Month: July 2013

A Little Cynicism

July 17, 2013Comments Off on A Little Cynicism

What was the last technology change that had a big impact
upon how you manage your community? Be specific. What technology change has
affected your day-to-day actions of managing the community?

I asked this question on
Twitter, there were three common answers:

1) Mobile

2) Gamification

3) Social networking platforms

Those that suggested mobile struggled to find a bigger
impact than members could now participate when on the move. Is this a
game-changer? Aside from creating a mobile-friendly site, it hasn’t had a huge
impact upon how you do things in your community.

Those that suggested gamification could point to communities
which used gamification and were successful, but couldn’t point to a community
which was successful because of
gamification. Meanwhile, we can point to the overwhelming majority of
communities that don’t use gamification and are a success. Independent data is mixed.

Those that suggested social networking platforms were
broadly social media managers. For the rest, this meant they now cross-post content and respond to discussions. You might spend 30 minutes a day on this,
but that’s not a game-changer. Besides, the three big platforms are 5+ years
old. Is this the most recent thing?

Lots of people will disagree (cognitive dissonance of paying
to attend events about these topics), but we need to be very
cynical about the impact of new technology upon communities.

Activity levels in communities hasn't skyrocketed since mobile, gamification, and social networking platforms came along.
Increased broadband penetration is responsible for that.

Conferences will be forever filled with isolated examples
and unproven new ideas. These won’t have a big impact upon your community.  At
best, the impact isn’t clear (gamification). At worse, it’s a big distraction
(Google+).

If you want to increase community participation, mobile,
gamification, and social networking sites won’t help you much. There are no
silver bullets. You get incrementally better at the fundamentals (growth,
moderation, events/activities, content, and influence) until you know how to
boost participation with what you’ve got.

Not great content for a conference perhaps, but this is what
has the biggest impact.

_______________________________________________________ 

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Superfans

July 16, 2013 Comments Off on Superfans

Michael Wu writes persuasively about the value of superfans for
achieving a remarkable ROI.

Michael’s method is to identify superfans and use
gamification, with rewards, to spur high levels of activity.

For a customer-service based channel, this might be the most
effective method to gain a positive ROI. You can find a group of people to
spend a lot of time answering questions.

To build a genuine community, I
disagree.

First, the focus on the few incurs problems of perceived
impermeability
. Members feel they can’t quickly break into the core group
quickly and stop participating.

Second, these communities are designed for participation
inequality. Every community has uneven participation level. However, this is a
problem to tackle not a goal to aim for. By addressing different needs of
members at each stage of the lifecycle, this can be significantly reduced. 

Third, gamification changes the motivation for participation
from intrinsic to extrinsic. Those motivated by extrinsic reasons are less
eager to participate. When the shine of gamification fades, overall
participation levels drop.

For getting a few people to answer a lot of questions, this
is a brilliant method. To sustain a thriving community, be wary.

__________________________________________________________

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Ask questions you know members have the answer to

July 15, 2013Comments Off on Ask questions you know members have the answer to

If you’re stuck about how to get discussions going, here is
a simple tip; ask questions you know members have the answer to.

Community in participation is as much about your members’
desire to impress each other as it is seeking knowledge. By providing these
kind of questions, you provide a platform for members to demonstrate their
expertise and increase their status within the community.

______________________________________________________________

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Schedule everything you can

July 12, 2013Comments Off on Schedule everything you can

Schedule as much as you can.

Focus your day on the tasks that are time sensitive.
Everything else can be scheduled.

This post was written and scheduled a month ago. We didn’t
begin this morning panicking about getting a post done on time. That’s not a
productive way to begin the day. It pushes all the time-sensitive tasks back.

Imagine if 90% of your content calendar was written and
scheduled to appear at fixed times. Imagine you have the opinion columns,
interviews, feature articles, and event announcements (along with
links/reminders/notifications) all scheduled.

Scheduling lets you work more efficiently. It’s less
stressful. It leads to better content.

