Month: April 2017

Take Individual Segments Of People At A Time

When you begin work today, what are you working towards? What’s your process for systematically improving the value of the community?

Here’s a useful practice. Build up a few profiles of representative community segments and better cater to their needs.

Set up interviews with 3 to 5 community members per week. I promise you the results will be invaluable. Reach out to them with questions.

  1. Who are they (demographics, psychographics etc) and why do they come to the community?
  2. How do they arrive (search, referral or direct visit)?
  3. When do they visit (what triggers the visit?)
  4. What annoys them within the community?
  5. What do they find most valuable in the community?
  6. What are the biggest problems they face at the moment?

Once you have 10 you can begin to build some profiles of your audience. These might be divided by levels of activity (high contributors, low contributors, lurkers), length of membership (newcomers, veterans), location, or any other variable.

Use this information to improve your community. Look at each unique user journey and ensure you’re minimizing the annoyances, satisfying their reason to visit, and identifying a next logical step they can take to resolve their problems.

This is a repeatable process you can use indefinitely to increase the value to your community not just to an elite few but to the many unique types of members you’re working with.

Building Online Community Engagement Systems Rooted In Psychology

To understand sustained participation in a community, you have to understand CAR.

This stands for Competence, Autonomy, and Relatedness.

It’s self-determination theory which has a lot of supporting studies (unlike Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which has none).

Peak motivation is reached when we satisfy three needs.

  1. The need for competence
  2. The need for autonomy
  3. The need for relatedness

You can see a community-adapted model here:

Being Honest With Yourself, Why Do You Participate?

If you’re truly honest with yourself, you will probably admit you participate in a community because you like to feel smart and appreciated.

You like to feel you belong as part of a group of peers. You like that sense of recognition when you provide good solutions to challenging problems.

We’ve tried and tested multiple theories and ideas to sustain participation from community members.

Nothing has proven anywhere near as successful as systematically and incrementally helping members feel smarter, have more autonomy, and form more genuine relationships with members.

Every program you initiate in your community should be focused on helping members feel higher levels of competence, autonomy, and relatedness.

No other rewards you can offer members will come close to matching these.

But, You Need Systems (not one-off tactics).

However, for this to work, you need sustainable systems; not one-off tactics.

You need systems that will take a newcomer and gradually make them smarter, give them more responsibility within the community, and connect them with people like them.

This talk, for example, is almost entirely about systems to achieve this.

If you can’t see the video below, click here.

During Psychology of Communities, we’re going to spend time teaching you to design these engagement systems supported by psychology.

There is an incredible opportunity to work to increase the level of activity in your community by designing great systems.

Once you design your system, you know what behaviors and can align your daily actions to match.

p.s. The price will rise tonight, please sign up before then.

p.p.s. Remember you can also sign up for both our Strategic Community Management program and Psychology of Community for $1,100 USD before tomorrow.

Reputation Is A Byproduct

April 26, 2017 Comments Off on Reputation Is A Byproduct

Take a moment and really think who has status in your field.

You just ignored that sentence, didn’t you? Genuinely take a second and come up with 3 names.

Now try to explain why you believe they have status.

I’m going to bet it’s not because they had 1253 points after their username or were featured as a member of the week.

It’s because they had a track record of making unique and useful contributions. These contributions were gradually recognized. People talked about them. They were invited to speak at events. They were referenced in other items of content.

There are implicit and explicit reputation systems. Over the past year, I feel I’ve been in far too many meetings discussing explicit reputation systems and far too few discussing implicit systems.

Believe me, explicit reputation systems aren’t even close to the power of members genuinely working hard to produce something incredible and earning a reputation as a byproduct.

In almost every room in the past year, I’ve argued what I’m saying now. Spend more time (a lot more time) thinking of ways to encourage members to create something truly great. Think of true works of art that drive the field forward. Provide people with the resources, the support, and the attention that they need. Let people earn real status, not chase points.


