Saying Goodbye

If you haven’t visited an old Yahoo group for a while, it might be worth a visit before they close.

Connect with the friends you want to stay in touch with.

Share your life updates and see how others are doing.

Find the most popular discussions and remind yourself of your best memories.

Remind yourself of the person you were when you joined the group and how it changed you.

And say goodbye to the people who may once have been a significant part of your life.

You have until the end of the day.

Three Trends Powering Communities

Three trends are fairly clear I think:

1) Declining Reach.

It’s harder to reach people with a message now than ever. Organic reach has plummeted on social media platforms and Google is keeping more traffic for itself.

Even building an email list isn’t as effective as it used to be. Gmail probably put this email (which you signed up for) in a ‘promotions’ folder outside of your regular inbox and alongside spam.

2) Rising Demands.

Customers are more demanding than ever. This is the ‘buy now, by now’ culture. Customers want quick responses without having to file a ticket or call a customer support line. They expect to be heard, feel influential, and see the impact they’ve made. They expect to be dealt with sympathetically and not robotically. That’s easy to do when you have 100 customers, it’s harder when you have 100,000.

3) Pressure to Scale

Companies are pressured to scale their customer experience efforts (support, success, knowledge etc…) without hiring an army of staff to do it. Silicon Valley has shown the future belongs to companies that can achieve better results with fewer staff.

It makes sense to create a customer community filled with regularly updated expertise which your customers remember and want to visit to solve the problem of declining reach.

It makes sense to create a community where each member can be dealt with empathetically by other members, find immediate answers to their problems, and see their impact within the community and over the company.

It makes sense to create a customer community to scale support to thousands of customers around the world. Each new customer can help the next. Each person who discovers a solution can share it with the next person who needs it.

I don’t see any of these trends slowing down, do you?

You Haven’t Earned Support Yet

I know people who have bounced constantly from one company to the next without ever getting the support they felt the community needed to succeed.

The language they use is telling.

“My boss doesn’t get community”
“The CEO doesn’t understand the benefits of a community”

etc…

It probably feels like a relief to shift the blame to someone else.

But the truth is you haven’t earned their support yet.

You haven’t built relationships with senior leaders, learned what they need, and how best to articulate the benefits to fit their worldview.

You haven’t delivered tangible results yet or you aren’t showing metrics which they care about (or even helped them identify which metrics to care about).

None of this is in your job description, but it’s all part of your job.

If you expect your boss (or her boss) to magically believe in the power of community one day, you’re expecting too much.

This means you need to learn how to build relationships and communicate with senior leaders, you need to learn how to distill the power of a community into an easily-digestible sound-bite which makes the community an immediate priority. You need to learn how to ensure the community isn’t seen as a threat to other colleagues and identify how they can best benefit from a community.

The most powerful work you can do isn’t to build a community for a company, but to prepare a company for a community. That’s a legacy you can be proud of.

Influencing Newcomers

In one of the best studies seen in a while, Nathan Matias shows announcing the community rules increases rule compliance by newcomers by 8%+ and the participation of newcomers by 80%.

“An experiment tested these theories by randomizing announcements of community rules to large-scale online conversations in a science-discussion community with 13 million subscribers. Compared with discussions with no mention of community expectations, displaying the rules increased newcomer rule compliance by >8 percentage points and increased the participation rate of newcomers in discussions by 70% on average. Making community norms visible prevented unruly and harassing conversations by influencing how people behaved within the conversation and also by influencing who chose to join.”

Instead of forcing members to mindlessly tick a code of conduct, email them the clear rules which makes your community unique.

Why Has Participation Dropped?

We’re doing work on using data better as part of FeverBee’s coaching program.

A big part of this is building out decision trees which shows what you will do with data before you collect it.

This removes the bias from you and your team. It guides you to the right answer instead of what you want to work on.

For example, if the level of participation drops, you can create a series of binary decisions to guide you to the answer.


(click for larger image)

Building a decision tree requires creating a series of decisions which relate to an internal or external cause.

If a metric has significantly changed, it’s typically because of an internal or external cause.
Either something internal to community has changed (new design, onboarding journey, community manager etc… ) or something external has changed (new competition, changing needs, decline in customers etc..).

The decision tree means creating a series of decisions to identify the precise problems to ensure you’re working on the right solution.

There’s no point working on a new gamification program to increase participation if the problem is external to the audience. For example, if most members have solved most of their problems, a gamification problem is a waste of time.

Without decision trees in place, you’re almost certainly:

  1. Working on the wrong things.
  2. Not benefitting at all from the data you collect.
  3. Failing to create a system your team/next community manager can use.

If you need help, join our FeverBee Coaching program.

Learn To Fix Your Community Strategy in 21 Minutes

Most community strategies are missing the key elements they need to succeed.

Last month, I spoke at CMX Summit and shared where most community strategies are going wrong and the 5 critical steps you can take to fix yours.

If you think your community strategy could be better, I recommend you watch it.

p.s. You can also develop a full strategy by signing up for our Strategic Community Management course here.

p.p.s. You can also check out this resource.

Saying No To Other Departments

“what’s the best way to say no to marketing requests from the community?”

…By not saying no.

If another department is interested in the community, you want to encourage and support their enthusiasm. You want your marketing team to know the community can help them achieve their goals and be an indispensable asset for them.

It’s hard to do this if you’re keeping them away from the community.

But you probably can’t say ‘yes’ either.

