Month: October 2011
Today is the final day you can sign up for The Pillar Summit's Professional Community Management course.
Are you happy with your community efforts? Are you getting the value you wanted?
For many of you, I suspect the answer will be 'no'.
So what are you going to do about it?
If you're a community manager, you should consider taking this course if:
- You want to know how to grow, manage and scale your online community.
- You want to significantly boost levels of participation in your community.
- You want to make sure you pick the best platform and have optimized every area of the platform.
- You want to tackle any problems your community faces, such as low levels of participation or unclear ROI.
- You want proven scripts, content templates, strategy outlines and our playbook to persuade members to join, participate and stay highly engaged.
- You want one-on-one coaching to improve your community efforts.
- You want to make sure you avoid the mistakes that cripple most branded communities.
- You want to go to work in six-weeks and explain the community strategy and the resources you need from them.
- You want to know how to measure your community and assess exactly how much it's worth?
If you're an employer, you should consider putting your community manager on this course if:
- You want the person responsible for your biggest fans, donors or customers to be a highly trained professional.
- You want the community to generate a real, measurable, return on your investment.
- You want a community manager that will proactively develop the community, and increase it's value, as opposed to maintaining things the way they are.
- You want a data-driven, highly-informed, professional who can develop and execute a realistic community strategy.
- You want a confident community manager that can tell you what they need and when they need it.
- You want a community manager that can train others in growing and managing online communities.
- You want to be sure you're following the best practices in your community efforts.
- You want to work from a proven template to develop further communities for your organization/clients.
- You want to be sure your community managers is equipped with proven principles to grow, develop and manage your community.
The fee for the complete 18-week course is £5000 gbp. This covers the full three modules and all associated resources.
You may alternatively select a single 6-week module at £2300 gbp which suits your current needs and experience.
We provide an incredible amount of value for this course.
This is the first professional community management course in the world. In addition to the course lessons which combine proven principles of social science, with technology expertise and practice strategies, we provide a community platform, proven scripts, guest speakers, one-to-one coaching, our playbook, set assignments to ensure learning and give you our rather precious Pillar Summit bible.
Finally, we offer a full money-back guarantee. If you're not happy you can request a full refund within the first five weeks.
Your next step
If you want to take this course, you must reserve your place by October 31st. You can e-mail us to reserve your place.
Payment must be made shortly after the course begins. We offer both 3 and 6-month payment plans for those who find a single lump-sum difficult.
You find find more information about the course at: www.pillarsummit.com.
If you still have doubts, here is what previous participants of the course have stated:
What other people have said about the Pillar Summit?
The Pillar Summit has been a truly valuable experience to me. The course outperformed my expectations and has sent me away fired-up with inspiration and concrete plans. I believe this will make a real difference to the value of my community." - Vanessa van Donselaar, Greenpeace
Richard's Professional Community Management course was an opportunity to go beyond daily blogs. He provided extended analysis that I could read in my own time; invaluable twice-weekly tutorials which alone were worth the course fee; and, of course, access to an online community of other community managers. I gained insight into the mechanics of community technology and the dynamics of bringing people together online, and, most importantly, how to apply this theory to the communities I run.” - Jacob Kester, Teach For All
I found that this extremely well researched course not only provided a clear understanding of the theory, but pushed to tactical application in a way that makes the material tangible to the end user. The assignments should not be viewed by community managers as additional work, but instead as a guide for executing well on their job. A community whose manager executes as spelled out in this course will certainly be well on their way to achieving world class status.” Cecilia Edwards, Senior Vice President, Telligent
Pillar Summit exceeded my already high expectations. It gave me deeper and broader understanding on how to build and run a real “2.0 level” on-line community. Now I have a clear action plan for my start-up community. Richard was a real Pro coaching and guiding the active and interesting group with very different backgrounds. The modern way of learning gave opportunity to participate in active and deep dialogue and problem solving within the group. Real life experience & best practice sharing and common problem solving worked fine. I can really recommend Pillar Summit for those who want to reach “the next level” of their on-line community. - Jorma Lehtinen, Notium Ltd Oy
I greatly appreciated and valued participating in the Summit course. It was chocked full of great information to guide our community development from the ground up. The course provided a unique and very key realistic approach to developing a community–doing the up front planning and spade work to make it successful. I’ve found this to be largely lacking. For many it may seem a tough pill to swallow but the successful results are definitely worth it! - Laurie Maak, West Ed
We hope you will join us: www.pillarsummit.com.
