Month: December 2012
The blogosphere would have you believe that Facebook users are up in arms about the end of Facebook voting, Facebook private data policy changes, or almost anything Facebook does.
It's not true. The majority don't know about the issue. Of the minority that do know about the issue, the majority of these people don't care.
It occurs when people believe they have gained a consensus amongst the group. Many bloggers believe most people are anti-Facebook. You can use the Facebook vote as an example. Overwhelmingly, they claim, Facebook users voted against the changes. That's not true, only 0.067% did. The overwhelming majority didn't vote at all.
The danger of the false consensus bias is you encounter members in your community who not only passionately believe they're right, but firmly believe everyone agrees with them. Look at the % of members that are protesting, open it to a poll on the community platform, check how many people bother to vote at all.
If you've been asleep for the last year, this is what you've missed:
1) FeverBee grows
The community space continues to grow and FeverBee along with it. The team has grown, the services we provide have also expanded. We offer consultancy calls, communities strategies (and strategy reviews), consultancy, platform development support, speaking and corporate training for your community managers.
If you want to learn more about how we can help your organization's community efforts, visit our consultancy page. You can also visit our pages to learn more about our training and my personal speaking availability.
2) Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities
We were thrilled to publish our first proper book, Buzzing Communities, this year. The book took years to write, months to edit, weeks to design/format and a day to publish it. It will guide you through the entire process of growing, development and managing your community. You can buy it at Amazon.com.
You can also download half of the book for free, click here.
3) Various speaking events
We were thrilled to speak at events in the UK, Canada, and the USA in addition to various online engagements. We have more exciting events next year including the Virtual Community Summit in London and TheSocialConference in Amsterdam. You can watch two our our recent webinars with Ning for free at the links below:
- How to increase activity in your community (free webinar)
- How to grow an online community (free webinar)
We will also soon be announcing the details of our own event, which we're excited about.
4) The Blog
The blog readership has increased. By RSS subscribers, it seem to be the most popular blog dedicated to the topic of online communities. The blog will continue to provide practical advice for growing thriving communities.
Here is a list of our favourite posts throughout the years.
We sincerely thank you for making all of this possible. Our goal remains to help you build communities. We hope that some of our material has been useful.
A community of action has unique characteristics.
If you're trying to change something in the world, then your processes will be very different.
First you need to start with the discontent. True change begins on the fringes. Begin with the people most affected by the issue. Directly contact them, understand their issues, bring them into a group with others like themselves.
Once you have activity and an understanding of their goals, work to bring in those with whom they have developed bonding social capital (not bridging). These are the people most likely to support them and give up their time to help make change.
Gradually you establish clear common goals, sets of actions, a sense of community.
However it always, always, begins with a small group of discontents.
Every non-profit I know takes the opposite approach. They assume their cause is so urgent, so pressing, that if they just reach enough people things will happen. It doesn't. It begins with the small group of people. Get those right people in the beginning and everything else becomes much easier.
The following is an edited excerpt from Buzzing Communities.
A content calendar should identify not only the categories of content that will be used, but also the specific content that will feature within that category for that date.
You can look at both online and offline content produced within the sector to identify the most popular categories. This is easier to identify in online content by both the number of comments such categories receive and their placement upon the community platform. The inclusion of these categories is usually a good indicator in itself that they are popular with the audience.
The categories of content include:
- News. Short posts highlighting what's new in the community or the community's sector.
- Announcements. Major announcements about the organization, community, or sector.
- Feature Articles. Interviews, analyses, reviews, previews, in-depth features, polls etc…
- Guest Columns. User generated content with members sharing their predictions, experiences, or thoughts on different issues.
- Classifieds. Member to member sales or company to member sales.
- Statements. Community statements on topical issues.
- Promotions. Unique opportunities/deals exclusive to community members.
- Miscellaneous. There is a range of things here….
For example, a calendar at a single-week interval may look like:
• Monday: daily Community news + Feature interview with Mark smith about (topic)
• Tuesday: daily Community news + Opinion column from a community member (John doe)
• Wednesday: daily Community news + Promotion of live-chat about (topic)
• Thursday: daily Community news + Feature interview with Jane roddis (VIP)
• Friday: Promotions day (sponsors discount offer) + wel-come newcomers
• Saturday: summary of the week • Sunday: Preview of the week ahead
Remember that within each category are several sub-categories. News, notably, may be about the latest events, new members, new/popular discussions, unique contributions, member milestones/achievements or an update on a topical issue.
In the sample calendar above, the daily community news is a constant update of the latest activity. The other category features can be reused every week.
On a calendar with a monthly interval, categories such as newcomer of the month, member of the month, offline meetup content, activity/challenge day may also appear. In addition, a major event will have a significant impact upon the calendar. Regular calendar events may be set aside to focus on building up excitement for the event and covering the event once it is in process.
