Hard To Get Good Responses?

October 31, 2012Comments Off

Don’t get confused here. It’s perfectly ok
to have an exclusive community.

It’s perfectly ok to make people jump through
hoops to join the community.

In fact, these steps can help increase the sense
of community that members feel with one another.

It’s NOT ok to treat new people in the
community badly. 

Newcomers will ask
dumb questions. They will ask questions that have been asked dozens of times
before. They will make various faux pas. You need to
accept this. 

But that’s the easy part. 

The hard part is you need your members to
accept this too. Your members need to know how to tolerate newcomers. You need to be
careful not to deter them from participating again.

When a long-time regular says "FFS, search the forum for the answer before your post" that's not only unhelpful, it drives away that newcomer and over newcomers from participating. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean banning or
punishing those that do respond with a sarcastic comment. It does mean
overwhelming such posts with so many more good remarks. Be careful to look for the comments of members with a '1' post count. Respond nicely, usefully, and hospitably. Ask a question in the response to solicit further contributions. 

If the number of members with 1 post is far higher than members with 2 posts, you have a problem. 

Communities need new blood to
survive. If your members drive away the new blood, your community won't last long. 

Hard to get into = good.

Hard to get nice responses = bad.

Buzzing Communities – How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Communities

October 30, 2012Comments Off

The way we approach communities right now is broken.

It's largely a collection of intuition, haphazard guesswork, and top-down processes. 

As a result, too many communities have failed, more are struggling, and nearly all could be much better.

For the past year, I've been working on a book to change this. Today I'm ecstatic (and slightly nervous) to announce that my book, Buzzing Communities, is now available to buy

We urgently need a new approach to developing communities. We need to take this seriously. We need an approach that embraces social sciences, data, and the proven examples of hundreds of successful communities (not pleasant anecdotes). We need a complete process for growing and managing successful communities. 

This book explains a new approach to developing communities and covers the biggest challenges you're likely to face

  • Understand what members in a community really want.
  • How to grow your community to critical mass and beyond.
  • Dramatically increase the number of newcomers that become regulars.
  • Keep members highly active over the long term.
  • Measure the return on investment and learn how to increase it
  • Develop a comprehensive community strategy from scratch.
  • Identify hundreds of practical tactics you can immediately apply to your community.

This isn't a beginner level book. If you want to learn what a community is or why they're terrific, this isn't for you. If you want to learn about Facebook/Twitter, this book isn't for you. However, if you're a community manager and want to build bigger, better, and more active communities, you might want to buy the book.

To put it simply; if you like this blog, you will love the book.

You can buy the book through any of the links below: 

No audiobook, sorry.  

A HUGE, HUGE, HUGE, thank you to the dozens of people that encouraged me to write the book and helped make it happen. 

What’s Your Biggest Problem?

October 29, 2012Comments Off

Try asking your members this. 

Create the thread, turn it into a sticky thread, include it in your mailing list, add your own problem, and see what response you get.

Your members will do two things:

1) They will give you an incredible amount of useful information. You can orientate your community to tackle the most common problems. You can develop new groups/categories for these problems, establish action teams to resolve the issues, and create content based around these problems.

2) They will increase their emotional investment in the community. By disclosing information about themselves (and seeing that disclosure reciprocated), they increase their emotional investment in the community. This is even more effective in communities where problems and emotions might directly overlap (action, circumstance).

Simple, but useful.


Posts Since Last Reported Abuse

October 26, 2012Comments Off

An interesting idea from Kraut and Resnick's terrific book about communities

"For example, just as some workplaces prominently display a sign showing the number of days since the last workplace injury, a community could display the number of messages since the last reported abuse or the (low) percentage of messages flagged for violating the commmunity's official policies."

It's hard to change the behaviour of a group of people, especially online. Guidelines alone don't work. Social proof helps, as does encouraging normative behaviour

You Must Have A Full Time Community Manager

October 25, 2012Comments Off

I say this to every organization I work with. It's the first rule

The response is usually muted (or negative). 

Yes, you can succeed without a full-time community management, but you're far less likely to.

Your organization is not the exception. You probably won't succeed without one.

Adding an extra person is internally difficult. It's not cheap. But if a community is worth doing, it's worth doing right.

Cost wise, add up the time spent by people in meetings about the community, the platform and everything else. Put a value on that. Now imagine all the extra meetings you will have as your community struggles to work. It will dwarf the community management budget by comparison. 

You need someone who wakes up in the morning worrying about your community. You need someone who is solely responsible for making the numbers go in the right direction. You need someone that is passionate about the topic and not distracted by others tasks. You need someone that never puts the community on the backburner. 

Not only this, but when one person is responsible for the community, they're personally more committed to it. They spend extra hours to make it work. 

Don't wait until you have a lot of members to hire a community manager. If you don't hire a community manager, you will never get a lot of members. 

If you're going to have a community, you need to have a full-time community manager. 

Getting Innovative About Monetization

October 24, 2012Comments Off

We need to get more innovative about monetizing online communities.

