Celebrate their birthdays too. Find an activity that ties in to what that celebrity did for your niche and replicate it in some fashion.
  11. JohnnyFab’s day. Name a day after a member who has done something fantastic in your community. 
  12. Charity day. Every community should have a charity drive. Pick a cause that resonates strongly with your audience and do something cool to raise money for the charity.
  13. Book/Film/Product launches. What are the major events happening in your sector? What are the new products, services being launched in the near future? How is your community celebrating them?
  14. Community birthdays. Do you know when your community was founded? I hope you should. Host a special event.

What events does your community organize or celebrate?

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