Month: March 2016

Turn Top Discussions Into Definitive Resources (and close the golden loop)

March 10, 2016Comments Off on Turn Top Discussions Into Definitive Resources (and close the golden loop)

The golden loop works like this.

  • A newcomer has a problem. This triggers her to find the solution. She searches for the problem and finds a resource on your community.
  • She tries to use that resource to solve her problem. She applies the material to her own context and learns whether it works or not.
  • She shares how she adapted it to her context. She highlights whether it worked, any adaptations she makes, and reviews the solution on the page.
  • More newcomers find the problem. The additional longtail words catch more newcomers to this page.

This is the golden loop. The knowledge is built upon into definitive resources. You want to turn someone seeking to solve a problem into sharing their adaptation of the solution. This increases traffic, participation, and valuable engagement.

You can optimise this at several stages.

1. Build your discussions into definitive resources that solve the visitor’s problem. Begin doing this for your biggest discussions. You will have 5 to 10 discussions which bring in a significant percentage of the traffic. Turn this into a resource page that includes the information shared in the discussion (Discourse has a great feature for this).

Link back to related discussions. Embed videos and texts. Include links to related discussions in different sectors within that page. Continually update and add more information to keep this fresh.

Or, even better, tell the individual who posted the discussion in the first place to become the guardian of this definitive resource page. Make sure the visitor doesn’t need to go back into Google to solve their challenge.

2. Make it tactical.

Most advice is broad and not specific enough to be useful. The best rated talks and highest quality discussions are those which are as tactical and relevant as possible. If you want more people to try the solution in the resource, ensure it breaks the solution down into very tactical steps (with screenshots/videos) that anyone can follow.

3. Ask for reviews, adaptations, and further questions.

Most people consume information and leave. That’s unfortunate. Each discussion needs to prompt the participant to rate the material, say whether it worked for them, what adaptations they had to make to their particular context, and any questions that were left unsolved.

You need to close their feedback loop. So either add a prompt, use ad retargeting (expensive, but gets the habit started), or establish the social norm of giving feedback on resources. Use empathetic messages about how much the feedback means to the contributor, not how it would help the community.

The goal over time is to see pages that bring in a lot more traffic to the community, a good conversion rate, and (hopefully), social norms of giving feedback on contributions which have helped members.

Solving Problems Or Seizing Opportunities?

March 9, 2016Comments Off on Solving Problems Or Seizing Opportunities?

You know what you’re going to get on customer service forums.

Someone will post a problem, someone else might post a solution.

If you have a problem that’s where you go. Actually, you only go when you have a problem you need to solve.

Sadly most online communities work on this principle too.

If you have an immediate problem to solve, you post it in the community and hope someone helps. No problem? No visit!

The alternative is to build communities around seizing new opportunities. This means providing ideas when they weren’t expected., Reddit, Hackernews and many others thrive on this principle. They train people to post new ideas whenever they see them.

This encourages people to visit every day. If you miss a day, you might miss out on a great idea.

The choice then is to decide which you want to be. Do you want the community to be a place where people post questions and wait for answers? Or do you want the community to be a place where people share new, unsolicited, ideas when they see them.

The difference in approaches (and results) is considerable.

Why They Didn’t Participate When They Said They Would

March 4, 2016Comments Off on Why They Didn’t Participate When They Said They Would

At least once a week we hear a variation of this story:

“When I spoke to the group about my engagement idea, they said they loved it and would participate. But when I created it, few of them participated.”

Believe me, I remember how frustrating this was.

1 of 3 things is happening here:

1)   They don’t want to reject you so tell you they will do it.

This is common – especially if you’re talking to a group who like you (or your close colleagues).  

2)   You have convinced them, but not persuaded them.

They think the idea will help, but in the great scheme of things this ranks relatively low in their priorities.

3)   There’s no urgency.

They can participate tomorrow, next week, or next month. They don’t need to do it today. So they delay it because, well, meh.

There are some very effective tactics here:

1)   Get a specific commitment.

Ask them to agree in writing to a specific date they will participate. Get a specific commitment to a specific action on a specific date. Have them write it down and send it to you in an email. Then chase up a few days before the action (in response to the email they wrote to you ideally).

2)   Tell A Really Affective Story.

Identify a story that resonates. You have to have an emotional punch. So find a story of someone they identify with (if they know the person, even better). Highlight how they felt (empathy), how much they lost by getting this wrong (logic), and the impact of solving the problem.

When we wanted internal buy-in at an international organisation recently, we shared a (true!) story of someone else in the individual’s position who was getting very worried about their engagement program not taking off. He had spent a huge percentage of his budget on a  community platform and the activity hadn’t increased. He was feeling at a loss of what to do next, yet the cost kept rising every day. His bosses were getting anxious.

