Invite A Specific Friend

November 14, 2008Comments Off on Invite A Specific Friend

Your members needs prompts to invite friends. But asking friends to invite their friends doesn’t always work. It’s a cliché and it looks selfish. There’s no real reason for them to do it.

So create a reason.

Launch a specific project their friends can help with. Or begin debates you need expert opinions on. Keep it relevant to your community. Try a sub-niche.

Now ask your members to invite specific friends who can contribute. Perhaps a friend who recently moved house? Or a friend who’s just gone through a divorce? Maybe someone that works as a teacher.

You will hopefully get motivated members with something to offer your community.

The Skull And Bones Approach To Bonding Your Online Community

November 13, 2008Comments Off on The Skull And Bones Approach To Bonding Your Online Community

The secretive Skull and Bones society asks all new members to recount their sexual history with the rest of the group.

This is a deliberate shortcut to bond the group together. The secret is intimacy and experiences.

Recovering alcoholics share details of their problems, it helps the group develop. Strangers bond when the elevator breaks. Employees bond when they overcome a challenge, the rugby team bonds on tour.

Bonding is as important as growing. Create the space for bonding to happen. Launch events for your community to participate in. Encourage sub-groups and competition. Highlight challenges to overcome and find successes to celebrate.

Hook New Members When They Register

November 13, 2008Comments Off on Hook New Members When They Register

Give every new member a small job to tackle when they join.

This gives all members ownership over a tiny piece of your community. It gives new members the chance to feel involved and build early relationships. It gives new members a taste of early success.

You might task a new member with rounding up the latest industry news. Or you might ask one to create an OPML file featuring you all the blogs of your members.

You might ask them to moderate the newcomers forum or translate your content to an overseas audience.

Perhaps you can give them the arduous role of talking to a group, spotting a problem, and giving the job of solving it to the next new member?

How To Find Your Community’s First Members

November 12, 2008Comments Off on How To Find Your Community’s First Members

You don’t want to teach people about your company nor technology right now. These are barriers to tackle in the next stage.

To get going, you want people who are interested in your company or your industry. You want people who are comfortable with technology.

Here is some fertile recruiting ground:

  • Bloggers. Not the big bloggers, but people with a blog about your industry. They care so much they spend their time on it.
  • Comments. People that comment on blogs in your industry, are great to contact. They’re interested, know the tools and have the time to spare.
  • News Stories. Most news sites allow people to add their opinion to the story. Don’t be afraid to approach them.
  • Book Reviewers. People that review books about your genre are becoming more approachable. Visit Amazon, eBay and other sites to find potential members.
  • Facebook, LinkedIn and Other Social Networks: Learn how to search for people by interest and develop relationships with people.
  • Industry Magazines. Who’s been writing into your industry’s magazines? Read the letters and Google the names. They most likely have an online presence.
  • Customer Service. Anyone that’s shown such an interest that they’ve contacted the customer service team to complain or improve the product is someone you want.
  • Your Inbox. Anyone that’s written to you with a question, or a comment that never really got your full attention. Invite them.
  • Taggers. Who’s tagging content about your sector? Invite them.
  • Twitter. Search Twitter for mentions of your company and your industry. Invite the people you find, unless they have over 500 followers.
  • Conference Attendees. People that attended the industry conference are usually interested in being better at what they, or becoming more involved in the industry. You can often get the complete list of members from the conference site. Use with caution.
  • Regular Visitors/Lurkers. Put up a post calling for volunteers interested in getting more involved. You can’t announce the project yet, but they can e-mail you if it spikes their interest.
  • People They Know. Ask everyone you get from this list who else they think would love to be one of the first members of your new community – approach them.

