Month: October 2017
Does it make sense to focus on a single platform when your members participate across many?
Your platform is a utility, like a clubhouse, that your members will sometimes choose to visit.
Like a clubhouse, people visit the platform because of a unique value it provides (privacy, intimacy, knowledge, fun activities, autonomy etc…).
But if your community efforts end at the front door, you’re not going to get many people reaching the front door.
Why deliberately limit your hard work to a small percentage of your audience who visit your platform for a small percentage of their time?
Treat the community as one of several pillars of the community. Have yourself, your staff, and your members continue to participate and support the other pillars.
This doesn’t mean you need to jump in on every topic, but it does mean you and your people can (and should) build connections and be a valuable resource anywhere you can.
Imagine how many more great ideas, retained customers, testimonials and success stories and advocates you can get when you stop limiting yourself to a single platform.
What is the limit of your community? Who is or isn’t a part of it?
Is the community only the active participants on your community platform?
Is the community everyone who has registered on your platform?
Is it anyone that ever visits your platform (registered or not)?
Is it your customers (and only your customers)?
Is it everyone who has expressed an interest in your business (customer or not)?
Is it everyone that has expressed an interest in your field?
I recommend having this discussion early, because it changes everything.
p.s. One way to drive more value is to have a more expansive view of community.
Begin with your current metrics (usually your website or mailing list metrics), don’t guess or make these up.
If you have a mailing list of 20,000 and only 2,000 open your emails, you would be foolish to make a membership projection greater than 2,000.
It’s also unlikely all 2,000 people who open their emails will take the action you want (10% to 20% is more realistic). And only a small percentage of these will continue taking that action (5% to 10%).
This is where a big audience of 20,000 whittles down to a small audience of 40 to 50 members. You can influence the percentages a little, but they’re relatively similar across most communities.
But then you have casual web traffic too.
If web pages in similar locations get 5,000 unique clicks per day, you might assume 1% of them will register and 10% of them might be regulars (yet, that’s 5 new regular members per day).
Thus with a mailing list of 20,000 people and 1,000 visitors to similar pages per day, you might get 400 to 600 members after 3 months (and this allows for some churn).
Getting these projections right is important for three reasons:
1) Enterprise platforms lock clients into 3-year contracts based upon membership projections. Getting these projections right can save you a lot of revenue.
2) Your colleagues or boss might want to see big numbers comparable to existing communities. Push back with existing metrics and conversion rates. Making big projections to get internal support today will always cost you tomorrow.
3) If you want to hit higher targets, you have to change the fundamentals behind these metrics. This usually means investing more time in promotion, hiring a copywriter, improving the search rankings, positioning the community more prominently, or offering a really great reason for members to stay active.
p.s. Useful free resource on getting your best members to perform behaviors that matter.
Unless you’re in the advertising business, having members lead areas of the community (e.g. Reddit, StackExchange, and Nextdoor) isn’t the most valuable thing they can do.
Your best members, those with the magical combination of time, knowledge, and passion for the topic, should be guided to do the most valuable things. The very things that take the most time, knowledge, and passion.
Most people don’t really explore the full range of what this can mean. Responding to questions might be good, but creating incredible resources is probably better.
We helped one former client realize customer reviews on major sites (Amazon, Bestbuy etc…) were the biggest influence on purchase decision and rally the community to leave and respond to reviews. This has a direct influence on sales from these channels.
Another organization helps their best members share recorded coaching videos.
These videos show how to use simple features to create really remarkable effects. These videos are then posted in the community and shared by members on Reddit and other channels.
This brings in several hundred new registrations per month, a double-digit percentage of whom enroll for the free trial. That’s a big win.
Be more creative here. Whether your ultimate goal is more sales, retention, ticket deflection, or better collaboration, get your top members working on whatever will have the biggest impact on those goals.
In a short spell, Karen posted 12 short tips in the Adobe Photoshop Beginners community.
Every tip was targeted at beginners. Topics included:
These tips have received 200,000+ views in the past few years.
Two points here about turning your members into ALLIES…
1) It’s far harder to get members to contribute expertise targeted at the beginner level than expert level. Yet you’ll have far more beginners than experts. Have you answered and featured the best beginner-level advice from your members?
2) Beginners are more likely to churn than experts. They have less invested in the software, may be on free trials, and are more likely to be overwhelmed when they first start.
If we conservatively estimate just 1% of those who viewed these tips stuck with Photoshop because of the advice, this equates to 2000+ customers.
If we conservatively multiply this by Adobe’s lowest subscription fee ($120) and these short, simple, tips alone may be driving at least $240k per year.
And this is just one set of users’ tips, for one forum, for one product, for one year. Once you start doing the multiples here, the value of getting members to share tips for beginners will rise exponentially.
Most experts want to impress their peers by sharing expert-level advice. The bigger win might be getting members to share advice for beginners.
If you’re going to drive advocacy, pick an advocacy platform.
If you’re going for customer service, pick a customer service platform.
If you’re going for loyalty and retention, pick a platform that helps build a sense of identity and share/document information.
If you’re going to generate and solicit ideas, use an ideation platform.
You’re far more likely to get the results you want if you pick a platform designed to achieve those results.
The problem is we don’t know what results we want.
