Month: August 2015

So You’ve Been Hacked

August 28, 2015Comments Off on So You’ve Been Hacked

Your members don’t care how or why their private information was published online. They don’t care what steps you’re taking to secure the site or make sure it doesn’t happen again in the future.

And they certainly don’t care how upset or violated you feel about it.

They only care how likely they will be hurt socially or financially.

Any message you send after a hack that doesn’t tackle their core questions is a waste of oxygen.


  • Will my friends/colleagues see my embarrassing pictures or compromising e-mails? 
  • Will I be charged for things I didn’t buy?
  • Will my husband/wife discover I’ve been having an affair?

You need to explain clearly how likely that is, how to reduce that likelihood, and how to prepare for the worse case scenario outcome.

For example, if a member works at a known organization (government or top brand) and used their work e-mail account – they probably will be socially exposed.

Of course the much better approach is to assume you will be hacked and plan for it today. If you’re holding sensitive information, tell members not to use their real names or identifiable e-mail accounts. Strip away personally identifiable information.

You might not be able to stop every hack, but you can predict from other organizations what’s likely to happen and prepare today.

p.s. Bas, Mark, Alena, and others collaborated to put together a few ideas to prevent data hacks. I recommend you read this discussion.

Every Member Has ‘Tells’ That Help You Increase Engagement

If you read the archives of Waiter Rant (circa 2006 – 2008), you quickly notice Steve can read his customers incredibly well.

Within moments of entering a customer he’s sized you up and knows what you want. Some want the experience, some want to be left alone, some want their status reaffirmed.

Every customer walking into that restaurant feels they are unique, but with enough experience and enough data-points they all fall within a handful of archetypes. Managing any type of social group is similar. Once you’ve seen enough members you can spot their tells. You can understand what they really want from you and the group. Some want to be friends with you, others want you to leave them alone.

Some want you to reaffirm their status or treat them as superior to other members.

Here are a few common tales and how they can be read.

  • Detailing past experience. Any member who details their past experience/successes  are worried about their status among the group.This is multiplied if the member name drops a large organisation. e.g. “while I was working as a designer at Apple…“. Reaffirm how valuable their experience is, consider them for interview/column pieces.
  • References to future ambitions. These are rare, but tend to come from members who are in the community for the right reasons. See how they would like to be more involved in the community in the future.
  • in my experience“. There’s a big difference between detailing your previous experience and simply referencing it. Someone who references their experience without detailing it usually just wants to participate in a discussion without others believing they’re trying to dominate it. These are regular members. You don’t need to engage them as much.
  • “Does anyone know…:This tends to come from members who don’t feel part of the core group. They’re worried they won’t get a response so need to ensure it’s a question to everyone. If they’re new, drop them a personal note and thank them for getting involved. Ask what they would like to get from the community. Make introductions etc…
  • Definitive statements of fact. Almost all facts are disputable. Someone who asserts their own opinion/experiences as fact typically feels they’re an expert and should be respected as much. These people tend to antagonise others.
  • Use of emoticons. This often comes from people concerned about how their message will be perceived – often concerned about someone disagreeing with them. Don’t disagree with them, add your own experience and reflect their own emoticons.
  • “I’m excited to…” They’re probably not excited, but usually have something they want to say to everyone without seeming promotional. If it’s good news, drop it into a round-up or the member a note personally. If it’s dull, drop the member a note with a huge congrats, but remove the post in case everyone starts posting similar contributions. If they do, create a place for this.
  • 3+ responses. Someone that replies more than 3 times to the same post, especially to defend their position, usually has a low self-esteem and is worried about losing their own standing. Add your response which highlights the status of this person and summarising the debate as ‘both can be right‘.
  • Giving appreciation and gratitude to other members. The members who try to promote and praise the contributions of other members (especially those who do it a lot) are usually of high self-worth (or trying to catch the attention of specific people). These people are special, valuable, people you want to pay attention to. Not everyone is bold enough to promote others instead of themselves. Drop these people a personal note to introduce yourself and build relationships with them.
  • The hyper-enthusiast. They respond to every post with highly positive language. They have a deep need to be accepted by the group. There is usually a history behind this. Don’t get into the history. Their contributions aren’t always good in informational value, but they can become great volunteers and helpers. Offer a volunteer role as a reward for all their enthusiasm.
  • No personal info, just facts. This person is a taker. They tend to stick to asking questions that only benefit them. They want to suck every tiny part of value from the community without ever sharing anything themselves. They’re useful for questions, but otherwise can be ignored. They will never get more involved.
  • Short sentences. I do this a lot. People use short sentences to convey a sense of no-nonsense or importance. Short, factual, responses are often the same. They want to be seen as ‘serious’ among the fluff or above the rest of the community. They’re not deliberately antagonistic.
  • The big responses. People that write big responses are either highly passionate about the issue or very defensive about their own standing and need to be ‘the best’ (or both). If it’s the former invite them to turn it into a column. If it’s the latter, ask them how they feel about the discussion personally.

