Month: January 2011

Planning Every Day

January 17, 2011Comments Off on Planning Every Day

It’s important to have a plan. I prefer to plan for every single day.

This morning the plan might include approaching 10 people to join the community, writing a news piece and interviewing a member. This afternoon it might be to spend 2 hours responding to posts and sending messages to key members about some ideas we have for the community next month.

If there is time I might reach out to an industry magazine and pitch them a piece.

The benefit of planning every day is you’re not reacting to what happens, you’re helping decide what happens. It keeps you busy. It forces you to always be developing your community, not maintaining it.

Decide your community goals and create a plan to achieve them.

3 Years Later

January 16, 2011Comments Off on 3 Years Later

Do you realize that your community will take years to develop?

I know you do. Everyone does, but they still try to rush the process.

Here is a different exercise. Consider where you were 3 years ago. A lot has changed since then. Key people in your business have moved on. The financial climate has shifted dramatically. Technology has evolved. Did you even work at the company 3 years ago?

Now, consider just how different the corporate environment might be when your community has fully matured. Around 50% of your employees probably wont be there anymore. You might not be there anymore. Your goals have changed.

Key question: When you are finally ready to reap the rewards of your community, will your organization still want them?

Communities take years to develop. That’s several lifetimes when your business is living quarter to quarter.  Make sure you know the time-frame for developing a community and your company’s own long-term plans before you develop a community.

The Dead Link

January 15, 2011Comments Off on The Dead Link

Don’t think of the community manager as the link between the community and the company.

It encourages the company to keep the community at a distance, it encourages the community manager to take two sides and encourages the community to focus on one individual from the organization.

The community manager shouldn’t be the link separating the two. The community manager should be the force that is continually merging the two. The community manager is the person who will get more of the organization participating in the community. The community manager will connect members of the community directly with employees.

If your role is to separate the two, keep the community at arm’s length from the organization and provide positive reports every few weeks, you’re going to be disappointed.

Important Lessons From A Failed Community

January 14, 2011Comments Off on Important Lessons From A Failed Community

There is a lot wrong with iParents’ story.

In 2009, iParents was a community of 70,000 parents and growing. Venture capitalists promised to invest $3m if they reached 100,000. iParents recruited a few employees, aggressively added new features and spent $18,000 on a marketing agency to run a $100 photo contest.

The contest failed, members stopped visiting, investors balked and the company collapsed.

What did they do wrong?

  • Too focused on content. Content is overrated. There is too much advice out there in every sector. Borrow existing content, don’t spend your time creating your own.
  • Too focused on growth. Rapid growth is bad. You need slow, steady, growth and to nurture relationships at a brisk pace.
  • Too many features. Features are overrated. You need to concentrate activity.
  • They hired a marketing agency. You should never hire a marketing agency to help your community. Competitions are a terrible incentives.
  • Seeing Facebook as a competitor. It’s not, it’s your best friend. It’s a place to recruit members to your community and remind them the community exists.
  • Pressure to earn money. Communities take years to properly develop. Don’t spend money that you need back in the near future.

Too many communities suffer the same fate as iParents. They repeat the same mistakes and fail to learn. This needs to change.

The Problem With Incentives

January 13, 2011Comments Off on The Problem With Incentives

Incentives are usually a bad idea.

Many communities offer members incentives to join. Sometimes those incentives work and lots of people join. But it’s a terrible idea. It’s very difficult to convert incentivised members into regular members.

This is because incentives are rewards for actions. This means instead of a member doing something because they enjoy it or because it fits with their self concept (“I’m the sort of person that would join a community like this”) they attribute the action to the reward (“I joined the community to get the reward”). In future, no reward = no action.

The former will continue to participate because believe they are the sort person who joins these communities. The latter will wait for more rewards. If, like most people, you don’t have an unlimited number of rewards, you’re going to find it difficult to motivate members to take action.

The challenge then becomes not in persuading members to join the community for an external reward but to persuade potential members that they are the sort of people that would join a community like yours. It's harder to achieve, but more much effective.

