Month: December 2014

Creating Currency From Gamification Systems

December 31, 2014Comments Off on Creating Currency From Gamification Systems

Most gamification systems are isolated systems. 

They reward quantity of posts. The more you post the higher your score. Even those that use feedback on your posts (i.e. thumbs up) to calculate score reward quantity (the more you post the greater the chances of positive feedback).

There are some ways to tackle this. 

1)   Use the average feedback as your score.

Instead of calculating a total score, calculate an average score of all contributions. Quantity of posts won’t move the needle, but quality certainly will. However, this leads to popularist posts.


2)   Link gamification to posting rights.

Lets imagine a very basic system. You begin with 10 points. It costs you 1 point to reply to a discussion and 2 points to initiate a new discussion. Each thumbs up is worth 2 points. If you post bad quality comments, you will quickly run out of posting rights.

Better yet, it prevents newcomers from spamming a community with poor-quality contributions. You could augment this by giving each member at least 1 point each week (people will learn the community norms eventually) and multiplying an individual’s point count by 5% at the end of each month.

In this system those that post the best comments would gradually have enough to post whenever they like without giving careful thought to the quality. Those new to the community would be forced to learn the norms to be able to continue posting over the long-term.


3)   Link gamification to discounts.

In addition to the system above, imagine if each point was worth a $1 discount on the product/service. At any stage a member could exchange a number of their points for discounts on the company’s offering (perhaps link this with other partners too?). It would lock the member into your organizations offerings.

Better, why not reward each of the top 10 with free gifts each month. If they exchange their points they might fall off the ranking. Hence they would make a choice between continuing to rank highly on the top 10 or taking a discount and dropping down. You might be surprised that people value the points however than the monetary exchange. 

At the moment gamification systems are used primarily as a recognition system. There is a much bigger potential here that we can explore. 

You have On Feb 24 – 25, we're inviting 250 of you to hear the world's top online community professionals speak at SPRINT Europe in London. If you want to learn more, click here

You have 53 days remaining to buy your tickets

Should Newspapers Close Down Their Comment Sections?

December 30, 2014Comments Off on Should Newspapers Close Down Their Comment Sections?

Let's assume the cost of moderation/a community person is $60k with a further $40k in platform and miscellaneous costs per year. That's a total of $100k per year. 

Let's assume the typical online newspaper advertising rates are $15 CPM (cost per 1000 impressions)

Every time impression is therefore worth $0.015 (more specialized sectors can charge more).

To justify the community expense, the community must therefore generate a minimum of 6.6m extra impressions per year, that's an extra 18,265 impressions per day. 

People click on an article regardless of the comments (it's a news story after all).

This means return visitors to each individual news articles has to hit 18,265 per day. Assuming most, let's say 70%, of those continually returning to an article are participating in the comments and returning to read the responses (there isn't much data on this), that's around 12,785 comments per day. 

My bet is only the very biggest newspapers and news sites get close to that figure (HuffPo, New York Times etc…). The rest aren't even close.

Even if they did get close, their moderation costs would rise significantly and push the break-even point higher. And this is before we consider allocation of overheads, distraction costs, and opportunity costs. 

There are a lot of assumptions here. We're making basic assumptions about moderation and platform costs. We're using general data on CPM rates and assuming CPM is the only business model for the online news sites (it usually isn't). 

However, in the past few months we've seen several news sites closing their comment sections citing poor quality of discussion and rise in popularity of Facebook/Twitter.

I suspect that's a cover story for a simpler problem.

They've done the maths and realized that most comment sections of national newspapers aren't generating a positive return on investment. 

On Feb 24 – 25, we're inviting 250 of you to hear the world's top online community professionals speak at SPRINT Europe in London. If you want to learn more, click here

You have 54 days remaining to sign up. 

Recommended Reading Over The Holidays

December 28, 2014Comments Off on Recommended Reading Over The Holidays

If you've got some rare free time over the holidays, here are a few books we recommend:

1) The Charisma Myth. What begins as a typical self-help book becomes a deeply-researched, empirically-supported, masterpiece by Olivia Fox Cabane. It's not written for community professionals in mind, it's not hard to make the leap to our own work. If I had to pick any single book which would improve every community professionals skillset right now, it would be this one. (Via Ramit)

2) Human Motivation and Interpersonal Relationships. I don't expect any of you to buy this, but you would be an expert in everything current in motivation theory if you did. Pay particular attention to need support, autonomy, and the environments that encourage healthy motivation. 

