Month: October 2014

Building Up An Extensive Partnership Network For Your Community

October 15, 2014Comments Off on Building Up An Extensive Partnership Network For Your Community

Your community lives in an ecosystem filled with other people and organisations.

The better your relationships with these others, the greater the benefits for your community.

Your community has a lot to offer any organisation. It can raise the profile of an individual within their sector. It can raise awareness of an issue the group cares about. 

It is worth setting aside one or two hours each week to build and maintain relationships with the key organisations and people within your ecosystem. This can lead to content, new members, free products/services, and plenty more.

Our approach to this is three fold:

1) Who do we approach

2) How do we reach them?

3) What do we ask them? 


Who to approach?

This is easy.

Approach the companies your members already mention. Approach the vendors or producers of the tools/services they use. Approach the authors of books they mention.

Approach the people doing interesting things in the sector. Approach the people who are the experts, have the most powerful, or otherwise are highly involved in the space. Approach those who have the biggest audience in the sector. 


How to approach them

Many companies don't list their staff or e-mail addresses on their website. Finding the right people can be difficult. 

There are three routes to this. I've listed these in order of success:

1) Ask for a referral. If you use LinkedIn, ask for a referral from someone you know. This is the most powerful. You can begin the conversation with {x} suggested I speak to you…"

2) Call up the company switchboard. This is usually the best option. Call up the switchboard and ask who you should speak to about the marketing or business development. They will either give you a name or put you through. 

3) Find the right person/e-mail address online. If the website doesn't list useful names, search for " {company name} AND {marketing/business development}". This will give you the right people to speak to. Then search for e-mail "". Look for any named e-mail address of that company. This gives you the right e-mail format to use. If you can't find it, try [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], or the first letter of their first name and then their lastname e.g. ([email protected]). 

What to tell them

There are two stages here. You want to perk their interest enough to have a proper discussion.

Tell them you run a large community with xx thousand members. This might be the audience they would love to reach. You would like to schedule a call to discuss a potential partnership here.

Keep it really short. You want them to ask for more information, not agree to something right there. 

We get around a 60% to 75% response rate to these e-mails. 

Then in the call you can figure out a mutually beneficial partnership. There are various things we tend to ask for here. These include:

1) Can you e-mail your members/staff to join the community?

2) Can you put a link on your site? 

3) Can we put together an invite/discount code you can share with your members?

4) Can you share your latest news with us? 

5) Can you create a regular, weekly, expert-advice, column for us?

6) Can you give us discounts/free trials of your produces/services?

7) Would you like to sponsor the community (or community event?)

8) Can you share news from the community on your own site? 

9) Can we interview your CEO (or company star?)

10) Do you have any advice for us? 

We tend to quickly identify which ideas will work best and orientate our approach to match.

The goal is to build up an extensive network of key partners who support your community, send content/members to that community, and can share what your community is doing with their own audience. 

Creating And Resolving Strong, Angry, Groups

October 14, 2014Comments Off on Creating And Resolving Strong, Angry, Groups

Groups rally when they're being attacked. 

Groups rally when they're being ignored (and have a spark). 

If you want to make your group stronger, foster the perception that the group is being attacked. They bond under fire. They support and help one another. 

Smart group organizers know this. They bait an opponent until they react and then capture the moment for others to see. 

If you want to make your group louder, foster the perception that they're being ignored. Create plausible actions they can. Targeting an organization's sponsors, customers, or writing to their employees often works. Never highlight a problem unless you have a solution. 

Better yet, collaborate on something (e.g. how to switch to a new customer) and begin disseminating it. Turn that frustration of being ignored into something the group can productively do to feel they have power. 

Highlight a particular person whose attention they need to get and go about getting it. Take steps to to ensure they can't be ignored. Phone them up 20 times a day. Then make it 50. 

On the flip side.

Never allow the perception that you're attacking a group (or worse, a member of that group). The entire group will rally against you. Never ignore the vocal demands of a group that has a spark (something beyond normal issues_.

And if you do, there is only one way to dispel an angry group. You're not going to like it. You need to completely engage. You need to let them win. You need them to feel that they have achieved something. 