Gail makes an excellent point on UXBooth (a blog you should be reading).
You can spend a lot of time creating new features for your community, or you can refine the features your members use a lot.
Doing the latter will usually have the biggest impact.
This is also true for non-tech elements. You can spend a lot of time creating new types of content, building up new relationships with members or creating new events, or you can spend that time improving the content, relationships and events you do have.
Be sure you're working on the elements that will have the biggest impact. Your time is precious.
Traditions help develop a sense of community amongst members and stimulate participation. Don't dismiss them as dumb, try one.
Fridays are an excellent opportunity to encourage an off-topic tradition. People expecting something fun and different. They want something to smile about before the weekend.
Here are a few ideas to consider:
- Craziest weekend plan award. Who has the craziest or most bizarre weekend plan? Invite members, once every Friday in a short-term sticky-thread to share their plan for the weekend. After 24 hours close the thread with a message announcing the winner.
- Caturday. Ruthlessly stolen from caturday, why not let members share funny pictures of their pets for a day?
- Games. Word-association, trivia etc…
- Beat my score. Pick a simply browser-based game and challenge members to get the highest score. It is Friday after all…
- Discounts/Promotional days. One day a week, let members promote their products/items.
- Mod-day. What’s the most interesting modification of an existing product/item a member has?
It’s easy to dismiss fun and off-topic traditions as silly and ill suited to your community. Yet, like many other activities mentioned on this blog, they’re a proven tactic. They stimulate activity and help develop a sense of community.
You might just be silly not to do it.
Was the person that wrote your job description a community manager?
Had they managed the community for a long period of time? Have they had any genuine community experience at all? Do they know the full potential of a community?
If not, might it be possible that the job description doesn't properly define what you are supposed to do?
Too many community managers follow job descriptions which position them as a community reactionist. They respond to questions, remove spam, maintain the platform. This is the visible work that outsiders (like those that might have written your job description) are familiar with. They treat the community as a problem that needs to be managed, rather than an asset to be developed.
It gets worse, these community managers later write very similar job descriptions for new hires/replacements.
I suggest you go beyond your job description. Your job is to increase the value of the community, not maintain it. It's time to become progressive. Embrace all elements of community management, set targets for the community and a plan of action for getting there.
Two weeks ago, I met with an organization looking to build a community for entrepreneurs.
Their plan was to create great content to attract people to visit the site and then include forums and other community elements. Voila, a community!
Can you spot the problems here?
First, content is ridiculously competitive and people have a limited amount of time. There is far too much content on almost every topic on the internet. It's difficult to be the best (expensive and time-consuming too). Building up a larger audience to create a community rarely works.
Second, content attracts people looking to satisfy their information needs. Converting these information-seekers to community members isn't as simple as adding community elements. There is no direct connection between reading content and participating in a community. Just think how much content you read every day and how much you talk about.
What if you forgot about content for a moment and focused your efforts solely upon the community? What if you initiated interesting discussions and invited people to participate? What if you promoted events and activities that were taking place in the community? What if you created a strong and unique community culture?
It's far easier to create a unique community than unique content. In fact, many of the most successful communities I've seen are simple forums or mailing groups with no centrally-produced content at all.
Free information doesn't have to be the pull to your community. I suspect participating with some of the most passionate, knowledgeable, friendly, funny or active people in your sector is a pretty big draw too. It's better to attract people to a community that want to participate in a community.