3) Why Nations Fail: The Origins of Power, Prosperity, and PovertyAn important read about the key factors which determine the success or failure of communities. The key message is socieities need pluralistic governance in which all groups are represented and rewarded for their work. 

4) Addicted By Design. Nir Eyal's Hooked is more practical, but we've all read it already. Pick up a copy of Natascha's book to learn how the world's top experts on addictions use every tactic in the book to suck people in. It's as informative as it is ethically challenging. 

5) The Six Pillar of Self-Esteem. In your darkest community moments, it helps to have a healthy self-esteem. 

6) Game Change: Obama and the Clintons, McCain and Palin, And the Race of a Lifetime. Because we all need something different to read on our vacations. 

And you can still buy a copy of our very own Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Communities. Now cheaper than ever. 

On Feb 24 – 25, we're inviting 250 of you to hear the world's top online community professionals speak at SPRINT Europe in London. If you want to learn more, click here

You have 55 days remaining to buy tickets.

The In-Group Referential

December 26, 2014Comments Off on The In-Group Referential

My boss at the United Nations used a neat rhetoric trick. 

Instead of saying "you" for anything negative. She would use "we". 

"we need to do a better job of tracking our community metrics" 

By using the in-group referential, the recipient doesn't have to be defensive.

They can tell themselves they're going to try harder to support that group. 

It's an easier conversation to have with any member of a community too.

Responding To What Members Are Doing

December 23, 2014Comments Off on Responding To What Members Are Doing

If members begin trading good through the community, create a marketplace for it.

If members begin sharing reviews of products/service in the community, create a review section for them.

If members begin training each other on a topic, create a peer to peer training area for it. 

If members begin gossiping about celebs, create a gossip area. 

If members begin sharing their best photos, resources, stories, experiences, create specific areas for them too. 

The goal is to respond to what members do. Find out what's popular and build activities around them. 

Better yet, you can try each of the above to see what takes off. 

Community Leaders and The Problem Of Transparency

December 22, 2014Comments Off on Community Leaders and The Problem Of Transparency

There are three broad creation stories to communities.

The first is the community came together naturally through increasing interpersonal contact. By meeting at various events the community naturally formed. 

The second is a community manager provided a platform and structure for the community to connect. The community manager was a facilitate that kept things on track. 

The third is the community was brought together by a strong leader. In these communities, the leader is often a celebrity in their field with a significant following.

You usually find these leaders have an air of mystery to them.

It’s this mystery that lets them perform the acts which make them a leader. To outsiders, it’s a black hole. Members don’t know what’s in it – so they project their own ideas into this mystery. Their ideas usually include a reason why they can’t also perform the same acts.

Many of us have been following Seth Godin’s work for years and we still don't know how he thinks with such clarity and sees the things we don't. We might believe it’s the result of a unique upbringing. This third sentence is our projection which explains why we can't be him.

In almost every dictatorship, propaganda associates the leader with divinity for this very reason. The audience can’t see it. They can’t replicate it. They project their own thoughts and ideas into the hole. They believe they can’t reach the same level so should follow.

Once the mystery is unveiled, once people understand how the leader performs their feats (or believe they can see it), they believe they can replicate it. This brings the leader down to their level and reduces the power of the leader.

This is why leader-driven communities must be careful about exposure of the leader. The very things that work well for a community created by a community manager are a bad idea for leader-driven communities. The community manager should attend as many meet-up groups as possible, interact with every member, create, publish, and moderate as much content as possible, and take on the work that no-one else wants to do. 

The leader shouldn’t do any of these things. It brings her down to the level of the rest of the community. That's not what members want, not really.

In the leader model, we need a little mystery we can project our own biases into. It's this mystery that captivates us. 

The Evolutionary Psychology To Help You Identify, Contact, and Coach Future Leaders Of Your Community

December 21, 2014Comments Off on The Evolutionary Psychology To Help You Identify, Contact, and Coach Future Leaders Of Your Community

We all know most communities rely upon a core group of members to provide the bulk of contributions. The challenge has been to increase their core group without upsetting the group.

10 years ago we realized it was possible to identify the future leaders of a community by their early interactions and coach them to become top community leaders.

We need to understand some psychology first.  


Why Members Want To Become Future Leaders 

First, newcomers try to be accepted by the community. This has evolutionary roots. You’re more likely to survive challenging environments if you’re an accepted member of a cooperative group. Early on, members adopt behaviors most likely to see them accepted as part of the group. They copy what they see others doing.