Integrating Your Community Into Your Business

January 12, 2011Comments Off on Integrating Your Community Into Your Business

You don’t bolt a community on to your business. You integrate the community into your business. This means changes. You need to change your company, your products, your promotion, your pricing and perhaps even your distribution. Jerome McCarthy would be thrilled. 


You company has to change. You're building a community with your members, not for them. This means collaboration. It means your employees working with the people you want to reach. You need staff willing to interact with members of the community, respond to questions, discuss ideas, befriend members etc. You need to be able to react to what the community says within the organization. They should feel like they’re on your team.


Your product or service will need to change too. Feedback from the community should be intregrated into what you sell. You might include a free invite to the community in the packaging of the product. You might make a souvenir version just for community members. You might give community members a discount.

Or better, automate it. When members purchase the product or use the service they instantly have a community member's account. 


A community should be integrated in your promotion too. Give members exclusive information first. Ask members for their idea to help market the products. Try using your advertising and marketing resources to promote the community for a change.

Change the website too. Make the community elements of the website the central elements. People will visit your website more frequently. Ensure activity from the community is in a prime location on your site. Put the static information to the background, bring the community to the foreground. This is a place where members can chat about the products, as well as buy. 


You should consider charging a premium for members that want to join the community too, or offering discounts to community members. Give bonuses or free products to members that are the best community members. Consider offering a premium option that includes community membership and entrance to relevant events. 

There are many, many, ways to integrate a community into your business. You should consider all of them. The better integrated your community is within everything you do, the more successful it will be.

If you’re not prepared for integrate your community into the very core of your business, then why are you bothering to create one? Better, why would your member bother participating in a community which isn't integrated?

How To Build An Online Community – The Ultimate List of Resources (Updated)

January 11, 2011 Comments Off on How To Build An Online Community – The Ultimate List of Resources (Updated)

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

The Online Community Basics

  1. A Primer About Successful Online Communities
  2. The 11 Fundamental Laws of Online Communities
  3. Building An Online Community: How You Start With 0 Members
  4. How Do You Build An Online Community?
  5. 7 Contrary Truths About Online Communities
  6. Don’t Start A Community For Any Of These Reasons
  7. Basics Community Building Principles
  8. What Is An Online Community?
  9. Different Types Of Communities
  10. The 4 Fundamental Things A Community Provides Its Members

Strategy & Planning

  1. How To Write A Practical Online Community Plan
  2. Setting Objectives For Your Online Community
  3. Settings Targets For Your Online Community
  4. How Big Should Your Community Be?
  5. Which Communities Tend To Succeed?
  6. Why Will People Participate In Your Online Community?
  7. Getting The Appeal Right
  8. A Simple Formula For A Successful Online Community
  9. They Already Do It (Or Want To)
  10. Base Your Online Community Around Real People
  11. Don’t Target The Wrong People
  12. How To Make An Accurate Membership Projection
  13. Naming Your Online Community
  14. 12 Ways To Doom Your Community Before You Launch
  15. A 3-month Pre-Launch Strategy

Building An Online Community Website

  1. Test Before You Invest
  2. How To Design Your Online Community
  3. 20 Things That Should Be Included In Every Online Community Website
  4. The Perfect Landing Page
  5. 8 Overlooked Elements Every Online Community Should Have
  6. Developing Forum Communities
  7. Easy Ways To Add Value To Your Online Community
  8. A Simple Reputation System
  9. Stopping Human Spammers
  10. 7 Things A Community Can Live Without

Launching An Online Community

  1. 5 Things Every New Online Community Should Focus On
  2. 20 Ways To Start An Online Community
  3. Never Wait For The Website To Be Ready
  4. Seeding Your Online Community
  5. Who Are You Trying To Reach?
  6. Who Do You Need At The Beginning?
  7. How To Find Your Community’s First Members
  8. The Founder Role In Starting A New Community
  9. Create An Easy Reason To Take A Small Step
  10. How Small Businesses can Launch Successful Online Communities
  11. Simple Steps To Creating An Online Community