If you’ve just been hired for a branded community, you have one essential task.
I am dead serious about this. My first task when beginning a new community project is putting proper benchmarks in place.
By benchmarking, we mean collecting data and analyzing where your community is now. You want to know the growth figures, the participation figures, the sense of community data, and the current ROI of the community.
If you don’t have this data, you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing. How can you set a plan of action without knowing where your community is now? You’re guessing.
There are clear benefits here:
1) You establish your value. When you work for a brand, you have a cost. Your cost needs to be justified in a value basis. You need to show the progress you’ve made in a manner people can follow. You need to state how the community is doing now and where it’s going. You can showcase now only your value now but what your value will be in the future.
2) You don’t get mired in your predecessor’s mistakes. If your predecessors haven’t done a great job, you want to draw a line under this. You want to clearly state what the problems are and focus on resolving them without being blamed for them.
3) You can develop a realistic community strategy. If you don’t know where you are now, how can you plot a place for the community to be in the future? I have sincere concerns about any professional community manager working without appropriate benchmarks.
4) It focuses your efforts on development over maintenance. When you benchmark, and share those benchmarks, you focus upon developing your community. Most branded community managers focus on maintaining their communities, with benchmarks you (and your colleagues) will focus upon developing the community. As Peter Drucker noted, what gets measured gets managed.
If a previous community manager has provided you data, check its validity. If you’re just starting a community, highlight what you’re going to measure now. If you’ve recently hired a professional community manager, ask them for their benchmarks.
Most branded community managers would probably have removed many of these off-topic discussions.
But Avon didn’t, that’s why their community is thriving.
Members bond beyond their interest in the topic. They visit regularly to know more about about each other's lives, and share the latest events in their lives.
They're not information-seekers (which most branded communities attract) they're people that want to bond.
If you only allow people to exchange information, your members wont bond with each other. They will only visit the community when they need information (or want to share information). That wont be very often.
However, we have an ever-present need to bond. We want to make genuine human connections all the time. It's what we do when we're not working. The communities where members tend to visit every day are those that feature a high number of bonding conversations and a limited number of branded conversations.
Too many community managers push for branded conversations. They believe their members should be exchanging information about the brand (or topics closely related to the brand). By heavily restricting the types of discussions you allow, you’re crippling the development of your community.
I’ve recently begun asking Professional Community Managers for their opinions on various branded communities. What would they do if they were manager of MarriotInsiderRewards or what did Ducati do wrong?
One trend is pretty clear, we think nearly all problems can be solved by changing the platform.
Sometimes, though, we're half-right. If you have a lot of members beginning the registration process and few finishing it, tweaking the registration process might be a great idea. If you have lots of members joining, but few participating, it might makes sense to optimize that first contribution.
But these are the special-case exceptions rather than the rule. There are three broad problems here:
1) Technology can be hard to change. Many community managers are stuck with platforms they can't change. They can waste a lot of time, money and energy when there are better solutions to their problems. Worse still, the focus on technology can mask the real problems in the community.
2) Most problems don't need a technology fix. If very few people are visiting your platform, then tweaking the platform wont be much help. You need a strategy for growth and retention. You need to change your processes to focus upon growth.
3) The best solutions are usually social-activities. I guarantee you that actually doing things in the community like prompting people to participate, starting interesting discussions, initiating events, writing content that mentions members by name will achieve better results.
Technology might be the visible element that we can see can fix, but it's rarely the solution to most community problems.
Enrollment closes Oct 29.
Sometimes, you just want quick and simple tips to improve the community.
Here are a few you can apply right now.
- Write in the first person using your real name. You’re not an impersonal corporate drone. You’re a real person, act like one. Use your real name, not a corporate account. Give your own opinions and emotions. You’re not dumb enough to criticize your own company. People want to interact with real people.