You can spend a day or two scheduling content for the next
month. You can spot gaps or needed contributions to the content (“we need a picture and quote from Mark to
accompany this”
).

There is some last minute chopping and changing based upon
new information. Yet, this is rare. 

Now, what if you take this one step further? What if you
schedule not only the content, but also the events and discussions too? What if
you had fixed discussions to go live for the next few weeks?

_______________________________________________________________

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How You Interact Matters

July 11, 2013Comments Off on How You Interact Matters

Last year we worked with an organization that was struggling
to recruit members to their new community. They had the platform, the concept,
and even the strategy. They passed our checklist better than any other
organization we’ve worked with.

A little digging revealed the problem. The wording the
community manager used was all-wrong. His outreach to prospective members
typically began:

“As
a valued customer, we would like to invite you to our new community for….”

Those first four words conjure negative images. Few members
opened follow-up e-mails. A tiny number clicked the links. None remained active
for long.

Imagine, you’ve spent $100k to launch a community and it
fails because of the first four words used in the outreach?

This is an extreme example of a common problem.
Communicating with people online might seem like a simple task (you do it every
day right?), but it’s subtly difficult. It requires a mindset and an empathy
that many (especially those dragooned from other roles/departments) don’t have.

The minutia is
important
. You have to interact
like a human being
. You have to have a personality. Better still, it helps
to have a large number of people you already have existing relationships with. 

So what are we going to do about it?

July 10, 2013Comments Off on So what are we going to do about it?

This question changes the entire
context of a discussion.

Any community can rant. Members get a great deal of joy from
ranting. It helps bond the community together. Members become more emotionally
invested in their community.

However, by throwing in questions such as:

What are we going to do about it?

What
can we do about it?

Can
we stop/start this?

You can change the nature of the
discussion from a rant to a community project.

It won’t work in every discussion. It won’t work
if you use it too often. But try using it. You might just launch something
amazing.

Restricting Group Creation

July 9, 2013Comments Off on Restricting Group Creation

Letting anyone create a group is
dangerous.

Your community will soon be filled with lots of empty,
inactive, groups. This will make your community look empty. It will reduce
social density.

Many Ning communities have this
problem.

Restrict group creation to you, your team, and members who
have earned trust and respect.

For everyone else, provide a criterion for creating a group.
StackExchange does this well with Area51.

To become a group leader you might need the following:

  • The names of 30 committed members whom have agreed
    to be part of this group.
  • A list of 10 interesting discussions for this
    group.
  • A personal commitment to spend 5 hours a week on
    this group.
  • 3 items of content for this group
  • 3 interesting activities/events.

This will deter a lot of people from creating their own
groups. That’s a good thing. If a group leader can’t commit to the above, do
you believe they can grow and sustain a successful group?

Increase the number of
successful groups, not just the number of groups.

________________________________________________________________ 

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What You Should Optimize

July 8, 2013Comments Off on What You Should Optimize

At best you will gain a 15% increase in the number of
registered members by optimizing the registration form.

The same is true for most technology changes (except for
placing the latest activity above the fold on the landing page of the community
– 50%+).

Optimizing the technology will have a noticeable impact, but
not a breakthrough impact.

However, optimizing the discussions you initiate,
facilitate, and highlight has a huge impact. Once you know which discussions
bring members back every day, and how to initiate these discussions in a
genuine, personable, manner, you can use these to build a thriving hub of
activity overnight.

Optimizing content has a huge impact. Simply by applying the
basic principles of great content, you can motivate members to return to see
what’s new. You can quickly establish a social order that encourages members to
increase their levels of participation to increase and maintain their standing.

Optimizing the events/activities you initiate has a big
impact. If you can initiate, run, and successfully promote the right type of
events, members will return and participate on a regular basis.

To optimize you need to measure. This means three things:

1) Find a way to categorize discussions, content,
and events/activities. For discussions, we use status-jockeying, bonding, and
conveying information with filters for open, closed, specific and hypothetical questions.
You might want to use specific types of topics.