This is a simplistic approach. It will vary by community and many members will be expressing multiple signals at once.

However, it is possible with enough anecdotal examples to build a picture of the different signals members convey in their choice and structure of words.

We’re going to cover this at a far deeper level during our FeverBee SPRINT event this November. If you want to read your members and engage them better, please sign up here.

When Is The Best Time To Publish?

Some time ago we discovered sending messages at fixed intervals led to a bigger audience.

We trained the audience when to listen. This helped us plan content calendars

Then the internet (and sites like Mashable/Lifehacker/BoingBoing) discovered higher post frequency was strongly correlated with higher levels of traffic i.e. the more you speak, the more people receive the message.

We combined both lessons to create a monster.

The content calendar triumphed over the message. Posting at increasingly short intervals became more important than having something important to say. This hasn’t helped anyone. Instead of training an audience when to listen, we trained an audience when to ignore us (and made it harder for the good stuff to find the market).

If you’re trying to find posts for calendar spots instead of calendar spots for your posts, you’ve failed (and frequency might not be as significant as we think)..

To compensate we’ve tried to find silver bullets such as the optimum time to post. This is the mythical moment where the maximum number of people will open, click, retweet, or share. This naturally correlates with the time most people are online and looking at their e-mail/Twitter/Facebook (probably 11am to 1pm).

This too is nonsensical. We’ve decided to speak at the very moment everyone else is speaking.


When Is The Best Time To Communicate?

The best time to communicate isn’t when everyone else is speaking. It’s far simpler. The best time to speak is when you have something to say and someone willing to listen.

We’re slightly better at the former than the latter.


Do you have something important to say? 

Having something important to say comprises of four things; new, unexpected, useful, and urgent.

  • Is it new?  New means there’s genuinely something new in the topic. Something has changed. An event has taken place. The topic is different now. You can create these events, for sure, but there must be an event. An incremental difference isn’t as interesting as a clear contrast or departure. What event has taken place between now and the last time you addressed the audience? If there’s nothing new, you have nothing to say.
  • Is it unexpected? Unexpected means the audience isn’t expecting it. The sun rising today isn’t news, neither (sadly) is the world getting gradually warmer. Your audience doesn’t care if the audience has grown, nor if the organisation is taking greater market share. To adapt an old corollary, if you can’t say something unexpected, don’t say anything at all.
  • Is it useful? Does the audience have any use for the information? This can be practical (how to resolve a challenge or do something better). This can be prescient (how to stop something bad happening or prepare for something good). It can be uniquely entertaining. It can be emotionally beneficial too. The message has to be useful to that audience.
  •  Is it urgent? Does the audience need the message now? Why not tomorrow or next week? Perhaps even next year? Why does your audience need to receive the message now (as opposed to you wishing to send the message now)? This urgency relates to all of the above. You need to communicate the urgent in the message.

If you have a message that passes all four tests, you have something worth communicating. Sadly, this isn’t the same as having an audience willing to listen. There are specific moments where the audience has the means, motivate, and opportunity to listen to your message.


Do you have an audience willing to listen?

Climate change is an important message, but the audience isn’t willing to listen. Our means and motivation to listen to messages shifts frequently (often without fair warning).

Willingness to listen comprises of four elements. Does the audience have the means to receive the message? Can the audience give the message a good level of attention? Does the audience have the motivation to read and act upon the message?

  • Can the audience receive the message? We get far too excited about this part. Ensuring a message reaches an audience is as easy as being in the same room at the same time or having an e-mail/postal address/phone number. It becomes more complicated when we use Twitter/Facebook, where unread messages are missed rather than stored. If it’s an important message, don’t rely on social media to spread it. Rely on a medium you can ensure it reaches the post box.
  • Can the audience devote enough attention to the message? Posting when everyone else is posting isn’t very useful. Someone reading on their mobile device probably isn’t going to give your message much attention neither. Perhaps weekends, evenings, and holidays are better? If you’re part of the shouting chorus, no-one can distinguish your voice.
  • Is the audience willing to listen? If the audience doesn’t know and trust you, your message will struggle to gain traction. It might not be opened, believed, or acted upon. It’s chicken and the egg, but to have an audience willing to listen you need a good track record of only sending important messages.

