Month: December 2013

A Quick Review

December 31, 2013Comments Off on A Quick Review

FeverBee added 4 more staff to the team and doubled our revenue (we’re still hiring).

We expanded the scope of how we help community professionals.

We created an exclusive membership site for community professionals interested in the science behind communities.

We took ownership of the first ever event dedicated to unlocking the incredible science behind successful communities. Tickets are still available for the 2014 London Virtual Community Summit on Feb 20 – 21.

We began hosting in-house corporate training for organizations and hosted our first ever-live training events at the London School of Economics.

We spoke at around a dozen events in the USA, Australia, The Netherlands, United Kingdom, and Belgium.

We trained 50 or so community professionals to develop successful communities from scratch for their organization through our Professional Community Management course and our affiliate course in Australia

We published over 240 posts about communities on this site, hosted over 100 webinars, sent 50 detailed e-mails, and created plenty of other material.

We worked with some incredibly exciting clients on their community efforts (The World Bank, Glam Media, HealthStream, Oracle, UAA, EMC, Placemark, CGG, Meridian, Hanson Wade and many others).

We hosted a free summer series of webinars and accompanying resources which have been viewed/downloaded by just under 57,000 people.

All of the above, has been possible because you give us your attention. 

The Mission

Our mission statement is quite public, we want community professionals to master the principles of social science. If you know your social science, the tools are irrelevant – you know how to build any number of successful communities for any organization.

This seems to be a message resonating with many of you.

Thank you for giving us your time and your help to make our mission a reality. All of you have blown us away this year.

Our FeverBee family, colleagues, friends, clients, customers, competitors, audience, and detractors all make this an incredibly exciting time to be working in this space. Thank you. 

Don’t Send A Lamb Into The Slaughterhouse

December 30, 2013Comments Off on Don’t Send A Lamb Into The Slaughterhouse

Sometimes organizations make a decision the community hates.

They raise prices, they cancel services, they add/remove features etc…

The community manager is left to incur the wrath.

The community manager answers questions, apologies profusely, but has no power to resolve the situation. Their role is simply to pretend the organization is listening and members feel heard.

There are three problems with this. First, members care little for apologies. They want efficacy. They want to know their complaints had a ripple. They want to know they mattered and had an impact. 

Second, it undermines the credibility and authority of the community manager. The community manager appears powerless. Members associate the community manager with the problem. They’re less responsive to the community manager in the future.

If you have to go negative, don’t send a lamb into the slaughterhouse. Send employees from the organization to go and directly interact with the community. Listen to members, solicit their ideas, see if there are things you can implement to change things.

Ideally, get the head of the company spending an hour or two answering questions from members. Members get to air their views and receive responses from someone with the power to make a difference.

It's not always possible to avoid upsetting the community. It is possible to limit the impact of that upset. 

Setting Out A Vision

December 20, 2013Comments Off on Setting Out A Vision

Now is a good iea to outline your vision for the community next year. 

Highlight the current community stats.

Highlight the areas you think the community can do better.

Highlight where you see the overall direction of the community going. 

Highlight the people you're especially thankful to. 

Highlight the things you would like to see happen within the community (or the community to). 

A community with a widely understood vision is far better than one without. 

What Stops Members From Participating In Your Community?

December 19, 2013Comments Off on What Stops Members From Participating In Your Community?

There are several ways to diagnose this. 

I like the BJ Fogg model. We've mentioned this before.

Think of through the motivation/ability/trigger prism. 

1) Are members motivated to participate?

2) Do they have the ability to participate?

3) Is there a trigger to participate? 


Most communities fail at this stage. This comes in three forms; pleasure/pain, hope/fear, social acceptance/rejection. 

To build motivation you need to get the concept right.

The community concept shoud be based around either something pleasurable (e.g. discussing latest film news is a pleasurable activity in itself), or reducing pain (e.g. solving a common problem), or creating hope (achieve a personal goal / benefit through participation), or reducing fear (learn enough to avoid problems), or feeling a part of a special group (or not being rejected by the group.

Some of these are natural fits for different types of community (action, interest, circumstance, place, practice). 

You need to ensure all messaging of the community is aligned with the motivational benefit (see touchpoint analysis).  

Then, assuming members have joined the community, you need to make them aware of the benefit of participating. This has to be subtle, not overt. Publish stories or messages that related to the benefit without declaring "Now Mark is no longer afraid of {x}"

Ability (Simplicity)

The second is ability. There are several reasons why your members don't have the ability to participate. These are: 

2) Money. If something is expensive (or perceived to be in relation to value), we're less likely to do it. This is rare for communities. In fact, spending money to join the community actually increases levels of participation.

