Month: March 2015

What Members Are Most Likely To Do

March 31, 2015Comments Off on What Members Are Most Likely To Do

Hawk and I recently faced a choice.

Should we let members submit their own guest posts or highlight the best contributions on the forums (or elsewhere) for special recognition.

The former would be great. Many of the best communities thrive as dozens of members compete to create the best content. There are two problems with this.

First, guest-post style communities are rare. The failure rate is high. It’s more work for each member. The quality might be poor and the level of submissions might be low. A rarely updated section wouldn’t look good.

Second, members are more likely to share knowledge within an active discussion. It’s easier to highlight these discussions.

If you’re designing a community, you’re going to face the constant decision between what you want your members to do and what your members are most likely to do. Pick the latter. 

Change The Way You Build Communities

March 30, 2015Comments Off on Change The Way You Build Communities

Launching on April 2nd, our new course for every online community professional in every organisation. 

You can find the full details here. 

We hope this course changes how you and your organisation builds communities. 

Community building is in the middle of a big change on every front. Platforms have rapidly evolved, expectations have shifted, job roles are adapting, and new research is illuminating an entirely new approach to growing a successful online community.

We're rapidly shifting from a domain of tech-first, intuitive, guesswork to a proven, reliable, and enlightened scientific approach. 

As yet, no go-to place today to learn everything you need to know to build communities. This course might be that place. 

The new course includes 18hrs+ of videos, worksheets, templates, and a lot of brand new material. I really hope you'll progress through it and let it challenge how you build your community. 

This is our second course, the first being the live course. The live course has trained hundreds of community professionals over the past 4 years. You can read their reviews

Since we launched the live course, we discovered many people want to take a course at their own pace in their own time. Some like to gorge others like to snack. 

Sign up before April 2nd, you'll save 30% on modules 2 and 3.

Click on any of the module links below:

I hope to see you there. 

Introducing People

March 27, 2015Comments Off on Introducing People

You’ve been through as many patronising icebreakers as I have.

Here’s a better way of doing it:

"What if instead of introducing your friend as Jennifer the nurse, you started introducing her as Jennifer, one of most thoughtful people you know, or Jennifer the friend who helped you move in when you didn’t know a soul in this city.

Introducing your friends for who they are rather than focusing on what they do will remind them they are loved before and beyond their titles. It’s an easy way to remind them that you see them for their hearts instead of their accomplishments.

I want people to know my friend Carolyn is amazing at her job, but more than that, I want people to know the stuff inside her that makes her a great friend."

Constructing Symbols and Collective Identity

March 26, 2015Comments Off on Constructing Symbols and Collective Identity

Trace the history of almost any flag.

Clearly the colours and design weren’t put together by accident. They reflect something about the country’s history and its members. The challenge isn’t to create a cool design, but to accurately reflect the history of those the flag represents.

At our SPRINT USA workshop, I asked all 20 groups of 5 people to design themselves a flag. It was a difficult assignment. They have a blank page and four members they've just met.

Most groups resorted to something funny, it's the safe option. 

Symbols help create a sense of collective identity. The best symbols reflect the history of the group. It's hard to do a symbol at the beginning, because it has nothing about the group history to reflect. Far better to wait a year or so and then introduce symbols which best reflect the history of the group. 

Next time we’ll do a flag at the end. I suspect even with a day’s history they’ll be able to put together a flag much easier. We can even let members offer their ideas and vote on them too. 


March 25, 2015Comments Off on Alerts

Google Alerts aren't a secret, but they're rarely used. 

If you’re looking to introduce fresh news and expertise into your community on a daily basis, set up alerts for various terms related to the topic. 

Every morning you’ll get an e-mail with the latest news. 

Filter the most interest, useful, and quirky. Share the best news with your members. Soon you'l find people visit the community as a source of information. 

How To Stack The Odds In Your Favour To Launch A Successful Online Communities

March 24, 2015Comments Off on How To Stack The Odds In Your Favour To Launch A Successful Online Communities

Publishers have trained themselves to back winners. 

They use the following criteria: 

1)   The author has a big audience. 

2)   The author can write well (skills)

3)   The author has a clearly defined target audience.

4)   The book has a powerful hook (new popular idea/trend/problem). 

The publisher provides the infrastructure (production, distribution, some marketing) and the author provides a sellable product. 


Stack the Odds in Your Favour

This criteria reduces the risk of an expensive failure.