Both professionals and amateurs can do better here. 

Relying on adveritsing and sponsorship is a dubious approach. It detracts from the community experience. If you gave your members a choice, they would choose to remove all ads. 

I would broadly advocate three approaches:

1) Paid/premium memberships. Narrow down the number of members in exchange for paying members. Let the first members in for free and gradually increase the fee newcomers pay. The WELL has 2,693 members paying $100 – $150 per year. This equates to $269,300 – $403,950 per year in revenue. That might not be enough for an organization, but certainly enough for an entrepreneur. 

Paid members are a terrific model. They require you to focus not upon recruitment, but upon retention. They force you to provide real value within the community. I don't think we've even begun to explore the possibilities here.  

Alternatively, create extra value members will pay a premium amount for. This might be a package that includes customization, unique access to host/run their own areas of the community, ability to organize events/create content etc…

2) Products and services. The best method to monetize a community is to develop products and services the community wants to buy. These add value to the community. You can use the knowledge you gain from the community to sell products/services your audience want. 

There are also the things that help the most people. The Pillar Summit course came from people wanting a structured way to learn community management. Education is just one option. You can ask members what their dream products/services look like and work with others to create them. 

3) Opt-in opportunities. A relatively unexplored approach is opt-in opportunities. Here members opt-in to receive offers and opportunities on behalf of organizations. A common example is a focus group. Some communities of doctors generate revenue of $100k+ for each focus group they run. Sometimes you can have members tell you which brands they want to hear from. The brand gets to reach the people that like them and you get the benefits without the interruption. 

The goal of monetization isn't to figure out how we can make money from what the audience is doing. It's to figure out what we can do that the audience would want to pay for. 

p.s. Read Patrick O'Keefe's excellent forum monetization guide

p.p.s. If you're looking for more ideas, try here

The Community Imperative

October 22, 2012Comments Off

It's an amazing feeling to see the people you've connected building relationships, helping each other, and doing meaningful things.  

It has real benefits too. People in a community are happier, healthier, wealthier. They trust each other. They work better together. They stay longer (both customers/employees). Their interest in the topic increases, they get greater pleasure from enjoying the interest with others.  

It's easy to look at the world and see people more fragmented than ever. It's easy to see people pulled apart by technology, increasingly distrusting of one another, and ever greater disconnection. This mindset, if true however, isn't helpful. 

You have a passion right? You have an interest? You have places you like to go, things you like to do, people you like spending time with. Other people probably have that interest too. Create a place for it. If it's work-related, use LinkedIn groups. If it's personal, use Facebook. If it's neither, use a mailing list/group…or possibly Ning. Invite others you know to join. Just talk about it.

This is such a tiny investment and generates such terrific benefits. Your first attempt might not succeed, nor the second, but one of them will. And when it does, you can enjoy that incredible feeling (and the advantages) of having connected a great group of people. 

I think (or hope) that deep down this is why we do this. We love the feeling that comes from connecting people. We like seeing the relationships we've facilitated blossom. We like seeing people collaborating together, meeting each other, and helping each other. We like to see the people in the community enjoying themselves. 

You don't have to build an online community. In fact, we should drop the term online entirely. But nearly all of us should attempt to build a community. You can use tactics that have worked for generations or those you see on community blogs. 

We need a community building imperative to spread across the web (and the world) like wildfire. It's one of the few ways to tackle the decline in traditional communities and the problems this has caused. Starting a community for a topic you're passionate about does make you happier, it also leads to benefits you might not have considered (job opportunities, financial opportunities, making change in the world). Better still, it helps everyone in the community. 

For many of us, this is our biggest opportunity to change the world – even in just a tiny way. I've been asked in meeting where people struggle to understand what I and other community professionals do. They think of it as some tiny, niche, strand of marketing. That's a shame.

We do really important, life-changing, work. Even the most minutia elements like removing bad posts, prodding people for the 5th time to participate, helps build these amazing communities. We should embrace all of it.

This is our mission, is it yours?

Preparing Communities For The Future Fragmentation

October 19, 2012Comments Off

There is a finite number of people in the world. 

Each of these people can give a finite amount of attention to a community. 

The number of communities is rapidly increasing. Most will fail, but many will succeed. 

The competition for people and attention is getting ever fiercer. We've seen from other sectors how this is likely to play out.

1) There will always be big communities in each sector. The number one community will probably remain the number one community. They will have a lot of people and a lot of activity. Their overall number of members, however, will plateau and then decline. It will be chipped away by highly focused communities. This leads to point 2.

2) More highly focused communities will emerge. These will be highly targeted at specific groups. For example, Communities for marketers {qualifier 1}, in London {qualifier 2}, who are passionate about measurement {qualifier 3}. These qualifiers will be demographics, habits, or psychographics (who people are, what they do, and what they think/feel). 

3) The non-leaders are in trouble. The communities that aren't the biggest and aren't heavily focused are in trouble. They face a rapid reduction in membership to the leaders and the niche communities. 

