Month: October 2015

What Research Can You Really Get from Market Research Communities?

Imagine if Apple had listened to this feedback from its community 14 years ago?

This is the problem with listening to your community. The community might be wrong. They don’t have the same knowledge as you do. They don’t know your resources, capabilities, or have access to the same data points.

Most of the people, most of the time, want things to remain the same (or to be slightly better in predictable ways e.g. cheaper MP3 player, better PDA). This isn’t going to help you innovate.

We’ve just launched a survey of our audience. I created it in SurveyMonkey and sent the link to 12k community professionals by e-mail. This reaches more people, has a far higher response rate, and gets us exactly the data we need far quicker than posting the same questions as a discussion post in our experts community.

Some organizations may credit community feedback to the success of 90%+ of their products. Yet that’s exactly the line we expect an organization to say if they wanted their community to buy those products.

So how do online communities uniquely drive innovation?

Where can they be better, quicker, or cheaper than surveys and focus groups?

Groups are incredibly irrational

The problem with community-driven innovation here is group members are prone to biases. The biggest bias is consensus.

The wisdom of the crowds only generates better outcomes when 3 factors are met:

  • Each person has a tiny piece of knowledge they can contribute individually of one another.
  • The group is diverse and comprises of those both for and against the topic.
  • There is limited pre-existing information to sway their views.

This is the exact opposite of what happens in most online communities.

Communities are filled with a group of diehards holding relatively homogenous views. Individuals support the view(s) which achieve plurality. They narrow their options to those similar to existing views. This skews the accuracy away from useful outcomes.

[tweet_dis]The best feedback is unsolicited[/tweet_dis]

Communities best drive innovation when members give you unsolicited feedback.

When you know what kind of feedback you want, surveys and focus groups work better. They’re quicker, cheaper, and more effective. When you don’t know the question to ask, communities work best.

The community can highlight problems you didn’t think existed. The community can make suggestions you hadn’t considered.

If you know the question, use a survey/focus group. If you don’t, use a community.

We’re now just 11 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at:

Fishing Or Hunting?

October 29, 2015Comments Off on Fishing Or Hunting?

I went fishing off Prince of Wales Island, Alaska this year.

The waters are teeming with fish. You bait the hook, drop the line, and within a minute or two you’ve snared yourself a fish. That’s what happens when you fish where a lot of fish are.

This contrasts with hunting. You know what you want when you begin. You follow the trail and track down the animal you want. It’s precise.

Most of us are fishing. We bait a hook (SEO terms, content, etc..) and drop it into the most likely places our prospective audience will gather. The problem, like fishing, is it’s random and we often catch the members we don’t want or can’t convert.

We would do better to go hunting for members instead. Target specific people and follow the trail to find them.

What kind of person would improve your community today?

What kind of person would attract more people to join?

Draw up a list of a few traits of a perfect member. It might be:

  • Unique expertise (published material)
  • A few years of experience.
  • Easy to get along with.

Now ask your existing members if they know anyone that meets those criteria. Ask for introductions. When you find some, look at the unique phrases they use on Twitter. See who else they follow. Search for similar people. Get referrals. Ask for a quick conversation with them.

It’s easier to get the members you want if you know who you’re looking for.

You can go fishing for new members or you can go hunting for new members. Fishing is far easier, hunting is more effective.

We’re now just 12 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at:


What Will Be Popular?

October 27, 2015Comments Off on What Will Be Popular?

List your discussions by popularity.


Then go through each and identify the broad topic (or category) of each discussion. You should be able to create 5 to 10 distinctive topics from the top 30 to 50 discussions.

Now add the number of posts in each topic (you need to combine many) until you have an idea what topics appear most popular within the community.

Remove those that you guide people to when they join (e.g. introduce yourself).


This will probably give you something like the above. You will see a few big winners and then a long-tail of other topics with far fewer discussions.

In short, the same topics tend to repeatedly appear within most types of communities.

If you’re not sure what activities to host, which speakers to invite, what discussions to initiate, what sub-groups/categories to create, or what kind of content to write – target those that are at the most popular end of the spectrum.

The most exciting discussions usually come from a) combining the most popular categories or b) looking to see what’s new in each of the most popular topics.