‘Yes’ can take you off your strategy, become a distraction, and can result in the community becoming flooded with exactly the kind of requests and promotions which might upset them.

Instead of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ focus on the ‘how’ and ‘when’.

If another department wants to be engaged in the community, have the materials in place to engage them. This should include:

  • The benefits of the community.
  • The needs and desires of members (and the rules for engaging members).
  • A summary of the current strategy.
  • What a department needs to provide to gain each benefit.
  • The process of engaging the community and the time-frame to results.

If marketing wants to be involved, great, explain the resources they need to provide, the best ways to get their results, and the time-frame. If they’re still eager after that, even better.

What Is A Good Community Strategy Worth?

If you think of a strategy as a bunch of ideas written down on a piece of paper, then it’s probably not worth much.

The words on the page are the tip of a large iceberg of work.

The words on the paper are the summation of all the conversations, research, persuasion, and thinking which has taken place before. If anything on the page is a surprise to a reader, you’ve failed.

The community strategy process:

  • Gets everyone aligned with the benefits, requirements, and expectations of the community.
  • Identifies concerns and creates the right messaging to use internally to bring others along in the journey.
  • Introduces the community to new departments and secures additional resources.
  • Uncovers the real needs and desires of members and uses these in communications and activities to significantly increase the level of participation.
  • Stops tasks that aren’t achieving good results and allocates that time to achieving the community’s big wins.
  • Develops complete user journeys, gamification programs, and MVP programs.
  • Creates detailed timelines, action plans, and training material for community managers.
  • Builds decision trees to not just measure what’s happening, but continually improve what’s happening.
  • Identifies exactly what technology you need, how to set it up, and the specifications developers can use.
  • Identifies major risks, how to mitigate them, and who will mitigate them.
  • Creates a detailed budget for the community along with forecasted results and data.

A good community strategy isn’t a bonus or ‘nice to have’, it’s essential. Any of the above won’t just slow a community down, they will stop it from reaching anything close to its potential.

If you’re struggling to get support, not sure where you’re going, or haven’t seen any big improvements in participation and the metrics you care about, get some help.

The Sticky Gold Nugget

Filippo reminds us of the power of metaphor to make a message stick.

You will probably read hundreds, maybe thousands, of tweets this week.

But I suspect that one will stick.

This is the power of metaphor, contrasts, imagery and emotion in a single, simple, sentence (or two).

As the battle for attention becomes ever more fierce, the ability to communicate effectively with our members becomes even more important.

If you’re still communicating facts instead of emotions, you’re probably going to be disappointed with the results. Facts are just the foundations of the story you can tell. Without the emotions, imagery, and metaphors they’re just an empty shell.

Turn On The Faucet (or wait for a miracle)

I spoke with a company last year which wanted their community to be about the industry.

They wanted the community to have its own brand and not be beholden to internal conflicts.

This meant they rarely promoted the community to millions of customers.

Instead, they were hoping for a miracle.

They were hoping millions of industry professionals would suddenly hear about the community and join it.

The miracle was never going to happen.

It doesn’t matter what you do in a community if no-one is going to see it.

It’s hard to fill a community with members when you only have drops of attention to work with. Far better to figure out who controls the attention faucet and how the community makes their work better/easier.

The community doesn’t have to be about your brand, but if your brand isn’t willing to promote it, it’s not going to work.

(p.s. It’s hard to keep a community separate from the rest of the company and still succeed. Believe me, even if you do magically make it work, your marketing/PR/other teams will want to be involved).

Promote The Community On Your Best Days

It might sound obvious, but if you are going to undertake a big promotion of the community to an external audience, make sure you do it on your best days.

Clean up the community first.

Ensure most discussions have a response, initiate some topical questions for newcomers to join in.

Check the onboarding journeys for newcomers work effectively (and the formatting of emails looks great).

Plan for greeters to help newcomers.

Line up quality blog posts and new ideas from members shared in the community.

Do all the things that will make the community look great.

And if you can’t do these things, don’t do the big promotion.

Working With The Vocal Minority

Brian shares this great video.

In any random sample of 1,000 members, 1 or 2 will form the vocal minority. If you have 10,000 members, you can do the math.

If you’re responding to the daily needs of a vocal minority, you’re not managing your community; the community is managing you.

Spiral of silence theory predicts the louder the vocal minority become the more other members accept this as the consensus of the group and either adopt the same views or fail to share opposing views. This is dangerous.

Sometimes the vocal minority have valid concerns which you can validate with a survey or poll, but typically their concerns are simply the tools they’re using to validate their status and identity. If you resolve their concern without validating their status, they still won’t be happy.

This is why the same vocal minority form around every issue instead of a new group forming around each issue. It’s not about the issue.

If you reject their ideas, they adopt a persona of being smarter, wronged, and righteous. If you accept their ideas, you embolden them to suggest more.

The two better approaches are:

1) Take the time to build relationships with each of them. Use flattery, ask for advice and ideas in person, providing them with a perceived sense of influence over you typically helps. This takes time but tends to be effective. Use the occasional positive public remark.

2) Formalise their role in a private group. Invite them to a private group (let them pick their own group name) to share their concerns, discuss their ideas, and give them unique access. You can put their best ideas/concerns into a survey for the broader community. Better yet, it removes negative comments from the main areas of discussion.

Nothing you do will entirely remove a frustrating vocal minority with high demands, but you can reduce the negative posts by working with them rather than for or against them.

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