Content, like everything else, can be measured. In fact, it should be measured.
• number of return website visitors to each item of content.
• Average time spent on each item of content.
• number of times the content has been shared on other social media platforms.
• Familiarity with other members from the sense of community measurement.
• Average number of visits per member to the community within the past 30 days.
You want to discover which types of content gain the most visitors, the most time spent on the page (the article is fully read), the number of times it’s shared externally (word of mouth), and whether members feel stronger levels of familiarity with other members.
You can buy Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities from the links below:
A long time ago, we wrote a checklist for your community efforts.
The goal was to help you identify where you are now and what you need to focus on next.
It was heavily simplified, but for many community managers, it might save them a lot of time and money.
You can find it here: http://pillarsummit.com/communitydevelopment.pdf
Here is a common question.
How do we get members to join a community where there is no activity?
Building up a group of 50 founding members works well. You can do this by interviewing 50 members of your target audience for research and inviting them to join the community at the end of the interview.
Another way is to have your employees/team join and participate in the community.
No, don't pretend to be someone else, nor have fake discussions. Genuinely join the community and talk about the topic. Be honest, sincere, and engage in an open way.
Some people worry what members think if they see employees participating in the community. I worry about what members think if the organization's employees aren't participating in the community.
Besides, if you can't get your employees to participate in the community, what chance have you of getting your customers to participate?
A lot of people would probably love community management to be about being nice to people online.
If someone has a question, you help them. If someone has a complaint, you resolve it. Yet, this ignores the big picture of growing, developing and sustaining a highly-active community.
There is a limit to how much time you can spend doing one-to-one discussions with members. The more time you spend doing this, the less time you have to do the high-impact work that affects all members.
Resolve one member's question, and they might have another in a few days.
We need to first undertake the activities that have an impact upon the most members over the longest period of time. Then we need to do the activities that have a big impact over a relatively short period of time. Finally, we need to do the activities that affect a few members over a small amount of time.
Affects lots of members over the long-term
For example, setting up a good segmentation/e-mailing system is high impact. It affects all community members. It increases the level of activity overall. It might take a few days to set up, but once it works it pays off indefinitely.
Another example, creating and updating the community history is high impact over the long-term. It increases the sense of community for all members in the community. There are numerous other examples. Optimizing the newcomer to regular conversion ratio, persuading members to become columnists/content creators for the community, build up a group of insiders/volunteers etc…
These are all things you can do once and then continue to pay off for a long time.
Affects lots of members over the short-term
Then we have the activities that affect a lot of members over the short-term.
This would include organizing regular events/activities, creating content/newsletters for members, introducing word– marketing activities, initiating self-disclosure discussions etc…
Affects few members over the short-term
Finally we have the firefighting tasks. This means moderating discussions, removing the bad stuff, responding to members questions, resolving complaints/disputes between members. These all affect a tiny number of members over the short-term.
The problem is we're far more comfortable at the bottom of this list than the top. We spend too much time on the elements that affect few members than the elements that affect most members over the short-term.
Most communities fail to grow and develop because the community managers aren't proactively trying to grow, develop, and improve their communities. They enjoy the firefighting and individual interactions too much.
This is the clash between what you want to be doing and what you need to be doing. Too frequently we spend too much time on the former and not enough on the latter. Fortunately, this is easy to fix, simply do the long-term, high-impact activities first (every day!).
Thank you for giving me your time and attention for the last few years.
You can now download half of my book, Buzzing Communities, for free.
I hope you find it useful.
If you hate reading it on the screen, or want the full copy, you can buy the book via the links below:
It’s good to contact members by e-mail. You can remind members to participate, highlight interesting activities, help foster a greater sense of community through a newsletter, and engage in tactics to increase visits to the community.
Most community managers do a terrible job at this. They fail to segment their groups, understand each group’s needs and motivations, and don’t use the right level of frequency.
To do this well, you need to have multiple mailing lists catering to each unique segment of your audience. We can split your audience into six segments.
Your strategies for each of these segments will vary.
0) Visitors. These are the people that visit but haven’t registered. You can pretty much ignore this group for now, you have no way to contact them. At best you can measure this number for sign of community health and for understanding conversion rates. Just make sure when they visit there are interesting events and discussions they can see taking place in your community.
1) The newcomers. These are the members that have joined the community within the previous 30 days.
You need to socialize these members into the community without overwhelming them. You can use autoresponders for this. Begin with a simple message that directs newcomers to a topical discussion that’s taking place (you need to update this weekly), then a few days later (if they clicked the link) send them either a small nudge for their opinion again or highlight an upcoming event/activity they can participate in.