You don’t have to guess what’s going to be popular. You can look to see what already is popular.

We’re now just 14 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at:


Do Expensive Running Shoes Create Great Runners?

October 26, 2015 Comments Off on Do Expensive Running Shoes Create Great Runners?

If every marathon runner wears expensive shoes, would you believe expensive shoes create marathon runners?

Probably not. But if you get everything else (training, nutrition, dedication) right they might help.

This is what happens when we fill a petri dish with success stories and look at it through a microscope. We draw the wrong conclusions.

Likewise, if we look solely at organizations who have built successful communities, we might conclude communities are the future of business.

Yet if every successful example supports this assumption, then every failure (or organization that succeeds without a community) must refute it. And there is a lot more evidence to refute it.

We’re drifting dangerously far from simple logic. If you don’t participate in the communities for 99% of the companies you buy from, why would anyone else?

Where are we going to find an inexhaustible supply of people with unlimited time, attention, and inclination to participate in all the communities we’re telling businesses to create?

Communities don’t create great products, great products create communities.

If you have a great product, then a community can help. It can make customers a little more loyal, a little happier to recommend you, and occasionally give useful feedback. But the effect is similar to expensive footwear on runners – useful, but rarely the critical ingredient in the picture.

Consider too that customer service, discounts, limited education, surveys and focus groups can achieve all the goals above, perhaps quicker.

Ideastorm didn’t help Dell develop the iPad. A thriving community didn’t help Nokia create Android. It didn’t save Best Buy from financial ruin. It hasn’t stopped many hugely popular television shows from being cancelled. It hasn’t stopped dozens of news sites shutting down their comment sections. And, for those supposing we’re returning to a community-way of doing business, it didn’t save your local butcher from big supermarkets neither.

Ultimately, for branded communities, the product trumps community by a long, long way. If the company can’t produce a better value proposition than its competitors, the community won’t help.

We do a disservice to ourselves and others when we overhype the benefits, ignore the failures, and declare ourselves to be the future of business. The problem today isn’t too few organisations are trying to build a community, the problem is too many.

Very few brands in very few sectors excite enough interest to merit a community. And it’s these very few brands we should be focusing on. These are the very organizations where we can do our best work, the kind of work that really matters. It’s here we get to connect people around topics they care about.

The key today isn’t to tell every business they must have a community. We know that’s not true. The key is to figure out which businesses have the potential to have a great community and make sure we’re working for one. That’s going to mean far more skepticism, far more realism, and a lot less hyperbole.

We’re now just 15 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at:


Webinar with Rachel Happe

On Thursday 29th October (2pm Eastern) Rachel Happe, the founder of the Community Roundtable, and I are hosting a free webinar.

We’re going to talk about how we quantify communities, what we can learn from the Roundtable’s progress, and how we can prepare for the future of communities.

Rachel is one of the few superstars in this sector I’ve never had a chance to do a webinar with. I think we’re going to learn a lot from it and hope you sign up.

The Details:

Who: Rachel Happe & Richard Millington (and 100 of you!)
What: Webinar, 100 places
When: Oct 29, 2pm Eastern
WhereSign up here.
Why: Why not?

*Europeans: remember that USA puts their clocks back 2 weeks later than we do and adjust your schedules accordingly.

Shouldn’t You Be Plugging SPRINT Too? It’s Only 2 Weeks Away!

Excellent idea, thank you!

Yes, our SPRINT is now just 2 terrifying weeks away. If you want to make rapid progress, train your community team, and learn from 14-world class experts; sign up at

If you sign up to the event, you’ll receive:

  • Access to 14 world-class speakers, 300 top community professionals, and FeverBee’s cheerful team.
  • Access to a module of our training course.
  • All the videos from our 2014 events (both UK and Europe).
  • All the videos we record from our 2015 event.
  • An invitation to the afterparty – free alcohol!
  • An invite to FeverBee’s own community.

If that’s not enough to tempt you to make the plunge, I really don’t know what is 🙂

Sign up at:

A Simple Tactic To Get More Registered Members

We spend a lot of time focusing on converting those that visit the community landing page into regular members.


