Month: April 2014

Pay More Attention To What Members Do, Not What They Say

April 30, 2014Comments Off on Pay More Attention To What Members Do, Not What They Say

The reaction is always the same.

Every time we make a big change to a client's community, people get upset.

Every single time. 

You can make the best changes ever and members will get upset. They will get upset because it's different. They were happy and comfortable with the old system. Large scale Digg-like desertions are fortunately rare. 

You can't avoid making changes because members will be upset. Members don't have the same data or knowledge as you do. They don't look at the big picture, the future of the community platform, the threads and opportunities in the environment. That's your job, not theirs. 

The creator of my favourite video game, Counter-Strike, once told me the following:

"We ignore the immediate backlash. I don't even check my e-mail during this time. We look at our numbers instead. Are members participating more? After a few weeks, I'll begin to check what people are saying again. These are the people who have genuine concerns and aren't just unhappy something has changed"

We embrace this same philosophy. Don't worry about making members happy when you revamp a community platform. Worry about making them more active. If the numbers drop and continue dropping, then you have a problem.

Deaths Of Members

April 29, 2014Comments Off on Deaths Of Members

Over the years, a few dozen people have asked how to handle deaths in the community. 

I can recall one story on the topic.

The first time a member died in my gaming community was in 2000. I announced it. 

We created a place for people to write eulogies for the member. Over 250 people posted their comments. 

Then we created a separate navigation tab, on the homepage, to go to this thread. It forever remained one of the most visited pages. 

The average age of members was around 16. We thought this would be the only death we ever dealt with. 

But then a strange thing happened.

Members began dying on a regular basis. Every month a member's 'parents' would write to me announcing their child had died. 

This was an unintended side-effect.

Members wanted the attention of the deceased and to see what people would say about them if they were gone. It became a tricky problem.

We removed more members for pretending to die than for violating the community rules.

You can learn a few things from this:

First, announcing the death of a member and giving members a place to post their tributes is a good idea. It's a bonding experience for members, it's nice for relatives to be able to read that (I'll never forget the parents of the deceased member above personally responding), and it provides a place for members to be remembered.

Second, you have to verify deaths. The 'being present at your funeral' motivation is powerful among members who feel neglected. If someone tricks you, it deeply hurts the community.

Third, this is sadly a very small (but important) part of the job. You manage large groups of people. Some of them, by law of averages, will pass on before their time. You can't stop that. You can, however, take steps to ensure their member is honoured and respected within the community. 

The Introducer Effect

April 28, 2014Comments Off on The Introducer Effect

Patrick writes a good, data-driven, post about the impact of the 'introduce yourself' post. 

You can break down the numbers below:


I think he's misinterpreting the data. It's hard to believe that introducing yourself years ago would make the difference between moving from 1000 to 2000 posts. 

From the data above, the members who did introduce themselves have a bigger sample size after 200 posts. This isn't very useful for assessing it's long-term impact.

What we want to know is the % drop-off rate from one post category to the next? 

The key question is will it help members to get to 50 posts in the first place? See the data below:


This shows what % of those that were in the previous category made enough posts to reach the next category. 

Here you can see that there is a big difference between those that introduce themselves to get from 1 to 50 posts (30.6% vs- 9.4%), but the introducer affect wears off relatively quickly after that. 

After >200 posts, introducing yourself has no significant impact. I suspect, your psychological sense of community plays a bigger role. 

TL:DR Version

To simplify, this data shows one of two things. It either shows that if you introduce yourself in the community, you're about 22.2% more likely to reach the 50 post mark. Or it shows that the people most likely to reach the 50 post mark, also tend to introduce themselves. 

If we wanted to know for sure, we would need a controlled trial with a random sample of prospective members. Half would be able to see and participate in the introduce yourself thread, half would not.

Since we don't have that data, I recommend the these videos from Josh Elman and The Student Room's Jack Wallington. 

Jack Wallington – "Using Data to Win Hearts and Minds " from FeverBee on Vimeo.

The Holy Grail Of Building Successful Online Communities: Creating A Strong Sense of Community

April 25, 2014Comments Off on The Holy Grail Of Building Successful Online Communities: Creating A Strong Sense of Community

I recently researched and published a 5000-word post summarizing everything we know about why we should develop a strong sense of community.

This includes the proven, researched, benefits of building a strong sense of community and the exact tactics you can use to achieve it. 

This, I believe, is the holy grail of our work.

