Did You Cripple Your Community?

January 8, 2009Comments Off on Did You Cripple Your Community?

Do SMART objectives drive your community? They're really crippling it.

Business communities have a terrible failure rate. Your objectives are a huge part of the problem. You’re forced to guide your community towards those objectives.

What happens when your community wants to run in a different direction? Do you stop them and risk losing the community? Or let them and risk your job?*

If you’re a volunteer running a community, you would help and encourage your community to go in different directions. You could see what works, then go with that. ‘Did a Facebook group not work? No matter, lets arrange to meet’.

So few business communities survive against those run by volunteers. You can’t compete against a community whose objective is “Lets be awesome”

Volunteers have nothing to lose and no objectives to meet. They go where their community can go. It’s why they grow so fast and so big.

* the answer is to change your company to benefit from where the community wants to go, but so few community managers have the power.

Developing Forum Communities

January 7, 2009Comments Off on Developing Forum Communities

Greg isn’t sure how many of these concepts can be applied to forums. I suspect it’s most of them, and more.

Here are some things you can do on forums.

  • Private Forums. Start forums that only certain members have rights or the password to post this. This lets you have groups. Give them strange names so only the people that are in know what really goes on.
  • Create a “What would you tell someone doing…[activity]. Newbies get to some seasoned advice from experts.
  • Member of the week profiles. Have a weekly member of the week probile. Chuck Westbrook does something similar via forums. Also consider regular interviews with your top members as a forum category.
  • Invite VIPs. Arrange a VIP visit, create a category for her and let members send their questions in.
  • Private message your top members. Be sure to direct message your top members often. See how you can get them more involved and what they want. Give them a place to discuss the meta (about the forums).
  • Give top experts their own forum. If someone has shown true expertise in their field, give them their own forum, they’ll invite most of their friends and happily dispense out more advice than ever before. And it’s a great way to encourage other members to participate as much as possible.
  • Introduce to single forums. If your community is as big as AbsolutespainForum.com, consider letting new members introduce themselves to specific fields/forums that interests them as opposed to the entire group.
  • Add a blog. Add a blog that rounds up the best of the forum. Highlight the top posts/discussions and make it as simple as possible for a newbie to jump in and get started.
  • Dummies Guide. Have one, make sure the same questions aren’t being asked repeatedly.
  • Create an education course from your best discussions. If many people are coming for a specific reason, create a specific online course for them comprising of their posts (e.g. begin reading Bill’s post about Spanish property prices, then move to Jane’s threads about legal advice, now Mark’s posts and discussions on local schools…)
  • Evolve. If you’re building up an amazing amount of knowledge, have a Wiki or website to store it all. Also consider letting members connect on Facebook or Ning.

Hope this helps Greg.

Learning from Ezekiel

January 6, 2009Comments Off on Learning from Ezekiel

It’s hard to build a community using a blog. Some tell you to talk about the industry. This might get industry recognition, but it wont grow your business

Ezekiel would tell you to talk about your customers. Ezekiel is growing his gym’s online community through the CrossFitCoastal blog.

Ezekiel celebrates members when they hit new personal records, even if it’s just your first pull-up. He welcomes new members with a post just about them. If it’s your birthday, you get a post too. This is mixed in with work-out advice, event news and challenges to the community.

The lesson here is use your blog to talk about your customers, talk about them a lot.

Most amazingly, his business website is the most popular website in Wilmington, NC. That's incredible.

6 Concepts That Matter

January 5, 2009Comments Off on 6 Concepts That Matter

Don’t be distracted by any book with a focus on Social Media.

Instead focus on concepts that matter for building communities. Here are 6 of the most important.

  1. Sense of Community. Chavis and McMillan’s brilliant article about developing a Sense of Community. It can be implemented as a practical framework to creating a community. Easy-reading version.
  2. Dunbar’s Number. What impact does different size groups have upon each element? Why you should slowly get to 9 members then try to reach 25 as quickly as possible. What’s the arguments against letting your community grow as quickly as possible? See Dunbar’s paper, Christopher Allen’s great work and Lee Bryant.
  3. Motivation. What motivates people? What’s the different between intrinsic and extrinsic motivation? Which should you use? What’s going to provoke members to join, participate and invite friends to your community? Skip Maslow and read Albert Bandura on self-efficacy, David McClelland’s N’ach, N-Pow and N-Affil, and Herzberg’s Two-Factor Theory.
  4. Game Systems. How can you keep your community fun? What feedback systems do you have? How can members collect points? How are you igniting primal responses? Read Amy Jo Jim on the application of Game Mechanics.
  5. Self-Verification. What do members really want from others? What do they think of yourself? How can you predict the reactions of events upon members? Read Self-verification.
  6. Social Psychology. What is group process? How do communities form and split? How do group members influence each other? What are the key stages of communication? How do you identify major influencers? It’s a huge topic. Read around: Social facilitation, group development and group psychology.

At least half of these links are from Wikipedia, it’s the best entry point on a topic. But dig deeper.

Highlight The Good Stuff

January 4, 2009Comments Off on Highlight The Good Stuff

Noise scares people away.

