Month: May 2017
If you treat your top contributors better than others, they will act better than others.
I’ve seen perfectly functional communities turned into dystopian firestorms by well-intentioned efforts to reward and encourage top contributors.
Top contributors believe their own praise and act condescendingly towards other members. They verbally shut down discussions they disagree with and assume their arguments are beyond reproach of regular members.
This in turn causes anger from regular members towards the community (and the company). It lowers their tendency to participate. Since it’s the regular members most likely to ask questions for top contributors to answer, the overall level of activity starts to creep down.
It’s tempting to overlook bad behavior as long as top contributors keep participating, but this only leads to bigger problems later.
Remember too, how it feels for a regular member to see a small group treated like kings. It’s not good.
Always align rewards with noble appeals to serve and support the community (not vice-versa). Praise members for sharing expertise, not for being experts. Help them increase the skill and knowledge level of regular members. Shut down bad behavior early.
If your top members refuse to do that, they’re probably not members worth rewarding.
You can’t do too much about the number of lurkers in a community. You might be able to shift the metric (participants / registered visitors) by a percentage point or two, but this comes at a crippling opportunity cost.
And that opportunity cost is to capture your current visitors.
You should worry far less about lurkers and far more about visitors who never come back to your community at all.
When you build up a detailed profile of your visitors (the people that visit but don’t register), you will notice that the majority of these visitors were entirely satisfied with their community experience.
They visited, received an answer to their question, maybe browsed a few other pages, and left.
If they have another question, they will visit again. But that’s not very likely.
You will also notice that they are open to being surprised. If you can give them useful tips they can use, highlight some people to follow on Twitter about the topic, or prompt them to sign up for a relevant webinar, they would be interested. But it has to be really relevant to their situation.
This is really hard to do in most communities as it involves either manually going through your most popular discussions and adding/updating links or tweaking the technology to enable pop-ups or other notifications of something surprising.
But the opportunity is there. It’s a big opportunity. Most visitors leave your community entirely satisfied. What if you can keep them there and engage them in something exciting?
p.s. Podcast interview on all things entrepreneurship.
Spend 20 minutes reading this paper.
“Using interrupted time series analysis and regression discontinuity design, we observe an abrupt and significant increase in social reciprocity after the adoption of a threaded interface.”
In short, adding threaded discussions (expanded all the way, i.e. you could have comments indented significantly as people respond to middle comments in the discussion), yielded an increase in responses.
Almost all community platforms today offer threaded discussions. Your mileage will vary, but testing flat, threaded, one-deep, and full branch structures of discussions is a low-cost and potentially high-reward endeavour.
During a brief spell in PR, I would collect the forward features lists. These highlight what topics media publications would be working on in the coming year (here’s an example). If a featured covered a client’s turf, I’d write in with relevant suggestions.
We never knew why some topics were chosen and others ignored. The readers had no input into what topics should or shouldn’t be featured. There wasn’t (and still isn’t) an open discussion around editorial choices.
If you work for an organization which produces considerable content, share the calendar with your audience. Ask them what topics they want to see and what should be prioritized above other topics. Better still, ask them for their suggestions and contributions. Ask the audience to share their stories.
This doesn’t just save huge research time, it leads to better research too.
Now go one further, share the entire community roadmap. This isn’t just about content. What features can members expect in the future? What can they look forward to and volunteer to help out with?
Here’s a simple method to become more effective in your community engagement work (and a snippet from the Psychology of Community course).
Segment your audience into unique activity clusters as we see below:
*Don’t worry, you can tweak the level of activity to your community.
Now do a live interview 3 to 5 people from each category (you will need to send 20 to 30 invites for each cluster).
Ask the interviewees how they arrived at the community, what they want from the community, what they like and don’t like about the community, and what they would love to see in the community.
If they’re new, ask them how it felt to arrive. If they’re regulars, ask them what keeps bringing them back.
Ask also about the toughest problems they face in their work (or in the topic).
From this, you should be able to build up a detailed picture of their wants and needs.
Here’s a simplified version of one we made for a former client:
Now systematically go through each of the touch points these members have with the community and update the messaging and structure of the site to satisfy these needs.
For example, if lurkers don’t participate because they don’t feel they have authority, why not highlight how much you need good questions for your experts to answer. Put the value in the questions, not the answers.
If regulars want more opportunities to connect with others and be more involved, create those opportunities.
If newcomers need some good reminders to come back and help others out who had that same problem, create those reminders.
Also, make sure the content you create, emails you send out, discussions you prioritize reflect the needs and wants of each segment.
If you spend a few hours now doing these interviews, you will save weeks of wasted time pursuing the wrong activities later.
You will also see the level of engagement steadily increase among all groups.
Deeply Understand The Needs of Members
Segmenting members into useful clusters and building up detailed profiles is a skill everyone building communities today should be adept in.
But, at the moment, so few people do this.
Our Psychology of Community course is going to change this. We’re going to help you stop guessing what might work and use processes rooted in psychology to drive more engaged and gain the outcomes you need.
Strategy Combined with Psychology
I strongly recommend this.
You will have a strategy your entire organization can get behind and know the psychology to accomplish that strategy.
Course fees rise this Friday. Hope to see you on the inside.
Sign up options below.
|Psychology of Community – $675 USD|
|Strategic Community Management – $675 USD|
|COMBINED – Strategic Community Management and Psychology of
Community – $1100 USD
One way is to pull together plenty of facts and hope people are persuaded.
