I’ve been looking for a format to share thoughts while on the road, I like Instagram for now.
You’re welcome to follow me there.
FeverBee Experts has both a new (collapsible) homepage and plenty of discussions covering some of today’s most important topics.
If you’re looking for a more substantial debate than the fleeting nature of Facebook/Twitter, I hope you will join us.
I’ll be speaking at Influitive’s Advocamp in San Francisco (Dec 6 to 8). If you’re interested in advocacy and community, I recommend you join us.
In the inception stage of the community lifecycle, you promote the community to the fringe radicals, the true believers, and the people who know you best and are closest to you. These are the people with the passion to create something that doesn’t exist yet.
In the establishment stage, you promote the community to the topic enthusiasts.
These are the people who most love the unique niche you’re targeting within the broader space. They are the ultramarathon runners among the marathon runners and the bitcoin miners among the bitcoin investors.
You find them via referrals, on social media, and build close relationships with them.
In the early-maturity stage, you target the people struggling with problems, want to improve themselves, and need a better solution than what’s out there today. It’s only now that you should begin promoting the community en-masse.
There are exceptions, I’m sure, but they are the exceptions. If you’re getting lots of people joining but not sticking around, you’re probably confused about either a) where you are in the lifecycle or b) who you should be promoting the community to.
Sense of community is to community professionals what Maslow is to motivation (albeit with more scientific evidence).
Then learn how to apply it. This video below might help.
There isn’t a good excuse today for not being an expert in the psychological underpinnings of your day to day work.
A friend mentioned she had to change her metrics three times as new bosses came and left.
The one time she tried to stick to her guns, she lost half her team.
When a new boss arrives, you often have two options. You can repeatedly try to reinforce the existing value of the community and persuade the new boss to your point of view.
This is great, when it works.
It’s often far easier to shift your new metrics to what the boss needs rather than what you have.
If you don’t, you could easily find yourself unimportant to the broader strategy of the organization. That’s not a good place to be. It’s far better to be flexible and adapt fast when you need to.
Does a newcomer have the information they need to be a good participant?
Do they know what good participation looks like?
Do they know how to look up and find information they can share with others?
Do they know what’s on the edge of domain of knowledge?
Do they know what the best examples, books, and resources are?
Do they know what tone of voice they should use when they participate?
Do they know they don’t need to be an expert to participate?
Do they know good questions are better than good answers?
Do they know the 20% of topics which account for 80% of discussions?
Do they know who the top people in the field are?
Do they know who’s in charge and who to contact for help?
Do they know you genuinely want them to succeed and will do everything you can to help?
Do they know how long a post should be, to self-disclose information about themselves and reveal their emotional state when they ask a question?
If the answer is no, you have some work to do.
Diversify growth streams.
Google will send you traffic, but Google can change quickly.
Get yourself featured more prominently on the company website, newsletters, or outbound emails to customers.
Get inbound links on major news sites which get lots of traffic.
Answer questions on Quora, Yahoo Answers, and Stack exchange.
Build up bases on social media that share the best content from the community.
Develop partnerships with major organizations to help drive traffic to the community.
Whatever you do, start looking at building new streams of members into the community.
While speaking at IAC in DC on Sunday, someone asked what to do about rival communities.
This depends if you’re dealing with a split or a shift.
A split is when two factions emerge and you need two communities to handle them.
In Bitcoin’s case, there has been a very literal split.
In a split you double down on being relevant to the segmented audience you have.
A shift is more worrying. This is when a new trend (or new need) is arising and you’re not covering it well. This opens the door for someone to start a new, more focused, community that may soon dominate the space.
Shifts need to be covered quickly. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp was a great covering strategy. A new need emerged and Facebook covered it. Likewise, Instagram/Facebook’s stories are good examples of covering Snapchat.
Your case is likely to involve using new technology or covering new topics. This will upset your current members. That’s the hard part.
The simplest behaviors are often the most effective.
Getting members to write reviews, for example, consistently ranks as one of the highest-impact tasks a member can undertake.
One study shows why:
Results show that users look for simple and quick reviews and content about products in online brand communities (i.e., guides developed by users, comments, artwork and screenshots). However, results also show that users do not guide their purchases based on user-generated content when the process of gaining understanding is more time-consuming (i.e., reading discussions, watching videos) or requires more active involvement (i.e., workshop presence).
Essentially, getting lots of members to submit simple, quick, reviews is a bigger win than getting members to engage in long, detailed, discussions.
It’s a bigger win than members crafting long-form articles like user guides.
The conversation with your boss might be very different if you can show how you’re getting members to create and respond to reviews on multiple sites.
Have a few people track how long they spent asking around and looking for a document (or answer) outside of the community.
You can use a survey if you want broad guesstimations.
Now, look at how long people spend getting answers or finding documents in the community.
What’s the difference in time saved? 10 minutes? An hour? 10 hours?
Once you take the time and effort to answer these two very simple questions, you can start to quantify just how valuable the community is (no. questions/resources found * minutes saved * avg. salary per minute etc…).
If you’re working to prove the value of an internal community, this is a good place to start.
The strength of most community platforms is they are asynchronous.
If someone doesn’t login today, they don’t miss out on anything. They can catch up tomorrow.
But that strength is also a weakness. If you don’t need to visit today, then why bother? In fact, why not wait a few weeks?
A growing number of apps tackle this by incorporating the daily bonus.
If you don’t login that day, you miss out.
What would your daily bonus be? What piece of information, exclusive activity, or unique opportunity is only available today?
If you want someone to visit today, give them something that’s only available today.
Does it make sense to focus on a single platform when your members participate across many?
Your platform is a utility, like a clubhouse, that your members will sometimes choose to visit.
Like a clubhouse, people visit the platform because of a unique value it provides (privacy, intimacy, knowledge, fun activities, autonomy etc…).
But if your community efforts end at the front door, you’re not going to get many people reaching the front door.
Why deliberately limit your hard work to a small percentage of your audience who visit your platform for a small percentage of their time?
Treat the community as one of several pillars of the community. Have yourself, your staff, and your members continue to participate and support the other pillars.
This doesn’t mean you need to jump in on every topic, but it does mean you and your people can (and should) build connections and be a valuable resource anywhere you can.
Imagine how many more great ideas, retained customers, testimonials and success stories and advocates you can get when you stop limiting yourself to a single platform.
What is the limit of your community? Who is or isn’t a part of it?
Is the community only the active participants on your community platform?
Is the community everyone who has registered on your platform?
Is it anyone that ever visits your platform (registered or not)?
Is it your customers (and only your customers)?
Is it everyone who has expressed an interest in your business (customer or not)?
Is it everyone that has expressed an interest in your field?
I recommend having this discussion early, because it changes everything.
p.s. One way to drive more value is to have a more expansive view of community.