A Case Study: How To Improve A Newly Launched Community

July 27, 2011Comments Off

The Mayo Clinic recently launched an online community; Mayo Connect

It's a good community concept. The Mayo Clinic has a clear target audience who have a motivation to interact with each other. There is plenty of room for improvement, however. If they were a client, here is what we would recommend:

 

1) Optimize the journey.

The community asks for too much information from members. You don't need to force members to complete their profiles, you only need a username and an e-mail address. They will complete their profiles when they want to present a good image to others in the community. Initially, you just want them to participate.

When a member registers, the next page is like this:

Mayo

Members don't want four options. Present just one single thing a member should do after they join. This should be to participate in a relevant discussion. This page can be changed to "What do you think about …..? " with a link or a box to give their opinions. 

 

2) Confirmation e-mail

The confirmation e-mail wastes a glorious opportunity to highlight something a member can instantly do in the community. 

The e-mail begins with:

"Thank you for joining!

This message is to confirm your membership in the online community from Mayo Clinic. This online social network connects patients with each other and with others interested in learning more about Mayo Clinic or a particular health interest."

Why not update this once a week? Try something a little more motivational, e.g. 

"Congratulations, you've been accepted into our community.

You're just in time to participate in our discussion about {subject}. What have you found to be the best way to ….. ? Darren felt it was ….., Susan thought it was …… . Click this link and let us know what you think.

Speaking on behalf of our beloved community, we're thrilled to have you!"

This should increase the number of members which not only register, but also participate. 

The e-mail from Mayo Connect also ends with the gloomy "Replies to this message are not monitored or answered."

That's pitiful for a community. Why not end the e-mail with "Also be sure to tell me what you think. Do you have any suggestions, questions or complaints for the community? Hit reply and I'll endeavour to get back to you within a few hours".

You should be encouraging conversations with your newcomers, not ignoring them.

 

3) Platform design

Mayo2
The design is simple and efficient. However, the active discussions should appear at the top of the page, not below the scroll line. Members are more likely to a) post a comment if they see they appear in prominent areas and b) spot a discussion they wish to participate in.

You can also remove redundant activity from the activity box (e.g. "Mark and Pat are now friends"). 

 

4) Discussion area

This is where the community really needs a change. The category are listed at the top of the page and push all the discussions in the discussion area out of sight. 

Mayo3
It is essential that the latest discussions appear at the top of this page. The categories should be reduced in number (most categories only have 1 or 2 discussions) and moved to a side bar.

In the image below it is also clear that Likes is not yet a heavily used feature. As a result, it appears most discussions receive no likes and this reduces the likelihood of members wishing to initiate a discussion. Remove any features that aren't used and introduce them later. Likes should be replaced with comments. 

Mayo4
There are also far too many discussions above with 0 comments. This should not be acceptable in any community. A member who initiates a discussion which receives 0 replies is unlikley to participate again. There must be a community manager to respond to these discussions and find members to share their opinions. 

It feels like the community launched on the community manager's day off. 

 

5) Social aspects

The community lacks any clear culture about what it aims to be. There is no personality or news narrative which ties the activities of the community together. It isn't clear to identify the purpose of the community. It needs some culture or history behind it. Why does the community exist? Who are the key players? What is the purpose? It needs a history or culture guide.

We would also change the name. Mayo Connect is a weak name. Are members going to refer to themselves as Mayo Connectors? I personally like alliterative names ("Mayo Maestros",  "Mayo Mates" "Mayo Mentors" etc…) but it's a subjective area. The name should be something that works as a nickname.

Finally, there needs to be a spotlight on members. At present the news in the community makes no mention of its individuals. This should change. The news for the community should be about the community. This creates a narrative.

 

Mayo Connect is one of the better online communities launched in recent months. It has a great concept and a good chance of success. Like most communities, however, it leaves plenty of room for both technical and social improvements. 

 

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