Month: June 2013

Community Professionals

June 28, 2013Comments Off on Community Professionals

When one person was responsible for every community, a
community manager was an apt term. Now it’s become a catchall for a range of
different related roles.

As communities grow in size and number, the tasks are
fragmenting. Community manager isn’t the best term to use for many of these
roles. We need to be more specific.

Most of us are community professionals. We fall under that
banner. A few of us are community managers. The rest are something more
specific. We might be managers, but may also be a moderator, editor, designer,
consultant, strategist, promoter/recruiter, director, or organizer.

Let’s be more precise with who we are, what we do, and what
we need.

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Sustaining Discussions

June 27, 2013Comments Off on Sustaining Discussions

A bump is a crude method to sustain discussions.

Turning a discussion into a sticky thread isn’t much better.

Yet there are times when you want to keep a good discussion
going. You want to invite further contributions. You want to turn the single
discussion into a universal discussion. You want to balance out your menu of discussions.

This isn’t complicated. If you want to invite further
contributions, you need to subtly invite further discussions. This might mean
adding unique insight and thought into the debate, highlighting the debate in news
posts, inviting specific people by name to contribute (and the type of
expertise you want).

It might mean taking a discussion in a new direction by
adding information or a different perspective.

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The Delicate Balance Of Creating Value

June 26, 2013Comments Off on The Delicate Balance Of Creating Value

If you manage a community of practice (CoP), you face a
difficult balancing act.

You need discussions that generate value.

However, the discussions that generate value are often the
least popular (in terms of activity). One person might initiate discussion on a
relatively niche aspect of the topic, an expert in that specific field will
reply, and a few others might also add their thoughts.

These are the discussions a CoP is built for; one person
sharing their advanced expertise in a single aspect of the topic with a larger
group. Future people that search for this topic will find your community.

However, if you have too many of these dry discussions the
community becomes tedious. Members only visit when they have a question/problem
to solve. This won’t happen very often.

You need to balance these discussions with the
activity-boosting discussions. These appeal to an individual’s social needs.
They ask questions about someone’s experience, best/worst/memorable situations,
and positions on different topics.

Too many of these social discussions, however, and you have
a highly active community that generates little real value. Members might visit
every day to improve and maintain their own reputations, but the dry, valuable,
discussions seldom appear. You might even train members not to post valuable
discussions at all.

Like most things the balance is somewhere in the middle. If
activity is a problem, you veer more towards the social-based discussions. If
value is the problem, you lean more towards the value-based discussions.

This also means that less or more activity doesn’t correlate
well with you doing a better or worse job. It may simply be a decision to
generate more value from your members.

For a tip, it’s easier to build the social connections first
and then focus on creating value.

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Condense Your Menu Of Discussions

June 25, 2013Comments Off on Condense Your Menu Of Discussions

Some platforms encourage you to waste space. Take the Disney Moms Forum below:

Disneymom

On here you see just 3 discussions (barely). The subject
line clearly stated what the discussion is about. Yet, a length is displayed
with a further click to more information.

There is far too much wasted space.  The avatar, the lengthy discussion line, the
category, the answered by all take up
space and add no value.

You don’t want to do this. Instead, you want to create a menu of discussions that members can
quickly scan and see if they want to participate in a discussion. These should
all appear above the fold on the
landing page of the community.

Compare DisneyMoms with EMC
below. 

Emc

EMC uses Jive to condense the discussions so people can scan
them and yet have plenty more space left over.

Or compare with any community based upon a good forum
package (for example, GolfGTIForum
below). The discussions are condensed so people can quickly scan them and see
if they want to learn more.

Golfgif

Your space is valuable. Don’t waste it trying to look good.

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Why People Don’t Join A Community

June 24, 2013Comments Off on Why People Don’t Join A Community

Cliffe Lampe and co recently published a
fascinating study
. One of the understated results is this; some audiences
are unlikely to ever join a community.

These are typically older audiences with high self-esteem,
limited time, a close group of existing friends, and rarely use the internet
outside of work. When the clock strikes 5, they’re done with using the computer.

It’s impossible to get some audiences participating in
communities. You need to test that your target audience might join the
community before you invest heavily in the community.

Identify the problem;
awareness, value, or costs

The rest aren’t joining your community because:

   a) they don’t know you exist

   b) they don’t see the value or
benefits of joining the community

   c) they see the benefits but this
is outweighed by the perceived       costs.

