You’re angry. You make an angry post and go to bed. The next day, the post is gone. You have a message from the moderator. Your post was in violation of the terms and conditions, be sure not to do it again.
That moderator, should be fired.
Lets try another scenario. The next day the post is still there. You have a message from the moderator. “why do you feel that way…?” “how can we make this better for you?” …"have you spoken to FrankSmith07 about this directly?"…”let me know if you want the post removed, it might seem very aggressive”,
Which response resolves the situation? Which response makes you feel you were listened that? Which response keeps you as an active member of a community and less likely to make the negative post again?
People do things for a reason. Your job isn’t to remove the symptom, but identify the reason. Get behind the problem and resolve it.
Soon street-wise (real world) community professionals will realize they can be far more effective if the use the internet.
Then they will come after our jobs.
Then we can go after their jobs.
…or live together peacefully, whatever works for you.
Sense of purpose is misunderstood.
You don’t set the sense of purpose for your community, you provide the platform that epitomises it.
The distinction is important. It’s the difference between “we want you to care about our new travel laptop range” and “what would be your dream travel laptop?”.
A community's sense of purposes emerges from the ground up, not the top down. Your job is to get as many people as possible involved in crafting it.
If you’re disappointed with most books about communities, I recommend you try these. By far, I’ve learnt more from these than any book dedicated solely to communities.
Robert’s book explains how influence works. He explains 6 tactics, the importance of social proof and the means by which the actions of one person affect another. For communities, this book is essential reading. If you want to build a community
I recommended this before. It’s a military read but the application is you approach most community projects as an outsider. To win you need the insiders (often distinct groups) to like and trust you. That’s not easy, this book explains how to approach from an outsider and create a new inside.
You need to know how to build a community for the future. Jeff’s book explains what you need to do today, for your community to thrive tomorrow.
The workplace is changing. You need to use the right side of your brain. Specifically, the future needs people who know design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. If you want to design and grow a community, these abilities are vital.
In an online world rampant with clutter, Made to Stick is the best book about making your message to people stand out. Follow their SUCCES formula. Simple, Unexpected, Concrete (true), Credible, Emotional and tells a Story. It will explain how to make your communications and the purpose of your community stick amongst all members.
Seth explains the tactics from turning a stranger into a member of your community. The secret is to offer a self-interest benefit at each level, it's still Seth's best book.
Bonus eBook: Bas De Baar: Project Shrink
Bas De Baar’s book about project shrink notes, at the end of the day, projects are all about humans. His book is filled with brilliant advice about working with people online and offline. Bas goes deep into the human psyche and extracts some excellent insights.
Which alternative books have helped you grow online communities?
Grow your community by converting your current customers. Include a free written invite to your community with every product purchase.
Include it in your reply to every customer complaint. Include to every question asked. Include it with your business card. Include it at any moment someone has committed to you.
If someone purchases more than one product, or spends more than $20, include an invite for a friend too.
It’s a thoughtful bonus, and it’s free.
Building a community for your street was too easy. So build a community for your city instead. Most councils and governments fail spectacuarly at this, but you're going to succeed.
Like creating an online community for your street, you still need to find people who share your passion. Identify and begin building relationships with people from different areas, streets, businesses, political and community groups. Have a group of 10 people who you feel comfortable asking for help. In most cities, your friendship group should exceed this.
Now register your city on Ning. Bring your allies to create discussions on big issues, start groups for their areas/companies/groups ask them to bring their people in to the community.
Or, if you want a shortcut, talk about them. Talk about the streets people live in, then tell people who live on their street. Talk about a local coffee shop, then tell a member of staff. Talk about the work of a community group, and call the group to tell them they’re being talked about. Mix online forums with traditional offline communications. Ask these business to participate.
The key here is groups. Don't let one small group from one area dominate your community. Let them dominate their area – nothing more, nothing less. Your community is the sum of each of these groups.
What next? Challenge the newspaper. Interview key members of your city for your community. Better, get members to interview each other for their community groups. Go hyper-local. Call companies who send you junk mail, and sell them advertising opportunities on your community.
Get the local council involved. Create an “Ask my rep” thread. Demand the council spends an hour a week answering questions from your members. Invite their political rivals to also answer these questions. Sign sponsors for these debates, and your top community columnists.
Celebrate your community’s achievements over the traditional way of doing things. Write your shared history together. Arrange meetings for community members. In no time you should have a high number of active city members.
If you get the concept of your community wrong, you’re doomed. This is beyond design and functionality, it’s the concept of what your community will be. Below are 12 more common mistakes.
- Don’t offer a unique environment. What makes your community impossible to copy? How are you using your resources to change a condition and create a unique environment? Why can’t this environment be replicated anywhere else.