You need to ask them to put forward people to speak on their behalf and then have real dialogue with these people. The symbology of this matters almost as much as the outcome. 

$100K To Create A New Network of Top Community Professionals

October 13, 2014Comments Off on $100K To Create A New Network of Top Community Professionals

When we decided to do SPRINT, we knew we wanted to do a different type of event.
We wanted to focus on:
a) directly resolving your challenges  
b) introducing new ideas from the top speakers into the community space
c) creating a unique support network for the top professionals.
This event won’t be like anything you’ve previously attended.

The $100k Decision
We made one decision early on; no half-measures.

The atmosphere and environment matter a lot for an event to succeed.
We set aside $100k to host this event properly.

We made sure we had a terrific venue, great speakers, professional vendors, a dedicated after-party venue, quality learning materials and plenty more surprises we won’t share here.
This $100k is an investment in creating something new. We want to bring together those who will spur the community space forward for the next few years. 

A Powerful Network of Advanced Community Pros
Our goal is to build a powerful support network of community professionals who actually do community management work.  
Imagine if you could get help from an exclusive group of experts for any challenge you ever face in the community space. 

This would give you an incredible advantage over other community managers.
This is the place we want to create through SPRINT.

Speaker Challenges and A Unique Offer
It’s been hard on the speakers.

We’ve pushed and challenged them to restructure their talks.

We’ve asked them to drop the traditional narrative structure and focus on sharing their best ideas.

Every one of them has raised their game and created something that blows us away.  

More than just talks

It’s not just the talks that have value.

It’s the opportunity to approach any speaker throughout the day and get help directly from true experts.

Every one of them is a professional who does this work at an advanced level. Every one will help you however they can.

And now it's your turn…

We have done everything we can to create the event you told us you wanted. 

Now it's your turn to decide if you want to come

If you want to resolve the challenges you face…

If you want to be a part of this incredible group of community professionals…

If you want to get brand new ideas for building communities…

…sign up to FeverBee SPRINT

Telling Them What To Do (Or Being Told What To Do)

October 10, 2014Comments Off on Telling Them What To Do (Or Being Told What To Do)

In my experience, this splits community professionals down the middle.

When you begin your job, you can wait to be told what to do. 

Or you can tell your company what to do.

Which do you think gets you the most respect?

The Problem With Building A Community Between Buyers and Sellers

October 9, 2014Comments Off on The Problem With Building A Community Between Buyers and Sellers

Belk explains the problem with trying to build a community when a profit-motive is involved.

Specifically, he distinguishes between sharing (which facilitates community) and pseudo-sharing (which doesn't). 

In Couchsurfing, studies show a high sense of community between host and visitor. No money is exchanged. Hosts let guests stay for free. Friendships form. Many hosts go far beyond expected norms to help their guests. 

In ZipCar, studies show limited sense of community. Money is exchanged. There's no communal ownership. 

When there is a profit-motive to sharing (a good, knowledge, access), people are less likely to bond and feel a connection with one another. They might share an equal amount, but they don't feel the same bond with others through doing it. They place it in their financial transaction mental bucket. 

We still have positive interactions with those we buy from/sell to. I bought from sellers at Portobello Market for years in Notting Hill. We spoke several days a week. But we never went for coffee (or beyond the buyer/seller environment). 

This presents problems for sites that try to build a sense of community that includes both buyer/seller. Too often, we typically see the interaction as an extended form of transaction. 

It may be possible to indoctrinate newcomers to the idea of joining a community upon registration, but that would distract from the immediate goal of guiding the member to buy. 

This doesn't mean you can't build a sense of community solely among the hosts or solely among the visitors. But it's very hard to build a community between the two of them. 

Scoping The Project

October 8, 2014Comments Off on Scoping The Project

One of our client's communities has been held up for a few months.

The problem is salesforce integration. 

The vendor stated they could integrate the community with salesforce. They provided examples of successful integrations. We accepted this. Later the vendor noted our client's salesforce integration was far more advanced (and complex) than they were used to. 

Little, unexpected, things like this often arise and cause big delays. 

