Summary

December 31, 2011 Comments Off

Do a summary of the year for your community.

It's usually pretty interesting. You can do it month by month or a rundown of the top 10 highlights.

You can also do awards of the year. In my first community, personality of the year was a highly coveted award.

You might also ask a few top members for their highlights of the year and share the full article. 

It's simple, entertaining, bonding, content. 

 

2011

December 30, 2011Comments Off

It's been a good year for FeverBee. This year we:

Gave keynote talks at major events in the UK, Lithuania, Australia, and The Netherlands.

Launched the world's most comprehensive online community management course. The course trains the world's top community managers and was given incredible reviews by nearly every participant.

Hired our first employees.

Published The Proven Path, a well received eBook explaining how brands can develop successful online communities.

Worked with some awesome brands like Oracle, The RSPCA, and TeachFirst.

A huge thank you to everyone that made this possible – you know who you are.

A special thanks to Matt Cheney, Judi Huck, Chuck Westerbrook, Angie Petkovic, Henry Warren and my lovely new wife, who managed to organize our wedding amongst the mayhem. 

Strong Common Interest

December 29, 2011Comments Off

If the community isn't based around an interesting enough topic, it simply wont succeed.

The rules here can seem a bit strange.

A community for people interested in backyard chickens can succeed where communities for frequent flyers can fail.

So how do we know if our topic is interesting enough to build a community around?

Simply, do people already talk about it online or offline? If they don't, you're going to have a hard time building a community around it.

p.s. 100 people mentioning the same topic 50 times is a pretty good indicator they're interested in it. 1000 people mentioning a topic once is not. Knowing the difference is important. 

 

The Calendar: A Simple Tool For Community Development

December 28, 2011Comments Off

At FeverBee, we use a calendar for clients that designates everything that should be achieved on a particular day.

It measures the actions against the results. The calendar ensures the community manager is always working to developing the community, not simply maintain it.

This calendar highlights what content will be created, what discussion topics will be initiated, who the community manager should try to build relationships with, when the platform will be tweaked, when measurement will be undertaken and schedules time to deal with the day to day issues (resolving complaints, responding to questions from single members etc…

The calendar prioritises development over maintenance. It ensures the community manager uses allocated time for activities which will have the biggest long-term impact on the community.

It's easy, for example, to spend hours resolving the complaints of 15 members rather than initating discussions, creating content or organizing events which impact 1500 members. 

My one big tip for the new year is to compile a calendar and stick to it. 

 

Three Big Bets

December 27, 2011Comments Off

We've made three big bets at FeverBee. We want to share them. 

1) We believe that the process is more important than the platform. There are plenty of community platforms. Many are terrific. The barrier to entry is low and dropping every day. However, the process of being able to develop a community remains relatively rare. Few people know it. Most branded communities fail. At FeverBee we focus upon the process, not the platform. 

2) We believe that communities need their own unique location. Facebook is a terrific communications platform, but it's not a great community platform. Groups want their own identity. Facebook is great for audience building, but poor for community building. 

3) We believe that communities are the future of communications. In the world of increasing noise and ever more disparate interests, people will want to connect with those that share their specific interests. The future belongs to smaller communities with more specific interests. The market for these is infinite. 

There are many more bets, we're sure. But we're happy to base our future upon these three. 

The Perfect Social Event

December 26, 2011Comments Off

Do you know what a terrific social event looks like?

It’s highly anticipated. It requires planning and effort on behalf of participants.

It has a clear purpose.

It compels people to interact both formally and informally. It provides people with plenty of non-scripted opportunities to chat.

People spend real time with each other.

There are traditions for newcomers.

There are rituals to observe.

It’s regular (held at constant time intervals).

It’s fun.

The event has a clear time duration. The event has a clear closure point.

If you want to know why Christmas is so enduring, look no further than the above. In many ways, it’s the perfect event.

The more of the above you apply for your own community events, the better they will be.

The Different Types Of Groups: How To Make Sure You Pick The Right Approach For The Right Result

December 22, 2011Comments Off

In current usage, a community can mean almost any group of people that interact in almost any place in any manner.

This needs to end. It’s too encompassing of a broad array of different groups and outcomes.

Offline we have many of collective nouns to define groups of people based upon how they interact. We have audiences, mobs, crowds, congregations, tribes, and yes, community.

We do need to better understand what sort of group we want to develop. Each type of group produces a different outcome. The result that you get depends very much upon the approach you take. 

For example:

  • Audience/fans. A group of people that read/watch/follow a singular stimulant. This group will have minimal relationships with each other.
  • Crowd. A group of people brought together by something unusual. This could be extremely good, extremely bad, extremely exciting. Attention is high for a short amount of time,
  • Mob. A mostly disorganized group of people uprising against a major issue. This will usually be leaderless with minimal relationships.
  • Tribe. A group with a defined leader attempting to affect change within the world.  This group usually will have some level of relationships with each other.
  • Community. A group of people who have developed relationships around a strong common interest.

There are overlaps here. There are more types of groups too. But lets keep it simple for now. 

 We can agree that building an audience is different from a community.  A crowd is different from a tribe.

This means we need to answer some important questions. 

  • Does this group need a leader to guide them towards a fixed goal?  Why?
  • Does this group need to build strong relationships with each other? Why?
  • Does this group need to be around for the long-term or does it need a short amount of attention?  Why? 

Your answers to these questions define what sort of group you create.

