Month: March 2014
Don't add a new tool unless you're sucking in prospective members from the tool.
Jelly, Pinterest, Instagram, FourSquare, Twitter, Quora, YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Slideshare, blogs are all tools you can use to attract new members.
But how many unique, new, visitors are coming from these tools? I'm betting is not many.
Too often, we launch accounts on new tools because it's a trend. We promote these new accounts to existing members (whom didn't ask for new account). Now the community is divided over two platforms instead of one. That's two platforms to keep updated and pumped with a steady stream of new information with limited benefits.
Worse still, new tools rarely have a big existing audience. They need people like your audience to them.
You have two considerations when creating an organizational account on any of these platforms. Are you sucking new members in or pushing your existing members out?
If you're sucking new members in, that's good. That's a good source of new members. If you're pushing new members out, that's bad*
Instead of creating and managing accounts on new platforms in the vague hope of tapping into a mass, participate in existing groups and communities. Look for relevant forums and groups on meetup.com, LinkedIn groups, Facebook groups, e-mailing lists, and other places that actually have a large, dedicated, audience relevant to your community.
Participate and develop inbound content there instead.
* the exception here is when the tool reminds members about the community and encourages them to visit. Twitter/FB typically fall into this category.
You can follow every single best practice and still fail if you can't interact like a human being.
Situations like this are the extreme, but they reflect a more common approach to initiating discussions.
People respond to discussions because they want to:
1) Help the original poster (efficacy/validation)
2) Build a relationship with the original poster (affiliation)
3) Impress the community (positive distinctiveness)
When you initiate a discussion, it has to feel like it comes from a real person, with a real message, and a real impact.
By real person, we mean that you (personally you) feel like a genuinely interested member in the topic. People know you. You express opinions. You don't speak in the third person or only recite the brand's message.
By real message, people have to know why you're asking the message (how does it help you?) and why you're asking the message now (why not tomorrow?)
By real impact, if you don't respond or don't highlight how it might help you, people are less likely to respond in the future.
Here's one of our own examples that got a decent, quick, response.
This post gets a decent response because of three reasons:
1) I have a history of participating, plenty of relationships with members, and express my opinions in the past. People know who I am. They (hopefully) know I'm not a corporate drone.
2) The post explains I'm asking the question. How it helps me and why I'm asking the question now.
3) It specifically asks people if they have tried it (everyone can respond yes/no), whether it worked, and if they have any other broader thoughts. They know what sort of response I want.
There are other tips here too. Keep it short, use short sentences, simple words, break long paragraphs into separate lines to make it more readable.
However, if you get the basics right, you're response rate should be much higher.
In the early stages, the community manager typically performs all the tasks in the community management framework.
They develop the strategy, invite people to join, create content about the community, initiate and sustain discussions, facilitate regular events, build relationships with top members, take responsibility for platform development, and deal with the integration with the community's founding organization.
As the community develops, their role splits. First, usually, into coordinator-type roles and then into coordinator, manager, strategist. Then finally into entire teams of community editors, event organizers, managers, strategists, advocates, developers each responsible for their own area of the community.
The single benefit here is specialisation. By dividing the key tasks of growth, content, platform development, data collection and development, dealing with the business integration, you should be able to get people very, very, good at these tasks.
If you find yourself in one of these roles, you can excel by bringing outside expertise into your field.
- Director: Read as much as you can get about internal goals, securing internal buy-in, and building internal systems for communication. Look especially at material focused on organizational change, change management, leadership, and organizational psychology. Kevin Hillstrom's work is terrific.
- Strategist: Become an expert on project management and data. Learn what data to collect, how to collect it, and the common biases that undermine data efforts. Look specifically at the Project Management Software Survival Guide, Strategic Database Marketing, or books within the knowledge management and non-profit sectors for measuring impact.