If we master this, everything we do will be better

You can find the post here:


If you want to master the social science approach to building successful communities, sign up for our Professional Community Management course.

Registration is open now. The course begins on April 28th.


April 24, 2014 Comments Off on higherlogic



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. 

Two Approaches To Improving Your Community’s Registration Form

April 23, 2014Comments Off on Two Approaches To Improving Your Community’s Registration Form

We can split conversion theory into two schools of thought.

1) Quick and light.

2) Slow and heavy.

These two approaches are personified by two examples below.

Quick and light

Traditionally, the best registration forms look like this:


This is great for three reasons:

1) It tells you how long it will take "only 30 seconds!"

2) It only asks for the essential information (birthday is relevant due to student focus). 

3) It lets you slide to join (not confirm via e-mail). 

There is no confusion here. It's quick and simple. 

Watch Jack Wallington's talk about how he improved conversion rates using this form.


Slow and heavy

Another school of thought comes from Josh Elman, who helped Twitter increased their conversion rates.

Twitter deliberately slows the process down and forces you to create a profile, follow similar people, and tweet so you're instantly engaged in the community.

They identified the exact behaviours that lead to higher conversion rates. In this case, following 30+ people, 1/3rd of them following you back, and {x} number of tweets in the first month. 


This approach undoubtedly leads to a higher drop-out rate.

However, it also converts a higher percentage of newcomers into regulars. 

Watch Josh Elman's terrific talk here (skip to 20 minutes in). 

If your current approach isn't working, try the other. 

If you want to master the social science approach to building successful communities, sign up for our Professional Community Management course.

Registration is open now. The course begins on April 28th.

Stop Buzzfeeding Your Community

April 22, 2014Comments Off on Stop Buzzfeeding Your Community

We advise our clients not to begin Buzzfeeding their community. 

Yes, you can create more content like Buzzfeed.

You can create more top 10 27 lists, more shocking headlines, more What Games of Thrones Character Are You? quizzes, and more photo round-ups of topical events.

This will attract a lot of people to visit. Some will participate. 

But can you imagine these discussions leading to a real sense of community?

Can you imagine real value exchange taking place here?

Can you imagine people resolving their problems here? 

I doubt it. The community becomes a place people visit for a brief, entertaining, respite from the daily grind of work. 

It won't be a place for where people go to give and find something meaningful. 

People look at the content on your website for cues on how to participate and how to position this community in their mind. It's easier to grow a community through Buzzfeeding. It's harder to convert that growth into real value. 

If you want to master the social science approach to building successful communities, sign up for our Professional Community Management course.

Registration is open now. The course begins on April 28th.

How Technology Helps And Hurts Communities

April 21, 2014Comments Off on How Technology Helps And Hurts Communities

Technology both helps and hinders community.

It helps in the following ways:

1) Accessibility. Technology allows everyone in the world to participate. You don't have to be in the same room. You don't have to wait for a pause in the discussion to participate. You don't have to be extroverted to jump in. You can join in the specific discussions you like. You can ask the difficult questions you couldn't ask in person. 

2) Longevity. Community activities are (usually) stored indefinitely. They create a body of knowledge. They create a sum of previous stories and shared experienced. This is powerful for communities filled with tacit knowledge easily lost when members depart. You can use this to rapidly improve the skills/abilities of members. 

3) Nudges. Technology can automatically remind people to participate in communities. We can use technology to establish reminders, notifications, and other nudges to get people into the regular habit of participating in their community. From the moment members join, you can nudge members to participate in the right discussions in the right way via copy and tech tweaks. 

4) Influence. Technology allows you to have clear influence over what the community. You can add/remove discussions, highlight members and material you want people to pay attention to, and establish the rules for participation more easily than you could with an offline community. You can create an easy narrative for the community via content.

Technology also makes community work more difficult:

1) Depersonalizes. Technology depersonalizes the communication experience. there is a weak social presence. It doesn't feel as real nor as valuable. You don't get the same quantity or quality of information exchange as in person. You also care less about other members. You can use anonymity to attack people without retribution. 

2) Evolves. The steady evolution of technology can lead to members deserting platforms en-masse just as you've finally created the perfect platform. Members are fickle, and happy to jump from one platform to the next at great speed. Keeping platforms updated is more difficult. 

3) Causes fear People are scared. They're scared for their privacy, they're scared of looking bad, they're scared of their information being stolen. They fear sharing information, they have privacy concerns, they have concerns about overlapping identities. 

