Month: March 2019
Angry members make angry posts.
If a member is angry when they visit the community, you can’t stop them from making an angry post. But remember it’s the previous touchpoints (frustration with product, customer support etc…) which made them angry, it’s not the community.
But you can address and resolve their anger.
You can make members feel listened to, understood, and respected. You can give them a sense of influence and control over the outcome. You can make them less angry and less likely to spur on others with negative, snarky, comments.
A few tips here.
1. Respond to each negative post. You can’t always give the answer members want, but you can ensure they know they were listened to and their comments were understood. Be sure to ask for extra clarifying information and questions. Ask members what they would like to see and explain what the options are.
2. Be honest. Don’t announce when the problem will be resolved if you don’t know. Once members mark you as a liar, it’s game over. Avoid the temptation to tell members what they want to hear instead of what’s possible.
3. Pin a topic that’s the source of most negative criticism. It’s better to have a single thread (most members can ignore) pinned to the top than hundreds on the same topic. This ensures minority opinions aren’t treated as majority opinions others will go along with.
4. Have an ‘I have this problem too’ feature on each topic post. If people can register how they feel without having to post, you will get less snarky comments and better quantifiable feedback.
5. Schedule webinars with product engineers/leadership to tackle the biggest frustrations. You might not be able to solve them, but you can show members you’re taking their issues seriously and get recommendations from people with influence.
And follow up on previous discussions to check they were resolved. You can’t stop members from making their first angry post, but you should be able to stop them from making a second angry post.
Most of us intuitively accept emotions drive behaviors better than facts.
But we get clumsy with the messaging to make people feel the emotion.
Too often we make the mistake of naming the feelings we’re trying to amplify. i.e. –
“Don’t be frustrated, ask for help!!”
“Build a powerful reputation in your field”
“Be empowered to take control of your health”
This intends to provoke revolution. No-one likes to be told what they’re thinking (or what to think).
The magic is stoking the emotion without having to name it. The magic is telling stories which connect to your members’ frustrations. You have to find the objects and situations that represent those emotions.
You don’t need to say waiting in line is frustrating, we know waiting in line is frustrating. Likewise not knowing how to solve a problem is frustrating and exasperating, you don’t need to name the emotion. You don’t need to say building a reputation is joyful, you need to find objects that represent that feeling. The more visual the objects are, the better. The more people can imagine encountering those objects, the more effective they are at amplifying the emotion.
This has to be reflected in the copy you use, images you deploy, stories you share etc…
If we think frustrating people with problems will drive someone to ask a question in a community, we’re not going to use the word ‘frustration’ at all.
We’re going to find objects which represent the alleviation of that frustration. We’re going to share stories of people who solved their problems, features images of collective time saved in the community, and posts about mistakes avoided etc…
The secret is always not to name the feeling you want to amplify, but to find the objects (words, ideas, images, etc… ) that will make people feel it.
I’m in San Francisco meeting people all week.
There’s no agenda for any of these meetings.
I do this about 2 to 3 times a year. I book a flight, stay in a hotel, and meet as many interesting people in our community as possible. It’s not cheap, but the results are invaluable.
Every single meeting yields something valuable; a future blog post, a resource idea, a feature idea, a connection to make with another member. At the very least, they confirm or refute ideas we’ve held about community building.
The idea from my last book, the training courses we create, the events we’ve hosted, and many potential clients, have all come from in-person meetings with no agenda.
I’m surprised organizations investing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in a community don’t invest just $2k more to have their staff meet their members on their own turf.
Try it, you might be surprised a) just how many members are happy to meet and b) the incredible information they give you. 3 to 5 meetings a day really adds up.
Many online communities are filled with frustration.
People have problems and go to the community to find answers. They begin in a state of frustration and hope the community alleviates that frustration.
All members see are problems.
What if they saw successes instead?
What if instead of seeing an endless list of problems which need to be solved they saw an endless list of member achievements?
What if instead of soliciting more problems we solicited more success stories and how those successes were achieved?
What would happen if we changed the very tone and nature of the community from ‘come here when you need an answer’ to ‘come here when you want to be inspired’.
You have an amazing opportunity, in the present time more than ever, to create a destination people want to visit as opposed to one they would rather not visit at all.
A community strategy should contain ‘risk factors’.
These are the biggest causes of community failure. Each risk factor should highlight the risk (i.e. technology failure), the likelihood of it happening (be Bayesian about this), the impact of it happening (from light to severe), the mitigation plan, and who’s responsible for implementing the mitigation plan.
The biggest risks are called ‘failures’. Put simply, this is when the community dies.
Technology failures are just one of the three things that can kill a community. It’s the least common and comparatively easy to mitigate against.
The two more likely failures are 1) your company will shut the community down (internal failure) or b) members leave (social failure).
Social failures tend to come in three forms, each of which you can mitigate against.
1) Decline in topic interest. Members gradually drift away because the topic becomes less interesting. Measure the number of unique new visitors to your community and search traffic trends for relevant terms. If you see a decline, you need to adjust the community’s topic scope to accommodate for where members are going.
2) Competitors. A new platform or community arises with a more focused topic or better technology which sucks in members. Measure average contributions per active member. If it declines, survey and interview members to ask where they are participating and learning about the topic today. Analyze these competitors too and either adopt their biggest features or develop unique benefits of your own. Facebook has shown if you move quickly enough you can ward off almost any threat (Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat etc..).