3) Physical effort. If something requires a significant physical effort, we're less likely to do it. Similar to time, don't imply there is a large effort required to regularly participate. Keep things simple. 

4) Brain cycles. Anything that causes people to think too hard. Don't bombard members with too much information. Don't overwhelmed members when they first join or visit the community. 

5) Social deviance. If the expected contributions cause members to depart from the normal anticipated behaviour of the group, they don't do it. One former client had a culture of not sharing information in a community because rival work groups might steal it. It's hard to fight against social deviance. Easier to embrace it and include it in your systems (e.g. the competitive streak to beat rivals). 

6) Non-routine. People don't like to do things which aren't part of their normal routine. The challenge here is to co-opt existing behaviours to encourage members to participate. If members already share information by e-mail, complain about issues in a particular way, then bring these habits into the community.


Finally, if the motivation is high and the task is simple, they're not doing it because there is no trigger to make them do it. There is nothing in their daily routine which solicits a visit and contribution to your community. We discussed triggers before here (and here).

You have to identify an existing habit which you can use as a trigger to get members to visit the community. You have to heavily push and spread that habit in a small group until it becomes common practice. The trigger might be asking for help in a slightly different wat. It might be visiting during lunch or after the morning e-mail is complete. 

Very often, this is the hardest part. 

Diagnose your community, identify the likely problem, and make specific changes to resolve the problem.  

Being Consulted And Knowing You’ve Been Consulted

December 18, 2013Comments Off on Being Consulted And Knowing You’ve Been Consulted

Most community professionals are good at consulting with community members before making big decisions. They use polls, discussion threads, e-mail newsletters with responses, and other tools. 

It's not the feedback we want (although this is often useful), it's the buy-in we gain from those whom feel they were consulted and their opinion listened to. 

The problem is most members will miss the consultation opportunities. They won't read the newsletter, see the news posts, or participate in the discussion threads. 

In short, they might still be angry they weren't consulted (even if they were). 

The solution is to tell the community they have been consulted. In the newsletter, news posts, discussion threads, be sure to inform the community they were consulted – do this before they can express anger about not being consulted (once they express this, they'll ignore the facts rather than change their opinion). 

Tell the community what they told you. Tell them what they agreed, what they wanted, what they didn't want, and ensure that you're doing what members want. This ensures greater levels of support. Few people want to contradict what the community agreed.

Don't just consult members. Work hard to tell members they were consulted.  

Building Fun and Supportive Communities Where People Want To Hang Out

December 17, 2013Comments Off on Building Fun and Supportive Communities Where People Want To Hang Out

The soft stuff matters. 

The silly games, the off-topic discussions, the gossiping, the humorous shared stories, the obscure references to in-jokes, and the petty conflicts between different personalities all play an important role in helping members feel part of a community. 

If members feel a part of a community, they're more likely to do the things you want them to do. They're more likely to share information, support one another, help one another, give great feedback, and become more loyal to the organization that brought them together etc…

These visible benefits of a community is the tip of a very large iceberg. Immediately beneath the surface is the sense of the community. Beneath this are all the things that help make that sense of community possible. 

If you take the soft stuff away the community sinks. It becomes a boring, tedious, information-sharing task to squeeze in when you've finished your important work (this rarely happens). It's not uncommon to organize outlandish team-building exercises as a short-cut to building a sense of community.

If you don't allow the soft stuff to happen, the community doesn't float in the first place. The goal isn't to prevent the soft stuff, but to proactively cultivate it. Underpinning all these soft elements is a deep layer of psychology.

We want to feel connected to one another. We want to enjoy the time we spend online. We want to interact in environments which are fun. We want to share our emotional states with those that feel the same and can understand us. We want to use gossip to enforce community values and acceptable behaviour upon the group. 

Sure, the exact nature and the balance of soft activities changes by community. But the basic principles remain the same. A community of parents might enjoy word association games, gossip about celebrities, share parental advice, and share fun/silly pictures of their kids. A community of lawyers might share stories of problematic clients, exchange legal advice, arrange meetups, and argue about precise interpretations of law or ethics. 

Notice, in both of the above examples, the desired result (sharing advice) is just one of the many things these communities do. The task for community professionals is to make our communities the fun, supportive, and mutually understanding places where we want to spend our spare time. Don't drain communities of their fun edges and quirky passions – introduce and encourage these things. 

p.s. If you're interested in the psychology of communities. Attend the 2014 Virtual Community Summit in London on Feb 20 – 21. This is the first event dedicated to exploring and mastering the psychology behind successful communities. 