4) Distracts. Technology is also a huge distraction from the work of getting people to interact with one another. It takes time to design, develop, and maintain a platform. New features are as likely to do harm as do good.

This isn't a comprehensive list. 

We need more of the former and less of the latter. 

If you want to master the social science approach to building successful communities, sign up for our Professional Community Management course.

Registration is open now. The course begins on April 28th.


Showing Pictures Of Members Does Not Increase Conversion Rates

April 18, 2014Comments Off on Showing Pictures Of Members Does Not Increase Conversion Rates

Lots of communities include a box like this:

MembersboxUnless you know who these members are, I don't think a box like this helps.

In fact, less than half of the pictures are identifiable as real people. 

You can safely remove these boxes. They take up space and add nothing to the community.

Nobody visits a community, sees a bunch of unfamiliar faces, and decides to sign up. 

If newcomers are likely to know existing members (for example, their Facebook friends), then this might make a difference. Otherwise, just remove it. 

Far better to use this space to showcase just one member, well known personality, or a topical item people can get involved in right now. 

If you want to master the social science approach to building successful communities, sign up for our Professional Community Management course.

Registration is open now. The course begins on April 28th.

Two Clever Post-Event Discussions

April 17, 2014Comments Off on Two Clever Post-Event Discussions

"Who did you meet?"

"Who impressed you?"

These are two very clever post-event questions. 

They encourage members to think about who they met at their community and establish online connections. Those mentioned usually add/follow each other in the community. 

They also allow members to praise one another. Everyone is going to read the discussion to see if they were mentioned. Everyone wants to participate in the discussion to build connections. 

Even without events, you can adapt the discussions to:

"Who in the community have you met in person?"

"Who in the community to you admire?"

If you want to master the social science approach to building successful communities, sign up for our Professional Community Management course.

Registration is open now. The course begins on April 28th.

An Online Community Case Study: LeanIn.Org

April 16, 2014Comments Off on An Online Community Case Study: LeanIn.Org

As a new community getting a lot of attention, makes for a good case study. 


Community Concept (needs specific purpose and activities)

The community is for women who want to pursue ambitions and change the conversation. This is a good community concept. The community has a specific audience, a strong topic, a clear type (community of action). The purpose lacks a concrete goal. It's not clear what will happen in the community. 


Registration Process (needs to drive to the next action)

The benefits here could be stronger. They lean towards passively receiving information. 


It would be more powerful to use "find people who can help you and your career". This is an active benefit. Members have to participate to receive it. 

Offering simple registration by Facebook and e-mail is simple. The post e-mail registration system is going to be increasingly important for younger audiences.


Post-registration Process (guide towards the key converting actions)

The immediate post-registration page should guide members towards the key converting actions. What are the immediate next actions that help convert a newcomer into a regular? It's not going to be liking a page. It's going to be an active contribution to the community.

However, the post-registration process drives people to like the page on Facebook as the next step . 


You will never have the audience's attention more than you do at the moment they join. Liking Facebook is understandable, given the movement is founded by Facebook's COO. However, this is a relatively weak action. 

This should be something significant, but not too difficult. We usually achieve the highest conversion rates when members participate in a self-disclosure discussion within 15 minutes of signing up.

Introduce yourself is often difficult to complete (we struggle with the fine line between being boring and arrogant). For LeanIn, I'd make them participate in a circle group close to them (or start their own). This promotes an active commitment to the group. 

Alternatively, let members highlight what they want to achieve in their careers and what they think they need to get there. This would be a powerful discussion. 


The logged-in landing page (spotlight positive activity you want to encourage)

The landing page is a mess of information, upcoming activities, and multiple campaign efforts. 

It's not clear what members are supposed to do in the community, nor what will happen in the community that will help people achieve their goals. There is a lot of content, but none of this content is about what members are doing. 

We can improve this by giving greater priority to the interactions between members and the achievements of the different groups. In addiction, the call to action is to start a circle – but this is relatively buried within the site. This should be it's own core graphic at the top of the page. 

Better yet, ask members to enter their location when they join and force them to either start a circle or join an existing circle to get started. Limit groups to 12 members (scarcity). 

The content should focus more heavily upon the success of each group. Create a sense of co-opetition (yes, it's a thing) between groups. Let each group's success drive on others to replicate and top the previous success. Have successful case studies lined up and let the others adapt. 

Circle Sub-Groups

The MightyBell platform isn't highly conduicive to successful communities. The process of finding or joining a circle is simple, but you're not guided to these actions. You're not nudged to do the actions which would most benefit the community. 


