Changing The Fundamentals

If you want top members to share more expertise than they do today, you’re probably not going to get far by asking them more frequently to do it (whether by email, direct message, or any form of gamification system).

If you really want members to do more, be more, or change how they behave, you need to fundamentally tip their mental scales in your direction.

Every contribution requires a degree of effort. Theoretically (although not quite literally) we mentally determine if the effort (time, mental energy etc…) is worth the reward (influence, attention, work opportunities etc…) before performing a behavior.

If the scale tips towards reward, we make the contribution.

More of our strategy work these days involves changing the fundamentals rather than changing the communication. This usually means asking questions like:

  • What kind of influence can we offer members to ensure making better contributions is a no-brainer?
  • What is the absolute maximum level of control members can have if they make really great contributions?
  • How can we make [specific contributions] the obvious (best) way to achieve the fame, attention, and job opportunities they need?

This leads to conclusions like flying the top 10 contributors to our headquarters each year, giving best contributors access to our product engineers to get support to make even better contributions, creating a recommended experts list published on our site for people looking for contractors to hire etc…

This, in turn, leads to new processes that need to be introduced, internal support that needs to be gained, and methods for testing the idea in a quick and low-risk/low-cost way.

A member is unlikely to contribute more just because you message them more frequently (likewise, reminding people they haven’t visited in the community in a while is a waste of everyone’s time).

Change the fundamentals, not the superficial communication.

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