December 16, 2013 Comments Off on GiftWorks

Thanks for listening to my webinar for GiftWorks. If you would like more information, you can download half of my book, Buzzing Communities, for free.

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This book combines a century of proven science, dozens of real-life examples, practical tips, and trusted community-building methods.

This step-by-step guide includes a lifecycle for tracking your progress and a framework for managing your community efforts

Enter your e-mail address below to receive 50% of Buzzing Communities for free!


As a surprise bonus, we’re also sharing a bunch of other free resources below. This includes:

I hope this helps. Don’t hesitate to e-mail [email protected] if you have any questions. 

The Identity You Allow Members To Create: The Emerging Issues

December 16, 2013Comments Off on The Identity You Allow Members To Create: The Emerging Issues

Your community allows members to create and augment identities which best help them achieve their goals (positive distinctiveness, money, sex etc…).

These identities include profile information, contributions, friend lists, and avatars/pictures. It also includes publicly visible references to that members from others. 

By creating a community you have a degree of responsibility for these identities. 

Let's frame a few of the emerging challenges: 

1) Should you ensure members don't get themselves into trouble? 

For example, do you let members share personal details or not? Do you let members share information that could potentially cause trouble for themselves? Imagine a teacher posts drunken pictures in an unrelated community. It's not illegal, but can hurt his career prospects. 

Do you have strict rules (with subsequent moderation burden), broad guidance (with potential for problems), or absolve yourself of responsibility for the actions of members (with potential problems)?

2) Should you ensure members create accurate identities? 

Should you allow members to lie? Imagine a member lists achievements in their profile which are patently false. Are you responsible for ensuring truth or are you happy for hundreds of members to claim false achievements? 

Are you happy for members to become frustrated that members are creating fantasy identities with no basis in reality? 

Again, do you strictly moderate/remove this, do you do your best and take criticism when some slip through, or do you absolve yourself of this responsibility? 

3) Should you allow members to remove any contributions they like?

Should members be forgiven for past mistakes? Should a member be allowed to wipe out their contributions and start again afresh? Should members be allowed to selectively remove any contributions they have made – even if it distorts, breaks, or otherwise destroys a valuable discussion/resource?

If you allow a member to remove a contribution, do you also force any other references to that contribution to be removed? 

Do you insist members take responsibity for previous contributions and refuse to remove them? Do you allow some members to remove some material? Do you do this on a case by case basis and provide the resource to handle this workload? 

4) Should members be allowed to whitewash a negative identity and start afresh? 

Do members have the right to know the previous history of members? If a member builds a reputiation for being untrustworthy, unreilable, cheating, aggressive, and mean-spirited do members have a right to know?

In communities where members might enter into business agreements, relationships, or real-life friendships, should it be possible to look up the previous contributions of members they might enter into these interactions with? 

Yet, should something a member wrote 10 years ago, fresh out of school, still haunt them years later? People change and some things should be forgotten. 

5) What can members say about one another publicly (or externally)

What are members allowed to say about one another? Are they allowed to be negative? Do you have the resouces to prevent them from saying bad things to one another? (aside, are you responsible for online bullying?) 

If members are creating a unique identity (for example, a fan fiction community), how do you respond if another member deliberately posts a link to that identity in another community (e.g. their professional community)?

These are a few of the many issues emerging in the digital identity space. 

Right now, we don't have the technology to give either full control to members nor take full control ourselves. Even if we did, some issues are too complicated to do this. The rules for 4Chan/Reddit are very different from the rules for a community of tax professionals. 

There is a resource implication too. Strict rules require greater resources. A halfway approach works better, until members become disgruntled by a lack of consistency. A no-responsibility approach is simplest, until members blame the community and you suffer legal consequences and negative publicity. 

The solution is to go through each question and decide what you a) need to do b) want to do and c) have the resources to do. You need to individually craft an identity policy that works for your audience. This is worth debating with your community. 

p.s. Read Forgive and Forget: A Return to Obscurity

p.p.s. Webinar on 17th with Giftworks. Register for free here

What Happens When People Can Interact Online

December 13, 2013Comments Off on What Happens When People Can Interact Online

For the previous two summers, I've attended a 4-week Lithuanian language course in Vilnius. 

Last year, it was tough, lonely, and not much fun.

This year, I created a Facebook group for the 80 of us on the course. I invited everyone to join the group, initiated a few simple discussions ('why are you learning lithuanian?') and watched what happened. 

