Community Strategy Insights

The latest insights on community strategy, technology, and value by FeverBee’s founder, Richard Millington

31 Clever Ideas From 9 Communities

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

From the outside, you might think the community space is short of ideas. 

There aren’t many new books, blogs, podcasts, or twitter accounts on the topic. 

We know this isn’t true. There are lots of great new ideas. Most come from communities too busy doing the work to talk about it. Here are 31 clever ideas from 9 of my favourite communities. 

Founded: 2001
Members: 1.35m
Platform: VBulletin

The Student Room is a UK-based community which connects students.

There are three ideas here:

1) Use copy “Join now in 30 seconds”

2) Use a sliding button to filter out bots.

3) Have a welcome form which automatically posts a message in the welcome forum. This asks you to submit what you’re studying, what you’re interested in, and what you’re thinking about.

4) Display the latest forum posts as the homepage for the community from a range of sub-groups. 

Their onboarding process (and messaging) is clever. Their use of sub-groups is also terrific (to watch an explanation of their onboarding process, click here).


2010 (relaunch)
Members: “millions”
Platform: Custom

StackExchange is a site originating from StackOverflow. The original white-label platform failed, but this was relaunched in 2010 with a focus on developing a growing series of complementary communities. StackExchange introduces three powerful ideas: 

1) Teach the audience how to ask good questions and give good answers.  You can’t ask “what’s the best…?”. Best is too subjective a word. You can ask does platform x have {features} that platform Y doesn’t? Teaching members how to ask good questions is a clever idea. 

2) Allow members to create sub-groups which they nurture and filter. Via theirArea51 site, StackExchange provides terrific guidance and has created a criterion for those that want to develop their own communities. Many of these are filtered out. Only those most likely to succeed are launched. 

3) Elect moderators by popular vote. You can read their policy here.

Founded: 2007
Members: 1m
Platform: Huddler

CakeCentral is a great community for a visual lifestyle product.

There are two good ideas to highlight here:

1) If the community topic is visual, use pictures over forum discussions posts. 

2) Allow members to submit tutorials on the topic (recorded or written).

3) Only allow members with enough credibility to create these tutorials. 

Ted Ed
Founded: 2013
Platform: GetSatisfaction

The education community for TED offers 3 clever ideas, most from the GetSatisfaction platform.

1) Highlight possible similar questions to ensure the same questions aren’t asked repeatedly. 

2) Focuse on the most popular ideas and discussions, not the most recent. 

3) A ‘giving praise’ area where steers the community towards the positive (not the negative). 

Founded: 2008
Platform: Lithium

The FitBit community is dedicated to tracking and optimizing their personal health. There are two great ideas from FitBit

1) Create separate purpose-orientated areas within the community. FitBit has separate areas for product support, discussions about health/fitness, and activity groups – where members can band together to accomplish a goal. 

2) Showcase unanswered questions. An unanswered question is a challenge to other members to prove their smarts and ensures every question does receive a response. 

Members: 1.35m
Platform: VBulletin

MoneySavingExpert is a community dedicated to helping members save money.

There is a great idea here:

1) Create a list of the most common terms/expressions used by members. This allows veterans to contribute and participate in an ever-updated, fun, glossary. It provides newcomers a clue to understanding what members are referring to. 

Founded: 2000
Members: 4.6m monthly visitors
Platform: Custom

Mumsnet is a powerhouse community for parents (usually mums) in the UK. There are many great ideas from this community:

1) Download their advertising material to see how they monetise the community.

2) Collect wisdom from members to create books to sell to their members.

3) Create ‘local mumsnet’ groups so people in close geographical proximity can connect to one another. 

4) Campaign on issues members care about to generate attention and bond the community together.

5) List the discussions of the day on the landing page of the community.

6) Syndicate content from bloggers. Syndicate the Twitter/blog feeds from your members into a single place within your community. Mumsnet has 5k parents blogging for them through this. 

7) Use books reviews to generate activity. Mumsnet has a very successful book club. 

8) Mumsnet regularly interviews the top VIPs in their sector. They approach the PR teams for the celebrities they want to reach and usually who they want. 

Platform: Lithium

AutoDesk is venerated for community today similar to Dell five years ago. The organisation manages a thriving online community. 

1) Use a simple front door to access a diverse range of communities and social efforts. AutoDesk has a simple main community page. The genius is hosting all the diverse communities in a single entry point to help members find what they need. The descriptions are short and specific. 

2) Create specific places for feedback and idea generation. This can overwhelm many communities. It’s clever to create a separate place for any negative feedback to resolve. 

3) Create an area to test new software before anyone else (and get exclusive news before anyone else). AutoDesk does this with their IdeaLabs.

4) Create a recognition programme where members have to be nominated by other members. AutoDesk’s Expert Elite programme is a great idea to get other members to reward those making great contributions. 

Founded: 2000 
Platform: Custom

Threadless, as most of you know, is a community orientated for artists and designers with a few clever contributions to the community space.

1) Use a recurring event as the basis for activity. The entire community activity is orientated around their weekly competition. 1000 artists submit their best designs which are voted on by the community. The top 10 designs are printed on various products (usually t-shirts) and sold to members of the community. The artists receive cash. 

2) Create a real book about the community. The Threadless book provided a great summary of the community’s history and featured hundreds of contributions from members. As such, it was purchased by members of the community. 

3) Set challenges to get the {most/best} ever. Threadless sets members unique challenges to create a particular design. This creates huge excitement and a sense of competition between members. 

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