Throw away the schedule. Identify the important messages. Use a medium that guarantees receipt of the message, at a time the audience can devote attention to the message and when the audience is willing to accept the message.

On November 12th, we’re going to explain how to optimise every message we send to every member of the audience. You can sign up here:

Finding The Self-Belief To Lead A Social Group

August 24, 2015Comments Off on Finding The Self-Belief To Lead A Social Group

Many of us carry self-belief issues that stop us from being as good at  leading a social group as we should be.

We have feelings of not being good enough. We worry people won’t listen to us. We don’t lead because people might not follow. Worse yet, they might mock us for trying.

These often stem from negative high-school experiences. We might have internalized negative external events. If your class once laughed at your spoken essay, you might assume you’re bad at public speaking and avoid any similar situation.

If your group solely communicates online, you might just be able to go your entire career without confronting these issues.

Some people get into this work solely to avoid participating in live social groups.

I suspect, however, we sometimes restrict our groups to online events so we never have to tackle our own demons. Almost every group is better with live components. Every group that meets in person is stronger for it.

Doing this work well is going to force you to confront any self-belief issue you have.

Three things might help here.

First, you have to do this. You have to host that webinar for dozens of people, organize that live chat, host that event meet-up. No-one else will do this. It’s all on you. If you don’t do it, it doesn’t happen and your community is worse off. You owe it to them to do this. This really isn’t a choice.

Second, it’s far easier than you think. People want you to succeed, not to fail. Most people are happy to be told what to do if they believe you have their best interests at heart. Most people, especially in groups that they didn’t found, want you to lead them.

Third, there is more literature, resources, and coaches than ever to help you tackle any kind of challenge you have. I recommend:

I’ve seen people deal with their inner-demons and then lead the group.

I’ve seen people lead the group and find they’ve overcome their inner-demons.

Both approaches work. You probably have to pick one.

Changing The Opinions Of Members: A Series of Smaller Steps

August 21, 2015Comments Off on Changing The Opinions Of Members: A Series of Smaller Steps

Can you recall radically changing your position on any topic because of a single message?

Can you recall the last time you changed your mind about anything at all?

Most of us might struggle with this. But we’ve probably changed our minds on a lot of things over the course of a decade or more. The change happens so gradually we don’t notice it.

Your political views have probably become more pragmatic since you were 18. Your opinions of the people you’re closest to have probably been flexible too. Perhaps things you never liked are now a big part of your life.

Opinions change…but they don’t change fast.

It’s really, really, hard to get people to make a big leap in their mindset in a single message. It’s not going to happen in a day or week neither.

Even when presented with the most conclusive of evidence, we rarely reverse our position in a single message. We simply ignore the source of the message in the future.

Don’t go for the perfect hit. [tweet_dis]Don’t ask people to make a massive leap from one mindset to another. Plan for a long series of messages.[/tweet_dis] Each one takes people a little further on the journey. Begin with their existing perspective and introduce a seed of instability. Gradually introduce alternative ideas. Gradually prove and support those ideas.

This applies to communication and persuasion with any group of people. Don’t go for the big, huge, change. Take a journey with a series of short trips and many stops along the way.

Displaying Signals of An Insider Or An Outsider

August 19, 2015Comments Off on Displaying Signals of An Insider Or An Outsider

This is the trait we first look for when we meet someone.

Are they an outsider or insider? Are the one of us or one of them?

Insiders are treated favourably. They’re listened to. Their opinions are considered. The group engages in cycles of reciprocity with insiders. Insiders can lead a group and guide the group to where it needs to go.

Outsiders are treated with distrust. Their opinions are scorned. They struggle to turn their ideas into reality. They battle against resistance every day.

This might be why internal hires do better than external hires.

Think about how you’re portraying yourself today. Are you portraying yourself as an insider or outsider?

Are you adopting the language of the group? Are you using similar profile images? Do you list similar details in your profile? Do you dress like they do or act like they do? Do you go to similar events? Read the same books? Participate in the same discussions?

If you’re new to a community, this is especially important. If you do user research, knowing what motivates an audience is good. Knowing how they speak/act/phrases they use is equally important.

By choice or by accident, we display a lot of signals that indicate whether we’re an insider or outsider. Far better to show the signals that we’re an insider.

Incredibly Powerful Conversations

August 18, 2015Comments Off on Incredibly Powerful Conversations

There are two kinds of social environments.

Those which are autonomy-supportive and those which are autonomy-thwarting.

You experienced plenty of thwarting environments in school. You were pressured to act like everyone else. You couldn’t be too smart. You couldn’t act the way you really wanted to because you would suffer social consequences. You were controlled by teachers and students.