Each of these can be tackled. If you have an awareness
problem (as most communities do), you tackle this through more promotional
activities. For example, publishing community-created eBooks, hosting events
with guest speakers, pitching stories to relevant trade media, organizing
awards, launching a campaign etc…

It’s likely target members will hear about the community
many times before they join. Don’t worry about optimizing every awareness push,
focus on the number of awareness efforts you undertake.

Value

If the community is known but members don’t join (do a
survey of a random sample of target members), you face a value/benefits
problem. This is two-fold. First, don’t highlight freeloading activities.

Highlight the success stories of the community. Highlight on
access to the best people in their sector. Highlight the opportunity to build
their reputations. These provoke activate participation and have influence over
their sector. Promote your powerful membership list.

Most importantly, push through existing social networks. The
more friends someone has in a community, the more likely they are to join.
Target specific niches and push through those niches.

Costs

Yet, this fails if the perceived costs are too high. The
perceived costs and actual costs are too different things. You need to tackle
both.

The perceived costs include time, energy, and personal
concerns.

If members the value will take a long time to attain,
they’re less likely to join. If they feel the community is a close-knit club,
they’re unlikely to participate for long. You need to tackle the permeability
and instant gratification issues. You have to imply that members can quickly get the value the community
offers.

If members feel the community technology takes time to learn
or is going to be an emotionally draining experience, they’re unlikely to join.

Finally, many members won’t participate because of a
specific, personal, concern. For example, they have concerns over privacy or
looking bad to others. Many people don’t join communities of practice because
they’re worried of saying something dumb/bad in front of colleagues.

Ensure you’re targeting an audience that might join a
community. Then focus on awareness. Finally focus on increasing the value or
reducing the costs. Sometimes a change in one resolves the other.

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Surveying non-members

June 21, 2013Comments Off on Surveying non-members

Take a random sample of your target audience (not your
existing members). These are people who are interested in the topic but haven’t
joined your community. Invite them to do a survey. Gift a $10 gift voucher to
each that completes the survey.

Ask if they have heard of the community. Ask what value they
see in the community. Ask why they haven’t joined the community. The data might
surprise you.

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What Members Value In Their Community

June 20, 2013Comments Off on What Members Value In Their Community

Do you know what members value in the community? Do you know
what keeps established members coming back? It’s a combination of the
following: 

  • Their
    reputation
    . This is their own body of work in the community and the
    responses/impact of their work. Most of the participation in communities is
    driven by members looking to enhance and maintain their reputation. 
  • The
    community’s reputation
    . These are the community’s achievements, unique
    personality, unique focus, or momentum established. This is gained through
    having regular activity, having a visible impact upon their sector, and a
    friendly atmosphere. Members visit to associate themselves with the community’s
    reputation and identity. 
  • Friendships/relationships.
    These are the friends they have made through participating in the community.
    People value these connections and want to stay informed with what their
    friends are up to. 
  • Good,
    quality, information
    . This is the information that has been created and
    documented in that community. Members visit a community to get useful
    information from other members. This is especially good when members have a
    problem. 
  • Access to
    terrific people
    . This is the ability to interact with people of importance
    in that sector – perhaps get noticed by them. 

Too often we focus on the information. Information is just
one element of the mix. The individual’s own reputation and the reputation of
the community are by far the most important aspects. 

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Your Menu Of Discussions

June 19, 2013Comments Off on Your Menu Of Discussions

Let’s introduce a simple concept, your menu of discussions.

Take a look at the latest discussions taking place in your
community right now.

Do the latest discussions, the ones that display prominently
on the landing page of the community, reflect the community image you want to
present? 

Are these honestly the first discussions you want ALL your
members to see today?

Based largely upon these discussions, members will decide
whether or not to participate in the community today. If they don’t see
something interesting to them they’re gone until tomorrow. If they don’t see
anything tomorrow, they might be gone for the rest of the week.

You need to carefully
balance your menu of discussions
.

In most communities, you need to balance the discussions
that convey information with status-jockeying and bonding-related discussions
(the latter are better than the former)

Rockandrolltribe
If you visit RockAndRollTribe
above, you get this menu of discussions. All have a good level of response and
are excellent bonding/status-jockeying discussions.

To get a balance menu of discussions you need the following:

1) Mix the new discussions with the older popular
ones. Keep the new with the fresh. Lock/unlock/bump/make sticky to get this right.

2) Mix the popular, fun, discussions with the
conveying information discussions. If someone participates in one discussion,
they’re likely to participate in more that day.

3) Mix the advanced material with the entry-level
questions.

4) Focus on the topic of the community itself – do
some of these discussions showcase the best of the community?

5) Ensure the discussions are within the right
topic and not repetitive.