There isn’t one single best journey. You need to tweak these until you optimize the process. The more members visit and participate, the more frequently you can send them information that explains a little more about the community or highlights things they can do. Remember, that these are newcomers, your e-mails should be designed to reduce their social fear of participating and provide simple steps they can take to participate.
The general process here lasts up to 3 months and is responsive to their actions in the community. If they don’t respond to the first few e-mails, send one per month for 3 months. If they are responding, you can send more.
We typically find it best to begin with 1 e-mail, wait a few days, then another, wait a week then another. But, again, this varies wildly per community and the actions each individual takes. You can set up multiple routes based upon clicks/opens/actions. If in doubt get an e-mail marketing expert to help (or hire us to set it up for you).
2) The lurkers. These are registered members that have visited, but not made a contribution, within the previous 30 days. There is little chance that a large number of these members will become regular active members.
However, you can provide regular content which highlights things they can read in the community with clear links to share it on social media channels which can bring more people to the community. Specifically, highlight the most useful advice or most entertaining stories/experiences shared in the community, This is what lurkers are most likely to share on social media platforms.
3) The registered, inactive, members. These are the members which have registered for the community but not visited in the previous 30 days. They are not lurkers. It may be possible to bring these members back into the community. In this group you need to highlight activities within the community which they can participate in.
The open and click-through rates for this group will be very low. Don’t panic about that, nor the unsubscribe rate. These are essentially members you’ve already lost. Any return from this group is a bonus.
We usually use the biggest/most exciting activity/discussion in the community per month to bring these members back. It has to be something truly remarkable. If they click the link, then we use follow up autoresponders with other discussions scheduled a few days later that are related to the first activity.
4) Active members. These are members which have made an active contribution to the community within the previous 30 days. This is the group that get your regular newsletters, e-mails highlighting upcoming events/activities, pointers to active discussions they can participate in. We typically use one newsletter per week and one ‘important discussion/event’ e-mail every other week. Again, this varies. The goal is to keep this group active and engaged in the community.
5) The veterans. These are members which have joined over 2+ year ago and are still active. We like to have these on both the active member list and the veteran list. We use this group to call for ideas and input into the community, work on upcoming events/activities with them, and otherwise find ways to give them influence. One e-mail a month calling for input (i.e. response to that e-mail) seems to be enough here.
You can also have seperate lists for your insider groups/volunteers. These will be manually created (unless members have to subscribe to be a volunteer).
The challenge here is to have multiple lists (AWeber/Mailchimp work fine) and a system which also moves people to different lists based upon their level of activity. I’ve yet to see a platform vendor that offers anything like this (if you did, your clients’ communities would increase in activity). So it remains up to us to set this up.
If you can’t automate it, do it manually. Move people into different segments. Split the newcomers from the registered members and have a seperate list for the veterans. It’s not as complicated as you might think and the results are terrific.
Last week I had the pleasure of doing a second webinar for Ning.
This time we focused upon how to grow your online community.
They’ve kindly allowed me to show it here (you can skip the first 5:30 minutes)
If you watch through to the end, you get a free bonus!
Also, click here for our first webinar, how to increase activity in an online community.
It pains me that most community-related
discussion can be boiled down to:
Be nice to members
Don’t lie to members
Remove the bad stuff
Community management is a complicated topic
that spans technology, data, marketing, and a range of social sciences. When we
dwell too much upon the softer side, we do no favours to our profession, our
communities, nor our own personal development.
About 1/3rd of the people
reading this are passionate hobbyists building communities in their spare time.
The remaining 2/3rds of you are paid professionals.
If you’re a paid community manager, I think
you have a duty to master a body of knowledge, work to develop a specific set
of skills, and bring with you a growing playbook of successful case studies.
When we shift the conversation to what that
body of knowledge should be, how to further refine and improve the set of
skills, and bring more case studies in the arena, we all get better at what we
If we don’t take this profession seriously,
no-one else will.
Last week, I wrote a guest post for Patrick O'Keefe's terrific blog. It explained how to shape the behaviour of members in a community.
It didn’t cover what the behaviour should
Too often, we begin writing rules with a pre-determined idea of what
the behaviour in the community should be. Instead we should look to see what
behaviour members want in a community and where that behavior is conducive to a
For example, should members be allowed to
talk about their pets? Communities for teenagers might be fine with it, but
communities for accounting professionals might be less keen. However,
accounting professions might be happier to discuss anything career-related
whereas a community of parents might not.
Yet, members might want to talk about issues which are not great for community building. They're either too dull or are likely to result in ongoing fights (e.g. reviewing/critiquing each other's work). Your role is to understand this and stop it.
Creating the behaviour for a community is
much less about the act of writing out your expectations of members and far more about determining what behaviour is acceptable by community
members and influencing members to undertake that behaviour (whilst avoiding
the real bad behaviour).