If you’re doing the same community activities as last year, if the work feels easy and repetitive, or if your growth has flatlined, you’re probably stuck.
Being stuck doesn’t feel great. You lose inspiration and feel burnt out.
You have two choices. You can find a new gig or work on a big win.
A big win is something that has a >10% impact on your community metrics. To achieve a big win, you need to free up your time, stop doing the low-impact tasks, and identify what has the biggest long-term impact for the largest possible number of members.
Step 1) Define This Week’s Goals and Current Activities
The first step is to define this week’s goals and activities.
This shouldn’t take you more than a few minutes.
Create a table with two columns. List your current community goals on the left. Typical community health goals might include:
- Increase the number of active members.
- Improve the newcomer to regular conversion rate.
- Increase the number of posts per active member.
- Build a stronger sense of community.
- Improve the quality of discussions.
- Reduce the number of negative posts.
- Recruit volunteers to help grow the community.
(as a tip, you shouldn’t have any more than 3 of these at any one time).
Now write down your tasks for the week alongside the relevant goal on the right hand side. These often include:
- Replying to discussions.
- Welcoming new members.
- Creating content/posting updates.
- Searching for images.
- Hosting a webinar.
- Updates on Facebook/Twitter.
- Collecting data.
If a task doesn’t help you achieve a goal, stop doing it. You should be able to free up 10% of your time in this task alone.
Now estimate how much time you spend on each activity per week. Alternatively, install RescueTime and track it directly.
Let’s imagine you follow this process and achieve something like this:
This is a snippet of the list rather than the entire list.
Step 2) Run A Withholding Test
Now we run a withholding test to find out how important each of these tasks are.
A withholding test is used by pharmaceutical brands, direct marketers and many others to determine the impact of a variable. It’s simply the process of withholding (stop doing) an activity for a select group of time/people and seeing what happens.
What happens if we cut the amount of time we spend initiating discussing, replying to discussions, and sending out newsletters by 50%? Does the number of active members/any metric you track also drop by 50%? If not, you can spend less time on that task.
You will usually find there is some negative impact (perhaps a 15% drop). After all, there was a reason you were doing these tasks. But it’s clear it doesn’t justify the amount of time you spend on it. If you cut your time on these tasks by 50% and activity drops by only 15%, you might want to drop the time by 25% and see activity fall by 7.5% for now.
At this stage you usually find that your most time-consuming activities have very little impact upon the level of activity in a community. You should be able to save 25% to 50% of your time using withholding tests alone.
Your goal is to cut out any task which isn’t the best use of your time. You’re going to need this time to focus on your big wins.
Step 3) Automate the repetitive (none-empathy) tasks
Next we look at automating as many of your remaining tasks for the week as possible. Any task that doesn’t require empathy or complex thinking can usually be automated.
For example, most members ask the same few questions. These can be added to an FAQ members receive when they join. You can add messages in the initiate discussion process to suggest they ‘search’ for the answer before asking the question.
Some common targets for automation here would be:
- Adding any question that appears 3+ times to an FAQ.
- Creating a document/wiki as a beginner’s guide for newcomers to easily find the most common answers to their questions.
- Using autoresponders to onboard newcomers to the community.
- Using autoresponders to nudge members to participate in relevant discussions.
- Automated segmentation into topical groups to contact about relevant activities.
- Open-calendar 1 hour sessions for members to book ‘support calls’ to get quick responses.
- Automated generation of sales leads from the community.
Ask yourself during every task, is there a way I can avoid ever doing this again?
Set aside one week and determine with each activity you perform if there is a way you can avoid ever doing it again? This should free up another 10% to 15% of your time.
Step 4) Delegate Remaining Empathy Tasks
The final time-saving step is to delegate tasks which require a human touch but aren’t the best use of your time. You should only be doing the work only you can do.
If someone else can do a task at a lower pay grade than you, they should do that task.
You have three groups of people you can delegate tasks to. These are:
- Volunteers (unpaid community members).
