The Infinite Market for Traditions

The attention span for traditions is infinite, new traditions are being created right now.

When is yours? What date and time resonate with you? What would you do to commemorate or celebrate the event?

Who was born or died on that day? What industry-defining event happened on that day? When was the community created? There must be a birthday coming up soon…

The activities may be frivolous, but the meaning is incredibly important. Traditions remind us of the groups we belong to and what we get from those groups.

You might argue that creating a new tradition feels too artificial, but aren’t all traditions artificial to begin with? I’d much prefer a community professional setting an annual day of commemoration than another Amazon Prime day.

No-one wants business as usual every day of the year. Pick 1 day in the calendar and give some meaning to it.

The Big @Mention List

There is a difference between ‘someone mentioned me, I better respond’ and ‘this improved how I think about the community’.

A lot of people @mention a list of newcomers when they join. It seems to work well. The person gets a notification and is prompted to respond. You get a lot of responses.

But having tried this with several organizations, the long-term impact is pretty minimal. You can install Community-analytics and test this for yourself.

@mentioning (tagging someone into a discussion) works best when someone is tagged in to make a meaningful contribution to the group or receive a useful contribution from the group.

This changes how they feel about the community. Now they’re not 1 name among 30, they are 1 among a tiny group who has been called upon to make/receive a useful contribution.

Now their opinion of the group’s ability to help them has increased. Their understanding of their value to the group has changed.

Let’s have less indistinguishable welcome lists and more specific contributions.

The Engagement Myth

More engagement increases loyalty (or retention), at least that’s the myth.

Community has less influence over retention than almost any other benefit.

Price, product, promotion, people, processes and a dozen other factors have a bigger impact.

There are plenty of companies with thriving communities shrinking away when better or cheaper products emerged (Dell, BestBuy, Barnes and Noble etc…)

Part of the problem is the people most likely to join a community are already your most loyal customers. You might move that by a percentage point or two, but it’s extremely hard. Even if you succeed, it’s difficult to prove causation.

I’d look around for another benefit. Advocacy, customer support, ideas implemented, tickets reduced, SEO traffic, generating leads, reduced costs, and almost any other benefit here works better.

Your work becomes far more enjoyable when you’re working towards something you can directly influence and easily prove.

AI and Communities

You’ve probably read the same case studies as me about the ‘industry that didn’t adapt (or change)’. Trains, the ice trade, tour operators, postmen, music etc…you can take your pick, the pattern was the same.

First, they ignored the trend, then they fought the trend, then they were destroyed by the trend.

Did you ever think reading these stories “that won’t happen to me, I’m too smart!”.

This morning is the time to test that assumption.

Are you proactively exploring how you could use AI to reduce your workload by 90%?

What happens to your superuser program when people can just ask Siri or Alexa on their phones and get the best possible answer?

What happens to the community manager when a chatbot can greet members, introduce them to each other, remove bad actors/content better and guide them to participating quicker than they can?

What happens when reports are automatically generated and acted upon?

But people want the empathy of another person doing this work right. No-one wants a machine to do these tasks. People want to feel listened and responded to by a real person.

That’s almost the exact same response our operators, stock market brokers, milkmen, postmen, and checkout assistants used to give (and soon Uber drivers too).

A better expression here is denial.

Artificial Intelligence in its myriad of forms is happening right now on the fringes. It might stay on the fringe for 1 year, even 5 years. But when it moves it will move fast and I’d recommend you take action now.

Who is doing AI and community well? How can you make it work for you? Who can best figure out the shift in work from person to machines?

I’d bet the person who can answer these questions won’t be out of work when the inevitable happens.

Instagram, Experts, And More

I’ve been looking for a format to share thoughts while on the road, I like Instagram for now.

You’re welcome to follow me there.

FeverBee Experts has both a new (collapsible) homepage and plenty of discussions covering some of today’s most important topics.

If you’re looking for a more substantial debate than the fleeting nature of Facebook/Twitter, I hope you will join us.

I’ll be speaking at Influitive’s Advocamp in San Francisco (Dec 6 to 8). If you’re interested in advocacy and community, I recommend you join us.

3 Stages of Promoting A Community

In the inception stage of the community lifecycle, you promote the community to the fringe radicals, the true believers, and the people who know you best and are closest to you. These are the people with the passion to create something that doesn’t exist yet.