Another way is to understand what different departments perceived as valuable and highlight how the community creates that value.
Here are a few options:
- Showing marketing and management teams which questions/discussions get the most visits (use trendlines, not absolute metrics for context). This shows which problems or issues people care most about. If you know a rising number of people are asking a question about integration with your software and another, you might want to work on that.
- Ensure customer service teams know the most common questions. Anyone working in customer support should be aware of the most common questions being asked and any novel solutions identified by community members. Continually add community questions to the FAQ and user manuals. Update existing questions with answers too.
- Highlight new popular questions to product teams. Highlight questions which haven’t appeared before but are gaining popularity. This might reveal possible future problems to tackle early on. This is especially useful for fixing bugs early.
- Show marketing teams terminology members use. Highlight unique terms and phrases community members use to describe problems. Encourage them to use this terminology in their web and marketing copy. This is also useful for product teams working on documentation.
- Gather demographic data on most active users. This reveals the most likely sneezers you want to work with who will spread your messages. For example, you might want to filter women, 24 to 30 using Mozilla into a unique mailing list to contact and build relationships with.
- Put together focus groups for product teams. Imagine the ability to test ideas and see which proves most popular in a controlled, safe, environment. Make sure the product teams know they can ask questions and get support.
- Onboarding new staff members. Embed community interactions within the training of new staff members. Highlight how they can ask questions, get feedback, and use real life case studies to figure out how best to work with the community.
- Highlight potential recruits to HR. Ensure HR know the community is a recruiting tool. Perhaps even give them a list of possible recruits to reach out to when a job becomes available. They can even post it in the community too.
The more value you offer, the more different departments will support the community. Take the time to build the bridges and prove the value.
Only then will you get the support.
Should you hire an expert on managing communities and train them in the topic?
Or should you hire a subject matter expert and train them to manage the community?
Of course, you want both, but that’s rare. So here’s a simple framework.
If the role is directly interacting with members, building relationships, answering questions about the topic, you almost certainly want a subject matter expert. You need someone that can relate well to members, is passionate about the topic, and has existing relationships (hiring from the community tends to work well here).
If you’re hiring a senior level role (e.g. managing a community team), you almost certainly want a community expert. Someone that understands best processes, inspiring a community team, platform integrations legal issues, building internal support, recruiting, etc…
In statistics, the p-value is the probability of seeing the same (or more extreme) outcome by chance.
For example, I might claim I have a lucky coin that always lands on heads. If I flip the coin twice and it lands on heads both times, does this prove my theory?
Nope. You simply witnessed the 1 in 4 occasions where that outcome was statistically likely to occur.
The lower the p-value, the more likely there is something going on. If my coin landed on heads for the 5th time in a row (p = 0.031), you might want to start inspecting the coin.
Our web traffic rose by 10% yesterday. Is this because yesterday’s blog post was great? Our Google search ranking increased? Or was it just the 1 in 30 days where our traffic fluctuates by 10%.
The danger begins when you attribute random fluctuations to specific events. This will lead you down the fruitless path of trying to replicate false results.
For example, a webinar guest might attract a 20% bigger audience. An activity might increase participation by 15% one month. Is this because of the guest or the interesting discussion topics? Or is it simply the outcome of random fluctuations?
The more you learn about statistics the more skeptical you should become of your observations.
You can’t search for that feeling of helping someone out and seeing the impact your help had.
You can’t search for that sense of community you feel with your peers; facing and overcoming difficult challenges together.
You can’t search for what other people just like you are working on today.
You can’t search for how it feels when people begin to notice and recognize your contributors.
You can’t search for information if you don’t know how people describe and talk about the problem.
You can’t search for someone who might know someone who has tackled the challenge you’re facing today and might be able to help you.
You can’t search for the great ideas your members might have that might change your business.
You can’t search for what members feel about the products you’re about to release.
You can’t search for whether that vendor you’re about to hire is trustworthy.
You can’t search for those in-jokes that only you and the people in your community will get.
You can’t search for the comparing reliability of two similarly-focused articles.
Google will get stronger, social platforms will rise and fall, machine learning might make some basic tasks obsolete.
But, remember, the best benefits of a community are unsearchable.
The best questions are the questions Google can’t answer. If you’re responsible for any community today, your job is to create and find the amazing hidden value in the unsearchable.
Unbounce recently released a huge report on landing page conversion metrics.
The report includes links to sign up for the product, tweet quotes, visit blog posts, watch demonstrations, follow the authors on Twitter and pretty much everything else except visit their active community.
If I have a question about the metrics, want to share my opinions, or get help applying the knowledge to my work, where should I go?
Should I ask the authors on Twitter? Why not do it in the community where the knowledge can be saved and invite further participation?
The most content companies product today would be better served by integrating it with community activity. Post questions in the community and link to them in the report. Have an AMA with the author and link to it from the report. Mention common problem areas and link to relevant discussions etc…
If you truly value the community, it’s a no-brainer.
First by realizing it’s not a competition, it’s an opportunity.
Embrace social media, don’t resist it. Build up a recommended follow list of top members, encourage members to connect on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and other apps.
In fact, make your community a destination to find out who’s worth following.
You want your community to be as tightly connected as possible inside and outside of your platform.
The more connections your members have, the easier it is for important community information and concepts to spread, to research what topics are being talked about, and writing up news on the latest happenings inside the community.
Like many things, social media becomes a lot easier when it’s viewed as an opportunity instead of a threat.