Sometimes you can get everything else right and stumble at the ask hurdle.
This is the point where you have to ask someone to do something they’re not already doing. Every community effort reaches this point.
This is difficult, especially without an existing relationship.
Most people begin with an email or message along the lines of:
I’m the community manager for WidgetCorp, a community with 3,000 active members of which you are one.
Over the next few months I’m interviewing members of our community to see how we can improve the community.
I would like to interview you and get your feedback.
Let me know your availability. I am available on Tuesday 23rd between 2pm and 6pm, and Thursday 24th between 2.30pm and 5.30pm. Will these times work? If not, suggest times of your own.”
Can you spot the problem? From the very first sentence it feels spammy and impersonal.
It could be one of 50 similar requests you might get this year, all of which you will ignore.
This feels like a minor issue, but we see it consistently undermining the great work so many community managers try to do. Once you’ve ruined that first impression, it takes a LOT more work to bring people around.
Susan Chiu recommended I contact you because you have some experience about [skillset …be specific].
Can I get 10 minutes of your time to get your advice on something we’re working on? It’s for our community which might help a few thousand people.
Any help here would be really useful.”
Notice the difference in tone and messaging? You have a referral, you’re being clear, but you’re talking the way real people talk.
You can adapt any appeal as you see fit, but be sincere. If you’re not sure if your email is sincere, it probably isn’t (not yet anyway). Look to see the messages you respond to in your account and aim to match.