Who not to approach:

  • A-List Bloggers. Too busy to bother with your community. Focus on the people that comment on their blog instead.
  • Current Customers. It’s too soon to invite your current customers at will. Unless they have shown an extended interest in your company i.e. they filled in the suggestions form, don’t invite them yet.
  • Journalists. It’s too soon for a journalist to care. Make something they can’t ignore.
  • Employees. Employees will notice that in the early days your community is looking a bit bare. It might put them off from coming back. Wait until you have something you can show them.
  • Newsletters. Don’t automatically try to convert your passive newsletter deletes into members.
  • Anyone From A Paid-For List. Just don’t.
  • Existing Online Groups/Rival Communities. Don’t mass invite members of pre-existing online communities. You don’t want a group of people that already know each other just yet. You want passionate people that you can forge into a community. That’s a big difference.

Once you’ve figured out who you’re going to reach, be sure to remember the Dos and Don’ts of outreach.

Christmas Ready

November 11, 2008Comments Off on Christmas Ready

It’s time to break out the Santa Hats and prepare for Christmas. I suggest you create a present using the resources of your community, that members can give to their friends.

Find something that your community can do for outsiders. Preferably something every member will love to send to everyone they knew. Something unique and useful.

Maybe you should appoint a committee and give them some resources to play around with?

p.s. If you are looking for a stunning animator/illustrator to create your company’s Christmas card (perhaps with your key clients in?) you should contact my friend Akvile Seseikaite. She’s the best.

Keeping Members Coming Back Has Never Been So Easy

November 11, 2008Comments Off on Keeping Members Coming Back Has Never Been So Easy

It’s easier than ever to keep your members coming back. You just need to combine the best of human motivations with technology. If you get this right, you’re making your job much easier for yourself.

Put someone in charge every Friday to create a missing person’s list. Anyone can add people that haven’t posted in a while. Over the weekend it’s customary for members to message as many as possible to see how they’re doing.

Or add a “People who might find this interesting” option to every piece of user generated content. This lets the users select names of their friends and community members who they think will want to read and participate in this debate. Like a picture tag, it sends you an e-mail inviting you to participate.

Or create a program that ranks every member by number of posts or time spent on the site. Even better, by the number of karma points/votes their content has received. Every member is e-mailed their position at the end of the month.

Less Than 50% Is Doing More Harm Than Good

November 11, 2008Comments Off on Less Than 50% Is Doing More Harm Than Good

If your outreach e-mails are getting a response less than 50%, you’re doing more harm than good.

Seriously, you’re turning potential members (and customers) away from your client. You’re making your job harder.

Stop now. Figure out what’s wrong. Fix it.

Board Of Directors

November 10, 2008Comments Off on Board Of Directors

Crazy idea, but what if you recruited a board of directors for your community?

Recruit a board of experts from a range of different fields advising on the management of your online community.

Be picky. Select the top member from your community, yourself, someone from the company, a major industry figure and one or two community experts to serve on your board.

You might just get great advice, solid management and plenty of great promotion.

People Are Balls, Not Mud

November 10, 2008Comments Off on People Are Balls, Not Mud

You can't launch a community with a 'seeing what sticks' approach. 

This usually means mass-mailing everyone on your lists, securing some media coverage and hoping for a high conversion rate, like 20%.

You can't do this because people aren't mud.

They don’t stick or slide waiting to be thrown around. If they visit the community and don't like it, they bounce. It’s much harder to get them back for a second look.

If you have to use a metaphor, try this. People are balls. Your community is a hole (oh dear). Your job is to guide every available ball into the hole. If any bounce or miss, you’ve made your job harder.

Have a soft launch. Grow slowly and deliberately. Cater to one group at a time, invite select people in batches.

13 Ways To Get Press Coverage For Your Online Community

November 9, 2008Comments Off on 13 Ways To Get Press Coverage For Your Online Community

Once your community has been going a while, you might want to go big. This means either implementing tactics that will ensure most members invite more, or gain mainstream media coverage.

Here are a few ideas that might get press coverage for your online community.