- Write about community members. Talk about what your members are doing. Write about their milestones, job changes, great contributions to the community, topical discussions. Have a place where members can submit their own news to appear on the community.
- Ensure every discussion receives a reply within 24 hours. This boosts activity as much as any other tactic on this list. Keep track of all discussions and ensure every one receives a rapid reply. Get people into the notification system and coming back frequently. Encourage responses from others.
- Ask questions in the subject line of discussion posts. Discussions posts that ask a question in the subject line generally receive a higher number of views and replies than those that don’t.
- Start a regular quiz. Challenge people with a difficult quiz about the community, the community’s topic or even topical news. Quizzes are universally popular. Make sure people can’t easily Google the answers though. Give everyone that participates a clear score. A quiz about the community and community members usually goes down well.
- Approach members to take responsibility. Approach a member who has published an excellent contribution within the community and ask if they would like to take responsibility for that topic? They can stimulate regular discussions, write content, and ensure every discussion within that topic receives a reply.
- Interview a member about topical issues and publish the content. This works even better when you then task that member to interview another member. It’s excellent content (we love to read interviews) and establishes a social order within the community.
- Introduce a ritual. Give members a special mention when they reach 1000 posts, or a certain level on your reputation system. Over time, you can have different rituals for different levels. A ritual for newcomers is especially useful at encouraging the first contributions
- Link with Twitter and Facebook. Use Facebook/Twitter to highlight popular discussions taking place within the community and ask for more opinions with a link back to this discussion.
- Write content about discussions. Use your content to write about popular discussions taking place and mention, by name, the different viewpoints of members participating in that debate.
- Sticky threads. Use sticky threads on discussions which have received a significant number of replies in a short amount of time.
- Host a simple event. Plan a themed live-chat or a series of talks by members of the community. You can get a free GoToWebinar account for 30 days to see how successful this is. Invite members to put themselves forward to give a short-talk and let people pick five they would like to hear from.
There are probably thousands most methods to increase activity, feel free to share your favourite in the comments.
Click here to enroll in the Pillar Summit's Professional Community Management master-class. Enrollment closes Oct 29.
When we talk about bad community management, we usually point to examples of a staff member who said something stupid.
I don't consider it bad, I consider it stupid. It probably wont happen again. Aside from the short-term negative PR, it usually wont have a long-term impact upon the community.
Bad community management isn't what the community manager did wrong, but what the community manager didn't do at all. In the long term bad community management will do far more harm.
Bad community management is when the community manager is a reactive moderator and doesn't encompass his/her full role.
Bad community management is when the community manager doesn't have a defensible plan for growing the community, increasing participation or putting scalable processes in place.
Bad community management is when the community manager doesn't develop a true sense of community.
Bad community management isn't characterized by one big visible mistake, but by a series of unseen errors.
I'm far more worried about bad community managers than stupid ones. You can spot the stupid ones easily, but can you spot a bad one?
Click here to enroll in the Pillar Summit's Professional Community Management master-class. Enrollment closes Oct 29.
For years we've believed that technology is the cutting edge in our industry.
We try to figure out how to user ever newer technology platforms for our communities. What about Quora, Google+, FourSquare, Twitter, Facebook, MySpace…
Yet, for most of these communities, these tools are close to irrelevant. They have almost no impact upon a community' ssuccess. Most communities are based upon the same simple asynchronous forum platforms they always have been. Little has changed.
I'm far more interested in the community side of online communities. What is new in human behaviour? What have the latest studies shown? What have we recently learn about how groups form and interact? What are the latest conflict resolution techniques? How are new community development techniques being applied?
Here's my advice. Stop reading social media blogs (and most community blogs too). Spend an afternoon on Google Scholar and research these topics. Even just reading the summaries will put you far ahead of the pack.
Click here to enroll in The Pillar Summit's Professional Community Management course and learn how to build and develop a thriving online community for your organization.