Within a week, the group became an invaluable resource for to plan meet-ups, help each other with home-work, identify fun things to do in the city, and keep the social connections going. A simple online group changed the entire experience. 

Online support groups have an incredible value for members. One study notes groups enable several key processes. These include exchanging information, sharing experiences, connecting to others, emotional support, finding recognition and understanding, and helping others. 

These lead to powerful outcomes such as:

  1. Increased optimism
  2. Emotional well-being
  3. Social well-being
  4. Being better informed
  5. Improved control over the common challenge
  6. More confidence

If you're ever wondering whether or not to do this for a course, a small group of friends, a particular challenge you're facing, do it. The downside is a few minutes of wasted time. The upside is an empowering resource for the entire group.

We need a lot, lot, more people taking the initiative to launch these groups. 

What Do You Want Members To Become?

December 12, 2013Comments Off on What Do You Want Members To Become?

Last year, Michael Schrage asked a great question of organizations; 'who do you want your customers to become?'

This same question drives to the heart of community strategy too. Who do you want your members to become? What do you want your members to achieve? What do you want them to be able to do differently as a result of being members of your community? 

The answers vary. You might want them to be smarter, more informed, and thus be able to make better decisions. You might want them to be happier, healthier, or wealthier. You might want your members to have more friends and a better social life. You might just want your members to no longer feel alone and isolated. 

But, fundamentally, there must be something you want your members to be able to be (and thus do differently) as a result of regular participation in your community. 

Take Community Geek, for example, we want our members to become smart social scientists. We want them to apply proven, reliable, science to build successful communities instead of always grappling for a technological solution. We provide our best resources to help them, invite the best people to join, and keep discussions at a more advanced level. 

Mumsnet wants mums to be more vocal, more activist, more eager to lend support to one another. 

A few questions then:

1) Who do you want your members to become?

2) What will they do differently as a result of the above change? 

3) How do you orientate your target members, the discussions you prioritise, the content you create, and your promotional messages to align with the above? 

One problem, your members might not want to be what you want them to be. If that's the case. This means either persuading them (selling benefits, showing examples, targeting the believers and expanding gradually) or finding something they do want to be. Both have their pros and cons. 

The Minority Opinion Becomes Fact When You Don’t Participate

December 11, 2013Comments Off on The Minority Opinion Becomes Fact When You Don’t Participate

I recently reached out to five people I admire to ask about the best forum platforms. 

Most had experience of 1 or 2, the rest of the information was hearsay originating from TheAdminZone forums. Some of the information was verifiably true, some was verifiably false. The problem is most people won't bother to verify. They seek opinions of a few people and then make decisions based upon those opinions. 

More importantly, most of the false information (or negative bias) can be traced back to the contributions of a tiny number of people (whom include disgruntled former staff members, competitors, and customers of competitors) in a relatively small number of posts. You can literally see the moments false rumours became accepted facts. 

A few things to think about:

1) A tiny cadre of people with a natural bias against you are responsible for your reputation amongst the most influential group of influencers. 

2) There are a tiny number of threats in which these platforms could have participate to correct any false information and give their perspective. 

3) When you don't participate in popular communities in your field, people accept the information from others as fact. Or to put it more bluntly, if you don't tell your story, someone else will. 

4) Based upon the information above, someone like me (with a reach of 10k+ community professionals) could make further purchasing recommendations. 

Today, companies think nothing of responding individual to customers on social media. However, few people see these responses. They make little difference. Participating in a few key communities, in a genuine, honest, way, is far more important.

Your reputation and real-world purchasing decision can depend upon you participating in a relatively small numbers of discussions within your sector. It's worth every penny. 

Fear Of Not Being An Expert

December 10, 2013Comments Off on Fear Of Not Being An Expert

A big fear preventing knowledge sharing is the fear of being seen as not an expert.

Many people, in the knowledge economy, are hired to be experts within their particular field. If they ask a question publicly, they’re admitting they don’t know something. Ask too many questions and they begin to look rather dim – at least they fear they do.

If you don’t have people asking for information, this might be the reason.

There are two options here. One is to change the culture to celebrate those that learn something new. That requires stories of people that became experts by constantly asking questions of the community. One is to champion those that want to learn and subtly mock the scared ‘experts’. Not easy.

The second option is easy. Provide an option for a registered user to hide their name from the question. They, and other members, still get the value of the answer – but they don’t have to have their name attached to it. Neither is an easy option, both are do-able. 

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