Can you spot the problem above? No matter what CTA you introduce, it’s going to have a limited impact if only 19% of people see it.

This isn’t the exception. This is true in almost every type of community. The majority of your audience doesn’t reach the landing page. This reduces the number of people that will join your community.

Instead of figuring out how to create a bigger and brighter registration option, figure out how to insert a CTA into the next 30 most popular pages in the community. Even including a sentence or pop-up box at the top (especially of older discussions) can double or triple the number of people joining your community.

It shouldn’t take you more than a day to do this.

We’re now just 20 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at:



Community Metrics: What Matters And What Doesn’t

October 20, 2015 Comments Off on Community Metrics: What Matters And What Doesn’t

A quick reminder, you have just 21 precious, beloved, nerve-wracking days* to decide if you want to learn how to take your community building skills to a world-class level. 

Our workshops have been sold out for months. Our speaker line-up is filled with new voices who will teach you how to drive higher levels of growth and activity.

Book your tickets here:

*unless we sell all the tickets first, in which case you’re doomed to community oblivion.

Why It Doesn’t Really Matter What You Measure

When I was 15, a tyrannical electronics teacher decided we should spend a precious year creating decision trees for airport baggage carousel systems.

It began simple enough. Is there a bag waiting? Yes. Is there a free spot? Yes. Activate conveyor belt. It looks like this:


What do you notice about the above?

The input is really simple.

It’s a light sensor. If it’s blocked there’s baggage there. It’s the decision process that’s hard. Light isn’t the only possible sensor. You can track weight or possibly even sound. But like our growth metrics, you still get the same result.

The same is true with community metrics. There are dozens of variables that correlate pretty well with growth. Unique visitors, sessions, active members and many others will answer the key question, is growth increasing?

Then my teacher’s tyranny grew by making it more complicated. Was the flight delayed? Was the baggage oversized? Are there no free spots? Is there more than one conveyor belt? Is baggage vibrating?

We had to design increasingly complicated systems to handle the outcomes.

What Would You Do If….?

The biggest problem today is we have no idea what to do with that information.

Stop. Seriously, stop what you’re doing for a second and try to answer this question:

If growth is increasing, what would you do differently?

If growth is decreasing, what would you do differently?

If you don’t have a snapshot answer to that it’s because you’re probably tracking metrics to impress your boss rather than to help you build your community.

You’re wasting an incredible opportunity to use data the way it’s supposed to be used – to make better, informed, decisions.

A Simple Growth System

Let’s imagine a really simple growth system.


At least now you have some sort of use for the metrics.

But can you spot the problem in our overly simplified system? You can’t spend more time on growth without spending less time on something else. Also, it’s not very specific in WHAT you should do…

Also, you might decide to spend more time on growth if it’s working. You could optimize different channels etc…

A More Complicated Process

Let’s say your activity has declined. You identify that’s because of fewer new visitors. Your data shows you your Google search traffic is declining.

This might be because a) your search ranking has decreased or b) the search terms are less popular. Now you can use the Moz tools to answer that question.

If search ranking has decreased, you might decide to spend less time creating content for 2 weeks and more time analyzing what competitors are doing, publishing guest posts on other sites, optimizing your key pages etc…

If your search terms are less popular, you might use the same tools to identify which terms are most relevant to your sector (research competitors) and create content or discussions to satisfy them.

Two weeks later you can check back to see if that’s improved your growth rates. If it has, you can shift that time back to creating content again.

Don’t Track Any Metric You Don’t Have A Decision Tree For

Don’t track any metric until you know what to do with it.

The critical step is you have the decision tree in place to tackle each possible situation. The better you get as a community professional, the bigger and more complex your decision tree (or trees) become(s).

This is how you do truly terrific data-driven community management. You’ll be FAR more effective if you can design the right decision tree than if you simply track vanity metrics.

A Few Bonus Points

  • Absolute numbers are far less important than absolute trends. Don’t worry if your community has 1000 or 10,000 active members. Worry if the number of active members is rising or declining.
  • Use RescueTime to track and classify your time each week. This will tell you what to spend more or less time on (which is usually the key outcome of this process).
  • Begin with just allocating more time, then figuring out what specifically to do if growth, activity, sense of community, or ROI is rising/falling. That means knowing how to diagnose the source of success/failure and interventions to test to improve each.