- Moderator: Become an expert in facilitation, conflict resolution, and individual psychology. Learn to spot if members are causing problems because they are the type of members that cause problems or if they have an issue they are upset about. Understand the different technology-assisted moderation platforms and the most efficient ways of removing bad material. Understand what discussions you can initiate to provoke a large number of responses. Read the principles of group psychology/dynamics.
- Advocate: Master growth and evangelism. Learn the tenets of permission marketing, PR, growth hacking/viral feedback loops, presentations (at events), and customer evangelism. Learn about persuasion and mass propaganda theory. Get really good at building relationships online, persuading people to both join following their through to participation. Learn specifically about the motivation and social fears of participating in new groups.
- Organizer: Read plenty of traditional community organizing books. Understand the nature of finding out what members are most concerned about and then initiating discussions, events/activities, and making change that improves the condition of members. Understand how to increase the knowledge/expertise of your own members.
- Editor: Learn the basic principles of journalism. Spend less time on getting the grammar perfect and more on the principles behind creating content that people want to read. Study the success of sites like Buzzfeed and use those same principles. Read how local newspapers function. Learn how to write content about what members are doing. Make the content about the community.
- Developer: Spend time on UXBooth, developer sites, and sites dedicated to community platforms. You should have an advanced understanding of what every platforms offers, setting up platforms, maintaining platforms, and security.
In larger communities, the role of the community manager will split into its unique sub-groups. If you're in these roles, specialize in that field. Learn everything you can to be as efficient as you can in that sector. The future belongs to the specialists.
Imagine you run the support forums for a popular product, e.g. a web browser.
Several hundred million people use your product every day.
Whenever they visit your forum, it's because they either have:
1) A really basic problem they want solved.
2) A really advanced problem they want solved.
3) To complain about something you can't solve.
You can't build a community from this audience. This audience doesn't have enough in common. The goal for participants is to find responses to questions as quickly as possible. The game is to make this process as efficient as possible.
Compare with with FitBit, another community for an audience which will may eventually millions of members. This audience has a lot in common. They have a common goal and purpose. You can build a community among this group.
Generally, if the product isn't very expensive, something we spend a lot of time consciously using, emotionally provocative, or representative of our identity, it's going to be very difficult to build a genuine community around it. So don't try.
Only build a community when the audience has a strong common interest.
This sounds really obvious, and it is, but we still see too many organizations trying to force a community when it's not possible.
We're looking for a community consultant to join us at FeverBee.
You will be helping clients develop and manage effective online communities.
This includes helping develop community strategies and implementing tactics based upon proven theory, undertaking audience and sector analysis and analyzing data. You will also be heavily involved in organizing and delivering FeverBee’s Professional Community Management Course.
As a small and very busy company you will be required to undertake project management and operations tasks as required.
The perks are good. You get to work at home (results only work environment). You set your own schedule (within fixed deadlines). You get advanced training in community management and consultancy. Travel will be involved.
You should be…
- 100% reliable (whenever you say you will do something, you're expected to do it). We want someone who doesn’t need micro-managed and will always ensure their tasks are completed on time and to the best of their ability. You should be good at problem-solving and confident suggesting ways to improve company processes.
- Terrific with data and research (some training here would be ideal). You should have a deep knowledge of online communities (in all forms).
- You need excellent writing and presentation skills.
- A good communicator; not only an ability to communicate with FeverBee clients but with the rest of the team. With all staff working remotely it is vital you can work on your own but also up-date the rest of the team about what your working on and key priorities.
- Able to multi-task. Your duties will be diverse so you need to able to switch between tasks without the standard of your work suffering.
- And, of course, you need to have a genuine passion for this work. You need to be fascinated by the science of communities and the impact of connecting millions of people around thousands of diverse topics. You will be expected to immerse yourself in FeverBee's approach to building communities and always keep up to date on the latest community trends.
Ideally we would like someone based in the UK.
Bilingualism is an advantage, but not essential.
This is not a social media role.