In the establishment stage, you promote the community to the topic enthusiasts.

These are the people who most love the unique niche you’re targeting within the broader space. They are the ultramarathon runners among the marathon runners and the bitcoin miners among the bitcoin investors.

You find them via referrals, on social media, and build close relationships with them.

In the early-maturity stage, you target the people struggling with problems, want to improve themselves, and need a better solution than what’s out there today. It’s only now that you should begin promoting the community en-masse.

There are exceptions, I’m sure, but they are the exceptions. If you’re getting lots of people joining but not sticking around, you’re probably confused about either a) where you are in the lifecycle or b) who you should be promoting the community to.

Sense of Community

Sense of community is to community professionals what Maslow is to motivation (albeit with more scientific evidence).

If you’re working in this field, please read it (or at least read the summary).

Then learn how to apply it. This video below might help.


(this too)

There isn’t a good excuse today for not being an expert in the psychological underpinnings of your day to day work.

Shifting Metrics

A friend mentioned she had to change her metrics three times as new bosses came and left.

The one time she tried to stick to her guns, she lost half her team.

When a new boss arrives, you often have two options. You can repeatedly try to reinforce the existing value of the community and persuade the new boss to your point of view.

This is great, when it works.

It’s often far easier to shift your new metrics to what the boss needs rather than what you have.

If you don’t, you could easily find yourself unimportant to the broader strategy of the organization. That’s not a good place to be. It’s far better to be flexible and adapt fast when you need to.

What A Good Participant Needs

Does a newcomer have the information they need to be a good participant?

Do they know what good participation looks like?
Do they know how to look up and find information they can share with others?
Do they know what’s on the edge of domain of knowledge?
Do they know what the best examples, books, and resources are?
Do they know what tone of voice they should use when they participate?
Do they know they don’t need to be an expert to participate?
Do they know good questions are better than good answers?
Do they know the 20% of topics which account for 80% of discussions?
Do they know who the top people in the field are?
Do they know who’s in charge and who to contact for help?
Do they know you genuinely want them to succeed and will do everything you can to help?
Do they know how long a post should be, to self-disclose information about themselves and reveal their emotional state when they ask a question?

If the answer is no, you have some work to do.

Diversifying Growth Streams

Diversify growth streams.

Google will send you traffic, but Google can change quickly.

Get yourself featured more prominently on the company website, newsletters, or outbound emails to customers.

Get inbound links on major news sites which get lots of traffic.

Answer questions on Quora, Yahoo Answers, and Stack exchange.

Build up bases on social media that share the best content from the community.

Develop partnerships with major organizations to help drive traffic to the community.

Whatever you do, start looking at building new streams of members into the community.

A Split or A Shift?

While speaking at IAC in DC on Sunday, someone asked what to do about rival communities.

This depends if you’re dealing with a split or a shift.

A split is when two factions emerge and you need two communities to handle them.

In Bitcoin’s case, there has been a very literal split.

In a split you double down on being relevant to the segmented audience you have.

A shift is more worrying. This is when a new trend (or new need) is arising and you’re not covering it well. This opens the door for someone to start a new, more focused, community that may soon dominate the space.

Shifts need to be covered quickly. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp was a great covering strategy. A new need emerged and Facebook covered it. Likewise, Instagram/Facebook’s stories are good examples of covering Snapchat.

Your case is likely to involve using new technology or covering new topics. This will upset your current members. That’s the hard part.

Reviews And Valuable Behaviors

The simplest behaviors are often the most effective.

Getting members to write reviews, for example, consistently ranks as one of the highest-impact tasks a member can undertake.

One study shows why:

Results show that users look for simple and quick reviews and content about products in online brand communities (i.e., guides developed by users, comments, artwork and screenshots). However, results also show that users do not guide their purchases based on user-generated content when the process of gaining understanding is more time-consuming (i.e., reading discussions, watching videos) or requires more active involvement (i.e., workshop presence).

Essentially, getting lots of members to submit simple, quick, reviews is a bigger win than getting members to engage in long, detailed, discussions.

It’s a bigger win than members crafting long-form articles like user guides.

The conversation with your boss might be very different if you can show how you’re getting members to create and respond to reviews on multiple sites.

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