  1. Get Journalists To Join. Invite journalists to join your online community and keep them engaged. Treat them as a VIP and the press coverage will follow. It’s difficult though.
  2. Talk About Journalists. “Who do you think is the top journalist in {Niche}. Talk and rank them. Journalists hopefully register to join the community. Keep a list of their latest articles each journalist has written, maybe give each a user averaged rating.
  3. Talk About Articles. “Did you see what Cory Bowell wrote about {big issue} in {important media}? He’s so wrong, here’s why…” Start discussions about articles and drop an e-mail to the journalist asking them to see the response their article gets. Don’t ask for anything more.
  4. Let A Journalist Represent You. Don’t give a journalist a choice, pick a journalist your community admire as a figurehead or star for your community to admire. This works well in environmental and cause-related communities. Ask your community to congratulate them every now and then.
  5. Ask Your Community To Write To Journalists. If you want a journalist to write about an issue important to your community, ask your community to write to him/her. It’s harder for a journalist to ignore 23 e-mails from the public on a big issue. Use sparingly.
  6. Create A Sub-Group For Media Types. Great a sub-group in your online community just for journalists. They can discuss stories and talk about issues important.
  7. Pitch A Feature Idea Involving Your Community. Ask your community what ideas they would love to read about in the news, then pitch them to journalists.
  8. Be The Pulse Of Opinion and Trends. Become the pulse of opinion for your community. Openly put together a roundup of trends in your community and the general opinion on the big issues. E-mail it to select journalists who join your community.
  9. Compile A Collection Of Stories. Invite members to add their stories of how they became involved in your community and anything related that they find interesting.
  10. Offer Experts. Your online community is the hive of experts for your niche. Offer interviews and become a source where journalists can post queries for case studies.
  11. Be Controversial. A little PR 101, take a side on an issue and state your opposition. Don’t forget to let journalists know.
  12. Offer Pictures. Journalists struggle with pictures, if your members can provide pictures of people
  13. Get Your Community To Comment On News Stories. Many online news sources allow comments. Use them, send your community members to comment on relevant stories.

The problem with a sudden rush of new members, is it might crush the existing communities. Prepare and make room for the rush. Give existing members somewhere they can go and talk, or don’t allow new members full access for the first 21 days.

Community Building Pre-Launch Checklist

November 8, 2008Comments Off on Community Building Pre-Launch Checklist

Here’s a quick pre-launch checklist, it’s only got 10 things so far. Maybe you can add more?

  1. Developed a strong appeal for members to participate.
  2. Persuaded internal gatekeepers of the opportunities this community offers.
  3. Determined specific metrics of success.
  4. Identified and developed relationships with key members.
  5. Decided how many people you need in your community.
  6. Removed every unnecessary feature from interface.
  7. Planned who to contact once you’ve launched and what to tell them.
  8. Provided a motivation for members to invite friends, and their friends invite more friends.
  9. Created a structure that entices members to take on a share of the work.
  10. Seeded the community with gripping content and debates.

It’s Friday, Lets Talk A Little More About Fun

November 7, 2008Comments Off on It’s Friday, Lets Talk A Little More About Fun

I can’t string these thoughts into a post, they might work better like this:

It’s good to plan some fun. House parties would be terrible if no-one remembered the alcohol.

People are more willing to do things if it’s fun; Turn up, donate money, write software code, cycle across Africa, e-mail a senator, meet up in person, buy your products!.

If your community is more fun than television, you win big.

If your community feels like work, you lose bad.

Fun is worth measuring. Every 3 months ask: “Is the community more fun now than it used to be?”

Use the sentence “getting out of hand” with extreme caution.

Fun Fridays are a good idea. So are Caturdays.

What’s everyone got planned for this weekend?” is a valid question.

Silly avatars, in-jokes, pointless phrases and a healthy does of jest, are good.

Congratulating people about engagements, babies and promotions is fine. Congratulating their appearance or body characteristics, is not.

Publicly denounce things that have gone too far. But use with restraint.

Steal from tabloids. The same people who hate books, spend hours every day reading newspapers. Steal some ideas. Gossip columns?

If it doesn’t feel like work, you wont be held to work hours, or compete with work projects. Fun is always worth the investment.

Making your community fun is part of your job.

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