Publishers bet on authors with a proven track record. They know where the book will sit on the shelf. They know why someone will buy it. 

You can see the community parallel here. Where readers pay with money, community members pay with attention.

But it's still a product business!

The success rate of branded communities would be far higher if we thought of ourselves as publishers of communities rather than creators of communities. 

I interviewed dozens of people who had launched successful and unsuccessful communities for The Proven Path.

The only difference between success and failure was the number of existing relationships the founder had. The more relationships (not to be confused with mere connections), the greater the odds of success. 

We need to act more like publishers when developing communities. We can use a similar criteria to give communities the best chance of success. For example: 


1) Pick A Proven Winner

If I were a brand starting a community from scratch today, my first step would be to find a founder with a big audience and throw my resources behind her. 

It's far easier to help someone with a big audience and the right skills to develop a community, than create your own. 

You can teach community skills, but it's very hard to build you a powerful reputation and passion for the topic. Don't dragoon more marketing and customer service staff to manage a community. Bet on a sure thing. 

Here's a more useful criteria for launching a community.

  • Has an audience of 5000+ people (e-mails).
  • Has a Twitter reach of 50,000+ people (or similar on another social media platform)
  • Frequently mentioned by interviewees as an influential, relevant, figure. 
  • Has a track record of publishing or creating things within the field (blogs, books, products etc…)
  • Speaks at relevant events. 


2) Check The Founder's Personality

Skills are easier to teach, but personality is tricky.

So look for whether they:

  • Interact online without an inflated sense of ego.
  • Are generous with their knowledge and shows a personality in how they participate
  • Have a track record of initiating interesting discussions/activities.


3) Help Define The Target Audience

Publishers spend a lot of time helping the identify and write for a specific, narrow, audience.

We can do this same.

  • Identify a slice of your existing audience to target and cater to based upon demographics, habits, or psychographics. e.g. A community for {x} who do/think/are {y}.
  • Focus on a possible audience of between 1,000 to 10,000 people. Cut out most of your possible audience at this stage. 
  • Build a list of 250 prospective members and ensure we have strong connections with them. 

 You can expand this later once you've reached critical mass. 


4) Develop a Compelling Hook

Imagine your community is on a shelf competing against a thousand other communities for your member's attention (because it will).

Your community has to be the most compelling possible community for your narrow target audience

Your community should be about a new trend, problem, or approach within that sector. 

You can check this via:

  • Are more people searching for related terms on Google Trends
  • Did this issue come up in your interviews / surveys with prospective members?
  • Are there any recent popular books, blogs, podcasts, or other media on the issue?


Every chance of success

This doesn't mean you will succeed.

It means you have the best odds of success.

You're backing someone with a lot of existing relationships, knowledge, and experience in the sector. You're helping them craft the powerful hook for your audience. 

Take comfort that if this approach doesn't work, nothing else will. 

12 Social Psychology Hacks to Rebuild Customer and Employee Loyalty

Customer and employee loyalty are hitting record lows.

We’ve lost faith in the companies we buy and the companies we work for. It’s costing our businesses dearly.

On April 21, I’ll be participating in my first webinar in a year with our friends at Moz.

The webinar will cover 12 social psychology hacks to rebuild customer and employee loyalty.

You can sign up here:

Also check out the other webinars.

Celebration Days

March 20, 2015Comments Off on Celebration Days

Many online communities try to celebrate important days. 

It might be international women's day, MLK day, veterans day or their own birthday.

But online celebrations are a disappointing experience. 

Most members aren't together at the same time. They find it hard to be in the spirit of the day. At best you get a few blog posts, a few congratulations, and then the day has passed. 

I suggest you pick one day per year that really matters to your community and build up to it.

Plan the release of something exclusive to members. Try to meet in person if you can. Get the key people to release exclusive information. Do a countdown. Have a goal you're trying to hit during that day. It might be 17,000 tweets, 50 blog posts, or anything that has an impact that extents beyond the community. 

We can do celebration days much better

How To Get A Standing Ovation

March 19, 2015Comments Off on How To Get A Standing Ovation

In 1984, Max Atkinson trained a woman with no previous speaking experience to get a standing applause after a 3-minute talk. He used very simple techniques. 

1) Big, bold, imagery

2) Contrasts.

3) 3-point lists.

This was accompanied by dramatic pauses, repetition of key messages, alliteration, and good vs. evil narrative. 

