Month: March 2011
If you've been reading FeverBee for a while, I'm hoping you can help me.
Iwant to know more about the people that read my blog.
I want to know who you are, what sort of communities you're building and what has and hasn't worked for your so far. I think we need to get better at sharing this information.
If you have a spare 2 minutes, please take this super-quick survey:
You can fill out as many questions as you like.
Traditional community efforts fight against the wind.
You don't bring people together to build a community.
You do something interesting and fun that brings them together. Whilst doing that thing they talk to each other and begin to develop a sense of community.
Traditional community builders would do better to have an open-bar at a local bar once a month than endlessly knocking on doors inviting people to community-discussion meetings.
Ed called yesterday's post on community symbol systems mindless wiffle.
Writing about communities can be easy. You can tell people you need to have a thick skin, be a good host at a party and that it's hard work. Nothing too complicated there. But this, to us, should be mindless wiffle.
Communities are human-systems, not technology systems. People interact with each other. There is several hundred years of proven, peer-reviewed, research on how and why people interact. We touch upon it too lightly. We need to dive deep.
We need to know the most important concepts. Symbols are amongst the most vital concepts to successful communities. Have you ever felt a part of any group that didn't share symbols that had exclusive meaning to that group? I doubt it. Friendship groups have songs, events, people, places, traditions. Communities have locations, interests, words, signs.
Reinforcing symbols strengthens a community. By knowing this we can strengthen our community. That is a win for everyone.
We can keep skimming lightly across community management with good host platitudes. We need to dive deep. We can pull out and apply the best community management practices. We can make our communities far more successful than we could have imagined. We can create communities that last for decades!
If you want to be a good host, then feel free. If you want to become an expert in forging communities that fundamentally change and improve the lives both of its members and its founders, then keep reading – there's plenty more mindless wiffle to come.
Communities share the same common symbols.
Symbols can include objects, ideas, words, phrases, people, signs, culture, language. Anything that has representative meaning exclusively to members of your community is a symbol of the community.
It’s almost impossible to deliberately create symbols. Don't try.
You do, however, need to know your symbols. Start a list; what has special meaning to insiders that wont have the same (or usually any) meaning to outsiders.
Then rank them by their prominence within the community.
Now reinforce your symbols frequently within the community.
Reference your symbols frequently in your content. You do need to help newcomers identify symbols and their importance. You do need to include symbols in the design of your community, the discussions you create, the promotion of your community, the events you hold.
Consider your symbols the branding of your community. They’re fantastic assets. You need to use them, wisely.
On a call with a potential client last week:
"We gained 10,000 members in the first month"
That's not a good thing.
10,000 members in the first month is bad. It might be good for a marketing effort or social media campaign, but it's bad for a community.
10,000 members in one month is too many. Most wont ever make a contribution. You can't build relationships and a community culture with that many people joining at one time. You can't convert that many into active members. 10,000 members will prevent you from developing a community culture.
And, don't forget, you only have one opportunity to make a good first impression. You've lost most of that 10,000 members forever.
There are many mindset shifts we need to make when we approach communities, perhaps the most important is to actively resist short-term growth spurts in favour of a long-term growth strategy.
Do you remember Quit Facebook Day last year?
The media reported on a few thousand people who had promised to quit Facebook. Not many of them followed through.
When was Quit MySpace Day? Quit DIGG day? Quit Quora day?
What about the communities in your sector? Have there been any big quit days? Has there been a big protest and bluster about leaving the platform to go elsewhere? Probably not.
The people that will really quit wont tell you first. They will just quit. No warning, no explanation. They wont delete their accounts, they just wont come back.
Two thoughts here. First, don't panic about satisfying your most vocal critics. I promise they will still be there tomorrow. Second, actively seek out members that haven't logged on in a few weeks and ask how they're doing.
There is amazing potential in your inactive members.
Phil makes some good points about future-proofing his community (make sure you're subscribed to his blog).
The problem is future-proofing a community is different from future-proofing a community platform.
There is one way to future-proof your community, disentangle the community from the website. The platform shouldn't house the community, it should be the place where the community often to chat. The platform is to an online community what a village hall is to your local community. It's important, but the community should be able to survive without it.
Create bonds that aren't platform reliant. Facilitate connections between members on Facebook, Twitter and e-mail. Foster a swirling mass of connections between members online and offline of which the platofrm is one element amongst many.
It's difficult to control, but community management isn't about control, it's about facilitation and support.