Month: September 2013

Aspirational Questions

September 29, 2013Comments Off on Aspirational Questions

One of the questions we ask prospective
members of a community of practice is where
do you want to be in 5 years time?

Another question is what do you need to get there?

Once we know a member’s aspirations, we can
construct a powerful community concept to help members achieve those
aspirations. It’s far stronger to build a community for authors hoping to build
a self-publishing business model in their spare time than a community for

This affects the activities you host within
the community too. You can bring in case studies, stories, and advice from
those that have achieved similar goals. You schedule problem-solving live
discussions to tackle specific obstacles to achieving those goals.

You can create an area for members to track
their progress towards the goal and form a support group atmosphere (similar to
weight-loss/fitness communities).  

You soon spot common similarities in their
answers. Most want similar positions or face similar problems.

By applying some basic research, you can
build a far stronger community concept. 

Multiple Communities Within The Same Company

September 27, 2013Comments Off on Multiple Communities Within The Same Company

It’s tempting to divide the community into distinct sections
based around the products you sell or existing market segments. This makes it
neat and simple to manage. The existing departments and group divisions can
each take responsibility for their own community.

There are three problems with this: 

1) Competition
for a customer’s attention
. You’re often persuading the customer to
participate in several communities instead of one. This leads to a fierce
competition (often from community managers within the same company) for the
same individual’s attention.

2) Low
social density
. You dissipate activity across too many areas. This makes
all the communities look empty. Empty-looking communities repel participation. No-one
wants to participate in an empty community.

3) None of
the topics are interesting enough
. Someone that purchases from you may not
wish to spend his or her spare time talking about that specific
product/service. As a result the community struggles to sustain activity.

I’ve seen different community managers from the same
organization approaching the same member to urge them to participate more in several
areas of the community at once.

Build the community around specific customer segments with a
shared common interest. That might not be about your product/service, it might
be about the broader topic, the audience, or the something else entirely.

Use the standard formula for each community:

1)  You’re
targeting a specific group of people
What is the boundary (skills, knowledge, attributes, resources etc…) that these
members have which separates them from mainstream society. Make sure this
boundary is strong.

2)  Strong
common interest
. What is the strong common interest they share? This is
something that they spent a lot of time on, money on, is emotionally
provocative, or is representative of their identity.

Your community doesn’t have to be for all your customers and
it certainly shouldn’t be a replication of what you already have, but online.
Build communities for your unique audience, not for your company. Ensure you
have similar people with shared interests in the same areas.


We’re now accepting applications for our Professional
Community Management course (Sept 30 – Nov 8)
. This is an online course that will teach you
how to apply proven, reliable, science to build bigger, better, and more active
communities. If you want to learn more, click here.

Do you have any expertise or experience with this?

September 26, 2013Comments Off on Do you have any expertise or experience with this?

We’ve found using a phrase almost identical to the one above
motivates a lot of contributions to the community.

Everyone wants to be perceived as an expert in the topic. People
liked to be asked for their advice. If you ask this as a direct question the
result is likely to be positive.  

The same is true for experience. People like to give their
experience on a specific topic.

However, broad appeals for people to share their expertise or experience tend not to gain a large

Ask for specific expertise/experience on a specific topic
(ideally from specific people).


We’re now accepting applications for our Professional Community Management course (Sept
30 – Nov 8)
. This is an online course that will teach you how to apply proven,
reliable, science to build bigger, better, and more active communities. If you
want to learn more, click here

Decisive Moderation

September 25, 2013Comments Off on Decisive Moderation

We believe in decisive moderation, something we want to
outline here.

There are three principles at work here: 

time is valuable.
You have limited time. Every second you spend on a
reactive task (or negative members) is time you can’t spend proactively
developing the community. You want to spend
as little time on reactive moderation as possible
. Every second you spend on
reactive moderation hurts the
community. The time you spend helping one member, might hurt the community

For every moderation activity you undertake you should ask; how do I make sure
I never do this task again? Refine your activities and ensure you focus on the
most important tasks.

your emotional and mental energy
. You have limited mental energy. This work
is exhausting. It will make you miserable. If you’re demotivated, it shines
through in how proactive you are, how you engage with members, and in your
broad approach to the community. Limit the emotional and mental energy you
spend on the community.