- Colleagues (paid staff, but not directly working on your community)
- Paid help (virtual assistants and community team members)
The kinds of tasks you might delegate to each will vary.
|Delegate Group||Tasks they can perform||How to engage this group|
|Paid support (team members or virtual assistants)||
Volunteers can perform most of the growth, content, activities, and moderation tasks in the community management framework.
Create high-status volunteer positions that include the kind of tasks that people want to do.
You can include some monotonous tasks too, but you have to also create opportunities for volunteers to do things they will enjoy. These are tasks which will increase their status and where they feel a strong sense of efficacy.
A good volunteer role should include:
- A specific name (don’t call it a volunteer, give it a powerful name).
- A clear field of responsibility (what part of the community are they most interested in?).
- Power elements (give the volunteer unique access to the platform).
- Recognition elements (provide volunteers with ways to build their reputation).
- Functional elements (these are the relevant tasks you don’t want to do).
For example, if you manage a surfing community, you might let people apply to be your Surfboard Expert (name). This would be someone whose role is to stimulate and manage all activity related to surfboards within the community (field of responsibility).This might mean being able to initiate discussions, publish content, organize webinars, and remove discussions related to surfboards (power & recognition). They would be listed in a unique area and have the ability to speak on behalf of the group (recognition). Their role would also be to prune the bad surfboard discussions, invite more people to join and talk about surfboards, and schedule regular events (the functional tasks).
Next, engage your colleagues in community activities. You’re not a customer service professional. It shouldn’t be your job to answer every product/service question if others in the company can do it better. If volunteers can’t answer these questions from a checklist, you need your colleagues to help out.
Finally you may have the opportunity to secure paid support to help tackle many of these expanding roles. This might be additional community people to help you expand or virtual assistants (underutilized tool) to take on time-consuming tasks that aren’t the best use of your skills.
With a small amount of training, virtual assistants can perform many of the tasks which require empathy but not your direct involvement.
By this point you should have been able to whittle the number of tasks you perform down to the core few. These should be tasks that have been shown to have a significant impact upon your community that only you can perform.
This should free up most of your time to work towards your big wins.
What Is A Big Win?
A big win changes the behavior of a large amount of members for a long period of time.
A big win is something that boosts your desired metric by more than 10%.
A big win is a one-off activity that has a sustainable, long-term, impact.
Once you’ve managed to generate a sustainable level of activity in any community, you should focus on your big wins.
The problem as we’ve noted is most community professionals work at the bottom left of this table. Your goal is to move towards working at the top right of this diagram.
(this isn’t an exhaustive list)
Four Types Of Big Wins
There are four broad types of big wins:
1) Increasing the level of traffic to the community. This means getting more people to visit the community site for the first time. If this declines, activity gradually dries up. Ultimately getting fresh members is critical to long-term success in a community.
2) Increasing the conversion rates. This means increasing the number of visitors who participate. Most participation ratios hover around 1 in 1000 (first-time visitors to participants). This breaks down to 1 in 100 registering to join and 1 in 10 of those participating. There is huge scope for improvement here.
3) Increasing the levels of participation. This means increasing the level of activity from your current members. This means making your current members more active (without resorting to quick thrills).
4) Increasing the value of the community. This means generating a larger return on investment from the activity generated by the community. This might mean improving the quality of discussions, reducing the costs of managing the community, or aligning activity with clear ROI goals.
Sustainably increasing the level of traffic to the community.
Most people doing community work wait for people to arrive and then try to keep them. The easiest way to improve a community is usually to attract more members.
This must be sustainable. There are many ways to get the numbers up (hosting competitions, rewarding registration, hosting big events), however we need numbers to stay up. This is a long-term game.
There are four methods of doing this.
- Search traffic. Get more people to find you via relevant search terms.
- Direct traffic. Get more of your existing audience to visit.
- Referral traffic. Get traffic from existing large audiences (and members)
- Paid traffic. Get more people to visit through paid sources.