Let's imagine you want to promote an upcoming product, a product your target market hasn’t purchased before. You don’t need a tribe, nor a community. Your target market doesn’t need to communicate. You just need their attention. You probably want a crowd. You want a lot of attention for a short amount of time.

Let's imagine you want to increase repeat purchases of your product. A crowd or mob probably wont get the job done. You need a longer-term group than that. A tribe probably isn’t appropriate, unless it is the founder of the brand him/herself. So you want either an audience or a community.

Let's imagine you’re trying to change how something is done in your industry. A mob might work. You can alert people to a major issue they should be upset about. Or you can be a leader and build a tribe. You can position yourself again an issue and invite people to follow and help you. 

Let's imagine you’ve just launched a start-up. You probably want an audience to manage. You want to respond to their questions and build good relationships with them. That doesn’t require relationships between your members. So you probably need an audience. However, you may consider a tribe if you want to cultivate advocates. 

This is heavily simplified. The point is we can’t keep using community to encompass all manner of online social activities. Online social groups are all around us now, we need to know which are right for us.

Activity Dips and Spirals

December 20, 2011Comments Off

Activity drops during holidays. 

In most communities, it drops at weekends too.

Yet the weekend isn’t a problem. It’s a habit that members will visit the community again on Monday.

Holidays can be a little more dangerous.

An activity dip can become a downward spiral.

When activity dips members have less reason to come back. If less members come back, there is less activity. You can see where this is going.

The solution? Plan something incredibly exciting to kick-start the community in the new year. Make sure it’s interactive. How about a community-wide quiz? Or letting members make metric-based predictions for the new year. Next year, you can see who came closest? 

The Notification Cycle

December 19, 2011Comments Off

If you've made your first post in a community, when will you visit the site again?

After one hour? Five hours? A few days? 

It's quite likely you will forget and never return.

It takes time for visiting a community to become a habit.

There are a tiny number of websites we visit every day. It might be Facebook, CNN News, a few blogs and a community site. You have to force your community into that list. 

The notifications cycle plays a key role in achieving this. 

People are notified by e-mail (not through the platform!) when their discussion has received a response. They visit, read the response and reply. The individuals which replied are notified and visit to reply….and so the cycle continues. 

Visiting the platform soon becomes a habit. 

Notifications also speed up the community. Most people instantly click on the notification to see the response. In that visit they make their own response. Others reply at a quicker pace. The quicker pace equals more posts equals greater familiarity and a stronger community. 

Don't overlook notifications. Set them on by default. Keep them short. Make sure the message is clear "Joe Smith replied to your comment about {topic}, click here to reply". Members are free to change the setting if they receive too many, but let them make that decision, not you. 

You can build a community without notifications, but it's much harder. 

Being Nice For The Long Term

December 16, 2011Comments Off

Last month, we had to tell our perfect candidate for a community management job that we couldn't hire him. 

On paper he was perfect. Good experience, highly personable, perfect skills for the job. 

But he had a reputation amongst the target audience. Five years ago, as a member of a similarly-themed community, he had been rude, offensive, and betrayed the trust of many individuals. He wasn't employable as a community manager. 

A decade later, I still remember the names of people from video gaming communities who who offensive, lied or betrayed my trust. I wouldn't work with any of them, nor participate in a community managed by them.

Whilst you may not be in the same job your entire career, you may be in the same sector. Everything you do will impact your ability to manage communities in the future. 

On a positive note. I also remember the names of people from over a decade ago, like Phil Wride, who were a pleasure to work with and I wouldn't hesitate to support. 

Subtle Influence as Leadership

December 15, 2011Comments Off

In a terrific podcast, Joel Spolsky and the StackExchange team talk about the failed communities they've tried to create.

There was a community for freelancers whose discussions revolved solely around how to get jobs. 

There was a community for AI professionals without any AI professionals. 

There was a community about gadgets which couldn't generate interesting discussion because the topic was too broad. 

Providing subtle influence (leadership) in these situations is important.

You might need to initiate new discussions and ensure they appear higher than the same discussions repeated for the 20th time. 

You might need to actively recruit the right people to the community and provide activities for them to participate in. 

You might need to focus your community on a more specific area than the broader topic. 

The problem is we don't differentiate between changes the community needs and changes the brand wants. For example, if discussions are repetitive it's beneficial to the community to subtly broaden the topics being discussed, as per the example above.

However, it's not usually beneficial to the community to get members talking about your products, or giving feedback or telling their friends

Two thoughts then. First, don't be afraid to identify fundamental community problems and provide leadership. Two, don't confuse what the brand wants with what is beneficial to the community. 

Self-Concept

December 13, 2011Comments Off

If I asked, "Who are you?". You might tell me your name.

That's fine, but it's the next few sentences that matter.

Do you describe yourself as a mother/father? Husband/wife?

Do you describe yourself as young/old? Sick/healthy? Passionate/depressed?

Do you describe yourself through your job or through your hobby? Are you a journalist, marketer, community manager, footballer, pianist? Specifically, what type of journalist, marketer, community manager, footballer or pianist are you?

You can't build a community for people unless they think of themselves in the terms you're trying to describe them. That strong common interest you're building a community around has to be directly connected to the self-concept of the target audience. 

Being a teacher isn't the same as being a history teacher, a young teacher, a veteran teacher, a transformational teacher. 

Everyone has a self-concept. We want to join communities which fit that self-concept. It sounds obvious, but you would be surprised how many communities ignore this rule.