Converting Newcomers Into Regulars

  1. The Ultimate Welcome For Your Online Community’s Newcomers
  2. How To Keep Newcomers Hooked For 21 days
  3. Awesome Questions To Ask New Members Of Your Online Community
  4. Which Visitors Are Most Likely To Become Regulars?
  5. Create A Welcome Pack

Growing Your Online Community

  1. Why People Aren’t Joining Your Online Community
  2. Create A Criteria
  3. How To Get More People To Join Your Online Community
  4. Basic Tactics To Grow Your Online Community Without Any Promotion
  5. Target Clusters Of People At A Time
  6. 3 Perfectly Acceptable Ways To Invite Someone To Join Your Online Community
  7. Growing From A Social Media Following To Small Groups
  8. How To Persuade Your Employees To Join Your Online Community
  9. How To Get The Best People To Join Your Online Community
  10. The Right And Wrong Way To Grow A Forum
  11. The Problem With Asking Members To Invite Friends
  12. A Free Invite With Every Purchase

Increasing Participation

  1. Why People Join And Participate In Online Communities
  2. A Brief Guide To Reaching Unbelievably High Levels Of Participation In Your Online Community
  3. Increasing Activity And Participation In A Community
  4. Creating A Sense Of Community
  5. The Basics Of Increasing Interactions In Any Online Community
  6. Why Members Participate: Fame, Money, Sex, Power
  7. 4 Types Of Contributions You Want Your Members To Make
  8. The Only Way To Keep Everyone Active
  9. 20 Questions which Will Stimulate Activity In Your Online Community
  10. 7 Kinds Of Conversations That Always Stimulate Activity
  11. Concentrate Activity
  12. Simple Tactics To Encourage Your Members To Talk More
  13. 9 Ideas To Revive Your Stale Online Community
  14. When You Have Lots Of Members But No Activity
  15. Epic Events
  16. Why People Stay In Your Online Community
  17. Create A Guide To Be A Top Member
  18. Trade Control For Participation
  19. What You Can Do To Make Your Community More Fun
  20. 8 Ways To Encourage Individual Contributions In Your Community

Managing an Online Community

  1. Building An Online Community Team: The 5 Roles You Must Fill
  2. Moderation Strategy
  3. Attaining Power And Influence
  4. Hierarchy Of Communicating With Your Members
  5. Uniting Your Online Community: Creating Strong Ties
  6. The Art Of Forging Strong Friendships
  7. How Many People Can You Really Look After?
  8. Creating Momentum
  9. 10 Excellent Rewards You Can Offer Members
  10. Creating Titles For Members
  11. The Unlimited Supply Of Important Work You Need To Do
  12. How To Handle Troublemakers
  13. Finding Inspiration In Other Communities
  14. Reorganizing Your Forum
  15. Gossip Is Good
  16. Resolving Problems
  17. Why Fights Are So Important
  18. Never Reward Your Volunteers
  19. Community Guidelines
  20. The 24-Hour Response Rule


  1. The Secret To Awesome Content
  2. The Problem With Great Content
  3. Writing Content That Bonds Your Online Community
  4. 20 Fantastic Content Ideas For Your Online Community
  5. The Power Of Exclusives
  6. Interviewing Members
  7. Every Online Community Needs A Local Newspaper


  1. Measuring The ROI Of Online Communities
  2. Community Health Index
  3. What Matters (and what doesn’t)
  4. This Wasn’t Part Of The Plan
  5. How To Check Your Community builder Is Doing As Promised
  6. A Faith Challenge
  7. Measuring DIY
  8. Proving Benefits Of Building A Community
  9. Me And You, Them And Us
  10. How To Spot Your Community Is In Trouble: 8 Red Flags


  1. The Definitive Guide To Monetizing Your Community
  2. Becoming A Community Intrapreneur
  3. 40 Ways To Make Money From Your Online Community
  4. The Pros And Cons Of Charging For Membership
  5. Community Souvenirs
  6. How To Give Sponsors Access To Your Online Community