The problem was the two people he had hired to manage the community weren’t credible and authoritative within their field. Their messages weren’t resonating and they came off feeling fake. Anyone who spoke to any of the target audience could get this information, but no-one bothered to ask what they thought of the two community professionals. By making some changes and a good amount of coaching, they began to see the levels rising month after month.

You can probably imagine his relief and smug joy at his next board meeting as he can finally show the metrics of things heading in the right direction.

This is a true story and one that resonates with the individual we’re trying to persuade. Most importantly, it doesn’t get bogged down in facts. We don’t talk about a 23% increase in engagement. We talk about how he felt. How he felt then and how he feels now. We use facts to support the emotions, not build a story around facts.

As a bonus, you can ask the recipient if they are finding or feeling the same problems (this internalizes the story). Find future stories to match their feedback.

3)   Create windows of opportunity.  

In sales literature, this would be a sense of urgency. Don’t go down the fake scarcity route. Create unique time-limited opportunities to achieve specific goals. For example “Can you share your great story on {x}, before we wrap up and publish the book on Thursday.”

This is much more effective than ‘can you share your tip on {x}?” There are no shortages of time-limited opportunities you can create. There are unique opportunities to interview experts, submit questions for interviews, create eBooks, host panels, create videos, get feedback on events etc…

By far the biggest challenge today in doing engagement isn’t setting up the community platform, creating a content calendar, or starting discussions. There are plenty of resources for tackling this.

The problem is persuading your audience to do what you need them to do (and do it in a way you feel good about). This often means we become needlessly worried when people don’t take the actions we’re judged by.

Most people find persuasion a black box of evil, mysterious, tricks they want to avoid (a little like networking). I want you to go with us into that box, let us highlight the key things you need to understand and take away the key tools you can use to persuade groups.

Notice in the examples above, we always tell the truth. We just make the truth effective (and affective). We create real windows of opportunity to be involved in things that benefit the audience. We present stories in a way that will best resonate with people. We ask people who said they will participate for the exact time they will.

Some people might feel this is manipulative; to us it’s simply effective communication. We should all be effective communicators.

If you can understand a little about the psychology of persuasion and motivation, it becomes much easier to ensure every message better resonates with the audience.

This is what we want to coach you over the next few months to do.

If you’ve consumed all the basic tips out there and you’re still not getting the engagement you want, you can decide to join our Advanced Engagement Methods program.

Invite Members To Follow Each Other

You might ask your audience to follow you on multiple social platforms.

The goal, I suppose, is to have another channel to distribute information and guide people back to the community.

How about trying something different?

Instead of asking people to follow your brand, ask them to follow each other.

More specifically, create a list of the top 5 to 10 members in your community (especially those that use their accounts to discuss the topic) and invite newcomers/existing members to follow them instead.

It rewards the top members and provides newcomers with recommendations of who the experts are.

You don’t need the group to become bigger, you need the group to become tighter.

The Psychology Of Typo Spotters, Grammar Police And Other Nitpickers

Typo spotters are the bane of any author’s existence.

I’m sure you’ve received at least a few messages highlighting typos, grammar mistakes, or nitpicking at minor details within your material.

This can be exhausting to the author.

Imagine spending hours researching, developing, and designing material.

You publish the material and the first response is:

You made a typo on page 9”

Consider the psychology behind this behavior. People do this for one of three reasons:

1. They want to help. This group is easy to spot. They begin their message with flattery, highlighting how much they like the content, and they thank you for your work. They get your buy in to them first. Then they highlight one thing in a static message (not in an email you can’t change) they noticed you might want to fix if you have the time. We all know people like this. These people are on your side and great people to work with.

2. They care a LOT about nit. This is the group raised to care a lot about specific elements of your message. Their topic-involvement leads them to challenge minor factors, grammar or spelling mistakes. This group is random, hard to predict, and usually very involved in a minor element of the activity.

Shortly after every event we have former event managers giving event tips, former caterers giving tips on catering, web developers suggesting event apps, and former speakers suggesting better speakers. Each sees the topic from their own experience. This group wants to feel respected for their experience. This is a competence factor.

3. They want a sense of superiority. This is the most common group. They are not favourably predisposed to your messages. They either dislike the content, dislike the sender, or are looking to increase their self-esteem at your expense.

This third group won’t debate with you on the core issues of the message, but score tiny victories by pointing out minor mistakes. Don’t engage the final group – especially if they end their message with snark (i.e. “You made a typo on page 9, just sayin’”). This group is highly resistant to any messages from you. Their needs are to feel superior, unchallenged, and increase their self-esteem at your expense.

This behavior often stems from the message challenging the recipient to change their ways. Instead of assessing the problem, they ignore it. Instead they react against the message and its sender.

Focus on the first two groups. Remove the errors and niggles where possible. But don’t change or sand the edges of your messages to appeal to the nitpickers.