Every community manager job description demands the applicant is a good communicator. This usually means they can speak and write without making mistakes. That's not a good communicator, it's an average communicator. A good communicator can sustain the audience's attention, get their e-mails opened, read, and links clicked.

Most importantly, they can persuade and motivate the audience to take action. 

We spend a lot of time asking members to do something yet ignore the very techniques that will cause them to take action. Listen or watch the talks from any of your favourite speakers (you have one right?). You'll notice they use the same techniques in both written and spoken communication. 

Being accurate and free of mistakes simply isn't good enough. The delivery of the message matters. Shorter sentences have bigger impact than long ones. Shorter paragraphs too. 

Scan your own newsletters and e-mails today. Do they sound persuasive or merely accurate? 

We can get really, really, good at this by mastering a few basic techniques. It's a good investment of our time. 

Man Gets Bitten By Alligator, And He Screams

March 18, 2015Comments Off on Man Gets Bitten By Alligator, And He Screams

In the early 1970s, a group of sound designers at USC’s film school noticed the same scream in every film.

They called it the Wilhelm Scream, after Private Wilhelm in The Charge of Feather River.

As a joke they began inserting it into their student films. After they graduated, they continued to insert the scream into as many films as they could. As of today, it’s appeared in over 250 films and TV shows, including Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, Reservoir Dogs, and Lethal Weapon. Here's a compilation.

This isn’t as easy as you might think. The scream doesn’t blend in with the background. It’s a ridiculous, loud, atrocious scream. Directors demand it's removed…if they spot it. To get the scream inserted into a film today is as much a challenge (and a badge of honour) as it is an inside joke. It's become the biggest inside joke of sound engineers working in film. 

Like most inside jokes, this seems like a spontaneous accident. But it follows the rules of all inside jokes. First an event happens {noticing the scream}. Second then there's a follow up that promotes this to a broader group {inserting the scream into a film}. Finally there's a tradition for people to do it every time. 

Now it's part of the group's identity. It's a symbol for that group. It has a unique meaning to insiders that it doesn't have for outsiders. 

In our own groups and communities, we have plenty of events that could become inside jokes. But we're not executing well on the second step. Which is to bring the event to a broader group and repeating the event in some form. If we can get better at that, we should have a lot more inside jokes.

Abnormal Events And Uniting Friendship Groups

March 17, 2015Comments Off on Abnormal Events And Uniting Friendship Groups

I’ve been reading Tynan’s blog for years.

His blog is a mixture of life advice, entertaining exploits, and productivity tips.

He has a gift of uniting people into strong friendship groups.

Last year he and his friends bought an island. They visit it frequently.

He also took a group of friends on a Transpacific cruise.

So much of our social contact is done in familiar locations with fixed rules and expectations. Nothing really changes and this is good. Every social group needs a home – a patch of turf (online or offline) which they can call their own. That sameness and routine actually provides the social group with its structure – rules via which they communicate.

But it doesn’t provide the group with it’s memories. It’s the memories that help make a group feel special and unique. It’s the shared history that ensures members stay with one group as opposed to quietly distancing themselves and joining another.

We need to push social groups through abnormal events to have those memories. A simple way of having a close group of friends is to do strange things.

This is as true in business as it is in online and offline communities. It’s too easy to have another coffee/drink in a bar or another christmas party, than it is to do a road trip to see the world’s largest honey factory. The former is certainly easier, but the latter will create the memories your group needs.

The Best Feedback Is Impact

March 16, 2015Comments Off on The Best Feedback Is Impact

If someone gave you feedback every 10 minutes, you would feel controlled.

If someone gave you feedback after every contribution, you would feel patronised. 

A few principles here.

Feedback should never be predictable. Feedback should be random (in the eyes of the recipient). You shouldn't know if you're going to get feedback or not. That's part of what drives the contribution. 

Feedback should never be in the form of gratitude. Feedback should demonstrate the impact the post made. Highlight the members it helped. Highlight the personal messages you've received stating what a valuable contribution it is with ideas to turn it into something bigger. 

Feedback should never be too frequent or too sparse. For a heavy contributor, feedback works best between 2 to 4 weeks. For a lighter contributor, feedback every few months is better. Alternative, 1 in every 3 good contributions is a simple rule of thumb for delivering feedback. 

This is also why you need a CRM system linked to the membership activity where volunteers can check who has / hasn't received positive feedback recently. 


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