This might happen at work too. You’re paid to do the things you wouldn’t like to do. You’re punished if you’re not fired. You’re rewarded if you do those tasks well. This is all control.

You hopefully experienced supportive environments in your family unit. Your parents and siblings encouraged you and pushed you to explore your own interests. They hopefully didn’t withhold emotional or physical support if you didn’t act how they wanted.

A difficult part of building a social group is creating an autonomy-supportive environment.

This is an environment where people support one another to achieve their goals. It’s an environment where members are encouraged (and pushed) to share their values, fears, and ambitions – where others can help them overcome their fears and achieve their goals.

This is really difficult to do.

It’s difficult because members need to feel comfortable being vulnerable to a group of people on the internet (or, perhaps worse, in the room). They need to feel they won’t be mocked or suffer any social consequences. They need to feel they won’t be judged because their goals are unique to them.

[tweet_dis]In internal communities, many people don’t participate because they’re worried how it looks to appear not to know something.[/tweet_dis]

This means (ironically, perhaps) you need to enforce rules that members will not mock or criticise any other member for sharing an internal fear, belief, or ambition. It means establishing expectations from all members that we will be open and honest with one another and this will be reciprocated from all members of the group.

It also means that you personally need to push people in your own replies.

A member might want help to draw scatter graphs in excel. They might also be worried about looking bad in front of their team.

Is the best value to this member helping them draw a graph or the community banding together to explain how to look good in front of their colleagues? I suspect it’s the latter. If you and others can push someone to open up and reveal that you can have incredibly powerful conversations.

That means pushing members to be a little more forthcoming. Don’t just answer the question, resolve the problem.

It means replying to discussions to find out more information and get to the real core of what they’re worried or hopeful about.

The challenge for you is to get members gradually to that level. It won’t happen overnight.

Use some of the tactics here. Create a profile field where people can highlight their goals. Ask in discussions about fears/challenges. Pry for a little more ‘why’ in your own responses. Tell members they can’t mock others for sharing their true thoughts if they don’t also share them. Begin creating the expectations of open-honesty with newcomers sharing their goals/ambitions. It soon becomes a tradition.

We can make the internet a place for people to get the support online that they can’t get elsewhere in their lives. That’s definitely work worth doing.

Quick reminder: We’re hosting SPRINT: San Francisco on Nov 11 – 12. We’re going to push deep into the psychology of members and show you sharpen every weapon in your community arsenal to be as effective and successful as you can be. These tools are universally applicable across all types of communities. If you want to get really good, really fast, I hope you will join us.

Prices go up at the end of this week:

Designing Messages To Be Remembered

August 17, 2015Comments Off on Designing Messages To Be Remembered

Begin with what people remember and work backwards. That’s the secret to designing messages people remember.

We spend a lot of time designing and optimizing shiny fact-distribution machines. These take our facts and deliver them to the right people at the right time in the right place. They might get attention, but they don’t get stored in memory.

Because we’re not good at remembering facts. We’re exposed to too many too often.

We need to begin with what we do remember and work backwards to design messages that fit within this syntax.

We remember the unexpected. We remember stories. We remember images.

Want someone to remember a rule? Tell a story about someone who didn’t and the damage it caused. Have a beginning, middle, an end.

Want someone to participate? Tell an unexpected story about someone who participated.

Confound expectations. Paint a mental picture for your audience. [tweet_dis]Turn incidents into short, memorable, stories that distribute a message.[/tweet_dis]

And if you can’t find any stories, images, or anything unexpected about your facts, perhaps it’s not really a new fact?

How To Launch An Online Community And Reach Critical Mass

Last month I had the privilege of explaining how to build an online community to 1500 inbound marketers at MozCon.

It was one of my favourite talks yet.

You can click here or play the video below.

If you want a course that takes you through this entire process, click here.

Crafting The Personal Narrative For The Group

August 12, 2015Comments Off on Crafting The Personal Narrative For The Group

If you’re launching or managing any type of group, the group wants to know who you are.

We can split this into three fields; background, motivations, honourability.

You can aim to tick all three boxes.