3) The community manager leaves. This is why the community manager should not be solely responsible for mitigating risk factors. A sudden community manager transition (i.e. where two don’t work alongside each other for a few weeks) is a recipe for disaster in smaller communities. The new community manager often struggles to maintain the same relationships, initiate discussions as engaging as before or create and facilitate the same quality of content. The best mitigation is to build a pipeline of potential recruits in advance, have two community professionals work alongside each other, and build an internal resource of best practices to quickly bring a newcomer up to speed.
In my experience, most communities both grossly underestimate the risk of failures and then increase the risk by taking no steps to mitigate against them.
…is rather unlikely (although MySpace is testing this theory)
But if it does happen, at least you have the email addresses of all your members to invite them to a new platform.
…unless you’re using Facebook groups.
Facebook groups aren’t likely to experience a permanent platform failure, but isn’t reducing organic reach to 0.1% the same thing? This isn’t happening overnight, it’s happening gradually (already).
But just because you’re being boiled slowly doesn’t mean you’re not still getting cooked.
Worse yet, it’s extremely hard to mitigate against once it’s happened. The best mitigation strategy is to move when your reach is still high enough to tell people you’re moving.
If you’re trying to figure out what your members will like, you’re following.
If you’re persuading members to do something you like, you’re leading.
Following is more common. It’s easier, involves a lot of research, and you get to test ideas until you find out what members want to do. Once you know what members want, you just need to do more of it. Your main challenge is research.
Leading is harder, the chances of success are lower, but the rewards are much greater. You begin with a vision and need to rally others to your vision. You’re working in the dark, often without data, to make your vision a reality. Your main challenge is persuasion.
The problem with following is you might end up with a drama-filled, click-baity, apocalypse, the problem with leading is no-one might be following.
Both approaches can work just be clear about which you’re doing. You either need to solve a research problem or a persuasion problem.
Opodo presumably sent this email out to their entire community mailing list telling them they didn’t win a competition.
Do you think members who received this email are more or less likely to read future messages from the community?
Any time you send an email which isn’t relevant to members, you’re reducing their likelihood of participating in the community again.
Emails about events most members aren’t attending, competitions most people didn’t win, website updates members don’t care about all do more harm than good.
This applies in other areas too. If you’re sending a mass email asking members to contribute, remember 95%+ of the recipients are lurkers who don’t have the time, expertise, or motivation to contribute. That 95% is now less likely to read future emails from your community.
The only time you should email the entire community is when you have major, important, news which is relevant to the entire community. The rest of the time you need to segment, use group @mention updates, or design a better system for reaching the people you need to reach.
If your update is only relevant to a small number of members, only email those members. Audience attention is a precious resource, don’t waste it.
A good way to test your core community skills is by starting a WhatsApp group.
Invite your closest friends, colleagues, or family to join and see how it goes.
Can you identify and build relationships with founding members?
Can you get a name that sticks?
Can you keep people active?
Can you keep the discussions useful and interesting enough?
Can you resolve disagreements?
Can you make newcomers feel comfortable participating?
Can you make it real and have in-person meetups?
Can you build a strong sense of community.
Can you get people to like you and like each other?
You will learn how to be positive without patronizing, how to be caring without overbearing, and how to give members a sense of ownership without losing control.
Sure, you can’t learn more about superusers, platform optimizations and the rest, but you can practice and learn an awful lot.
There are a bunch of basic platform optimization tips.
- Have a dynamic banner at the top of the page adapted to members by level of activity/tenure in community.
- Feature the latest activity above the fold on the community homepage.
- Reduce the size of the banner/top image to 1/3rd of above-the-fold area.
- Provide an area for people new to the topic (not to the community) to quickly get the best resources and reduce the sense of overwhelm.
- Search box at the top of the page (esp. for customer support).
- Clear contrasts between text and background images/colors.
- Static copy is kept to a minimum and dynamic copy fills most of the page to always provide regulars something new to see.
- Members can quickly scan the latest content for activity they want to participate in and respond to.
- Separate most popular from most recent and show members both simultaneously (in 2 or more separate areas on the homepage).
- Pinned discussions featuring most exciting content at the top.
- Avoid stock photos where possible, use photos of your members.
- Clear calls to action based upon desired contributions from community members.
- Community is linked to from a tab on company homepage (and ideally contributions are featured on the homepage).
- Navigation bar at the top or left-hand side.
- All content is a maximum ‘three clicks deep’.
- Long-scroll showing multiple types of engagement.
- Banner shrinks to fit mobile – with swipe option to remove.
- Static copy removed in favour of a one-screen view of community activity.
- Calls to action significantly enlarged.
- Member can easily tap/swipe to like/share community activity.
p.s. Full list of optimization is part of our benchmarks.
Follow up to yesterday’s post.
If your members are angry, you’re not going to build a strong sense of community.
An acquaintance at Ning spent a year trying to build a sense of community between members. Ultimately, she failed not because she used the wrong tactics, but because her members were furious with her company.
You can’t sprinkle a sense of community approach atop a dysfunctional customer experience. If members are angry with you, they’re not going to be interested in feeling a part of something special together.
You either need to fix and resolve the underlying problem, and then build a sense of community, or instead forget building a sense of community and simply answer as many questions as effectively as possible.
p.s. This is typically why customer support communities have low sense of community scores.
They join to get useful information.
This broadly applies to all communities. Very few people join a community to experience a strong sense of community. They join for immediate gratification.
A sense of community is something that sneaks up on you when you weren’t expecting it.
You might join to ask a question, get advice, not miss out on useful tips. But over time, through these interactions and what you read, you begin to feel a commonality with others. You participate in rituals and traditions. You get to know other members and feel you’re a part of something together.
This can happen purely by chance, but it’s also something you can directly facilitate.
The sense of community isn’t something you promote to visitors and newcomers, it’s something you promote to (and facilitate between) existing members.