Another client had a community held up for several months because of IT integration issues. 

The lesson here is to fully scope out any change. Scope out exactly how it will function, create images of every page, be specific in what every button is, and be clear about how every integration works.

You have to go into great detail to force decisions to be made early and identify potential problems

This adds a couple of days, even a week or two, to every possible project. There's a cost implication too. Yet this is the level we want to be working at. Usually, if you don't do it, nobody else will.

On October 29th to 30th, the world's top 250 community professionals are going to SPRINT in San Francisco. Will you be one of them?

How To Be Popular At Your Community’s Events

October 7, 2014Comments Off on How To Be Popular At Your Community’s Events
A while go, we shared this on our private mailing list
It proved to be the most popular e-mail we ever sent, so I'm sharing it here too. 
How to Be Popular At Any Event You Attend (20 quick tips)

We’ve now sold 80% of the available tickets for FeverBee SPRINT

If you still want to secure your place, get your ticket soon.

In this e-mail, I’m going to explain how anyone (even introverts) can be very popular at community events. 

The Real Value of Events

The real power of events is bringing quality people together.

This includes people who you can help and hire. People who can solve your problems. People you might become friends with.

At Lithium’s Linc event, I met Caty Kobe. She began working for us last week.

Too often, we waste the amazing value of events. I see people looking at their phones during valuable free-discussion time. 

At FeverBee SPRINT, all the stars of our field are going to be in the same room. All the top companies in our sector will be there.

We’re going to do everything we can to create the perfect social environment to meet all of them. 

However, we also want you to help yourselves.

We know there many introverts among you. We’ve put together a few tips that have helped us over the years. 
20 Tips For Being Popular At Events 
1)    Research the attendees beforehand. Make a list of who you want to meet and what you want to ask them. 

2)    E-mail the top 10 people you want to meet in advance. Ask them for coffee before you meet up. If any are local, arrange to meet at the airport, share cabs, hotels, etc…

3)    Be the organizer. Be the person that brings the fun. Organize a small, exclusive, pre-event meetup, book an airbnb house with 6 rooms, and let 5 others join you. Host a small after party at yours (please don’t go crazy). Suggest shared travel. Invite 5 people to join you for a lunch group. Go outside the venue to have lunch with a few others. 

4)    Say something remarkable within the first 30 seconds. We all know the elevator pitch. The goal isn’t to sell the product, the goal is to intrigue the person enough to continue the discussion. How do you answer the “what do you do” question? I used to say “we help companies build communities”. Yawn.

Try different lines…for a year I would say “we figured out a specific social science principle to ensure every community reaches critical mass”…you can guess what their next question is right? Focus on the vision with an interesting twist, not the functional aspect of what you do. 

5)    Tell stories. Have a few funny/interesting stories about your work you can share. Make sure it has a beginning, middle, and an end. Get comfortable telling the same few stories about your work. Don’t give facts, give interesting examples. Put together your best stories that you can drop into a discussion. 

6)    Know your strengths. Be clear about how you can help people you meet at an event. Don’t be shy about saying what you’re good at, but counter-balance this with the next point. 

7)    Know your weaknesses. Be clear about what you need help with. People want to help you. You need to know what you want help with. Be specific. 

8)    Know who/what you’re looking for. Similar to the above, if you met someone you want to work for, recruit, or interact with at some point, how would you know? What qualities would they have? Most of the people we’ve hired are those we’ve previously met at an event. 

9)    Introduce yourself. Get comfortable turning to the person next to you and say “Hi I’m ….”. if you do this 100 times, you’ll never get a bad reaction. Follow a 3-second rule. Do it within the first 3 seconds of sitting down. 

10)    Join existing groups. I go up to existing groups and say “mind if I join you, I’m Rich”. I shake hands with everyone, let the discussions continue, then join in with my opinion. 

11)    Set a deadline. I’m told this advice originates from pickup literature. If you’re keen to speak to a star within the sector, let them know you only want to speak to them for 2/3 minutes. This eases the fear that they will be stuck in one discussion for hours. 