Your tactics here will probably fall within the following buckets:
|Referral Traffic||Guest posts
|Direct Traffic||Email campaigns
|Paid traffic||Social Ads (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube)
Social Ads Search Ads (Google, Yahoo, Bing)
Paid elsewhere (Blogs, paid media buys etc…)
Improving SEO Results
To increase SEO, you usually need to:
- Improve the site speed and layout.
- Improve the site’s mobile experience.
- Revamp your site’s best performing content to better satisfy user intent (and reduce the bounce rate).
- Write guest posts to attract inbound links.
- Engage in digital PR to attract key links from major sites.
- Combine similar discussions into one.
- Create regular resources from discussions.
- Help members optimize their discussions (headlines etc)
- Create newcomer focused content series (a beginner’s guide like that below works well. Include the questions which appear on search most frequently)
This should gradually increase your search traffic. For most communities, this is the best source of newcomers (especially newcomers to the topic).
The majority of your member’s will find you via search. If you can spend time on only one thing to grow your community, this is probably the best use of your time.
We cover many of the referral traffic techniques in our Successful Community Management program. These tactics will broadly fall within the following:
- Writing guest posts for relevant mainstream sites.
- Interviewing / hosting webinars with popular figures in your field (notably bloggers, journalists, and others who can link to the interview).
- Creating useful, powerful, video content which links back to your community.
Link outwards to people you wish to link back to you. Occasionally, simply asking for links helps too.
Direct traffic usually comes from your existing audience and direct invites. Your mailing list is critical here. Most of us begin a community with an existing, large, mailing list and need to convert this audience into active community participants.
Alternatively we might find a large number of people follow us on other sites (social media) and we struggle to convert them into registrants for the community. This requires a process of testing different messages until you find the appeal which is most likely to convert a member into an active community participant.
These appeals might include:
- A specific problem they want to solve.
- An idea that might help them get even better at what they do.
- Exclusivity of joining.
- The group norm of conforming.
- Something new about the passion they can learn.
- A chance to build their reputation.
Social traffic includes all traffic which originates from social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Google+, Pinterest, and others. This isn’t usually a large percentage of your traffic and isn’t worth as much of your time as any of the above methods. The best process here is to share popular community discussions on these sites to drive traffic back to your community efforts and prompting people to share discussions they post on social channels.
Increasing Conversion Rates
This can be divided into three areas:
- Improving the number of visitors that click on the registration page.
- Improving the number of registration page visitors who become new members.
- Improving the number of new members who sign up to become active participants.
Your goal is to try and squeeze a 10% improvement from this process. If you can increase conversion by 3% at each stage, you’re nearly there.
There are several steps you can test to improve each of these:
|Visitors to registrations||
|Registration page visitors to new members||
|New members to participants||
You can measure each of these in turn to check the number of people that visit, click, and perform the next step.
Your mileage with each test will vary, but the process remains relatively the same.
Increasing the level of participation.
The third big win is to sustainably increase the level of participation from those already actively participating in your community.
This is the process by where you convert participants into regulars and regulars into veterans. This combines self-determination theory with automation.
Specifically you’re looking to:
- Increase your members’ perceived level of competence within the topic.
- Increase your members’ perceived level of autonomy within the community.
- Increase your members’ sense of relatedness to one another.
You can find an overview here.
|Increasing sense of competence||
|Increasing sense of autonomy||
|Increasing sense of relatedness||
This works both in your one to one messages as much as any other content.
In your current messages do members feel more competent, autonomous, and better connected to one another? You can perform a touchpoint analysis of every message to check.
Increasing the value of the community.
The final big thing is increasing the value of the community to the organisation.
We covered this last week. This essentially means increasing the retention rates by aligning community behaviors with retention rate activities, increasing the number of customers, improving staff productivity, improving innovation, or making members happier/more informed/better supported (for non-profits).
You can find the full list from last week below:
This is where you would also find activities like improving the quality of discussions or performing tasks more efficiently to reduce costs.
In short, you want to save as much time on possible on work that you can eliminate, automate, or delegate to others. Then you need to focus on your big wins. These big wins will be things that increase the level of traffic, conversion rates, participation levels, or value from activity by more than 10%.