Reactive moderation (removing bad stuff) can be broken down
into four separate categories. 

1) The immediate bans (bots / spammers / serious crimes/bad fits)

2) The escalation ladder (rule breakers /
antagonistic members)

3) The conflict resolution ladder (member

4) The inbox (responding to members queries/complaints)


Immediate bans

Bots and members that join to spam deserve none of your
time. Members which make any comments which could be considered a crime offline
(racism, sexism, homophobia, threats) can also be removed. Simple technology
tweaks, for example asking a simple question a bot can’t answer resolves most
automated spam.  

You can also remove those that have disruptive
personalities. Personalities rarely change. You might want to remove members
with, for example, a victim complex, unable to resist insulting members, whose
tone never matches the rest of the community, or are otherwise constantly

Most moderators will claim you need to give warnings to all
of the above. This violates our first principle, the time you spend warning a
member is time you could spend doing positive activities, for example
recruiting members who are a great fit for the community.


The escalation ladder
(rule breakers / antagonistic members)

The other two groups are more challenging. Existing members who
break rules or antagonize others enter the escalation ladder.  


First step is to do nothing. Some behaviour (trolling,
antagonizing other members, or promoting own activities) might help a
community. Other times it’s simply not worth tackling unless it’s clearly
harming the community. Your time is too important.

Second step is to try the reason / befriend / distract
approach. You might try to reason with them. Understand what they’re really
angry about. Ask how you can help resolve the issue.

Alternatively you can try to befriend them. Use the standard
question / comment / praise technique. Finally, you can distract them. Give
them their own column to express their unique views.

If that fails, take a stronger attitude change approach.
Make them ashamed of their behaviour and showcase how it’s making them
unpopular within the community. This is via a carefully, crafted, message.

Finally, suspend or remove the member. Suspension rarely
changes behaviour. 

For the tiny number of members that hide their IPs, create
new accounts, and repeatedly attack the community, you may need to contact
their ISP, police, or even contact their employer (you would be surprised how
many employers dislike their staff trolling communities). Alternatively, train
volunteers to spot this and remove it on a daily basis.


Conflict resolution
(fights between members)

Conflict resolution ladder is very similar and based upon
the accommodation, avoidance, collaboration, compromise, and competition model
by Thomas and Kilman.


First, do nothing. Conflicts usually increase the level of
activity in a community. Second, halt the single conflict in a thread (lock the
thread – “I think everyone has made their
key points now”
). Third, again reason/change attitude to the behaviour or
distract them by giving them their own columns/polls to seek support for their

Next, final warning – with new ground rules for those
interactions between members (no personal insults, clearly aggressive language)
and then suspend/ban members.


The inbox (member

The inbox is typically filled with four categories of

1)  Complaints about the brand, community, or other

2)  Questions about the site (how do I change my password/profile etc.)

3)  Suggestions/ideas

4)  Misc

A few principles here:

the common questions, problems, and complaints
. Update the FAQ, send a
community-wide e-mail, or feedback information to the community. In the FAQ,
for example, add any repeated questions about the topic, brand, or the
platform. You should be able to remove 50% of your inbox messages through this

the platform
. For lost passwords, platform questions, and similar issues,
try tweaking the platform to resolve the problem to  reduce the need of members to message you.

and ideas
. If a member has a suggestion or an idea for the community, ask
them if they want to make that idea happen. This is especially useful if it is
a suggestion they can do within the community.

separate community inboxes
. Your inbox shouldn’t be used for the minor,
easily resolvable, problems. Create a community account [email protected], [email protected],
etc…which volunteers can access to resolve these issues. 

This won’t resolve or remove all the moderation issues, but
it should significantly reduce the number of messages you do receive. Moderation
is a time-exhaustive, mentally exhaustive, and often a resource-intensive task.
The goal is to be decisive in your moderation approach and spend as little time
on reactive moderation as possible.