12)    Speak slower and watch your upward inflection (or high-rising terminal). Slow your speech down a little. You will sound more authoritative. Unless it’s a question, don’t let your last word end on a higher pitch. This is perceived as portraying insecurities. 

13)    Ask the golden question. If you’re looking for work or clients, get used to asking “So what brings you here?

14)    Leave others before they leave you. Or, put more simply, don’t be clingy. If someone moves away and you follow them without being invited, you’re being clingy. Don’t panic, we’ve all done it.

Far better to end the discussion at a high point and find someone else you can meet. You will circle back round later. If you have a pause in the discussion and can’t think what to say next, it’s time to meet other amazing people. 

15)    End discussions politely. If you want to end a discussion, offer your business card and then say you’re going to circulate the room a little. We can all understand this. 

16)    Book the next step. If you want to continue the discussion. Get your phone, load up your calendar, and ask them when they’re free. Arrange a meeting right there. This is powerful to do in person. 

17)    Chase up furiously. Don’t chase up to keep in touch, chase up with a few practical ideas or a new thought to add to your discussion. Recommend a book or an update on what you discussed. Suggest a time to do something fun. 

18)    Use the (sales)force (app). This is a little controversial, but use your phone’s salesforce app to keep an update of your interactions. Don’t update it on the networking floor, that makes you seem like the person who is too shy to go talk to people. I do my updates out of sight. 

19)    Focus on fun, not done. Don’t worry so much about getting stuff done. We’ll cover that in our workshop sessions. Focus on having fun discussions with the people you meet. Suggest a few ideas.

20)    Go easy on the unsolicited advice. While you're just trying to be helpful, unsolicited advice can sometimes be irritating. If people don't want your advice, don't give any. Better yet, you can ask “mind if I give you some unsolicited advice?

If I could add one more personal one, I’d say “don’t add the people you meet on Facebook immediately after the event.” Most of us like to keep our identities separate. 

I hope this helps you make the most of FeverBee’s SPRINT.

Removing the Freeloaders

October 6, 2014Comments Off on Removing the Freeloaders

We recently removed some of the freeloaders from CommunityGeek

These were a small group of people who joined via a VIP pass (they didn't pay) and occasionally lurked on the site without ever participating. 

They didn't offer much to the community. We asked them to share their knowledge/experiences with the group. When they still didn't participate, we removed them. 

Some will argue lurkers are valuable members. They might advocate on behalf of the community. Share knowledge with others they meet. Bring more people in. However, there's no evidence this was happening.

Once we established the notion of reciprocity within the group (i.e. you share what you're learing frequently in the course of your work) activity immediately increased. We can clearly see a measurable benefit to the entire community of removing those few members (and explaining why). 

We established a clear expectation. We expect people to share what they are doing, thinking, and learning with others. A community can't survive if the lurker count drifts too high. We put a stop to it early. 

What’s Beginner? What’s Advanced?

October 3, 2014Comments Off on What’s Beginner? What’s Advanced?

A lot of our work is focused on the minutia of building communities.

Some might consider that "basic"

We spend little time talking about social business. We barely think about the % of Fortune 500 companies using social media. We don’t talk at the high level about what big companies should do to take advantage of social.

There is a simple reason. 

It's a space filled with a lot of noise and little evidence. There are countless voices who can declare communities are important, speculate on long-term trends, and arrogantly declare what big companies are doing wrong. 

There are very few (far too few) who can tell a client what to say to a new member to get them to participate? Or what specific steps will convert a newcomer into a regular? Or how to create a group identity between a group of strangers. Or how to embed habit-triggers that embrace proven motivation. 

Our belief, and we hope our audience’s belief too, is we need fewer voices speculating on the future of social and more explaining what specific steps to take to build a community. 

In my mind explaining what to do is advanced, speculating on high-level strategy is basic. 

On October 29th to 30th, the world's top 250 community professionals are going to SPRINT in San Francisco. Will you be one of them?

Reframing Volunteering In Online Communities

October 2, 2014Comments Off on Reframing Volunteering In Online Communities

Tell someone you volunteer your time to help your community. The response is positive. 

