Help your members grow their own followings.
When a member emerges from the pack, drop him an e-mail. Congratulate them on being a top member and offer advice they can use to build their following.
If it works, they'll be working hard to build their own mini-community. Wouldn't it be great to have 100 mini-community builders in your community?
Statistically speaking, you’re probably going to fail.
I know, it’s gloomy stuff.
If you’ve tried everything and you’re not getting anywhere, it’s time to ask for help. Find 15 influential people and ask for their expert advice.
Most people are nice. If you ask them for advice they’ll give you some. They might even offer to help.
Hate is a short-cut to building an online community.
Arguments are easy to get sucked in to and hard to walk away from. If your online community is filled with arguments, you’re going to get people joining quickly and visiting often. It’s addictive.
But you attract the lowest common denominator of people. You attract people that don’t want to achieve anything. You attract people that love arguing.
Have you seen the “We hate [celeb/group name]” groups? They’re popular, but they never get much done.
A hate-filled online community is a live grenade. They will always be looking for people to hate. Sooner or later, they’ll target you or someone smart enough to report your online community to your ISP.
Then it’s game over.
Every night, from 4am to 6am, a hosting bug messed up our iGUK website. The format went crazy and precisely 32 anonymous users were erroneously reported online. It become a running joke, our website had ghosts! Whenever anything went wrong, website or with the company, the ghosts took the blame.
I started that joke, which leads me to believe that you can start in-jokes for your community. If not directly, then you can increase the odds something will become an in-joke. Here are a few ideas I’ve seen work in my community and elsewhere.
- Steal, Steal, Steal. Find a community you love, look at a few of the in-jokes and colloquialisms, and adapt them for your own community.
- Name actions after people. Pick on people that can take it. What are they known for? What have they done? Can you name it after them?
- Refer to a funny comment/incident from one thread in another. Perhaps the only practical advice in this post. If something’s funny in one thread, refer to it in another, and another. If it catches, you’re in.
- Frequently Recite Strange Phrases. Did someone say something that sounds a little odd. Can you repeat it more often and in nonsensical ways?
- Create ACRONYMS. Now no-one will have a clue what you’re talking about…unless they do.
- Mimic Someone’s Writing Style. Does someone have an annoying habit of misusing capital letters and ending bullet points with an unnecessary .’s ? Repeat.It.Often.
- Mis-Apply Topical Terms. Pick something quite relevant, and apply it in strange and bizarre ways. Has your community got any Mavericks? Can you see the moon from your house? What about bailouts?
- Quotes of the Month. Create a quotes of the week thread. Let people add their funniest quotes. Let people steal and recycle them as they see fit.
- Turn Big Mistakes Into Big Jokes. Skip this one if it was YOUR mistake. What’s the most famous blunder in your community? Do you have your own community-gate? How about an
- Never Forget Terrible Excuses. I don’t know why, but terrible excuses about anything make for great in-jokes.
- Refer to Real Life Meetings. Things tend to happen in real-life meetings that are endlessly repeated. Who got lost? Who forgot to tip? Who tripped over?
- Top 10 In-Jokes List. Yes, well, it works.
- Do Something Random. Sometimes I eat brown bread.
Here’s a good list of in-jokes at MetaFilter. What in-jokes does your or your community have? Did you help start them?
- Average time on site.
- How many members are actively participating once a week.
- Members meeting new people who can help them.
- Whether the debates are positive/constructive or negative/destructive.
- You’re doing less work than last month.
- You have more super-members.
- More members are volunteering to help you out.
- The ideas and feedback the community is generating.
- Whether employees have embraced the community.
- How many of the discussions are generated by you, and how many by the community.
- The community is recruiting new members themselves.
- How many people you approach join the community.
- Your business is committing to serving its community.
- Members feel they are part of your business.
- Is the community growing or shrinking?
- Offline events and real-world meetings.
- Technical problems.
- Are you closer to quitting?
What doesn’t matter?
- Number of members.
- How many ads are clicked.
- Page views.
- Does it look good?
- PR coverage.
- The number of links you’ve received.
- Income -vs- Expenditure
- Invites to conferences.
Maybe, it depends.