When members feel accepted by the community, they try to boost their status among the community. There might be an evolutionary explanation for this too. Those with high status have more support to achieve their goals, better access to group resources, and the pick of mating opportunities.

As per the intro, members try to increase their status by befriending high-status members, making unique high-quality contributions, and/or giving far more to the community than they take.

These act as signals that the member is highly competent in community-related tasks or highly devoted to the group. In short, members increase their status among the group by increasing their perceived value to the group.


How To Identify Future Leaders

Not all of them make it. Many begin, don’t see quick enough progress, and leave. The challenge is to identify future leaders and coach them to become one of the core group of members.

Most communities have a core group of 5 to 30 members that contribute the majority of activity. Every member you can nudge to this level is a big win for a community.

So look for members that display these signals. These include:

  • Making unique, high-quality, contributions. These contributions are usually longer, more detailed, or have a unique viewpoint. 
  • Contacting top members (or yourself) with a view to building relationships. 
  • Giving far more to the community than they take.

If a member shows the right traits, contact them by an e-mail such as:

Hi {name}

I noticed some of the contributions (or contacts) you’ve made to the community in the past 3 weeks. 

We try to spot people that we suspect can be important contributors to the community and help them have as big an impact upon the group as possible. I think you’re going to be among that group and I’d like to give some tips for getting there. 

Would you mind if I shared a few ideas about increasing the visibility of your contributions to the community?”

Don’t be too overt or send unwanted, unsolicited, advice upon a member.

You want to help them to be a top member, not force them to be a top member.


Coaching And Supporting Future Community Leaders

If the response is positive, you can share examples contributions that have worked well in the past, highlight areas with members need help, and give advice on the traits of top leaders (e.g. they tend to respond to far more questions than they ask).

You can draw attention to the content these members create in your blog posts, newsletters, and other channels. This has to be subtle at first. Existing members dislike unknown newcomers overtaking them.

Mention these contributions in passing alongside the contributions of other members. Then gradually increase this by mentioning the contributions in longer-form and finally in their own unique news posts, interviews, and giving their own webinars to the group.

You can match this with increasing levels of power and responsibility within the community.

The key is to make this a continual progression that ensures the member knows their status is gradually increasing among the group. The moment they feel they have peaked, they begin to drift away.

The impact of increasing the core group just by a couple of members is huge. It also has a trickle-down impact of increasing contributions from all the other members. If you can understand, identify, contact, and coach future community leaders, you should begin to increase this number significantly.

America Appreciation Day

December 18, 2014Comments Off on America Appreciation Day

Imagine if Americans invented America Appreciation Day – a day for Americans to appreciate themselves?

Would the rest of the world have a positive reaction?

That doesn’t mean American doesn’t have appreciation days. The 4th July and Thanksgiving prove there's no shortage of days to appreciate what's great about the USA. 

So why aren't these days embarressing? 

Crucially these dates have a narrative that taps into the collective memory of the group. The dates themselves have context and the rituals understandable attributes. The people being appreciated are those that helped make the current world possible 

Next month Community Management Appreciation Day is coming up. It’s an arbitrary day, with arbitrary activities, to commemorative community managers appreciating themselves. 

I think we can apply a little social science and do much better. 

What if we picked a day of relevance (how about the launch of the first online community?), embraced activities which fit the narrative of the day (how about we spend some time in the oldest online community?), and appreciated those that pioneered this field so long ago – not ourselves?

Group A Or Group B? Contrasting Groups To Persuade People To Join

December 18, 2014Comments Off on Group A Or Group B? Contrasting Groups To Persuade People To Join

Here's a simple tip to persuade people to join any type of group.

Highlight what the group isn't. 

This latches upon two key aspects of psychology.

The first is people understand any object better when it's contrasted with another. I don't know if Car A is good by itself, but I can tell if it looks better than Car B. If it does, Car A seems good. 

The second is we tend to see things in good/bad dualities. We see most choices as a choice between something good and something bad. 

You can influence members to see joining the community as a choice about who they are and what values they hold (or want to hold) Are they group A or group B type of people?

If they're not Group B, they must be Group A. This is known as self-categorisation in social identity theory.

We are far more likely to categorise as part of a group when a contrasting group is made salient. If they're not one of them, they want to be one of you. 

So highlight who the community isn't for. Don't be patronising, simply highlight the type of people who wouldn’t be a good fit for the community. It might be people that are new to the field, people that have specific beliefs, people that don't match a prototypical member.

