Month: April 2015

Signals and Kinship

April 30, 2015Comments Off on Signals and Kinship

Who would you ask to watch your laptop for a moment?

All things being equal, we pick the person most like us (looks, acts, speaks, thinks like us).

When we think someone is one of us we're more wiling to trust them (and they're more willing to trust us). If we feel someone is one of us, we're willing to put them before ourselves. This is a prosocial behaviour. 

To know if someone is one of us we look for signals. That includes how they look, act, dress, and speak. The more signals we recognise, the more we categorise them as one of us. 

If too few people are willing to help a group struck by tragedy, it's not a media problem (the media reports on what people care about), it's a kinship recognition problem. We're not willing to sacrifice precious resources for people we don't consider in our group.

The only solution is to find the shared symbols (which act as signals) which would help embrace the other group as kin and enable prosocial behaviours. 

More practically, if you want different groups to help one another, you have to show why they're similar – not why they're different. You have to find the shared symbols (objects, ideas, beliefs, actions etc…) which unite them. 

Two Directions

April 29, 2015Comments Off on Two Directions

You can appeal to the more hardcore members. 

Remove the entry-level material, ask the more difficult, technical, questions, raise your standards for what's an acceptable response. You'll attract the most hardcore. 

You can appeal to the masses. 

Soften the topic's edges. Encourage more entry-level questions. Enable fun, lighthearted, questions. Accept opinions over evidence. You'll attract the newcomers. 

You can take either path, just be clear which you're on. 

There Is No Magic

April 28, 2015Comments Off on There Is No Magic

Don't hope people will magically hear about the community, go find some people and tell them about it. 

Don't hope visitors will magically decide to join, give them something to do that's worth registering for. 

Don't hope newcomers will magically have questions to ask, or the courage to ask them, tell them what questions they might ask and give them a safe place to ask them. 

Don't hope participants will magically become regulars, give them something unique to work on and introduce them to members in a similar position.

Don't hope regulars will magically volunteer, ask them to do something that they're good at. 

Does It Flatten?

April 27, 2015Comments Off on Does It Flatten?

Eric shares some incredible stats on Google+

Just 5.5% of Google+ users have ever made a post. 

Of these:

  • 84.9% made 1+ post
  • 25.5% made 5+ posts
  • 15.0% made 10+ posts
  • 3.6% made 50+ posts

If you're a good community professional, you'll look for the point the drop-off rate (% of members from previous tier that kept participating) flattens.

Here we find:

  • 94% of people of members never make a post
  • 71% of members who make 1 post never reach 5 posts.
  • 35% of members who make 5 posts never reach 10 posts.
  • 69% of members who reach 10 posts never reach 50 posts. 

In chart form, the drop-off rate looks like this:


Clearly the 2.2bn figure (everyone who has a Google account) is skewing the graph here.

If we remove that initial 94%, the graph looks more like this. 


Can you spot the problem? The chart doesn't flatten.

You're as likely to quit Google+ after making 10 posts as you are after making 5 (more likely in fact).

More activity doesn't lead to you make unique connections, build a reputation you want to maintain, feel part of a unique community, or co-create exclusive value – the sort of things that keep people participating in a community. 

In its current incarnation Google+ can't succeed as a social network. If the line doesn't fatten significantly (at least half of the previous drop-out rate, then half again) then fixing the top-of the funnel doesn't change anything. You'll just lose members later (and as fast).

Here's what you need to do, track where people are dropping out by the number of posts they make. What % of members have made 1+, 5+, 10+, 20+, 50+ posts etc…Does the line significantly flatten or is it a straight line? If it's the former, you can create interventions after 1, 5, 10 posts etc.

If it doesn't, you need a new community concept. 

2 Years Building Political Support

April 24, 2015Comments Off on 2 Years Building Political Support

8 years ago, a digital consultant was hired by the United Nations to explain how we should do digital engagement. 

His reported explained we needed to merge PR and Fundraising into a new digital department, with a head of digital co-ordinating joint social media messages across all our platforms.

All staff needed to integrate social media into their roles. We needed to recruit a couple of new digital engagement specialists. 

I'm not sure anyone read more than that summary. 

A project like this would require the PR and fundraising teams to like each other, one of the department heads to cede to the other, all staff to find the time for something they didn't value (back then), and the hiring freeze to be cast aside.

It would require various people and departments with divergent interests to divest themselves of dozens of projects in the pipeline and focus on this. 

It would take 2+ years to gain the political support to make this happen. Another 2 to make it happen. Even then it would be hard to sustain that momentum with high staff turnover. 

My bugbear with much social business advice is it focuses on the ideal, singular examples, and not the harsh reality. It's never possible to transplant what worked in one organisation to another – the differences are too big.

What gained internal support at one organisation won't work at yours. Employees clash, turf wars are real, time is limited, budget is restricted. 

If you're going in to an organisation to build an internal community today, your job isn't to highlight everything they should do. They'll highlight why they can't, feel bad, and disassociate themselves from you.

Your job is to highlight everything they can do. Your job is to figure out what's possible. Your job is to nudge them, one step at a time, ever closer to the ideal.

You might just find, as you take one step at a time, momentum builds in your favour. 

The Big Junction Moments

April 23, 2015Comments Off on The Big Junction Moments

It's easy to be a back-seat driver. You give advice when you can focus on a single decision, with all the information on your lap. You don't get the blame if it goes wrong.

(It's even easier if you're giving advice in hindsight). 

It's very difficult to do it when you're alone at the wheel, facing a big junction with multiple options, limited time, horns blaring from behind, and confusing signals. 