We’re now accepting applications for our Professional
Community Management course (Sept 30 – Nov 8)
. This is an online course that will teach you
how to apply proven, reliable, science to build bigger, better, and more active
communities. If you want to learn more, click here

Learning On The Job and Community Tips From Social Sciences

September 24, 2013 Comments Off on Learning On The Job and Community Tips From Social Sciences

If you have gotten value from this free blog over the years,
imagine the value you would get from a structured
Professional Community Management course

Some community professionals are against training. If they
learnt on the job, why can’t you?

Learning on the job takes a long time, you make a lot of
mistakes, and you don’t know what you’re missing. You might get by without
training, and many do, but we can agree you would be MUCH better with training.

During our course,
we show how you can use social sciences (something most community professionals
know little about) to immediately improve communities. Here are a few basic

Tip 1 –
Self-Disclosure discussions within the first interactions

You want members to participate in a self-disclosure
discussion within a matter of minutes of joining the community.

This means ensuring the post-confirmation e-mail, the first
visit, and any personal welcomes guide members to participate in these
discussions. If members participate in a self-disclosure discussion, they’re
far more likely to return and participate in further responses.

Yet, still most communities tell people to complete their
profiles first. This is a huge mistake. There is no causation from completing a
profile to becoming a regular participation in the community. There is from
self-disclosure discussions to regular participant.

By applying this, you can significantly increase the
newcomer conversion rates in communities. This is a simple piece of advice
that, once you know, you can apply to every community you ever work on. This
tip alone is incredibly valuable.

Tip 2 – Appeal to
selfish motivations

Members are rarely motivated by noble goals to share knowledge or improve the field. They’re motivated by appeals to selfish and
predictable self-interests.

Persuading members they’re experts (see labeling theory) and
their specific contributions are needed immediately increases your level of
participation. If you prime members when they join to highlight the skills,
knowledge, and resources, they have that will be useful to the community –
they’re far more likely to use them. This is known as ABCD – Asset-Based
Community Development.

Priming questions are useful for increasing activity. In any
interactions with members, you can refer to their answers to these questions.

Again, once you know this, you can use this to improve every
community you work on. You can also take this further. You can create a social
status ladder within the community by giving attention (through content,
discussions, and mentions of their names) to encourage further contributions
from those members and solicit it from other members.

Tip 3 – Embracing
Symbols Within Communities

Strong, authentic, communities share the same symbols. These
symbols are the words, ideas, images, expressions which have a unique meaning
to participants. By identifying and applying these symbols throughout your
community, you avoid the trap of the community feeling corporate/branded.

Better yet, you can increase conversion rate and levels of
activity in the community by using these symbols. Use these symbols frequently
in your content, in your copy, and name areas of the community after these

Tip 4 – Using social
value to increase activity

The quality and quantity of knowledge shared in a community
significantly increases when participants feel a strong sense of community.
Sense of community is something you can build and manipulate. Creating a strong
shared history, regular series of events, using community symbology (see
above), pushing for more ‘hardcore’ discussions and all the other specific
activities listed
can create strong sense of community.

The community where members feel a strong sense of community
are also those which last the longest, are the most active, have the highest
levels of knowledge sharing, and have the greatest return on investment.

The Incredible Value
Of Training

These are four tips from hundreds you can learn from
specific community training underpinned by social sciences. Without this
training, you might not have known one or even any of the above.

Training is a lifetime investment that both increases the
current value of your community and the future value of your community. Training
makes your existing community manager far more valuable.

There are four broad criticisms of community training. It’s
too expensive, it’s not accredited, online courses are a scam, and you learn on the job. Training is
always, ALWAYS, a bargain.

Yet training isn’t cheap. Training shouldn’t be cheap. Our
course limits the number of participants so we can focus on improving both
every participant and the specific communities they’re working on right now.
Training is for organizations that take their communities (and staff)

If you’re community isn’t where you want it to be, you need
a highly trained community professional. The spending on most communities ($40k
to $100k for staff, $5k to $500k for a platform, and plenty more in time,
opportunity, and reputational costs deserves it.