You don't even have to make group B sound terrible, just make sure Group A is slightly better. 

We spend too much time explaining who the community is for (usually everyone, sadly) and too little time explaining who it's not for. 

Example Of A Successful Brand-Created Community (that’s not a customer service site)

December 17, 2014Comments Off on Example Of A Successful Brand-Created Community (that’s not a customer service site)

Jim send through BeThePro, a great example of a branded (or unbranded) community from Bosch. 

A few things to note here:

1) It's unbranded. This means the community can attract both their customers and others. If you make the community about your brand, you immediately reduce the size of the possible audience. 

2) It uses a simple platform. It's build on wordpress using BuddyPress for forums/groups. This allows for full customization of the platform. 

3) Content from members. The majority of community content is provided by members. By giving members the ability to create content (even if it doesn't match the standards of the brand) they give high levels of ownership to the community. 

4) Build a community around the blog. The community began as a blog and only once it has built up a significant following were community features added. By the time they added the forums in 2012 (a year after the site launched), there was a community of people ready to use it. This avoided the big launch syndrome. 

5) Strong relationships with top professionals. To ensure a high quality of content, Bosch has invited many of the top professionals in the sector to contribute their advice. This provides a constant source of content and solidifies their relationships with those they want help from.

Building a community on behalf of an organisation is difficult. Most organisations take a top-down approach. They make the community about themselves. Buy an expensive platform. They drive huge amounts of traffic to the site. They hope that some of it will stick. 

It's always better to make the community about the topic, use a simple platform, start small, and build relationships as you go. 

As a bonus, you can see Vanessa's great list of examples here.


Push Notifications And Single Function Apps

December 16, 2014Comments Off on Push Notifications And Single Function Apps

Condensing the entire community experience into an app doesn't work well. It's unwieldy for people staring at small screens, using big fingers, in a moving vehicle.

Facebook is countering this with single-function apps.

They're creating separate apps for popular activities and forcing members to use them. 

This means the entire app experience serves a single function. It's simple and removes the distraction. Most importantly, it uses the power of push notifications to build habits

Most apps offer notifications. Which means we ignore most apps.

This is because most notifications from our apps are of low interest to us. I have 74 unread SMS on my phone right now. The majority are automated reminders. I have dozens from various other apps. Most are automated, unimportant, reminders or nudges. So we ignore them. 

Yet notifications from single function apps, like messenger, are hard to ignore. On messenger we know it's a friend talking directly to us. 

Single function apps are more important to communities with 100k+ members than 10k. For the few communities above that level, it's a powerful tool. 

Join Europe’s Top Community Professionals In London (Speaker list)

December 15, 2014Comments Off on Join Europe’s Top Community Professionals In London (Speaker list)

If you weren't sure about attending SPRINT Europe on Feb 24 – 25, we hope this will persuade you. Please send it to your boss, colleagues, and anyone else you believe should attend. 

If you want to buy tickets, click here

Speaker lineup: 

Justine Roberts, CEO, Mumsnet

Justine Roberts is the incredible founder and CEO of Mumsnet, the UK's largest online community for parents. In the past 14 years, Justine has grown the community to 46m page impressions from 14 million visits per month. 

Mumsnet has led the way in campaigning on behalf of parents against sexualisation of girls, boycotting Nestle, and lobbies for better maternity practices. Mumsnet has also interviewed an array of celebrities including David Cameron, Gordon Brown, Nigel Farage, Jamie Oliver, Clare Balding among many others. 

The 2009 UK general election was dubbed by several newspapers as 'the mumsnet election'. In 2010, Justine Roberts was named in the Guardian Media's power 100 and in 2013, Justine (along with Mumsnet cofounder Carrie Longton) were ranked as the 7th most powerful person in the United Kingdom by Radio 4.

Joe Cothrel, Chief Community Officer, Lithium

Joe Cothrel is possibly the world's top expert in online communities.

In his twenty years in the field, Joe has trained more community professionals than any other person alive. At Lithium, Joe has helped the world's leading blue-chip brands to build thriving online communities. 

Joe is the author of numerous academic papers, including the community health index, which have been published in MIT Sloan Management Review, the journal of computer media communications, and many others. 


Daniel Franc, Developer Relations Program Manager, Google

Daniel came to us with two powerful strong recommendations from community professionals at Google. 