2) Once categorized, measure the popularity of each
type. Test different categories and different types of discussions, content,
and activities/events. Identify what’s popular.

3) Refine how you initiate and implement the above.
Notice the language and tone of voice you use to promote an event or initiate a
discussion.

None of the above costs a penny. You have no excuse not to
optimize your own activities within the community. Getting better at soft
skills trumps technology tweaks.

_________________________________________________________________

On July 1st, Google is shutting Google Reader down.

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Harmony Central and Great Expectations

July 5, 2013Comments Off on Harmony Central and Great Expectations

Visit Harmony Central.

It’s one of the world’s most
successful communities, 15m posts and counting.

Big communities like this should
have big ambitions.

Big communities need big, huge, victories that forever
change their sector. It’s hard to keep that sense of community alive amongst
huge communities. Some, like Reddit, survive with a unique personality. This is
the exception. 

A new community needs small
wins
to build momentum. Once you have momentum, you can aim higher.

You can organize the ultimate event for your sector. You can
create the definitive books (paperback), best practice guides, and even the
very products your members would like (or work with organizations to create
them).

You can also campaign and lobby organizations to make the
changes your organization wants.

Having a big community gives you incredible power (some
might say responsibility) to influence your entire sector. Don’t be afraid to
wield it.

__________________________________________________________________ 

On July 1st, Google is shutting Google Reader down.

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Offline communities and online communities

July 4, 2013Comments Off on Offline communities and online communities

Forbes recently asked; are
offline communities the next big thing?

Did they ever go away?

Our goal is to build communities. We should use the most
efficient method to build communities.

Sometimes that means using the
internet and sometimes it doesn’t.

Online and offline are two channels to achieve the same
goal. They’re not mutually exclusive. Most online communities benefit from
offline activities and most offline communities benefit from online components.

The tactics for building online or offline communities are
very similar. The question isn’t how do we build an online community, it’s how
do we build a community?  

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A Clever Initiation Ritual

July 3, 2013Comments Off on A Clever Initiation Ritual

CoderSumo
has a clever idea.

To join their community, you
have to solve this simple coding challenge.Codersumo

If you want to restrict spammers, deter less committed
members, and attract the best people – challenge newcomers to complete a task.

Initiation rituals create cognitive dissonance. People don’t
want to feel they wasted the effort to pass the ritual, so they feel a stronger
attraction to the group.

You can’t ask members to code, but what about asking
newcomers to submit their biggest success, solve a simple problem, write two
paragraphs about a topic, or analyze a current situation/data and produce an
answer.

The more difficult the
challenge, the more committed the members that pass it.

________________________________________________________ 

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Use Single Issues With The Right Appeal

July 2, 2013Comments Off on Use Single Issues With The Right Appeal

The University of Oxford recently launched a community
called Global Threads and Opportunities
(GOTO)
.

Read this about page:

Global
Opportunities and Threads: Oxford (GOTO) is an action-oriented problem-solving
community geared towards addressing some of the most complex issues that face
the world today.

Broad, utopian, appeals aren’t
effective.

Your members want to have a big impact (power) in a short
amount of time (reduced costs). You want members to build and maintain their
reputation (recognition).

If you’re launching a similar community, focus on a single
issue (quick win) to get started. Build momentum. Highlight the contributions
you want. Highlight the increased reputation of existing participants.

The
population is growing and there isn’t enough food to go round. We want original
expertise from future world leaders who will be responsible for solving this
problem. Do you want to prevent world hunger?

Notice the mix of appeals here:

1) It highlights a single issue.

2) It clarifies the type of contribution needed
(expertise)

3) It creates an offer to work with world leaders

4) It appeals to people whom believe they will be
future                     world leaders.

5) It lets the reader join because they want to help as opposed           to selfishly
wanting to be a world leader of tomorrow.

_______________________________________________________________

On July 1st, Google
is shutting Google Reader down.

If you wish to keep reading FeverBee, please do one of the
following:

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subscribe by e-mail
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option)

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