A bonus point of this system is it scales well. You can allocate parts to volunteers to work on.

The Best Offer We Can Make

A SPRINT is an explosive burst of speed to make rapid progress in a short amount of time. Our events are designed specifically to get brand new ideas from people doing this work every day.

If you sign up to the event, you’ll receive:

  • Access to 14 world-class speakers, 300 top community professionals, and FeverBee’s great team.
  • Access to a module of our training course.
  • All the videos from our 2014 events (both UK and Europe).
  • All the videos we record from our 2015 event.
  • An invitation to the afterparty – free alcohol!
  • An invite to FeverBee’s own community.

If that’s not enough to tempt you to make the plunge, I really don’t know what is 🙂

Sign up at:

Change The Behavior Of Any Group By Using An Elite Group

October 19, 2015Comments Off on Change The Behavior Of Any Group By Using An Elite Group

One of the most powerful tactics to change behavior is to persuade people they are (or could be) part of a special group that exhibits the very behavior you want to see.

Many marketing programs are designed to do this. Apple’s Think Different or the Pepsi Generation were designed to splinter people and persuade one group they could be part of a unique, special, group that (luckily) also purchased those products.

The amazing thing is when you create a group of people with desirable attributes; everyone begins to adopt those same attributes to be part of that group.

In psychological terms, this is known as self-categorization.

This works in a wide-range of situations. You need to identify the specific words people want to associate themselves with, emphasize the traits this group shares, and gently highlight examples of these people demonstrating these actions.

A good example is when we recruit speakers for our events. The bane of an event organizers’ existence are speakers who don’t submit their slides until the week of the talk. This doesn’t leave us enough time to give feedback and ensure the content is the right fit for the audience.

Last year I sent an e-mail to speakers highlighting this problem and what professional speakers do (subtly contrasting with amateur speakers).

Every speaker wants to consider themselves as professional in their approach. This list of traits included asking very specific questions about the equipment (what laptop, what keynote/powerpoint, size of audience, lighting, handheld mic), being co-operative in the development, and (most importantly) submitting their slides in time.

Every time a speaker did something we liked, we highlighted the example to the rest of the group as an example of a professional speaker. We received 12 of the 16 presentations 2 weeks in advance – which gave us plenty of time to give feedback.

The challenge here is to find the exact words your group wants to associate themselves with – and then begin to highlight the traits that group shares. You have to drop this in subtly. Ramit Sethi, whose work I admire, often highlights what top performers do. People want to classify themselves as top performers and take actions to match.

I’ve seen examples of what the most productive 5% do and what progressives do or open-minded people do. Can you think of many people that don’t want to be among the most productive, open-minded, progressive people?

This isn’t a one-shot message. It’s a series of communications that subtly guide the audience into the idea that a) there is a group they would like to join b) the group exhibits traits they can emulate and c) there are a LOT of examples of this group. You don’t make the group the focus of the message. You mention it almost in passing and gradually give it greater levels of attention.

We’re now just 22 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at:




Why Ask For The Group’s Opinion?

October 16, 2015Comments Off on Why Ask For The Group’s Opinion?

Why would you ask the group to vote or give their opinion on any topic?

There are probably three good reasons here:

  1. Get buy-in / engagement on a decision that has to be made.
  1. Solicit useful knowledge/ideas for the solution.
  1. Understand what members want so you can serve them better.

If the answer is 1) you need to present options on ‘how’ to deliver the solution rather than whether they like the choice. This allows people to feel engaged and listened to while ensuring you’re heading in the right direction. Never ask people if they approve of a decision you’ve already made. Ask them how they would like to do it.

If the answer is 2) you need to ask people for expertise to present possible options. i.e. how do we best tackle this problem? What sectors/trends are on the rise? What data do we have to prove that? You need to get the information locked up in your members’ heads into the discussion. That means removing the social and technological barriers that prevent that. Fear of being wrong is a big problem here.