Daniel helped launch and expand Google Developer Groups, Business Groups, and Educator groups which today are represented by hundreds of chapters around the world run by thousands of independent volunteers.

Daniel is currently leading a new Google initiative to further engage developer and entrepreneur related communities all around the world.


Jenn Lopez, Director of Community, Moz

Jenn Lopez, like her namesake, is a superstar. Jenn is responsible for the growth and manage of not only 400,000 online marketers at Moz, but also a terrific team of community professionals. 

This makes Jenn both the top expert in SEO use by online communities and provides an incredible depth of expertise in everything related to online marketing. Jenn will explain practical steps every community professional can apply to increase the number of visiting joining and participating in their community.

Kim England, Director of Global Internal Communities, Pearson

Kim England is an unfamiliar name to many in the community space. Kim heads up community and internal collaboration for Pearson, the largest educational company in the world.

Kim is responsible for the growth and management of 42,000 members at Pearson. She's a true expert in growing successful internal communities on a global scale and can help large organisations develop thriving internal communities. 

Blaise Grimes-Viort, VP of Social Media Services, eModeration

Blaise is one of the most widely known names in the community space. That's because he's been in the community space for almost 15 years. First as a chat moderator before making his way up the ranks through to VP of social media services at eModeration – the biggest moderation company in the world.

Blaise is the expert on both growing an online community team, moderation, and resolving a social media crisis. 

Matt Dorris, Head of International Community, Etsy

Matt is a veteran of both Google and Facebook before Etsy, the online marketplace. Matt is responsible for the remarkable growth of Etsy's online community in dozens of countries around the world.

Today Etsy has 30m+ users around the world. 

Matt can explain better than most how to turn customers into passionate activists (and traders!).

If you're hoping to build communities on a global scale, Matt's the person who can explain how to do it. 

Dan Spicer, Head of EMEA Community, Hootsuite

Dan Spicer was another name that cropped up several times in our outeach. Since moving to Hootsuite, Dan has been responsible for growing and managing the EMEA community team. 

Hootsuite has 10m customers from 175+ countries.

Prior to joining Hootsuite, Dan worked with many of the largest brands in the world on their online community efforts. 

Tanja Knorr-Sobiech, Chief Corporate Community Manager, Bosch

Tanja (pictured here with the Bosch mascot) came to us via a recommendation from both Jive and the Community Roundtable.

Tanja has helped establish Bosch as a leader in internal communities. Today Tanja is responsible for training and managing 150 community managers worldwide

Michael Howard and Priscilla McClay, MacMillan Cancer Support



Michael and Priscilla head up one of the most impressive online health communities in the world. 

Their cancer support community provides comfort, advice, and expertise to millions of people affected by cancer. Michael and Priscilla wrestle daily with some of the most difficult challenges in the community space. 

Caty Kobe, Head of Training, FeverBee

We recruited Caty Kobe from OpenTable last summer where she served as the Director of Community. Caty has a deep passion for online communities and a natural flair for training. Prior to OpenTable, Caty helped setup and run GetSatisfaction's customer community efforts. 

Caty is also an author of numerous community literature, the host of the FeverBee podcast, and a regular speaker at community events. Caty is committed to ensuring every community manager gets the biggest possible value from their communities. 

Richard Millington, Founder and Managing Director, FeverBee

Richard Millington is the founder and managing director of FeverBee, a community consultancy, and author of Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities.

Over the past 12 years, Richard has helped to develop over 100+ successful communities, including those for Google, The World Bank, Oracle, Amazon, Autodesk, Lego, The United Nations, Novartis, and many more.

Richard’s blog, hosted on, is read by 10,000 community professionals every day, and is widely cited for establishing best practice in this field.


We are still confirming the final 4 speakers for SPRINT Europe.

In addition to these speakers, we will also be hosting exclusive training workshops for a smaller group of attendees who wish to learn advanced community skills. 

This year's workshops include those hosted by myself, Caty Kobe, Joe Cothrel, and Jenn Lopez. Workshops at both our previous London and San Francisco events sold out. If you want to attend, please buy your tickets early. 

As usual, we're selling 20 early-bird discount tickets at half price. We have 16 of these remaining. If you're planning to attend you can save money by purchasing your tickets soon.

Details below: 

What: SPRINT Europe
When: Feb 24 – 25, 2015
Who: 250 online community professionals
Where: London, UK (Royal Institution)

I hope to see some of you there. If you have any feedback or recommendations, please reply to this e-mail. We want all the advice and expertise you can give us. 

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