April 25, 2017 Comments Off on Specialization

The more you can get people to specialize, the more valuable your community will be.

The problem is many communities inadvertently encourage the opposite. People extort more favorable opinions of popular ideas to reinforce their perceived commitment to the group.

Yet the most popular ideas typically began on the fringes. They begin with people specializing in some small, obscure, or disregarded area of the field.

As Sloman and Fernbach discovered, specializing is what drives groups forward. It’s what yields the most value. You don’t need more people discussing the future of your field, you need an army of people each testing some whacky idea and reporting back what happened.

Sometimes, just the right note of encouragement at the right time can yield really remarkable results. This is why discussions, where people can suggest ideas and explain what they’re working on, can be so powerful.

You can follow up with each of them with encouragement, opportunities to promote them later in the community and do everything you can to foster as much specialization as possible.

If you even manage just a couple of people a week to pursue something unique, interesting, and with potential, you will be doing an incredible service for your community.

The Myth About Customer Support Communities

Don’t confuse a customer support community with any other type.

In support communities, people want quick resolutions.

If your washing machine breaks, you might visit the community to get an answer.

…but you’re not going to spend your spare time talking about washing machines.

And you’re definitely not going to feel a common identity, a strong sense of community, or the need to share your expertise and make friends with owners of the same washing machine.

Yet, Psychology Is Critical To Support Communities Too

In support communities, how you respond to a question has a huge impact on how people feel about you and your business.

Really small things can have a really big impact. Short, terse, responses that make people feel dumb are going to drive people away (even if the answer is correct).

Recently we benchmarked some of the larger support communities were doing against various criteria. The results blew my mind.

You can see a selection below:

(this is very much subjective, I’m sure your ratings would differ).

Yet, we can see there is HUGE scope for most support communities to improve here.

Most people managing most communities can directly improve customer satisfaction metrics simply by improving the quality of their answers.

The exact words you use, how you personalize your response, how you show empathy all matter a huge deal.

Likewise how you clarify the question, how you provide the answer, and the time it takes to receive an answer matter.

Do you even follow up afterward, for example?

As part of the Psychology of Community course, we’re going to take you through the process of doing this extremely well. You’re going to see dozens of real-life case studies and a breakdown of what constitutes terrific responses.

If you feel you or your team would benefit from being terrific at this, I hope you will join us:

p.s. Remember you can also sign up for both our Strategic Community Management program and Psychology of Community for $1,100 USD before the end of this week.

Good Answers Can Also Be Unhelpful

April 23, 2017 Comments Off on Good Answers Can Also Be Unhelpful

Many communities today are moving towards simple rating systems in responses.

Readers can select whether a response is helpful or not helpful. Some are measured by this metric (it’s as good a metric as any).

But what if a member asks a question you can answer but not resolve?

What if a member wants a product you no longer sell? Or to request a feature you can’t create?

You can provide the most thoughtful, detailed, answer possible and it’s inevitably going to receive a downvote (or no votes) simply because it didn’t resolve the question.


This becomes an especially big problem during new product launches/changes when people have a lot of questions which can’t easily be solved.

If you’re measured by satisfaction scores (or % of helpful votes), your success will fluctuate randomly regardless of what you do.

This means two things:

  1. You need to tag and exclude the questions which were impossible to resolve in the first place. Be aware of the temptation to tag questions which are likely to be unpopular here too.
  2. You need to take a random sample of these scores and compare them. If you don’t want to tag every question, use samples. Take a random sample (>30) of votes on unsolvable questions and unsolvable questions. Compare the two and check for significance. Now you can make relatively safe compensations for drag caused by these questions.

It’s a relatively minor problem unless you’re measured by member satisfaction. In which case it can suddenly become a very big problem indeed.

Solving The ‘Too Busy To Participate’ Problem

There’s a moment in many new client meetings where someone will say:
“The problem with [our audience], is they are too busy to participate!”

We’ve heard this from every type of community. Even a community for retirees.