If the answer is 3) you need to use surveys and provide a place for continuous open dialogue in the group. Be careful of the vocal minority. Use data to validate what groups of members are saying. Take the best ideas and put them into a survey of the entire group to see how most people feel. Use SurveyMonkey and force members to rank their preferences, not just select those that aren’t important.

Asking for the group’s opinion on a wide range of things is a good idea. Just be clear about why you’re doing it. Is it for buy-in, to gain expertise, or to identify broader preferences?




To Get More Members, You Need To Give More Autonomy

October 14, 2015Comments Off on To Get More Members, You Need To Give More Autonomy

We chose to join and participate in social groups that support our autonomy.

In self-determination theory, we feel autonomy when we can act when we wish without external pressure. If we’re being paid, pressured, or forced to act in line with group norms, for example, we’re not acting autonomously.

[tweet_dis]We can design any groups to support or thwart autonomy.[/tweet_dis]

Members feel autonomous when they feel understood and accepted, when they are given options, when they can openly express how they feel, and when they are encouraged and supported to act in line with their beliefs.

Now while this sounds suspiciously like fuzzy social jargon, in reality it’s a hard, practical, science. One we can use to increase activity.

The more a group supports your autonomy, the more you participate in the group. Not only do you participate more, the quality of your contributions is higher.

Why We Accidentally Create Autonomy-Thwarting Systems

What happens when you join a social group today (online or offline)?

Too often, it’s one of three things:

  • You’re told to do something you would rather not do. For example, you’re told to introduce yourself or complete your profile and list all your interests.
  • You’re given a list of things to do. This happens online at a lot. For example, ‘bookmark this page’, ‘follow us on twitter’, ‘like us on facebook’, ‘introduce yourself’ etc…
  • Nothing. Nothing happens. No-one speaks to you. No-one gets to know you. No-one tries to understand you. You’re expected to find your own way. Sometimes you do, usually you don’t.

We also go wrong when we drop rewards and recognition systems on to a successful community. Last week at CommuniCon, one attendee asked the best way to reward your most active members.

The simple answer is, you don’t need to. If they’re the most active members, their needs are already being satisfied. When you start rewarding them, you’re inadvertently creating a reward-thwarting environment.

Five Steps To Designing An Autonomy-Supportive System

Designing an autonomy-supportive system comprises of six steps:

1) Measure the current level of autonomy.

2) Recruit volunteer greeters.

3) Ensure members feel understood.

4) Provide members options to participate.

5) Encourage members to feel open.

Step 1: Measure The Current Level Of Autonomy

If you’re managing an online group, what you see might represent the actions of a few core members, not the entire group. This is why we need to begin with a survey to members of the group.

autonomy - 3

Use to replicate and adapt this survey (register first, then replace the word instructor/manager with community – or change to suit your group). Send the link to a random segment of your mailing list of members (don’t post it in the community, only the most active people will reply).

The results from this survey give you both a benchmark of where you are today and highlight key areas for improvement. If you have an existing process, you can identify the areas with the lowest score (e.g. members don’t feel understood) and design an intervention to tackle it (e.g. have volunteers try to understand motivations of all new members).

If you’re designing a system from scratch, this will tell you if the new system is having any impact.

Step 2: Recruit Greeters

The core essence of autonomy is feeling understood and accepted.

If members don’t feel understood and accept who they are, they can’t ever feel autonomy. This will almost always involve direct, personal contact. In smaller groups (or communities) that personal contact is from you. In larger groups, you’re going to need to help make that happen.

First, issue a call for community greeters. These are people who would like to welcome and meet newcomers that arrive in the community. One person can probably be responsible for 10 to 15 newcomers per week. If your growth rates are higher than that, recruit more.

If that’s not possible, accept that you won’t reach some people. Don’t spread the greeters across too many people, this work becomes too emotionally draining.

Second, assign the greeters to people that join on either a particular day or a particular time of day. I prefer the former. e.g. anyone that joins on Thursday is the responsibility of a specific greeter. It’s the simplest system.

Step 3: The First-Contact System

The ideal option is the greeter will send newcomers a personalized note when they join the community. An example is below:

“Hi {Name},

I’m one of the greeters from {community name}.

I must admit, I was happy to see someone from {location/job field} has joined the group. It would be interesting to get some of your experience in the discussions we’ve been having about {topic}

Just curious, what motivated you to join? Is there anything here that you’re particularly looking for?

