How To Build The First Online Community Of It’s Kind

October 23, 2008Comments Off on How To Build The First Online Community Of It’s Kind

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 Bad Community Building Tool

October 23, 2008Comments Off on A Bad Community Building Tool

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.

How To Go From 10 To 20 Members

October 22, 2008Comments Off on How To Go From 10 To 20 Members

Ask each of your 10 helpers to find someone they think will love the community to test it out. They report their feedback, and you can improve your community.

You can even invite these 10 people to become the official tester group. They get to test out any new tweaks to the community interface before anyone else. Why not even give them the final say?

A Secret To Get Your First 10 Members

October 21, 2008Comments Off on A Secret To Get Your First 10 Members

Getting the first 10 members is tough. Many just don't stick around long enough. Sometimes they don't put as much effort in as you hoped. There is a solution to this.

Don't ask 10 people to join your community.

Invite 10 people to help run your online community.

It sparks more interest and brings them together. They are more likely to invite their friends, and it's less work for you.

Membership Numbers Are The New License Plates

October 21, 2008Comments Off on Membership Numbers Are The New License Plates


In my last community, one member paid another for their membership number. It was a cool number, 007.

The number only appeared at the end of their profile URL. They had to swap profile details to make this work.

You can really have some fun with membership numbers. They're fast becoming the new license plates. People that care about them, care a lot. Here are a few ideas:

  • Personalised Numbers. Let people pay to have "ROYROCKS" instead of 175, or "McLovin" instead of 2242.
  • Generate Early Registrations. If you're about to launch a new website, make a big deal about the membership numbers. Let these member customise their profiles, offer special avatars or signatures. They will try to register as soon as possible.
  • Member Pass-along. Give your top member number 1. Let her select who will be number 2. Then number 2 decides who gets to be number 3, and so on. Up to 100.
  • Don't Give People A Number Until They've Proved Themselves. Don't give new members a number until they have been participating for 21 days or more. Then let the high-ranked numbers select which number they get.
  • Rotating numbers. Be fair and give everyone a chance to shine in the top 50. Feature these profiles for the month.
  • Democratic Voting. Every 6 months let people vote for who gets the top numbers.
  • Offer Popular/Unique Numbers As Rewards. e.g. 007. 666. 999. 1337. 12345, 55378008.
  • Strip Inactive Members Of Low Numbers. If those with numbers in the top 100 aren't participating, strip them of the number.
  • Refer To Low-Numbered Members for Advice. Use the numbers 1 – 10 as an advisory council on the community.

I'm sure there are thousands more brilliant ideas about using membership numbers when building an online community. What are your experience about member numbers?

Ask Your Members What They Think About Each Other

October 20, 2008Comments Off on Ask Your Members What They Think About Each Other

The success of this idea amazed me. A popular gaming website once wrote to it’s 15 most prominent members. Each member was asked to write a few lines about what they thought of the other 14 prominent people.

They enjoyed doing it, and it made for great reading by the rest of the community.

Everyone wanted to be in the sequel.

10 Advantages Big Companies Have When Building Online Communities

October 20, 2008Comments Off on 10 Advantages Big Companies Have When Building Online Communities

Lets go big today. If you have a $40,000 budget and your competitor has a $4,000 budget. What advantages do you have when it comes to building an online community? To put simply, what will get you for your extra resources and money?

    1. Hire the Best. You can afford the people with the most experience. This means less time wasted on mistakes and a much greater chance of success.
    2. Faster Growth . You have more of the builder’s time, or more than one builder. This means more time for research, more personalised e-mails and more people joining the community at the early stages. This pay dividends for the rest of the project. You can also give builders a list of thousands of customers they can approach. This helps.
    3. Instant Eager Helpers. More builders/time mean more conversations. If you ever have any request, or product trials or work to delegate to the community, the builders should know the right people for the job.
    4. More Initiatives to Grow the Community. You should expect more initiatives a week designed at growing your community.
    5. Tighter Community. Your community should be closer to one another. You should expect some real-life meetings to have taken place between members. Perhaps sponsored by you.
    6. Big Characters. The community builders should be able to attract the most prominent people in your industry to join, and participate more.
    7. Sub Communities. Your community builder(s) should be able to foster sub-communities and groups with a specific focus and motivation. These sub communities might will be very focused, powerful and extremely more efficient at handling certain takes.
    8. More PR. A spot of PR probably wont go amiss with that size budget.
    9. Big To Huge. You can example that when the time comes, the resources you have should really be able to ramp the community into overdrive. Perhaps add a link on all outgoing e-mails? Or tell customer service teams to refer people to the community for extra help.
    10. Best Reputation. From having the man-hours to do everything right, your company should develop a reputation, like Dell, of ‘getting’ social media. Once you get it, you should be invited to industry events and interviewed by some top bloggers.

Do you have more? Add them.

Say Goodbye To Fading Members

October 19, 2008Comments Off on Say Goodbye To Fading Members

New commitments will often cause your members to fade away from the community.

Don’t let that happen.

Have a proper farewell to members that are leaving. Encourage people to let you know when they don’t have time to participate anymore. Create a farewell post for them. People can add their best memories of that person.

Make a tradition of doing it. It tightens the community and encourages people to build up relationships during their time. After all, nobody wants an empty post.

When To Work

October 19, 2008Comments Off on When To Work

If you’re building a community for sports fans, you would be crazy to take the weekends off. It’s when the games take place. It’s when you should be working your hardest.

You should be organising competitions that only last for a few minutes. Or encouraging WHRN (what’s happening right now) discussions. You should be inviting predictions and keeping score. You should be issuing 48 hour challenges for members to invite their friends and participate.

Your job is to make sure your community has a great weekend.

If people choose to spend their leisure time in your community. You have to be working hardest during their leisure time. Everything else is prep.

At least you get to sleep in.

Something To Tell Clients About Online Communities

October 18, 2008Comments Off on Something To Tell Clients About Online Communities

Here are a few points worth making to a client. Adapt and edit it however you like.

You can create an online community in less than an hour. Any of your employees can. It doesn't require any difficult technical knowledge. Technology isn't the challenge anymore, it gets easier every day.

Relationships have never been harder. Especially ones that benefit you. Persuading people to join, motivating them to participate and fostering deep relationships is the difference between success and failure. If you're like most people, you don't know where to begin.

Budget more for building relationships than the interface. It's less risky and more successful. Don't spend one big sum on the interface. Spend smaller amounts developing it as the popularity grows. This even rewards your members, they will appreciate you for it.

Good luck.

Celebrate every week

October 18, 2008Comments Off on Celebrate every week

If your community is struggling, tell the members. It might bond them together.

You can celebrate every week your community still exists. You can rally people to survive. You can take emergency actions to keep the community going.

In extreme times, you can have a lot of fun. You might still fail, but you will fail having fun. Remember to reward the loyal

Thinking 3 Moves Ahead

October 17, 2008Comments Off on Thinking 3 Moves Ahead

You can get one person to join your community quite easily. Just ask them nicely. But can you motivate them to invite their friends? Who invite their friends? That’s thinking 3 moves ahead, every community builder should be doing it.

Are you thinking 3 moves when building your online community? What about your marketing or advertising strategy?

Here’s an example:

A customer buying your product is 1 move ahead. Giving that customer an extra copy to give away in a competition is two moves ahead. The winner of that competition telling their friends is 3 moves ahead.

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