The biggest problem is most circles have no meaningful activity. There are individual posts from members. However, in the 20 circles I visited, none had a sustained discussing taking place within the community. 


This makes the entire movement look bad and uncommited. 

We would recommend an Area51 system. Members can create groups in a staging area and receive all the support they need to make the group a success. Dead groups are worse than no-groups. 

If a member wanted to create a circle, they would first have to find 12 people, initiate and sustain a meaningful level of activity, and demonstrate a meaningful output (one member asked for a raise!). 

Instead of creating circles, we might advise members to find a circle close to them and apply to join (or be on the waiting list, so non-active participants can be removed). The notification feature to remove non-participants would be a powerful motivator for members to keep participating. 


LeanIn is a community with a huge prospective audience, a powerful concept, and an important idea of breaking the large audience into smaller sub-groups. However, the danger is the movement fails to begin because too many of the sub-groups are inactive or not facilitating a meaningful exchange of information. 

If you want to master the social science approach to building successful communities, sign up for our Professional Community Management course.

Registration is open now. The course begins on April 28th


The FeverBee Approach To Building Communities

April 15, 2014Comments Off on The FeverBee Approach To Building Communities

I recently posted this on our private mailing list.

It received a significant response, so I'm posting it to a broader group. 

Recently we mentioned we had a system that ensured our success ratio was close to 100%
The system is the sum of all our knowledge in linear form. Once you’ve been trained in the system, you can use it to build any number of communities you like.
In this e-mail, blog post(!), I’m going to explain a little more about this system.
The FeverBee System
Our system is successful for two reasons.
First, we don’t work with organizations we don’t think will succeed. If they can’t prove they can progress through this system, we don’t work with them.
I would estimate we’ve turned down several million dollars in work because we don’t believe the community will succeed.
Of the organizations we’ve turned down, none has ever subsequently developed a successful community (as of Jan 2014).
Second, we bring proven social science into the process.

We know the theory of online group development, sense of belonging, motivational appeals, social identity etc. We can use these as useful tools to ensure the community succeeds.
The Simplified FeverBee System
This is a simplified version of the system. We teach it in far more depth during the course.

For simplicity, we’ve removed the platform steps here. We will cover these later.

  • Budget (min $50k to $100k). Identify and ensure a budget of $50k to $250k is set aside for salary, platform development, and miscellaneous costs. 
  • Permission and processes. Check there are no internal issues which will derail the community. This is a lengthy list.
  • Specific target audience (two qualifiers). Establish an audience cluster with two or more qualifiers (based upon habits, demographics, psychographics).
  • Strong common interest (time, money, emotions, or representative). Ensured the community is something we spent a lot of time or money on, is emotionally provocative or represents our identity in some way. Checked the group already talks about this topic.
  • Establish contacts and credibility. Go through The CHIP Process. Attend events, create content, interact in existing groups/communities, host events, and reach out to people. This helps build a list of 250 prospective members who are familiar with us. 
  • Initiate early activity based upon biggest interests. Using the information discovered in the interviews (especially concerning challenges, hopes, fears, aspirations), develop content/discussions for this group. Invite 5 members of the 50-strong group above to participate every day. 
  • Create ownership opportunities for all 50 members. We invite each member to contribute to the community based upon experience or expertise they possess. They feel valued and gain a sense of ownership over the community.
  • Reach 30 successful discussions. This is arbitrary, but this usually means 30 discussions with 5 or more responses. We participate, nudge members to participate, create content about discussions, and do everything we can to ensure we hit 30 successful discussions. 
  • Build a sense of community. Once we have hit 30 successful discussions, we work tobuild a strong sense of community. We bring the principles of membership, influence, integration of needs, and a shared emotional connection to our work.
  • Nurture 10 volunteers. Invite members to build upon their existing contributions by having their own content, group, or other place in the community to they are responsible for. Build an insider group for these individuals.

From this point there is no fixed path. Instead, we put in place a measurement and response system. Thereby you learn how to measure the health, progress, and ROI of the community. Based upon your measurements, you make changes in your actions.

Ensure you're undertaking all aspects of the community management framework for your stage of the online community lifecycle

If you want to plan this all out beforehand, you download our community strategy template
If you want to learn more about the system, sign up for our course.
Registration is open now and will close when all places are taken. At present, almost half the places have been taken within the first week we have about 6 places left.
Also remember we offer a full guarantee if you’re not happy. This puts the burden on us to ensure you get value from the course. 

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