{Greeter Name}”

The purpose of that second line is to prove it’s a personal message. This requires research. Typically that means searching for their name or e-mail address, finding a Twitter/LinkedIn profile, and quickly learning a few more details about them before you send the message.

The alternative way is to use mailchimp (or other e-mail platform) to send an auto-responder message 1 to 3 days after someone has joined. The e-mails go out from a specific volunteer, so when people reply it goes to the volunteer to follow up.

autonomy - 1

The overall goal of these message is to begin a discussion that allows the volunteer to uncover an individuals motivations and beliefs about the topic.

This is also going to involve expert listening.

There are two levels of listening. The first is simply to hear what someone is saying. This doesn’t help you much.

The second is to hear what the person is trying to convey to you. That’s usually not just in the words, but the context in which someone is saying the words.

For example, someone talking about how great of a job he did on a recent project, is probably saying he’s trying to impress you. That might mean he’s worried about his status compared with yours. If other people are around, he might consider you a rival for another person’s attention or resources. The key here is to really train the volunteers to listen to what the other people are trying to communicate, not just what they say.

This is going to take 2 to 3 exchanges to really get a sense for what each person believes in and what they want to achieve within the group.

This allows us to enter Step 4.

Step 4: Provide Options to Participate.

Once we have identified the beliefs and goals of someone that joins the group, we can design options for them to participate. These are custom options.

If someone is looking solely to enjoy themselves, you can guide them to discussions where members are sharing their funny stories on the topic, ask if they know of great places to get images related to their field, or otherwise design options specifically for them.

Don’t tell people to do these things, present these as simple options which they can choose to do.

We usually want to offer 3 options at this stage.

Step 5: Encourage Members to be Open

At this stage we can set ‘follow up’ opportunities for 2 to 4 weeks later to ask how they’re finding the community. Specifically, we want to know if there’s anything they don’t like about it or we could improve about it?

The answers are useful to you, but they also show you truly want people to be open within the group and with you. This feeling that the group encourages you to state your emotions or genuine beliefs about the topic is an important part of autonomy.

autonomy - 2

You can use Google Inbox to set simple reminders. Other systems might allow you to do this as well. You can set follow-ups with each individual member at increasingly longer intervals. First 3 weeks, then 3 months, then 9 months etc…

Crucially, in the later follow-ups, you want to invite the person to become greeters themselves. This helps the system to scale.

The Autonomy Principle

Always lean towards providing increasing levels of autonomy. Autonomy, more so than competence and relatedness, is the critical element in sustaining long-term participation in any group.

Most conflicts and problems arise when a group of individuals perceive a threat to their autonomy. Most solutions are those which provide greater levels of autonomy. The more autonomy you give, the more participation you get.

p.s. We’re now just 27 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at:


Momentum Is The Killer Hack For Social Groups

October 12, 2015Comments Off on Momentum Is The Killer Hack For Social Groups

Momentum is the killer hack for social groups. We flock to join groups with momentum. Even the slightest sign of plurality causes people to flock to the cause.

There are three broad reasons behind this.

  • Maintaining a positive social identity. Cialdini called this BIRGing – basking in reflected glory. A large part of our own identities is derived from the groups we associate ourselves with. We therefore distance ourselves from failing groups and associate ourselves with success.
  • Social proof, conformity, and social pressure. As a group grows, there’s increasing pressure to join (or go along with) the group. The more of your friends you see join the group, the more likely you are to join. Popularity suggests success. Success brings popularity. Do you want to be the only person not in the gang?
  • Economic benefits and survival. Successful groups are in a position to divide collective resources (information, money, effort etc…) between them. Being a member of that group gives you access to the resources. The more successful the group, the greater the resources. Many people join groups even if they disagree with the group’s principles.

Too often we spend huge amounts of time and money on platform changes or grandiose schemes without ever getting the basics right. If you establish momentum, people will flock to join the group.