Have the difficult discussion today, narrow down your goals to specific, singular, things you can achieve. Then pick a platform to match.
3 years ago, I worked on a community where about half the members I interviewed complained about the community manager.
She was too brusk, bordering on rude. She wasn’t the kind of person members wanted to help and build relationships with.
Her personality was undermining everything she wanted to achieve.
My efforts to make her aware of this were met with unsurprisingly curt responses.
So we took a different route. We ran an anonymous survey of community members. People could rate the community manager on different traits (helpfulness, knowledge, friendliness etc…) and give qualitative, constructive, suggestions as well.
The results were predictable. The feedback was honest and constructive, albeit with a pinch of bitterness over past interactions.
I shared the feedback privately with the community manager. It didn’t go well. She challenged the style of the questions, the bias of the people responding etc…etc…
But from that very day onwards, we slowly began to see her change. She became more friendly and generous with her time. She made more of an effort to get to know members and understand their emotions. She also began to build relationships with a few members.
It’s really hard to see your own flaws (I continue to speak from experience). You might disagree with collective feedback, but it’s hard to ignore it. Get someone else to run a survey of community members and gather feedback on how you’re doing. The results might completely change how you run your community.
Don’t waste your limited time trying to convert lurkers into regulars. It’s an uphill struggle and most lurkers are already as active as they’re ever going to be.
Instead, turn your lurkers into the best lurkers they can be. Don’t try to create new behaviors, shift existing habits instead.
What is the most valuable thing your lurker can read, watch, see, like, or share?
If your community goal is to increase customer retention, make sure lurkers are reading the top 3 tips shared in the community each month.
If your community goal is to generate leads, make sure they’re downloading information which identifies themselves as leads.
If your community goal is to get feedback, make sure they’re liking, voting, or clicking on the topics which most interest them.
Most people have the balance completely wrong. They spend 90% of their time on the 10% of their audience that participates. Yet most value is going to come from what lurkers (the group which does represent 90% of your audience) watch, see, read, and do.
Don’t leave lurkers to aimlessly browse for something interesting to read. Set specific objectives for this group instead. These should be activities which drive the best value?
- What is the advice that will help them the most?
- What is the information that will most change their minds on a topic?
- What are the tips that will solve their questions before they have to ask it?
- What is the news they most need to know?
In short, spend more time on lurkers. Don’t try to get them to increase behavior, simply adjust what they do today. Make sure they’re doing the most valuable things they’re ever likely to do.
People tend to respond to discussions to increase their status or to help others.
But helping others is most effective when we change their emotional state.
Which of these two kinds of discussions are you most likely to prioritize and respond to?
Discussion 1: “My iPhone won’t turn on. I’ve tried charging it but it’s not working. Any ideas?”
Discussion 2: “Argh, can someone help! I’ve spent the last few hours trying to charge my iPhone and it’s driving me insane. I’m scared I need to replace it and I don’t have the money”.
The payoff for answering the second question is much higher than the first. That’s because you get to improve someone’s emotional state. This is far more rewarding than just giving someone an answer.
This comes up in the academic literature too:
“Sentiment analysis indicates that self-disclosing one’s emotions during support seeking serves as a significant predictor for the amount of social support the support-seeker could obtain.”
You might want to start modeling this behavior with a few community insiders, adding it to the welcome guide, and perhaps even telling members everyone wins when people share their emotive states when asking a question.
A community strategy should target a specific emotion to amplify.
I like this wall of member stories shared on the Discovery Education community.
It works to associate the community with a sense of joy and inspiration.
It also works as an ongoing hall of fame for great community members.
They can explain how the community has made them feel and the impact it has had upon them.
Take a second to read this abstract from Tseng et al.
“Specifically, members with knowledge-seeking motives to participate in online brand communities became committed via two routes: with or without symbolic motives. On the other hand, entertainment-seeking members became committed only via the route through symbolic motives.”
Essentially, people that came for knowledge became committed to the community if they were satisfied with the knowledge gained and, to a slightly lesser extent, if they became motivated to be socially integrated with the group.
People that came to the community for entertainment become committed only if they became first motivated to be a part of the group and then, sometimes, to achieve a positive distinctiveness among that group.
On a model, it looks like this:
The key lesson should be obvious. Determine first if this is a community where people want to be informed or to be entertainment. Promote that purpose. Once people join, focus messaging and activities towards either ensuring they learn effectively (knowledge route) or gradually feel a great part of the group identity (entertainment routes).
Sounds obvious, but then you might be surprised how many people get the two confused.
A few exciting events coming up:
On Tuesday 17th October (next week!) I’ll be running an hour-long strategy workshop to help attendees test, tweak, and refine their community strategy at HigherLogic’s SuperForum in Washington DC.
On December 6th to 8th, I’ll be speaking for the first time at Influitive’s Advocamp in San Francisco.
On January 22nd, I’ll be running a 3-hour community strategy workshop at Socialmedia.org’s Winter retreat in Orlando.
All of the above events offer a new and powerful perspective on building successful communities, I hope you can make one of them.
I’ll also be traveling through Washington DC, Charlotte, Austin, Seattle, and San Francisco in the next month, I’m looking forward to hearing from new faces during my travels. Contact me if you’re available.
(p.s. for speaking enquiries, visit my speaker page).