Month: February 2020

You Can’t Launch The Community On A Friday

…nor Saturday and Sunday. That’s the weekend!

…nor too close to Christmas (December onwards).

…nor in the summer (June onwards), nor too close to Easter.

…nor in January when everyone is just getting back to work.

…nor on Martin Luther King Day, St Patrick’s Day, or any national holiday.

…nor during an annual conference when all the staff are away.

…nor the month before the annual conference when everyone is too busy.

…not when you’re about to make a major product announcement.

…nor today, during a major news event.

…nor during the middle of the election cycle.


The launch day isn’t important, launch it at 11pm on New Years’ Eve if you like.

It really won’t matter. The sooner you launch the better.

It’s your plan for what happens in the weeks and months after launch day that matters.

A Relentless Focus On The Long-Term

You need a long-term focus – but it’s hard.

Yes, you can answer the question – but it’s far more valuable in the long-term if you can persuade another member or another staff member to dive into the community and answer it. That builds habits and stops you from getting sucked into a customer support role.

(By the way, this is the most obvious difference between doing community and customer support work).

Yes, you can create content or run a webinar – but what if you could persuade your members to do it?

Yes, you can launch a fancy community with every feature members might need – but it’s far better to only embrace the features they do need.

Yes, you can promise your bosses amazingly quick results from the community – but it’s far better to educate them about the community lifecycle and why the long-term matters.

Yes, you can measure the engagement metrics your platform gives you – but it’s far better to build your own measurement tools to track valuable changes in behavior.

Two important things are critical here. The first is that most of the long-term value you can create comes from you managing to build relationships with members.

Every minute you invest in building a personal relationship with a member (or senior exec) pays off many times over.

The second is you need to constantly resist the pressure for the short-term solution. There are hundreds of them – but they simply push the problem from today until tomorrow.

Listen To Their Stories

I’ve sat through more than one discussion where a community manager bludgeoned a member by asking them to highlight their superpower.

It’s an awkward question and often leads to humble, awkward, answers.

The best superpowers are identified and nurtured.

In your interviews with members (especially those you wish to become top members), you don’t trample your way over answers to get to a superpower. You ask questions about their background and listen to their stories.

Everyone has a story about how they became interested in the topic, how they began working in this sector etc…Once you’ve listened completely to their story, then you can begin to identify superpowers within the community.

“So it sounds like you’re quite good at ….”
“I noticed you’ve done well at …”

It’s often a lot easier (and more effective) for you to identify what you see as their strengths than asking members to list theirs.

What Does Great Engagement Look Like?

On Feb 24, we’re launching our Psychology of Community course to teach you advanced engagement skills.

Even the best community strategies fail if they’re not matched by advanced engagement skills.

This is harder than it looks.

I’ve seen some normal, charming, friendly people in real life turn into inauthentic corporate drones the moment they start engaging their customers on the web.

The good news is pretty much all of us can write a world-class quality response to any post. The challenge is knowing what world-class looks like and doing it consistently.

In this post, I want to share what world-class engagement skills look like.


Purpose Of Engagement

The goal of engagement (i.e. the one to one direct interactions you have with members) is simple.

You’re trying to positively influence the recipient.

You want the recipient to feel as appreciated, respected, understood, smart, and as influential as they possibly can.

This not only keeps them coming back to the community, but it keeps them as customers too.


The ‘Last 5 Posts’ Test

You might think your engagement skills are great, but can you pass the ‘last 5 posts test’?

It’s simple.

Look at your last five interactions with members (no exceptions or cherry picking).

In your last five posts, did you do everything in your power to make members feel as great as possible?

Or did you give a short, factual, response and move on to the next five posts?

Yes, you’re busy. You don’t have time. But the difference between a short, factual, post and a world-class response is typically 30 seconds to 60 seconds.


What Does A Terrific Response Look Like?

A good response has as many of the following as possible.