As your community grows, members will leave because of the noise. It’s a good case against indefinite growth.

A solution is to highlight and amplify the good stuff (the signal).

Round-up the best posts and discussions of the day. Identify the most important decisions to be made. State the single most important thing a member can do for your community that day.

Make it simple for time-stricken members to feel like members without committing an ever-increasing amount of time each day.

Bigger Is Bad

January 3, 2009Comments Off on Bigger Is Bad

Deliberately break your community into as many groups as possible.

If Christopher Allen is right (I’m sure he is), your community will become less fun as you grow. Every member will need to spend more energy to be a member. It’s not sustainable.

Bigger groups are intimidating to newcomers and more exhausting for regulars. Participation becomes a chore. Members will leave and activity dies down.

As your community grows, it needs to develop into hundreds of smaller groups. Members can engage in as many groups as they handle.

Here are some ideas to do this:

  • Issues. If a single issue gets a big response, ask the top provocateurs to form a group about it.
  • Reviwers/Testers. Who wants to review or test your client’s products/services?
  • Events. Who from your community is attending the same upcoming event? Form an event group for them.
  • Geography. Do you have 5 members from Miami? Introduce them to each other.
  • Wise Men. Which members miss the early days? Let them keep going.
  • Newbies. Who has just joined? Introduce them to each other.
  • Task Force. Who wants to fix a problem?
  • Super participators. Invite those with the time to join a super-participators group.
  • Elite Groups. I love these, anyone can be in one. Find what makes your members special and develop an elite group for them.

Imagine your community as a conference hall with a dozens of small groups (5 – 10 people) talking to each other.

Communities Without Websites

January 2, 2009Comments Off on Communities Without Websites

You don’t need a website to have a community. You just need a group of people who feel they are in a community.

Most communities don't have a central website. Even the online community community (not a typo) doesn't.

It's cheaper if you don't and you can launch your community today.

Invite your current customers to talk to each other online. Write some guidelines for doing it well and coach them where needed. Give them plenty to of topics to talk about.

Now make it dead simple to find other customers to talk with.

Create a list of the top members of your online community and where they can find them. This can replace your testimonial page. If you're a small business, add a few top community bloggers to the purchase receipt or invoice.

Watch Out For Vultures Like Me

January 1, 2009Comments Off on Watch Out For Vultures Like Me

Finding your abandoned online community makes my day.

I’m your competitor. I noticed you ran a social media (online community) campaign for 6 months, but then you stopped.

But your community is still there. Those blog comments, that user generated content, those member profiles, they’re still there. Rather than waste your efforts, I’m going to give your community a new home…at my community.

I’m going to message your most popular members. I’m going to ask them to invite their community friends to join my community. I’m going to tempt them with opportunities to try out my clients products or other exclusives. I’m going to offer your members senior positions and lots of responsibility at my community. I might even look at your community’s most successful topics/posts and port those ideas across too.

Thanks for bringing so many great members together for me.


January 1, 2009Comments Off on Communities

I think we could make a great resolution for the new year.

It's much simpler than jogging.

Lets call online communities just communities.

Wouldn't that eliminate so many distractions?

Tiger Island

December 31, 2008Comments Off on Tiger Island

Tiger Island isn’t really called Tiger Island, it’s called Rapota. It’s one of the Cook Islands. It was named Tiger Island by the producers of Shipwrecked, a UK reality show.

14 months after the 2007 show ended, a former contestant remarked  “At heart, I’m definitely a 'Tiger' for life”.

That’s remarkable. In a few weeks the Shipwrecked producers created a new nationality with no more than a name, a place, a flag, a few pendants and a rival.

Symbols matter. And they don’t just happen. You create them.

There are times to be passive, to let your community develop and see what happens. This isn’t one of them. This is a time to introduce a flag, introduce your common symbols, carefully decide a name and define your rivals.

This isn’t a democratic process. You can’t let people vote on a flag, it’s too important. 49% of voters wont line up behind symbols they didn’t choose.

The Best Article About Online Communities

December 30, 2008Comments Off on The Best Article About Online Communities

If you’re eager to build online communities, the best article you can read is Sense of Community by McMillan and Chavis. This article holds more useful advice (and a great practical framework) for developing an online community than any other.

It was written in 1986. Which means, unlike the post-twitter articles, it gets better every year.

If you’re lazy, here’s an easy-reading version.

Businesses That Desperately Need Online Communities

December 30, 2008Comments Off on Businesses That Desperately Need Online Communities

If your product is better when shared, you should really have an online community.

University would be terrible if you experienced it alone. Loners usually drop-out. UK students have a 30% drop-out rate. That’s a huge cost to Universities, yet not one has anyone reaching out to the hundreds of informal groups that develop at University and helping them to grow, develop and include as many members as possible.

Even a 1% reduction in drop-outs would save £30k. It’s madness.

There are hundreds of other guilty culprits. Take gyms whose members don’t feel part of a group. Why are so few doing what Ezekiel does brilliantly? And why don’t estate agents connect tenants in the same building/area together?

But where there’s a problem, there’s a recession-beating opportunity. There’s an opportunity to build communities for these organisations and take a cut of the savings.

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