If you add the word 'online' to that sentence, the context changes.

It feels less meaningful, less valuable, a poorer contribution to society.

That's the problem with online volunteering, it's hard to visualise what this means.

No-one brags about volunteering for an online community. We need to tackle this impression with the following argument.

Online communities need volunteers as much as offline communities. 

In an online community, your work has more impact. You help hundreds, perhaps thousands, not just a few dozen.

Anyone can be an online volunteer. They can decide how much they want to help.

Perhaps they just want to welcome a few people a week to the community. Perhaps they want to remove spam that ruins intelligent debate. Perhaps they want to be an advocate and recruit newcomers or create fresh content on a regular basis. 

Better yet, they're not limited to discussions about their local community, they can help create an environment that for thousands to become more involved in the topic they truly love. 

Almost everyone says they want to do volunteering, but few ever do.

Helping an online community is an easy way for everyone to do something good. We need to make them feel good about it. 

On October 29th to 30th, the world's top 250 community professionals are going to SPRINT in San Francisco. Will you be one of them?

What % Of Your Members Are You Comfortable Upsetting?

October 1, 2014Comments Off on What % Of Your Members Are You Comfortable Upsetting?

Patrick shares his decision not to post an article about female martial artists. 

He asked a few female members of the community and decided not to publish the article because some might find it offensive. 

Patrick's example may be unique, but in the broader context there is a obvious danger to not publishing articles that might offend/upset members.

It leads to groupthink.

It leads to a stale community that rejects new ideas in favour of the status quo.

Better yet, the list of things people find offensive is too broad to act as a single decision point. Here's a screenshot from today (Aug 1, 2014):


This raises a few big dilemmas as curators of community identity. 

1) Should you try to pre-empt articles that might provoke a % of your members? 

Unless the article personally attacks an individual (not their ideas/actions), is sexist/racist/homophobic, or clearly a violation of any normal ISP's terms of service, we would allow it.

New ideas begin at the fringes and aren't accepted by groups which favour the status quo. New ideas are often considered offensive to many. 

Better yet, who decides what's offensive? Are you the self-appointed purveyor of all things offensive? Do you have enough insight into each of the dozens (perhaps hundreds) of minority groups within your community to know when something is/isn't offensive? 

Far better to remove an article that has clearly caused offense with an apology and lessons learned than to prevent new ideas seeing the light. 

2) Is it wrong to provoke some of your members? 

In a large enough community, some members will always take offense. This usually leads to an intense discussion. That's not always a bad thing. That increases activity and brings more people into the community. It might help a new idea gain acceptance. 

Far better to provoke a few members than have a community where people stop submitting material because they're worried about causing offense. 

Bigger decision, are there degrees of offensiveness? Do we rate offensiveness from 1 to 10 and remove those after 5? How would we apply this? 


3) What % of members are we comfortable provoking? 

How many people need to find an article offensive before we remove it? Is it 5% or 50%? In addition, those offended will comment more than those that agree (or are inspired) by the article. 

As a broad principle, we look to see how many members personally write to the community manager before removing a post/article that's not appropriate. Commenting is easy. Everyone has an opinion on every issue. But don't confuse position with intention. Someone writing a separte e-mail to the community manager shows a deeper level of interest in the topic. 

4) Do we take the side of the majority or the minority? 

Related to the above, who is protecting the minority views that the majority might find offensive? If you side with the majority there's no-one standing up for the minority opinion in your community. Is it our duty to support the views of most members or to protect the rights of the minority to have views? I lean toward the latter. 

5) Do we want communities to be harmonious?

Finally, do we want communities to be happy, harmonious, places where everyone agrees and no-one ever causes offense? Or do we want our communities to be a place of volatility and ferocious debate? Both have their pros and cons. Again, I favour the latter. 

Knowing Patrick's work for 5+ years, I'm sure he made the right call in this situation.

However, be careful about the precident you set when you pre-emptively remove content that might offend members. It brings up a wide array of bigger issues. 

On October 29th to 30th, the world's top 250 community professionals are going to SPRINT in San Francisco. Will you be one of them?

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