  • It’s friendly. Warm, helpful, possibly playful tone of voice.
  • It’s personal. Response @mentions the recipient, references previous interactions, and specific aspects of their question. Did you ask specific clarifying questions to follow up?
  • It’s informative. It provides useful information in an easily digestible way (think screenshots, bullet points, and videos, rather than copying and pasting text).
  • It makes members feel important. Members feel appreciated for raising the issue, better connected to other members, and feel like they have an impact.
  • It resolves the issue. It resolves the underlying frustration, increases the joy, or achieves the goal of not just providing information – but tackling the bigger challenge.

A Breakdown Of A Friendly, Smart, Personal Response

In this course video, I show how to take bad and ‘ok’ responses and turn them into terrific responses.

Make This Your Standard

The goal isn’t just to do this once, but to do this consistently for thousands of posts (as Colleen has done).

Actually, the goal is to make this your standard for how you, your colleagues, and your top members participate.

I’d suggest going through responses with your team once a quarter to look for improvements and provide more training when needed.


Sign Up For Your Psychology of Community Course

We’re going to cover this as part of our Psychology of Community Course.

I think you and your team should consider signing up. We’re going to cover a range of advanced skills including:

  • Building and validating member’s personas. This helps you design member journeys, understand how to cater your message to each audience, and determine exactly what you need each member to do.
  • Advanced engagement skills. We’re going to help you instill a world-class culture in how you, your team, and your members engage with each other in your community. This will dramatically improve the tone and personality you create.
  • Creating a powerful sense of community. We’re going to help you build and create a powerful sense of community to increase retention, attract new members, and ensure everyone feels like they belong to your community.
  • Motivating top community members. We’re going to help you get inside your members’ heads and help them make their best possible contributions to your community. If you want more superusers to get more involved, this is crucial.
  • Designing a gamification scheme that actually works. Gamification is overrated – unless you do it right. We’re going to take you beyond fantasy internet points and millions of badges to help you set up the perfect gamification system for your audience.

I believe everyone engaging members today should have advanced skills in engagement.

The course begins on February 24, enrollment is open now.

You can sign up here for $750 or sign up for this and Strategic Community Management for $1100 USD.

What Do You Offer Top Members?

Can you give them direct access to senior staff?

Can you empower them to control their niche of the community as they want? (this includes moderation abilities).

Can you promote their efforts through your PR channels and newsletter?

If you’re not going to go the extra mile to encourage top members, they’re not going to have much motivation to go the extra mile for you.

In almost every project we’ve worked on, we’ve run headlong into a nightmare of internal politics, legal concerns, and outright rejections for the above.

But the difficulty of providing top members with these benefits is exactly what makes them so scarce and valuable. If you can’t offer top members these things, you’re going to struggle to attract and retain them.

Some internal battles are worth fighting – this is one of them.

Using Data To Determine The Best Managed Online Community

Beginning in 2019, we began scraping millions of data points from dozens of top communities to find the best-managed community.

The idea was to use it for our clients to explain how they’re doing in comparison with competitors/similar communities. And also to urge them to adopt the strategies which would take them in the right direction.

We decided to benchmark communities in three areas:

  1. Size of the community.
  2. % of posts that receive a response.
  3. Avg. speed to first response.

This is far harder than it looks. But after a long process of scraping and cleaning data – along with my amateur coding skills – I want to share a small sample with you.

In short, the closer to the bottom left an organization is, the better they’re performing.

Of course, size matters too. It’s not hard to answer every question in minutes if you only get 2 or 3 per day. So you can see the relative size.

On this basis, I would say FitBit, Upwork, Vodafone, and Alteryx are all top performers.

And this is just a small snippet of a far larger dataset.


Why Community Benchmarks Matter

It doesn’t really help to have data if you don’t know if the metrics you’re seeing are good or bad.

Our benchmarks help you overcome these problems and see what good actually looks like and what you can realistically aspire towards.

One thing we’ll do extensively as part of our Community Strategy course is help you benchmark your community in a multitude of different ways to help you determine how you’re doing today and what you should be focusing on.

We’re going to provide you with data points on growth rates, levels of participation, conversion rates, community design principles and even help you benchmark the skills of you and your team.

Having been through this process many times, it’s genuinely one of the most useful things you can do. I hope we can help you do it.

Whether you’re just getting started or have a mature community today, you need a community strategy.

[Course begins on Feb 24]

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