This is a daily act of moderation. It doesn’t take long to
do, but it’s important to get it right.

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Does the Community Manager Need To Be An Expert?

June 18, 2013Comments Off on Does the Community Manager Need To Be An Expert?

Patrick writes you
don’t need to be a subject expert to run a community
for that topic.
Patrick is right. Sometimes you don’t need to be an expert. However, it helps
if you are.

It helps if you have a large number of existing
relationships, a huge passion, and a wealth of expertise on that topic. If you
don’t have these, it’s far more difficult to manage a community.

This has two implications.

First, if you’re hiring a community manager look for
evidence of expertise, relationships, and passion. Look for the community
managers which have:

  • Existing relationships in that topic
  • General thoughts and ideas about the future of
    that sector
  • Read books about the topic (and can speak confidently
    about them)
  • Have participated heavily within the topic
    elsewhere.

Second, if you don’t have these things – then work to get
them. Build those relationships, read and practice widely in that topic, keep a
journal or online resources with your progress for newcomers. Begin publishing
your own material. Expertise doesn’t take as long as you might imagine.

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Adding and Subtracting Behaviour

June 17, 2013Comments Off on Adding and Subtracting Behaviour

Let’s divide community behaviour into two (oversimplified)
categories.

There is behaviour that adds to the community and behaviour
that subtracts from it.

You can judge whether behaviour adds or subtracts from the
community by judging what would happen if everyone took the same action.

If everyone voted in a poll, submitted content, or
participated in discussions, that would probably be a good thing (albeit, with
the good-to-have problem of managing that level of activity).

If every member spammed the community, tried to siphon
traffic for their own activities, posted provocative comments, or played silly
games – this would clearly be a bad thing.

This is where innocuous and (sometimes) well-meaning posts that
help an individual member run into trouble.

A well-established member asking others to do something
off-site which benefits them isn’t bad if they do it privately (direct
messages). Done publicly, however, it encourages others to do the same. It’s behaviour
that subtracts from the community.

Soon you’re faced with a tough decision. Do you punish an
established member or allow this behaviour to happen? Do you risk accusations
of favouritism or allow the entire community to be overrun with subtracting behaviour?

Step in early and stop behaviour that subtracts from the
community (especially your own).

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Pre-Launch: Awareness and Relationship Building

June 14, 2013Comments Off on Pre-Launch: Awareness and Relationship Building

The first people that join a community will do it through a commitment to you, not a commitment to your mission. 

For this to happen, people need to know and trust you. This means increasing awareness and building relationships.  

It’s hard to launch a community for an audience that doesn’t already have strong relationships with your team. You can’t launch it and hope for the best. You need to begin building awareness and trust months before you open up the platform.  

Begin this process at least three months before the platform is ready to go live. The more time you spend on this, the faster your community will grow.  

We use a four-elements framework for this; participate, create, host, and interact.

Participate

  • Identify and participate in existing discussions. Be genuine, ask questions, get advice, give advice when you feel ready.
  • Attend as many in-person meetups if you can. The cost of sending someone to another city/another country for a meetup is always worthwhile.

Create

  • Launch a blog/newsletter/e-mail series on the topic. 
  • Publish white-papers based upon interviews and case studies you’ve picked up from the community. 

Host (organize)

  • Organize a series of popular events on the topic. This will begin with a tiny number of people, but will grow gradually.  
  • Host and attend meetups, even if just a tiny number of people attend – a tiny number if enough to get a community going. 

Interact

  • Contact 5 to 10 people a day for 3 months. Reach out to them and sustain these discussions.  
  • Schedule interviews with the top experts in your space. Discuss how they might be able to promote their material in the community. 

During this time, never ask members to join a community or do anything that benefits you. Your goal is simply to tackle the awareness and trust stages. Ensure that people know you and that they trust you. 

By the time you launch the community, you should have a huge number of people you can invite to participate. 

Motivation Appeals For Great Community Feedback

June 13, 2013Comments Off on Motivation Appeals For Great Community Feedback

Read this sentence carefully:

“We find no evidence for the influence of customers’ altruism, nor of customers’ desire for improving and enhancing existing firms’ products by submitting ideas”

In short, your customers don’t care about you or your mission.

Using appeals related to improving products or broader sense of purpose doesn’t work well.

What motivations do work well? There are three:

  • Demonstrate personal capabilities and skills (show off/increase standing)
  • Receive recognition of third parties for ideas (recognition)
  • Have fun developing ideas

If you want great quality feedback, use messaging that is focused on the individual’s desire to impress others and receive recognition.

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