Momentum is the increasing motivation of a group to achieve its goals. This involves a few core steps:

  • Demonstrate progress already achieved. Highlight and frequently reference where you began and how far you’ve come. Most politicians know to begin a speech positively (how far we’ve come) and then detail how much further they need to go. Reference this in your interactions with members, blog posts, newsletters, and any other channel you can communicate with members. A really sneaky tactic is to begin when you’re already 50%+ towards your goal. Highlight all the things the group didn’t even know they did which has brought them closer to their goal. LinkedIn does this with member profiles, for example. Most Kickstarter campaigns do the same.
  • Show increasing levels of growth and activity. You can be selective here. Highlight the areas of the group where the level of growth and activity is increasing. Do this in a monthly wrap-up and praise the people (never you) responsible for helping make it happen. You can update the stats as you see progress or do it on a consistent schedule.
  • Draw attention to every small milestone along the way. As we discussed last week, use the same tools (direct communication, blogs, newsletters, forum posts) to highlight every small milestone you achieve along the way. If your internal community is designed to reduce the number of internal e-mails sent, highlight the reduction each month – or highlight the reduction among specific teams each month.
  • Demonstrate the declining distance. Your members should perceive the gap between the current state and desired goal as progressively declining. Highlighting big wins here is good. But showing that the distance is in some quantifiably way declining is also good.

Sense of momentum is self-fulfilling. To create momentum you need to ensure other members are aware of the tiniest sparks of success. Ignore your failures, focus solely on the bright spots.

p.s. We’re now just 29 days away from our FeverBee SPRINT event. If you want to learn a lot of advanced community skills from 14 world-class experts and ourselves, I hope you will join us at:

Set Specific, Difficult, Group Goals To Get Members More Active

October 9, 2015Comments Off on Set Specific, Difficult, Group Goals To Get Members More Active

One of the simplest ways to improve the performance of any group is to set specific, difficult, group goals.

Too often we overlook this. We try hundreds of tactics to get people engaged before setting a common goal. When we do set a goal, it’s too abstract to have any value.

Groups with goals perform better than groups without. Members identify more with groups that have goals (this is why purpose-driven organizations perform so well). Members internalize the goals of the group and align their actions accordingly. Members share more information with one another too.

They can also identify and celebrate milestones on the path to that goal – which increases the motivation of group members. The closer you get to the goal, the more people want to contribute to the group (and associate themselves with the group’s success).  There’s a term for this, it’s called BIRGing (basking in reflected glory).

There are some simple principles for setting group goals.

  • The goal should be specific. The more specific the goal, the more people can visualize the end result and align their actions to achieve it.
  • The goal should be difficult. Difficult goals increase performance more than easy goals. However, it shouldn’t be ‘too’ difficult.
  • The goal should be framed as a challenge, not a threat. People disassociate themselves with threatening goals. Threatening goals provoke fear which stops creativity.
  • Once the goal is set, provide the support and resources for people to achieve the goal. Increasing the difficulty of the goal without accompanying support is going to cause problems.
  • The goal should incorporate the motivations of members, but not be determined entirely by them. You shouldn’t drop a goal upon a group and expect it to succeed. If the group goals conflict with the individual goal, the performance of the entire team suffers.

This gives us some practical steps:

  • Interview members or design a survey for your group and identify their beliefs, ambitions, and values. Look for common patterns to create the goal. The best goals are usually reducing common problems or frustrations people face every day rather than forcing top-down agendas upon a group.
  • Establish the group’s current performance or progress towards the goal over time. Design a goal that stretches the team beyond their previous level of performance. If you’re trying to reduce the number of internal e-mails sent, then tracking that number is the first step.
  • To build momentum, celebrate any visible progress towards that goal. This usually means looking hard for any slither of hope among the darkness that suggests progression. If only 1% of people are improving, celebrate and spread the success story of the 1%.
  • Solicit ideas to achieve the goal. You can provide your thoughts too, but developing the strategy to achieve the goal has to be a co-developed process. Don’t ever set stretch goals without also increasing the abilities and resources of the group to achieve them.
  • Give group feedback towards the goal. Deliver frequent feedback towards the group goal in news articles, e-mails forum discussions, and any contact you have with the group.

This works as well for online groups as well as offline groups. It works for teams and at the macro-crowd level. If you can set the right goals, you will drive greater participation.

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