- Dictate your community’s mission statement. Did you set your community’s mission before speaking to your audience? Bad move. Your community’s mission comes from your members.
- Forget about the viral feedback loop. Where is the viral feedback loop? Why will members invite friends, who invite friends, who invite friends? What is the benefit to each additional person?
- Fail to make to befriend potential members before you launch. Who are you going to tell once you launch a community? If you haven’t made friends in the community first, don’t launch it. If you can’t start conversations with your target audience, don’t start a community.
- Pick a tool that your members don’t like. Don’t use the latest web tools because you want to. Thousands of communities thrive on simple, basic forums. Find the simplest tools available, then force yourself to justify any additions.
- Make it difficult to form groups. Fail to accommodate people forming groups from themselves. Don’t allow, support and encourage groups to emerge.
- Use a Community Tab. Hide your community behind it’s own tab. Either give the community it’s own URL or don’t have one. A tab is insulting to the community you serve.
- Make a big announcement. Once you make that big public announcement, you have expectations. Expectations to do things the way you claim regardless of any feedback you receive. Don’t make a big public announcement.
- Ignore the real motivations. Don’t ignore the basic motivations and desires of people. Plan ways for members to find fame, money and power amongst the people whom they consider peers.
- Don’t plan the first 10 people. Getting your first 10 engaged members is vital. You should plan where they are, how to reach them. Then plan how to go from 10 to 100.
- Use fixed objectives and measurements. Don’t set fixed objectives before you start your community. Take an emergent approach. Develop your objectives and measurements from the community. Qualitative outcomes are more important than quantitative metrics.
- Leave no-one in charge. Who wakes up worrying about your community every morning? Who is representing you to them and them to you? Who is your expert at making people feel a part of something special. Make sure it’s someone great.
How many of these mistakes do you make?
Personality isn’t accidental. You deliberately decide which personality your community will have.
Helpful and nice is great, but boring. You shouldn’t decide on this personality by default. 4Chan isn’t helpful or nice. But they’re successful. Fiercely competitive is rough, but productive. Sarcastic is addictive, but tiresome. 'Know-it-all’ is vocal, but don’t expect much to happen.
You cultivate the personality of your community with every decision you make. This includes which members you invite, what content you encourage, which contributions you recognise, what events you run. These are all personality decisions. Decisions you need to get right or your community is doomed.
You can’t change the personality of your audience. All you can do (all you should do) is be sure the personality of your community precisely matches the audience. Right down to the wording. This sounds easier than it is. It takes just one misplaced smiley to destroy all your work.
Metrics are easy to measure. You can measure avg. time on site. You can measure the number of members. You can measure inbound links. You can even measure number of posts per member.
And if this is what you're measuring, this is what you will get. But it doesn't mean anything. Any rush to a metric quantity is at the expense of a real life quality.
My advice, don't be rigid with measurements. Measure the outcomes of the community. What has changed? What's different now? Who has benefited? Leave room to measure amazing things.
Angela Connor’s community saved a member from eviction. They are a close group. Upon hearing a friend was in trouble they pooled their money and stopped her from being eviected.
That was never part of the plan.
It certainly wasn't in Angela's job description. At no point in her job interview, her brief, her proposal or strategy was there a line that read "stop members from being evicted".
But now, one of Angela's proudest achievements (and certainly her community's finest moment) isn't something most companies would bother to measure.
Why don't you leave Facebook if you hate the new design? Why do you stay in communities through some really bad times? Here are 7 possible explanations.
- My friends are here. People don’t leave your community because their friends are there. To move, they would need to persuade all their friends to move. That’s too hard, so people stay (ala. Facebook).
- All my data is here. If you’ve uploaded documents, pictures and other data, you’re likely to stay in your community.
- People know me here. Less about friendships, but more about recognition. If people recognise your name, know what to expect from you. You’re not going anywhere soon.
- I have power here. Do you have special privileges in your online community? Moderation powers? Run a group?
- I have a mission here. They have a purpose or mission on the community. They’re working towards something. What’s their project on the community?
- I’ve customised my profile. Have they customised their profile? Avatar? Signature? Surprisingly, people that have done this are less likely to leave.
- I’ve contributed a lot here. Have you invested a lot in the community? Invited new members? Made 500 posts? Co-written an eBook with other members?
If your members don't feel any of these then they're not going to persuade themselves to stay. They're already looking for excuses to leave.
This is an extremely simple way to grow your community and demonstrate it’s benefits to your business.
Ask members to submit their best ideas for new products or services they want changed. Then tell them, if any members can get enough people to join the community and show their support for their product/service idea, your company will use the idea.
Encourage this by providing the restraints to what’s feasibly possible and assigning staff mentors to develop the best concepts.
This shows support to your community, nets you a lot of new participating members and hopefully some great market research.