At the moment, most branded
communities fail. They ignore the basic principles of building communities and
fail. A highly trained community professional is the solution to these

A highly trained community
professional can guide you through the entire process of building a successful

We will teach you or your
team everything they need to know to be very, very, good at building successful
communities for organizations. You can see the taster videos we did on the
community membership lifecycle
, measuring
, the
different roles within a community team
, and the
community management framework

If this is what you need,
sign up for the Professional Community
Management training course

You have one week
remaining. We offer a full refund guarantee if you’re not happy (only one
participant in the course’s entire history has asked for this). You also get a
framed certificate upon completion:

RolandoBrown Certificate pic

Heather Ausmus certificate pic




Establishing A Boundary Related To A Peer Group

September 23, 2013Comments Off on Establishing A Boundary Related To A Peer Group

Who do you feel are your peers?

Your peers are those that have similar backgrounds,
experiences, skills, or (sometimes) aspirations as yourself.

It’s easier to persuade people to join a community, if the
community targets those they feel are in their peer group. People want to
participate to impress their peer group. They want to connect and make friends
within their peer group. They like to compare themselves and gain a positive distinctiveness amongst their
peer group.

This is important. If you want to build a community, it’s
better to raise the boundary to attract people who feel other members are their

If you’re a level 3 architect in London, you’re more likely
to join (and participate in) a community for level 3 architects in London than
a community for architects. 

This might sound obvious, but it’s the opposite of what most
organizations are doing. Most organizations make their communities open to
everyone that wants to join. They persuade as many people as possible to join.
They target all the audience they feel they could get instead of the audience
they can get.

These broad, open, communities face the same problems. What’s
the reason for joining? Where is the value? What makes the community unique?
How will you compete against existing communities?

Using peer groups and an embedded sense of exclusivity
answers these questions.

It’s easier to target the best, most passionate; most
qualified people and invite them to join a community. They want to join for
purely selfish reasons – they want to feel they’re one of the best. They want
to feel like insiders. They don’t want to be left out. Most importantly, they
immediately want to build their reputation amongst this group.

Believe me, I know the
temptation to go for the masses. Resist that temptation. Decide your criteria and stick with it. Higher barriers to joining create a stronger sense of


We’re now accepting applications for our Professional
Community Management course (Sept 30 – Nov 8)
. This is an online course that will teach you
how to apply proven, reliable, science to build bigger, better, and more active
communities. If you want to learn more, click here

Discussion Shuffling

September 20, 2013Comments Off on Discussion Shuffling

In our new community,
we do a lot of discussion shuffling.

We tweak which discussions appear, where they appear, and if
they appear at all. This is a classic inception-stage community.


The top discussion is the lead discussion for newcomers. If
we know what someone is working on right now, we instantly create an
environment where members can help one another. It’s interesting for members to
see what others are participating in.

The second and third discussions are the key valuable
discussions where real expertise shine through. We want these to appear highly
as well.

Every day we might make a small tweak. We see which
discussions are popular and which aren’t. We decide which should be sticky and
which shouldn’t. Sticky discussions are an incredibly powerful tool. Some
specific actions here:

  • Removing
    the posts that don’t gain a response
    . Most discussions at this stage are
    initiated by us. If we post a discussion that isn’t popular, we remove it. The
    appearance of popularity is important in feeling a sense of momentum (I’m aware
    I’m shattering the illusion by explaining this). About 30% we posted didn’t
    receive a response, so were removed. 
  • Get
    responses to member posted discussions
    .  If a member posts a quality discussion, we
    both respond quickly with our own opinions and nudge other members with
    relevant experience to participate as well. 
  • Balancing
    the popular discussions with those that contain real value
    . We could have a
    far more active community by posting nothing but board, fun, self-disclosure
    communities. This isn’t our goal. We want real expertise from experts. This
    means posting discussions asking about message content attributes, homogenous
    –vs- heterogeneous groups, and motivation theory. This is the material that
    advances the field and makes the community stand out. 
  • Tweak the
    . We juggle the dates of discussions. Not by much, but certainly to
    ensure the best discussions rise to the top and the least valuable sink down to
    the bottom.   
  • Change
    the subject titles
    . If we see a member post a great discussion with a poor
    subject title, we change it. We e-mail the member and let them know why (we
    want more people to respond). If they want to change it back, we change it

The early stages of building a community
are difficult. The goal is to balance the popular valuable discussions with the
expertise discussions.


