The Myth Of The Miracle Feature

Too often we move or evaluate platforms based upon a specific feature (or set of features).

I’ve seen organisations demand specific features such as:

  • Ability to live stream events directly through the platform.
  • Collaborate on documents together within the platform.
  • Ensure all members use two-factor authentication to log in.
  • Develop complex automated rules-based upon past behaviors.
  • Universal point systems combining internal and external behaviors.
  • Integrate social media content seamlessly as discussions.
  • Customise their member profiles with unique designs.

The reality is the features that often get the most excitement internally are often the least used internally. Worse yet, once you begin customising the platform, you’re responsible for the maintenance of that customisation which can cause endless trouble. None of these will have a major impact on participation.

If you look at a few hundred communities (as we have), you start to notice the majority of members use the same few areas in almost every platform (typically discussions, direct messages, search, and knowledge base).

What really impacts participation isn’t adding major new features, but usually tweaks in the most commonly used features which makes them easier and more satisfying to use. This often includes the layout of discussions, being able to reply by email, length of snippets which appear in digests, quantity (or lack thereof) of text which appears on pages, simplicity of logging in and remembering details, cognitive vs. federated search tools, taxonomy, etc…

The tragic thing about most RFPs (and the people evaluating them) is they rarely account for this. They lack the breadth of features and assume one platform’s discussion forum is as good as the next. It’s like evaluating a restaurant by whether they have a kitchen instead of understanding the little details that make one restaurant better than the next.

The solution is to join a bunch of communities on different platforms and participate meaningfully for a week. Notice the little details. Evaluate the experience you’re having and what you’re feeling as much (if not more) than the features you’re seeing.

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