If you're interested (or know someone that is), e-mail me your CV and links to relevant community work: [email protected].
Don't allow members to speak in multiple languages within the same community.
The reason should be obvious.
Fewer members will be able to understand it. Every foreign-language discussion is the same as spam to a non-speaker.
Imagine you have an audience that includes speakers from English, French, and Spanish speakers. All things being equal, members will only be able to understand and participate in 1/3rd of the discussions.
However, all things aren't equal. You will usually find 75% of the audience speak English (first or second language). You will usually find one group has significantly more or significantly less interest in the community.
Don't try to please everybody. Focus on a slice of your audience that has as much in common as possible. Build one community at a time. Once you have one community going, then consider creating another for a different language.
Augment your community activity with the best resources possible.
Flood your community with terrific resources. Your community should be the single, greatest, source of wisdom in your topic.
By running a community, you can see the questions which most frequently appear. You have a unique insight into what your members need. Every question which gets a big response (or appears the most frequently) can be the basis for a terrific, new, resource.
If you're just starting out, there is often plenty of copyright-free resources you can include in the first place.
There are usually a lot of links to interesting reports, embeddable videos, and advice you can curate into a single destination for members. Add your own material to this advice. Pay a few of the top people to add their resources here.
Do whatever you can to have the greatest collection of those resources online. It's easier to ask members to add to existing material than it is to develop material from scratch. The more material you have, the easier it is for people to recommend the community to other people.
Most of us have to be careful what we say on Twitter.
It's (usually) public. Lots of people read it. It gets indexed. It lasts forever.
One bad/foolish comment can destroy a reputation, even a career.
People are more worried about looking bad than looking good.
The bigger the audience, the less anonymity they have, the more afraid they are.
Your members are terrified of asking dumb questions, being criticised, providing information which is corrected by others, being outsmarted by perceived rivals, unintentionally upsetting someone etc…
This isn't the case with WhatsApp/Snapchat. You can say what you want to a tiny group of people. You worry less about the identity you've spend a long time constructing. You can be more provocative, more yourself. Fear stops more people contributing than we realize.
Most of us know this of course, yet few do anything about it.
There are three core issues here you can influence:
1) Size of the group which sees the message. This is the biggest one. We can say more when we know and trust the small group of people that see it (usually less than 10). If you allow people to create their own, small, simple, private groups from within the community, activity might rise.
2) Longevity of the contributions. If a message lives forever, we have to be worried about it. You can consider not indexing contributing and allowing old discussions to disappear (like 4Chan).
3) Non-identifiable contributions. You can give members a button to submit comments anonymously, use any nickname they like, use throwaway accounts (Reddit), or otherwise mask who the contribution is from.
We've found this more true in environments where identity is important (profession), than consumer-led communities. We haven't scratched the surface of privacy and anonymity yet. We need to explore group size, contribution longevity, and anonymity to encourage more honest contributions to a community.
Ramit Sethi notes CVS are dropping a product which generates $2bn a year in sales.
On the same day, 37 Signals announce they're going to drop all but one product.
These are big, powerful, strategic, decisions.
The message here, perhaps, is real strategy hurts.
I've been in too many rooms where a community professional refuses to make any strategic choice which excludes a significant percentage of the audience.
Yet this is exactly what you need to do. You need to focus on a small slice of your audience that has as much in common as possible. The more the audience has in common, the greater the sense of group identity, the more relevant every discussion, the more likely that this group want to join and participate in the community.
We're not asking you (or any of our client) to give up $2bn a year in sales. We're usually asking you to exclude a significant percentage, perhaps the majority, of your audience and focus on a small group you can build a strong, powerful, community from.
If you ask us to write a strategy, we don't wave a magic wand and explain how you build a thriving community in 3 months that makes all of your target audience happy. We outline the tough choices a community requires and use research to help you make those choices.
You can expand later. You can build multiple communities in different groups later. But do this later. For now, make the big, scary, painful, strategic decisions.