It depends if you’ve established yourself as an authority beforehand, or you’ve got the respect of those who have.
It depends if you’ve got 5 to 10 community builders to help you out, or a small legion of volunteers.
It depends if you can offer huge prizes for a competition, or reward each and every new member.
It depends if your audience is extremely welcoming to mail-merge, or are predisposed to invite all their friends.
It depends if you’re only interested in numbers, or have a big list of customers who have expressed an interest.
To adapt an old saying, you can build an online community well, fast or cheap. Pick two.
If you want someone to join an online community, try talking about them. People are staggeringly self-interested.
If you want a group of people to join your online community, talk about the individuals within the group.
If I wanted employees of Edelman to join my community, I would start debates about who my members most admired at the organisation. Who’s the most overrated Edelman employee. Who would be the biggest loss to Edelman. Maybe rate Edelman’s prominent bloggers out of 10.
It’s good content (content about people usually is) and it’s likely to be passed around the offices.
The stronger the emotional pull, the easier it is to overcome the joining barriers.
It’s basic customer service.
If you’re building an online community, handling problems and helping people, then make your phone number available.
You will probably solve problems quicker and your community will appreciate someone they can call.
Mine is 646-241-1536 (US)
What’s your big play this week?
What’s the fun tactic you’re using to grow your numbers? You should execute one every week. You can theme the weeks, set the ideas in advance, even have registration pages.
All your other work is housecleaning, you plays are the important stuff. Try to execute one per week. It’s fun for you and your community. It shows commitment and builds relationships between members.
If just one idea per month succeeds as you hope, you will never have to worry about membership numbers again.
Building the first online community of it’s kind is tough.
You have to overcome resistance to new technology and distrust of people online. You have to work much harder to demonstrate the benefits of being a member of an online community. You might have to convert 3 hour per week internet users to 6 hours a week.
It’s tough work, but it can be done. Here are some ideas that might help.
- Build An Offline Community First. Focus on connecting people offline first. Perhaps introduce regional customers to each other. Build up regional groups that can meet often. Then stress the benefits of the internet for connecting them to each other.
- Invite People Who Have Shown An Interest. People who have written to customer service, trade magazines participated in related online forums are great people to invite. They care. Invite them first.
- Ask Your Key Members For Advice On Building The Interface. Get popular people involved before you begin building the online community. Be sure they write the guide about signing up and the benefits.
- Use One Key Event To Get People To Join The Community. Use one major event or opportunity to get people to join. Like receiving a free copy of film if you join the online community first. Or a major debate with a popular figure only on your community.
- Champion Stories Of Your Member’s Online Achievements To Offline Customers. Celebrate the achievements of your online champions. Make sure your offline users hear about them often. Success stories work wonders.
- Train And Recruit ‘Just-Like-You’ Experts. You, big brains, are cursed with too much knowledge. Train up some people from your community to teach and assist others. Find a way to reward them.
- Use The Easiest Technology Possible. Strip out every possible feature which doesn’t absolutely have to be there at the launch. If most of your target members are on Facebook, begin with a Facebook group. Then upgrade to your own website/forum/socialnetwork once you’ve got a tight group.
- Panic Buttons. Have a big button people can click for help at any stage with technology. They click the button, enter their phone number/convenient time and you or one of your helpers give them a call as soon as possible.
It’s harder to build an eco-system than join one. It’s harder to build a community for steelworkers than another Apple-fans community. But it’s not impossible. Work harder, find smart ways to overcome the technology hurdle and don’t let any member slip away.
A blog is a brilliant tool to spread ideas, but it’s not usually the best tool to build an online community.
A blog doesn’t allow multi-way relationships between members. It’s usually two-way, you and the member talking to each other. You via the content, the member via the comments.
A blog doesn’t show who’s friends with who. It doesn’t allow for an unwritten culture to really develop. It’s not easy for two members to have a side chat.
Worst of all, it’s all about you. If you stop blogging, the community dies. That’s no good at all.
By all means have a blog for your community, but keep it as part of something bigger. Perhaps the blog is the rallying point, like a newsletter.
A great community will inspire members to write their own brilliant blogs.