We’re now accepting applications for our Professional
Community Management course (Sept 30 – Nov 8)
. This is an online course that will teach you
how to apply proven, reliable, science to build bigger, better, and more active
communities. If you want to learn more, click here

The Average Day – Proactive First

September 19, 2013Comments Off on The Average Day – Proactive First

Every morning you face the same temptation.

You want to check your e-mail, visit the community, and
respond to what’s happened/happening.

The problem is this doesn’t improve the community. It
maintains the community. It keeps the community exactly how it is. You can
spend your entire day firefighting. This doesn’t help you, the community, or
your company much.

The sad truth is most community professionals spend most of
their time which do nothing to improve their communities.

Every morning work on the proactive tasks that develop the community. Always do these
tasks first. This typically includes tasks that increase the community’s size, levels
of activity, or sense of community.

  • Interviewing (or writing questions for
    interviews) experts / VIPs in your field.
  • Organizing upcoming events and activities
  • Creating content about members in the community
    (or scheduling future content).
  • Reaching out to potential members and inviting
    them to join the community.
  • Building relationships with key members in the
    community (regular e-mail contact)
  • Identify popular topics and themes for future
    activities in the community.
  • Reaching out to current members to invite them
    to write regular guest columns, expert advice posts, or become an admin in the

If you spend the first four to five hours every day working
on these tasks, you should immediate improvement in the community. For many
community professionals, simply changing their average day is the biggest,
immediate, win they can have within their community.


We’re now accepting applications for our Professional
Community Management course (Sept 30 – Nov 8)
. This is an online course that will teach you
how to apply proven, reliable, science to build bigger, better, and more active
communities. If you want to learn more, click here.

Ashamed Of Their Behaviour

September 18, 2013Comments Off on Ashamed Of Their Behaviour

You can’t tell members to stop the behaviour and expect it
to stop. The behaviour is a symptom of the environment, an attitude, or a
personality problem. It’s hard to change the behaviour of any member without
changing one of the above three.

Personality problems are hard to resolve. It usually means
removing the member. This is a last resort. The other two have easier
solutions. If it’s an attitude problem, you might consider a message such as:

Hi {member},

I love your contributions to the
community, but clearly we have a problem. 

We're getting too many complaints
about your personal vendettas against each other. It's hurting the community
and that means it has to stop. 

We can either remove people (which I
would hate to do) or we can agree to a few ground rules from now on: 

1) No more personal
. Debate advice with your own advice. The
moment someone refers to another's intelligence, background, or something
unrelated to the immediate topic things go crazy. So stop doing that. Once this
happens we'll remove the post and close the discussion. Everyone loses.

2) Resist the urge to
have the last word
. In online debates no one wants to
call it quits or (heaven forbid) agree to disagree. Trust me, it looks bad when
you can't walk away from a discussion on the internet. Make your point, clarify
it once, then walk away. Anything else makes you look petty. If you don't like
someone, don't waste your time responding to him or her. Don't let someone get
to you. 

3) Act like the
experts you are
. We know you're smart and have
incredible expertise about {topic}, so act like experts. Write good advice.
Don't get sucked into long-winded arguments. 

If we have to remove someone that
means everything goes. All the previous advice you've shared on the platform. I
think we can agree that would be a great loss for everyone. 

Note how this message is constructed. It’s not the community
manager’s opinion, it’s the opinion of the community. The community manager
provides advice, highlights how embarrassing the behaviour is and then tries to
promote the member as an expert within the community.

Finally there is a threat of non-existence. Unless something
changes all a previous member’s contributions (and hard work) will be removed.
No-one wants to see their hard work so far vanish.

The goal is to change an attitude to a behaviour more than
changing the behaviour itself. Preventing behaviour in the short-term is
meaningless. Changing the attitude prevents the behaviour permanently.


We’re now accepting applications for our Professional Community Management course (Sept
30 – Nov 8)
. This is an online course that will teach you how to apply proven,
reliable, science to build bigger, better, and more active communities. If you
want to learn more, click here

A Stance On Anonymity

September 17, 2013Comments Off on A Stance On Anonymity

People use anonymity to do bad things. It allows trolls and
bullies to maliciously
other people. It allows people to engage in illegal activities
(typically downloading copyright materials). It allows people to participate in
extremist online groups.