Branded Online Communities

  1. Never Let Your Company Start An Online Community
  2. Why Most Online Communities Shouldn’t Try To Create A Community
  3. Why Branded Communities Fail
  4. 6 Huge Advantages Big Organizations Have Over Amateur Community Builders
  5. A Requirement For Branded Online Communities
  6. Decide Between These 2 Types Of Communities
  7. How Do Online Communities Make Your Business Money?
  8. Why Amateurs Build Better Online Communities Than Businesses
  9. Failed Corporate Communities
  10. Your Dream Online Community

Non-profits and Online Communities

  1. Fundraising From Online Communities
  2. What Non-Profits Need To Change


  1. 15 Examples Of Successful Online Communities
  2. 15 Ideas You Can Steal From The UK’s Best Community
  3. You Can Learn A Lot From This Wildly Successful Community
  4. The Best Online Community You Can Begin Today
  5. Perhaps The Best Online Community I’ve Seen
  6. 10 Examples Of Great Online Communities
  7. Never Hire A Marketing Agency To Build Your Online Community
  8. A Great Example Of An Online Community
  9. A Great Examples Of Game Mechanics In Online Communities
  10. The Usual Errors From The Big Brands


  1. A Simple Example Of A Great Online Community
  2. 8 Brilliant Posts About Online Communities
  3. Essential Reading For Online Community Managers
  4. Forrester Wave Report


  1. How To Improve Any Online Community Without Spending A Penny
  2. Great Findings From Social Sciences Applied To Online Communities
  3. Creating A Community From Your Social Media Efforts
  4. The 7 Most Likely Ways Your Online Community Will End
  5. Struggling To Build An Online Community? Try This Easier Approach
  6. The Easiest Solutions To Your Community’s Biggest Problems
  7. 10 Steps To Building An Online Community In Your Spare Time
  8. 8 Ways To Merge Your Online Community With The Real World
  9. How To Revive Your Local Community
  10. How To Create Exclusive Online Communities
  11. 6 Social Psychology Hacks For Online Community Managers
  12. 5 Features Of Really Strong Online Communities You Can Embrace
  13. Searching For Online Communities
  14. The One Book Every Community Manager Should Read
  15. Community Awards 2010
  16. Beyond Your Website


  1. Alison Michalk
  2. Angela Connor
  3. Blaise Grimes-Viort
  4. Kirsten Wagenaar
  5. Community Roundtable
  6. Connie Benson
  7. Dawn Foster
  8. eModeration
  9. Holly Seddon
  10. Jake Mckee
  11. Jeremiah Owyang
  12. Jono Bacon
  13. Martin Reed
  14. Matt Rhodes
  15. Patrick O’Keefe
  16. Phil Wride
  17. Rachael Happe
  18. Sue on the web
  19. UX Booth

Are there areas of your community work missing from the above? Let me know and I’ll be sure to blog about it shortly.

How Brands Should Engage With Online Communities

January 10, 2011Comments Off on How Brands Should Engage With Online Communities

Many brands would do better to engage with existing communities than create their own. Even those that create their own should have very clear rules for engaging the community.

As a good rule of thumb, always add, never subtract from the community.

An addition is where you do increase the value of the community. It might be greater knowledge, exclusive information. It's something you can do infinitely without a downside. A subtraction is where you subtract attentino from the community. It might be trying to gain traffic to your own site, spamming members with a product offering etc.

Here are some other key rules:

  • Respond to discussions about the brand. Most communities have a search feature. Use this to figure out what people are saying about the brand and respond appropriately. If you can’t respond to a complaint directly, ask the member how they would like it to be resolved.
  • Participate in debates not connected to your products/services. This is easy, safe, territory and establishes your credibility as a serious participant in the community.
  • Make friends. Be genuine members of the community. Make friends with others. Engage in the off-topic areas of the community. Congratulate people on their achievements. Suggest things in the community. Be a person first, a company representative second.
  • Ask for opinions on products/services. Be careful with this. But, occasionally, ask people for their opinions on a specific aspect of a product or a service. Giving members options or choices works better than generic What do you think of our new {widget}.
  • Ask for help. If you need people to help your company with something, ask for help.
  • Offer something exclusive to the community. If your company has the means to offer some exclusive products or run a competition, contact the community admin and see if they are ok with you doing it.
  • Give exclusive information. Give members of a community some exclusive information about your brand or product. This doesn’t have to be big, but just things that will solicit interest and start some rumours about your work.
  • Contact the community owner/admin. When possible, contact the owner/admin of the community. Ask if you can do anything to help or if there are any special brand guidelines to be aware of.
  • Disclosure. Use the signature to reveal that you are an employee of the company you work for. Where relevant, include it in the text of your messages e.g. “I agree, at Widgetco we tried both of these options….”

What not to do

Most of these wont be a surprise.

  • Have a company account. Accounts should always be registered under individual names, not company names. If you must, mix the two. EA_Phil being an example, but never use a WidgetCo as the name of your account.
  • Promote. Any direct promotion is likely to have an adverse effect on your efforts.
  • Subtly promote. An entire category of pretending to participate but doing so in such a way as to promote your brand.
  • Criticize. The rules are stricter for company representatives here than they are for the average member. I’d say never criticize anyone, for anything, at anytime. Especially don’t attack a competitor.
  • Engage in religious/political debate. It’s just not worth it no matter how right you are.

Speaking At The CSN Conference

January 9, 2011Comments Off on Speaking At The CSN Conference

Good news for those of you want that want to see me live. I’ll be the second keynote speaker at the CSN Conference in Amsterdam on February 10.

I’ll be speaking to marketing, advertising and HR professions about which organizations should develop communities and how they can develop a community for their business. Here’s the brief:

Successful online communities offer businesses many benefits. Communities last for a long time, they increase loyalty, encourage more business from existing customers, provide excellent recruiting opportunities and can generate invaluable feedback on your products, marketing and customer thinking..

The problem is few organizations know how to successfully create one. The internet is littered with the expensive graveyards of decaying communities. The biggest brands are usually the biggest failures. the size of the brand, nor the size of the budget, is the decisive factor to developing a community that lasts.

In this talk Richard Millington will outline why most businesses shouldn't try to develop a community, why many communities fail, what communities can offer a business and, most importantly, how to create a successful community for your organization.

I’ve never given this speech before, so it’s an exclusive just for attendees. I hope to see you there.


January 8, 2011Comments Off on Patronizing

I worry that patronizing members is about to become a big problem.

Your members don’t want any recognition. They don’t want any  appreciation. They want genuine, meaningful and sincere interactions. Instead of worrying about how to scale something like a meaningful interaction, we should worry about patronizing our members when we do.

No practical steps in this post, sorry.

Just be careful. It’s easy to show members lots of recognition and appreciation. It's just as easy to patronize them by doing so. 

Worth Cheering For

January 7, 2011Comments Off on Worth Cheering For

Sports teams have the fiercest and most loyal communities of any sector.

Sports teams give people a reason to cheer. They compete and fight for something every week. They inspire a sense of loyalty.

Couldn’t you do the same? What does your community care about? What do you agree with? What are you opposed to? What does your community stand for? 

When you have the answers for these you can act like a spors team. You can campaign for the things you care about. You can win and lose. You can bring your community closer together, drive higher participation, attract more members which believe the same.

Persuading Members To Update Their Profiles

January 6, 2011Comments Off on Persuading Members To Update Their Profiles

If you want members to update their profile picture, don’t tell them to do it. Not many people will listen to you. Just set the default picture to something extremely ugly and/or funny (I prefer a picture of a smiling pig).

If your want members to update their hometown, age or almost anything else in their profile, you just need to set a default that members wont like.

Likewise, if you want members to fill out a bio, create a ridiculous, but funny, story as the default for any new profile created.

I’ve tried ordering members to update their profiles, I’ve tried asking them nicely and I’ve tried offering rewards to members that update their bios. The single most effective approach has been to set funny defaults.

Just make sure you keep the defaults light-hearted. You don’t want to offend newcomers).

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