This has some important implications:

First, if you manage the number one community in your sector, you probably need to increase the ROI per active member by around 30% (pure guesstimation). Can you survive if the number of active members declines by 30%? How will that impact your business model?

What new products/services can you develop for community members? You need to fight for every member, each active member is going to be valuable. Build a strong sense of community. Invest in the experience. 

You also need to develop systems that retain the interest and engagement of active members in large communities. Losing an active member is a big deal. Stop worrying about growth, worry about keeping the members you have. 

Second, if you're developing a new community, don't make it generic!! Focus on tiny niches that are easy to attract and sustain. Build multiple niche communities, not single large communities. Don't compete with existing communities. Create the only community of its kind. Closely mirror what members really care about, don't worry about the rest.

Third, if you're in the middle, decide now either to take on the big community with a significant push (if it was this easy, you would already have done it), or consider reforming around more niche interests. The biggest predictor of a member's likelihood of becoming a long-term regular is their strength of interest in the community topic. You can decide a topic that closely matches the interests of smaller groups of members. 

We might not have reached this stage yet, but we we're gradually edging towards it. 

The Problem With Contests And Competitions That Offer Prizes

October 18, 2012Comments Off

There are two parts to this.

Competitions and contests that offer prizes can stimulate activity. But they're encumbered with major problems. 

First, people don't interact with each other. They interact with you. This doesn't help the community. It simply provides short blips of activity (which usually mask bigger problems). It's not a tactic that has a long-term impact upon the community. Fun? Yes. Useful? No.

Second, there is no incentive to share it with anyone else. If I invite you to participate in a contest, it decreases the odds of me winning. In fact, it's in my interest to dissuade as many people as possible from participating. This leads to the third problem.

Third, the more people that might participate, the less the odds that I will win. The bigger the community, the less people are likely to participate. 

Fourth, most people won't win. That means most people will be disappointed. There is only so long people will continue to lose every week/month (national lottery aside). 

Fifth, prizes get boring. If people only interact for a prize, you will soon need bigger and better prizes it sustain their interest. This isn't sustainable.

It's perfectly fine to have a rare contest with a good prize, but it's one of the least effective tools in the community building toolbox.

If you are going down this path, I suggest not having a prize. Keep people in the mindset that they're participating for fun…or better, to increase their own reputation and social status within the community. 

Interactive Activities

October 17, 2012Comments Off

One of the first things to look for in a
community plan is the amount of interactive activities.

What has the organization planned to
facilitate interactions between members and not just with members?

Most organizations get lured into the
content trap. They fall back upon what they know.

Yet the content has no long-term impact. It’s the
interactive activities that matter the most.

The irony here is content is HARDER. You can spend a week putting together a how to guide, or you can initiate a discussion or event asking members how to do something. Which sounds easier? Which do you think is better for the community? 

I'm sure we have repeated this before many times, yet we're still seeing too many communities catering to an individual's information needs and not their social needs. 

If you’re struggling, focus upon interactive activities. That means initiating more discussions, most events, and more activities members can participate in together. 


October 16, 2012Comments Off


Richard Millington is a frequent speaker at online community, online marketing, social media, and internet events around the world.

In the past five years, Richard has spoken in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Denmark, Romania, and Lithuania.

You can invite Richard to speak at your conference, corporate-training event, or host a live webinar for your audience. 

Richard likes to speak about:

  • How to use social science to build highly addictive communities
  • How to start a community from scratch
  • The ROI of online communities (and how to increase it).
  • How to manage existing communities (the community management framework)
  • How to increase membership and activity in communities.
  • How organizations can develop successful communities. 

Videos of Richard speaking:

Richard Millington, FeverBee: How To Use Social Science To Build Highly Addictive Communities (MozCon – 2014) from FeverBee on Vimeo.

Richard Millington (Feverbee) Introduces Vircomm14 from FeverBee on Vimeo.


You can contact Richard at this address: [email protected].

About Richard

Richard is the founder and managing director of FeverBee, a community consultancy, training course, and author of Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities.

Over the past 12 years, Richard has helped to develop over 100+ successful communities, including those for Google, The World Bank, Oracle, Amazon, Autodesk, Lego, The United Nations, Novartis, and many more.

Richard’s blog, hosted on FeverBee.com, is read by 10,000 community professionals every day, and is widely cited for establishing best practice in this field. 

Real Feedback from MozCon 2014

In 2014, I spoke to 1400 online marketers at MozCon in Seattle. Snippets of feedback is included below


Would You Like To Help With Some Research?

October 16, 2012Comments Off

How would you like to participate in some research that will change how people manage communities?

We've teamed up with the terrific Jenny Fremlin to research the sense of community felt across different types of online communities. 

If you want to be involved, plesae do two things:

1) Complete this survey: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22GER2B2EWA

2) Invite your members to complete this surveyhttp://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/WEB22GDQW9ET7W (publish the link somewhere to community members/e-mail community members with the link)

The first will tell us about your community, the second will tell us about the sense of community in your community.