Do You Send Out Emails To Your Community Like This?

March 1, 2016Comments Off on Do You Send Out Emails To Your Community Like This?

2 years ago I worked with a very capable, personable, and friendly community manager.

Let’s call her Sarah.

Sarah wasn’t an expert in her field, but had the traits to be great at building communities.

Her first email out to her community read something like:

“Hey everyone,

I’ve just been hired to replace (name) as the new community manager here!

I’m delighted to be working with you all and can’t wait to meet you in person.

I’ve noticed we’ve never had a place to share what you’re working on. So I’ve started one here.

Tell me your name, what kind of work you’re doing, and how I can help.

If you have any questions, reply to this address.

Speak to you all soon!


This email was short, enthusiastic, and direct.

If you follow the tips out there, this is exactly the kind of email you would write for your audience too.

Sarah referenced someone they already knew, she demonstrated her passion, and she created a place for people to introduce themselves.

But this email killed any credibility she hoped to gain with the audience.

So what happened?

The problem is she was dealing with a group of technical experts working at a high level within this organization. This isn’t how this group speak to one another.

The message screamed ‘not one of us’ and ‘low priority’ at a time when they were keen to connect with high value people like themselves.

The tone of the email is wrong. The call to action was wrong. It didn’t reflect authority and credibility.

Sarah followed all the free tips she could find and wrote an email that killed her credibility

We Have The Tips, Now To Focus On The Execution

We’ve conducted endless interviews, surveys, and met up with dozens of you over the past year.

One of the biggest challenges is this; you’re following all the free tips you can find and still not getting the level engagement you want.

We’re paying thousands of dollars on platforms every year, just as much on staff costs, and it’s not driving the level of engagement we need.

The problem isn’t that we need more free tips, the problem lies in psychology.

A Lesson From Seth Godin

Back in 2008 I did an internship with Seth Godin in New York.

I wasn’t alone, there were interns working virtually too.

We spent a lot of time planning, strategizing, and breaking down each other’s plans to rebuild them better.

One day Seth wrote something that stuck with me.   

I’ve lost the quote, so I’ll paraphrase:

‘Doing strategy and blue sky thinking is fun. But it’s a tiny portion of what makes us successful.

Ultimately it’s the empathizing, persuading, influencing, and cajoling people which brings success.

If you can’t do this, you’re probably not a community builder’

This is as true today as it was back in 2008.

We Never Talk About The Biggest Challenges

All these free tips aren’t helping us increase engagement.

Many of you have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to boost engagement and you’re still not getting the results you want.

The problem isn’t the tips, it’s we’ve never tried to get better at the core skills to implement these tips.

80% of doing this work is about developing incredible skills in persuasion, influence, and building rapport.

Very few of the messages we write are persuasive. Most don’t use any of the principles of persuasion. Most don’t embrace any of the psychological techniques that can help you get members to do what you need them to do.

Sarah’s email wasn’t bad in isolation, in many communities it might have been great, she just didn’t have the deep engagement skills she needed.

Here are a few examples:

  • Audience profiling. Understanding the audience’s current views and favorability towards the idea, learning who they respect and why, identifying the keywords they use when interacting with each other etc..
  • Credibility. Knowing how to gain credibility and build rapport with key figures. Knowing to get references to the top people, not introduce yourself in a newcomer email. Learning to do deeper interviews that gain respect from the audience.
  • Persuasion. Knowing how to write and structure every message persuasively. Creating the right structure, using the right words, constructing the right narrative, deploying the right metaphors etc…
  • Motivation. Being able to identify the key motivations of group clusters and use that motivation in any call to action. Ensuring the call to action aligns with personal goals.

These are some of the skills that will drive engagement, not another massive list of free tips.

Sarah, like many people, consumed all the tips she could find and destroyed her credibility in her very first message. This is an extreme example, but just one of many examples.

Free tips are useful, but understanding psychology, persuasion, influence, building rapport, and credibility will help you so much more.  

We’ve spent 20 months now building the Advanced Engagement Methods program.

We’ve developed something I’m immensely proud of. It’s a single training and coaching program to coach you in skills that will make you better at driving real, meaningful, engagement through psychology principles.

To put this together we’ve tested hundreds of ideas, interviewed dozens of experts doing deep engagement work, and lined up several experts to give sessions during the program.

We’ve reviewed 500+ academic articles and pulled out the best insights to help you.

We’ve tested the methods in many different fields; internal and external engagement efforts, knowledge management and non-profits, content creation and social media.

This isn’t for beginners, it’s for people who have been in the field for several years already and consumed as many free tips as possible.

If you can learn and deploy these techniques effectively, you will be able to drive up engagement without spending another $50k on yet another new community platform.

And this is the final week you can sign up for the program.

I really hope a few of you will join us.

(Fee per person is 3420, group rates available)

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