Your audience is not too busy to participate.

I’ll bet they still spend hours each day using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, watching Netflix, and talking with friends.

It’s never about time, it’s always about priorities. And priorities are about emotions. If something strikes an emotional nerve, your members will make time for it.

The Biggest Mistake in Tackling ‘Too Busy’

Don’t tackle this by explaining the benefits of the community.

Facts aren’t persuasive. Your audience will agree with you and still be too busy.

For example, you might be convinced climate change is real, but you’re probably too busy to install a solar panel on the ceiling until your friends do.

Why is that?

A while ago, a client was struggling to get internal employees to participate. They all agreed it was important but were all too busy to participate.

This changed when they were mocked for being dinosaurs for using outdated technology. Suddenly, most of them found the time to participate.

People can always make the time if you strike the right emotional tone.

Step one: Pinpoint the Emotion(s)

The first is to pinpoint the most effective emotion.

Does the community exist to relieve frustration, reduce the fear of making a mistake, create a sense of validation, or build a sense of excitement about what can be achieved?

You need to interview your members here and find out how they feel about the behavior you want. How do they feel about joining, participating, or otherwise getting involved?

Remember this will be different for different groups of members.

Step Two: Align Every Touchpoint
Next is to carefully align every touchpoint with this emotion.

Be subtle here. Don’t bulldoze your way through with messages like: “If you’re frustrated about {x}, ask your question here and stop feeling frustrated!”

People are smart (and want to feel smart)

Let them make the connection from the right cues. Try instead: “Let our members find a good answer for you” or “don’t waste time browsing Google, when you can get the answer here”.

They will make the connections easily enough.

Step Three: Overcome The Resistance

Avoid promising what you can’t deliver. Some key tips here:

  1. Improve the utility of the community. Make sure anyone visiting today is going to see remarkably useful tips (or be surprised) they haven’t come across before. You want them to feel surprised with information or entertainment they were not expecting.
  2. Be clear what behavior it replaces. Great communities don’t create new behaviors, they replace them. New behaviors = extra work. Replacing behaviors = improvement. If it feels like extra, work, you will never win.
  3. Why should they join now? If people can join and participate in the community at any time, why bother now? Why not get through the important work and then join when they’re less busy (will never happen). What is happening right now that demands their attention (and will be gone later?).

We’re going to cover how to engage difficult audiences as part of Psychology of Community.

I hope you and your team will join us:

The Secret To Improving Resolution Rates Isn’t In The Answers

The trick to improving the resolution rate is better questions, not more answers.

Most questions are far too broad to answer.

Compare two questions:

Bad Question: “My router isn’t working, does anyone have any ideas?”

That’s guaranteed to either be ignored or begin an endless cycle of frustrated helpers asking for more information.

A far better question might be:

Good question: “I purchased a D-Link AC3200 Ultra Wireless Router, Tri-Band, Gigabit Ports, Dual Core Power HD Streaming and Gaming DIR-890L two weeks ago. It worked fine on my 1 gig connection. However, after a power-cut, the internet lights keeps blinking red. I can connect to the wifi, but not to the internet through the wifi.

I’ve tried plugging it in directly and checking that the internet connection itself is working (it works on another router). I’ve gone through the steps in the manual and restarted the router with default settings but it still isn’t working.

Should I try to send it back or is there another option here that someone could recommend?“

If a question highlights the broad goal, provides context, seeks a specific answer, includes screenshots, and provides detailed specifics of what has been attempted so far; it’s probably going to get a resolution instead of just a response.

Your challenge is to teach and nudge participants to ask better questions. There are plenty of ways of doing this.

  1. Ensure questions meet a certain word count.
  2. Nudge people to include screenshots and specific answers.
  3. Include perfect questions in the onboarding process.
  4. Model perfect questions people can see.
  5. Include copy as people are typing their questions (or add a checkbox for them to agree that the question is specific and detailed).

When it comes to improving the speed of resolution (not just response), you don’t need more answers. You need to help members ask better questions.

