Community Strategy Insights

The latest insights on community strategy, technology, and value by FeverBee’s founder, Richard Millington

Why They Didn’t Participate When They Said They Would

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

At least once a week we hear a variation of this story:

“When I spoke to the group about my engagement idea, they said they loved it and would participate. But when I created it, few of them participated.”

Believe me, I remember how frustrating this was.

1 of 3 things is happening here:

1)   They don’t want to reject you so tell you they will do it.

This is common – especially if you’re talking to a group who like you (or your close colleagues).  

2)   You have convinced them, but not persuaded them.

They think the idea will help, but in the great scheme of things this ranks relatively low in their priorities.

3)   There’s no urgency.

They can participate tomorrow, next week, or next month. They don’t need to do it today. So they delay it because, well, meh.

There are some very effective tactics here:

1)   Get a specific commitment.

Ask them to agree in writing to a specific date they will participate. Get a specific commitment to a specific action on a specific date. Have them write it down and send it to you in an email. Then chase up a few days before the action (in response to the email they wrote to you ideally).

2)   Tell A Really Affective Story.

Identify a story that resonates. You have to have an emotional punch. So find a story of someone they identify with (if they know the person, even better). Highlight how they felt (empathy), how much they lost by getting this wrong (logic), and the impact of solving the problem.

When we wanted internal buy-in at an international organisation recently, we shared a (true!) story of someone else in the individual’s position who was getting very worried about their engagement program not taking off. He had spent a huge percentage of his budget on a  community platform and the activity hadn’t increased. He was feeling at a loss of what to do next, yet the cost kept rising every day. His bosses were getting anxious.

The problem was the two people he had hired to manage the community weren’t credible and authoritative within their field. Their messages weren’t resonating and they came off feeling fake. Anyone who spoke to any of the target audience could get this information, but no-one bothered to ask what they thought of the two community professionals. By making some changes and a good amount of coaching, they began to see the levels rising month after month.

You can probably imagine his relief and smug joy at his next board meeting as he can finally show the metrics of things heading in the right direction.

This is a true story and one that resonates with the individual we’re trying to persuade. Most importantly, it doesn’t get bogged down in facts. We don’t talk about a 23% increase in engagement. We talk about how he felt. How he felt then and how he feels now. We use facts to support the emotions, not build a story around facts.

As a bonus, you can ask the recipient if they are finding or feeling the same problems (this internalizes the story). Find future stories to match their feedback.

3)   Create windows of opportunity.  

In sales literature, this would be a sense of urgency. Don’t go down the fake scarcity route. Create unique time-limited opportunities to achieve specific goals. For example “Can you share your great story on {x}, before we wrap up and publish the book on Thursday.”

This is much more effective than ‘can you share your tip on {x}?” There are no shortages of time-limited opportunities you can create. There are unique opportunities to interview experts, submit questions for interviews, create eBooks, host panels, create videos, get feedback on events etc…

By far the biggest challenge today in doing engagement isn’t setting up the community platform, creating a content calendar, or starting discussions. There are plenty of resources for tackling this.

The problem is persuading your audience to do what you need them to do (and do it in a way you feel good about). This often means we become needlessly worried when people don’t take the actions we’re judged by.

Most people find persuasion a black box of evil, mysterious, tricks they want to avoid (a little like networking). I want you to go with us into that box, let us highlight the key things you need to understand and take away the key tools you can use to persuade groups.

Notice in the examples above, we always tell the truth. We just make the truth effective (and affective). We create real windows of opportunity to be involved in things that benefit the audience. We present stories in a way that will best resonate with people. We ask people who said they will participate for the exact time they will.

Some people might feel this is manipulative; to us it’s simply effective communication. We should all be effective communicators.

If you can understand a little about the psychology of persuasion and motivation, it becomes much easier to ensure every message better resonates with the audience.

This is what we want to coach you over the next few months to do.

If you’ve consumed all the basic tips out there and you’re still not getting the engagement you want, you can decide to join our Advanced Engagement Methods program.

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