Yet anonymity also has important uses. It’s a protective
veil that allows people to venture into support groups and ask questions about
health issues. Alcoholics Anonymous is
another example.

It allows people to separate their identities. For example,
if you write Harry Potter fan fiction, you might choose to keep that separate
from your work colleagues.  

It allows people to give honest feedback without fear of
reprisals (for example, review a restaurant in a small town where your dad
knows the owner…or when you’re criticizing your country’s dictator).

Being anonymous also allows people to experiment and improve
themselves. It allowed JK Rowling to write a better-reviewed
than her previously publication.

Our stance is quite simple; consistent identity is more
important than using a real identity.

In my earliest communities I ran large admin volunteer
teams, made deals with, and even shared hotel rooms with people whose real name
I never knew. Yet, we knew each other by using the same identity for years. For
most communities, we recommend this:

  • Allow people to identify themselves by name, but
    don’t force members to.
  • Force members to select a username they will use
    throughout their time in the community (linked to their IP address). This
    ideally displays their previous contributions.
  • Allow any member at any time to make their
    profiles and contributions invisible (or removed completely).
  • Don’t allow anonymous guest contributions.
  • Clearly state who gets access to their
    information and don’t change this without the opt-in approval of each member.

This paper by Kang
et al. (2013)
is worth reading.


We’re now accepting applications for our Professional
Community Management course (Sept 30 – Nov 8)
. This is an online course that will teach you
how to apply proven, reliable, science to build bigger, better, and more active
communities. If you want to learn more, click here

How would it feel to guide your organization through the entire community development process?

September 16, 2013Comments Off on How would it feel to guide your organization through the entire community development process?

There are a lot of people that can reactively manage
communities, but few who can repeatedly grow and develop them. Few community
professionals fully understand the social science and data that underpins our

There is a shortage of community professionals that have
mastered their domain. There is a shortage of community professionals that can
guide their organization through everything they need to do to move their
numbers in the right direction.

We created our community
management course
to help community professionals build bigger, better, and
more active communities. We want to establish high standards for professionals
and equip participants with the skills, knowledge, and resources that really
benefit organizations.

You have two weeks remaining to sign up for FeverBee’s Professional Community Management

The course will train you how to fuse an advanced
understanding of social sciences with technology to grow, manage, and increase
the value of any online community.

Some reasons to consider signing up for the course: 

  • Join an elite group of highly trained community
  • Learn how to increase the value of your
    organization’s community.
  • Master a clear, proven, and repeatable process
    for launching a community and reaching critical mass.
  • Use proven science to reliably increase growth
    and activity in your organization’s community.
  • Learn how to apply motivational theory to get
    members to share knowledge, advice, and support each other.
  • Tackle the specific problems you face through
    individual coaching sessions.

We’ve seen that with specific training in core concepts,
community managers can achieve a lot more for their organization.

Previous participants have given the course incredible reviews
and achieved remarkable success. We even offer a full refund if you’re not
happy with the results.

You can sign up here: We hope to
have you

Pre-Existing Relationships

September 13, 2013Comments Off on Pre-Existing Relationships

For the Proven Path
, we researched the difference between the communities that fail and
those that succeed.

Two things stood out. The first is start small. All successful
communities start small. They focus on their first few members and grow

The second is pre-existing relationships.

The community that succeeded were launched by people whom had pre-existing
relationships with their target audience. This is the single, isolated, factor
that will determine the early success of your community. 

To have more active members when you launch, build more relationships before you launch. Treat building these
relationships as part of the community process.

You can follow the CHIP method (create
content, host events/activities, interact directly, participate in existing
communities/events) for 3 – 6 months prior to creating a community site.

Build your list of 150 to 200 members and build sustained
relationships with them. This takes time. It’s a full-time role. It’s
critically important. The more pre-existing relationships you have with your
target audience, the more likely your community will succeed.


We’re now accepting applications for our Professional
Community Management course (Sept 30 – Nov 8)
. This is an online course that will teach you
how to apply proven, reliable, science to build bigger, better, and more active
communities. If you want to learn more, click here

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