  • Craft your unique narrative. Publish your background as a clear narrative. People want to know if you’re credible and to create this group. Write a paragraph or two that explains how you came to be in this position. This should link your experience into a story. Begin with a beginning. You were just like everyone else when you began this journey. Highlight the break from normality that set you down this path. What event occurred that gave you the experience/insight to build this group? This can take a paragraph you can also easily memorise and recite when asked.
  • Motivations. These originate from your background. What have you seen/done/experienced which makes you uniquely motivated to create this type of community? What is the vision for the group in 6 months or 6 years from now? How will you sector be different because this community exists? Link this back to your experience. Why does doing this matter so much to you?
  • Honourable. These originate from your actions. Do you follow through on your promises and your own advice? Are you optimistic/pessimistic? Are you attention-seeking? Do you treat people with respect (not the same as being polite)? Is there anything you have said or done in the past privately or publicly which would undermine your ability to lead the group if made public? Either remove these, set your personal accounts to private, or admit anything major you’re not proud of.

If you’re building a group, people are going to want to know who you are. They might search for information about you.

They want to trust and respect you. That trust comes from knowing your background, knowing what motivates you, and checking you follow through on your promises.

Why We Crave The Live Moments

August 10, 2015Comments Off on Why We Crave The Live Moments

Charlie recently told me something I should have known years ago.

You can record a keynote slideshow in advance and play it during a live online webinar (sound and all).

The benefits are obvious. You can record it surrounded by notes, in a controlled environment, and correct for any errors.

When you play the recording, you can ask questions on twitter, answer questions, clarify statements, and be your own support team…or make dinner.

The downside is a subtle, but more significant. We expect pre-recorded to be flawless. We expect live to be raw. If you’re creating recorded content for members. It should be professional and flawless. Caty spent 6 months developing professional recorded material for our course. That’s the standard you have to hit.

If it’s live, we want the experience that’s complete with mistakes, umms, and moments of vulnerability.

Every performance is diminished when we know an artist is miming. Replicas are far less interesting than originals. If you’re leading a group, make your recorded material perfect and your live activities a genuine experience. A genuine experience needs to have unscripted moments and audience participation.

Don’t confuse this with being unprepared. You should know your material, practice, and plan every live session thoroughly.

Tomorrow I’m hosting my first live webinar in a while.

We’re going to explain how community professionals from all types of groups get stuck, what tasks we can stop doing, and how we can get unstuck by doing the right activities.

If you’re feeling you need a jolt, this might help.

Scaling Your Beliefs and Personality Within A Community

August 7, 2015Comments Off on Scaling Your Beliefs and Personality Within A Community

[tweet_box design=”default”]Communities with a strong, shared, sense of culture will outperform those with a weak culture.[/tweet_box]

A unique culture (or identity) separates your group from others in your space. It gives the group members a reason to participate (to reinforce and sustain the identity).

If you’re creating and growing a social group, you want to instil your beliefs or personality within the group as it grows.

This means abiding by two principles.


1) Make the identity unique.

There’s nothing wrong with fun and kind. A lot of the successful communities out there today are based around being fun and kind. And that’s the problem. It’s very, hard to stand out if your community is about being fun. It’s a crowded space.

Our focus in our community has been clear, we’re serious about community.

We’re serious about identifying and resolving the problems that stop us building communities. We don’t try to be fun. We don’t do quirky things. Other groups do that much better. We care deeply about identifying challenges and taking a serious, decisive, approach to tackling them. If you want to have quirky discussions about Foo Fighters, we’ll probably send you elsewhere. If you want to tackle your community challenges, we’ll jump on it.


2) Reducing the scope of identity to scale. 

In a group of 5 to 10 people, it’s easier to instil your beliefs and personality.

You can ensure everyone is following precise guidelines. You can respond to their questions, highlight situations where things can be improved, and take a hands on role in ensuring the group abides by a particular culture. You get to create the early rules that others will hopefully see when they join and follow.

But we’ve all played Chinese whispers (apparently called Telephone in the USA).

As messages are conferred from one person to the next, the interpretation begins to change. You have transmission errors, sender errors, and receiver errors. People interpret the details and emphasis differently. The more specific the details, the more errors there are likely to be. For example, being fun means different things to different members.

It’s tempting to be more specific and strict by producing more detailed rules/guidelines or clamping down on greater number of violations. This is only a mistake.

As a group grows, you need to increasingly reduce the beliefs and personality that members have to abide by. You have to focus on the very core of your message and propagate that.

A rule of thumb:

  • In a group of 10 people, you can create an entire page of rules/examples of situations to follow.
  • In a group of 100 people, you only get a paragraph.
  • In a group of 1,000 people, you get a sentence.
  • In a group of 10,000 people, you get 2 to 3 words.

Moz, for example, has reduced everything to a 6 letter acronym TAGFEE.

The key to having your beliefs and personality create a strong community culture is to begin with the first members fully understanding them. Then reduce the scope as the group grows. This lets your beliefs and personality scale without frustrating members with nonsensical rules.

The more you can reduce everything to its core elements, the easier it is for them to spread.

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