The Psychology of Online Communities Course

April 18, 2017 Comments Off on The Psychology of Online Communities Course

Today we opened enrollment for our Psychology of Community course.

We believe understanding psychology is critical to building successful online communities.

Our goal is to help you use principles of psychology to sustainably drive a high level of engagement.

This is a guided training program which will take place over 6 weeks from May 22 to July 7 (everything is recorded so you can quickly catch up after your vacation).

This course will cover:

  • How to diagnose community problems and develop psychology-driven solutions. We’re borrowing from the field of UX (among others) to provide you with the process to diagnose engagement problems yourself and develop solutions rooted in psychology.
  • How to get difficult audiences to participate. Especially those in senior roles or who claim to be too busy to participate.
  • How to increase member satisfaction. Learn engagement systems which will help each member feeling satisfied (as shown by feedback scores) and more supportive of your brand.
  • How to sustain and increase participation. We’re going to help you hook newcomers and satisfy the motivations which will keep members actively contributing.
  • How to gain the support of your organization. Understand this is a persuasion problem and we’re going to help you provide the right people with the right information at the right time.
  • How to build reward and recognition systems. Most reward systems are highly patronizing, use outdated principles from behaviorism, and don’t resonate with members. We’re going to teach you to design systems that work in the modern environment
  • How to hook top contributors and VIPs in your field to participate. You’re going to get a clear step to keep your top members happy and more engaged than before.
  • How to unite the group in a strong, shared, sense of community. We’re going to provide you with an updated framework to unite community members based upon testing on over a dozen communities.

This is a hands-on guided training program which will require about 2 hours per week for 6 weeks.

Our focus is on the application. We don’t want you to soak up information, we want you to use it.

Our coaches and I are going to answer questions, help you apply every principle and provide a safe place for you to refine your ideas before you introduce them into your community.

Registration opens today. You can get a 25% early-bird discount if you sign up by April 28.

I hope we see some of you on the inside.

p.s. We’ve also re-opened enrollment for our Strategic Community Management program. This has easily been the highest attended and the best-reviewed course we’ve ever run. You can sign up for both courses for $1100 (group rates available) before April 28.

Include The Answer Within The Response

One sure-fire way to annoy people who ask questions is to send them somewhere else to get answers.

Don’t do this. If someone asks a question in your community, don’t just link to the answer, provide the answer. Go to the FAQ or page content if you need and take the time to adapt the answer for them.

Be as detailed and as specific to their question as possible. Make sure the recipient has the greatest possible chance of getting the right answer.

If you need to ask clarifying questions, ask them. Just don’t send them somewhere else.

In every interaction you’re either drawing someone closer into you and the community or driving them away, you choose.

Facebook And The Awareness Problem

Most members don’t take action because they’re not aware of the initiative you launched.

Even if they visit the community, receive your emails, or get notifications, there’s a good chance they didn’t open, read, or remember the information.

One great way to tackle that is to make sure they can’t miss it.

This is what Facebook has done here:

You might not click the link, but it’s hard to not even see it.

Far too often we forget the link between what we’re planning to do and how we’re going to communicate what we do.

“Didn’t You Bother To Read The Previous Responses?”

That’s not a helpful response.

Think of the absurdity of that statement too.

Did someone new to the community take the time to search for every previous thread related to the question (every answer) to see if any of those solutions worked?

Let’s assume this is expected. How would a newcomer know the right terminology to search for? How would they know if the previous answers were still current? How would they know if the listed solution was the best solution to their particular variation of the problem?

They could try multiple searches and test every solution, or they could simply ask the community and hope someone can help. Which, unsurprisingly, is exactly what most people do.

Don’t drive people away with snotty responses here. The questions they have, the words and phrases they use, and their satisfaction with the community brings in more traffic and participation over the long-run.

That time you spend chastising newcomers for trying to get a quick answer to their problem is far better spent getting them a quick answer to their problem.

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