Month: January 2011
There is a social ladder. Cool kids on the top, unpopular kids at the bottom. You and I are probably in the middle.
New people begin near the bottom of this social ladder. They’re nobodies (which is slightly better than being unpopular). These nobodies feel like outsiders. They’re effectively walking into a big room of people who know each other. It’s scary. It’s easier to lurk than risk participating.
You need to jump-start newcomers up your community’s social ladder. Give them a way to feel popular and wanted amongst the group. A good welcome helps. Mention them in a newspost with other members. Introduce them to other members with similar interests or who live nearby. Do the hard work of introducing themselves for them.
Also make them feel appreciated. Ask their opinion on topical issues in the community. Have a newcomer-only category in your forum. Consider having an 'Ask a veteran' category too.
The higher members climb the social ladder, the more they participate. But, if the social ladder feels too steep in the first place, most newcomers wont try to climb it. You need members to feel they can be popular in the community without having been a lifetime member. It’s not easy, you just need to provide the right jump-starts.
You’re welcome to wait for members to stumble upon your community. Sometimes you get lucky. Don’t be surprised if it doesn’t happen though.
If you’re recruiting newcomers, you should target specific people for specific reasons.
This means you’re targeting with specific needs, experience, skills, interests to do participate in a discussion, event or other activity in your community.
A maternity community, for example, might start a discussion about maternity clothes, or create an eBook about maternity clothes. It might target new mothers to give their advice (or offload their clothes). You can find mothers on Twitter, on forums or (if you’re sneaky) by inviting manufacturers to get their customers to participate in the discussion.
Not only do you have a good number of engaged recruits, you also have a good number of advocates for the community once the eBook goes live.
There are numerous variations on this. It doesn’t matter which you use as long as you target specific members for specific reasons (hint: you usually create the reason).
Nothing is more important and urgent about our health.
If our health isn’t good, nothing else matters.
That’s great for health communities. But what about the rest of us?
After health communities we have a descending scale of things that are important to us. This might be relationships, it might be money, it might be power. It's always primal.
This will differ for every person. But, I promise you, it will be something primal. It will be something we really want (or think we want). If your community doesn’t offer a big, core, primal benefit – it wont succeed.
Sven has set his community a lofty target, 2.5m posts by December 2011.
It’s a terrible community goal for the new year. So is gaining 100,000 new members or anything related to more members or more activity.
It’s a bad goal because it’s selfish. It might help you if you get 2.5m posts, or 100,000 new members, but it doesn’t mean much to members. To them, it makes a community they love really noisy. Why would they want that?
When you set community goals they should be things that your community will love. Perhaps produce your own radio show, hold your first annual event, interview 5 VIPs in your sector, be featured on television, create your own products, publish a book, campaign on an issue, raise $1m for refugees, become the top community in the sector.
These are goals members can rally around. These are goals you can create a plan of action for. These are goals members can meaningfully participate in. These are goals that will boost participation and get you both more members and more posts.
Don’t set goals that you love, set goals that your members will love.
Most communities don’t give their members enough opportunities to get more involved.
You can fix this.
Start a discussion thread calling for suggestions from members on resolutions or goals for the new year.
Should you try to release a product? Make a company change their ways? Organize an awareness campaign? Host an annual gathering?
Let members suggest which ideas they like. Create a poll and let members vote. Then create a separate forum category for members that would like to be involved in making it happen.
Failing that, just write a news post telling members what the community goals are for this year. Goals are good. Goals establish momentum. Momentum increases activity, encourages advocates and attracts newcomers.