You can teach someone the signals, how to perform the actions, and the options available – but it's not until they get out on the road and experience the big junction moments that they really begin to master this work. 

The more you experience the moment, the better you become at ignoring the blaring horns, identifying the signals that matter, and selecting the best option – without being overwhelmed.

New community professionals are going to make mistakes at junction moments. You can teach the signals, the actions, and the options, but you can't teach the moments. That's just sheer experience. 

Gradually, over time, you learn from your mistakes. You make a mistake, realise it's a mistake, and don't do it again. Those are valuable lessons. Like most skills, the more junctions you deal with the better you become. 

It's counter-intuitive to fire someone at the junction moments, that's just part of the learning curve. 

A Member Is Just One Option

April 22, 2015Comments Off on A Member Is Just One Option

There's no rationale behind calling them 'members'. That's just the default. 

Just by changing the name, you change the nature of participation.

This is known as priming, it's a simple and powerful tool. 

Think of the different connotations in each of the following:

  • Partners
  • Collaborators
  • Experts
  • Participants
  • Attendees
  • Founders
  • Advocates
  • Contributors
  • Professionals
  • Insiders
  • Editors
  • Geniuses
  • Supporters
  • Elites
  • Helpers
  • Volunteers
  • VIPs
  • Friends
  • Colleagues
  • Troopers
  • Seekers

If you want to change how people participate, change what you call them. 

Rhinos and Elephants

April 21, 2015Comments Off on Rhinos and Elephants

Rhinos and elephants have a thick skin, but it's highly sensitive to insects and sunlight. They feel every insect bite and constantly coat themselves in extra layers of mud for protection. That's physically and mentally exhausting. 

Better to be the African Spiny Mouse. It has thin skin it can jettison and regenerate when attacked. 

Telling someone not to take things personally (or have a 'thick skin') is about as useful as telling someone not to get wet when it's raining. 

There's no such thing as a 'thick skin' in psychology. You can't stop a hurtful comment between your eyes and your limbic system. The moment you read a comment your emotions kick in. But you have agency in how you respond. The healthier your self-esteem, the healthier you process the comment.

Community professionals don't need a 'thick skin', they need a healthier self-esteem. If you're feeling emotionally drained, suffering from burnout, it's likely a self-esteem problem. You're taking the hits too hard.

You're not alone, you're just one of the few that recognises it. You can consciously work to improve your self-esteem. Many years ago, this book changed my life. It might change yours too. 

Future Banned Users

April 20, 2015Comments Off on Future Banned Users

Webinar Tomorrow:

At 10.30am PDT tomorrow (1.30pm Eastern, 6.30pm UK), I'll explain 12 simple social psychology hacks to rebuild customer and employee loyalty. It's my first webinar in a year, hope to see you there. 

If a newcomer's first few posts are bad, do you remove the posts or the newcomer? 

An interesting study by Cheng et al might help. 

They compared the behaviour of banned users on CNN, IBN, and Breitbart, with non-banned users. They created a model which can accurately predict (0.80) which members will be banned in the future after just 10 posts. 

  • Future Banned Users (FBUs) concentrate on fewer discussions.
  • FBUs mostly post replies to existing threads.
  • FBUs post very frequently. 
  • FBUs get fewer votes/rating points.

Other possible predictors include:

  • FBUs use less accommodating language. 
  • FBUs use language which is less similar to other members.
  • FBUs swear more frequently. 

If you have a newcomer exhibiting signs of the above, it might be best to remove him and instead of his posts. 

Waiting A Little Longer

April 17, 2015Comments Off on Waiting A Little Longer

If you wait long enough, a better platform will come along. 

If you wait even longer, an even better one will emerge.

The cost of picking the wrong one is high. So better to wait until you've got the best one right? 


But what's the cost of not having a community all this time?

What's the cost of not connecting people around you, your organisation, or their passions?

What's the cost of a competitor launching and growing their community before you?

More directly, what's the daily cost of not increasing customer loyalty, knowledge exchange, and increasing donations?

I assume you're building a community because you believe that the benefits outweigh the costs. In which case, every day you delay is a lost benefit that becomes an additional cost.

Picking the wrong platform for the community might be expensive. Not having a community is definitely more expensive. 

Too Great Expectations

April 16, 2015Comments Off on Too Great Expectations

If you haven't seen our new courses for professional community managers, click here

It's better to set expectations low and get better rather than set expectations high and get worse.

If you create 3 items of content per day, respond to every discussion, welcome every member, and respond to every complain, you'll soon find there's not much time for anything else – like the important work of growing the community. 

If you set expectations too high, you'll probably let the community down. As the community grows, you start creating bad content for the sake of filling a gap in the content schedule . You struggle to response to every perceived complaint or criticism because you replied to the last. These aren't critical tasks. 

Set reasonable expectations early on. An item of content every 2 to 3 days might be doable. Let a few complaints/criticisms slide. Respond to fewer discussions. 

Now you have simple expectations to keep, you can gradually raise them. You can increase the intensity. This creates a sense of momentum – which is even more powerful than setting high expectations to begin with. 

New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago

April 15, 2015Comments Off on New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago

A simple one.

Run a database query, use Mailchimp, or any other tool to highlight members that live in New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago*. 

Send an e-mail out to each group individually to ask if anyone would like to be responsible for organising a monthly community meetups for their city. They get your promotion/support and the status of running a meetup. Better, offer $200 to sponsor each event (restaurant/bar/activity).

They get to pick the activity for the group and how they run it. You get a stronger, tighter, group.  

Now move on to Houston, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. 

*The 3 biggest cities in the USA, pick whichever works best for your audience.

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