With few exceptions, most campaigns to save a TV show fail. Rightly so. Viewing figures just don't lie, if a show isn't making a network enough money, it's gone. My favourite, Angel, had 4 million viewers in the USA alone when it was cancelled.
Many of these 4 million fans were furious. They mobilized themselves. They launched letter-writing campaigns, online petitions, blood and food drives, advertised in trade magazines and attempted to convince other networks to buy the show.
What a waste of time.
Today fans of cult shows can save their shows. The key is to stop trying to convince television executives, and start trying to convince the producers of show.
Negotiate a rate with the producers say $70m for a series or $10m for a 2 hour special. Now you just needs a means of collecting the money. If you don't reach the limit by a set date, everyone gets a refund.
How about £20 to watch the series as it's released (this gets you the DVD of course)? For £40 you also get a big dollop of merchandise? £400 gets you a spot as an extra on the show (yes, you get to meet the cast). £2000 gets you a speaking role. That's a quirky birthday present. If just 1 in 4 fans of this show's worldwide audience are happy to chip in, you should more than have enough to keep the show going.
Sprinkle in a little advertising revenue, and anything else you can make from merchandise, live events, behind the scenes etc and we're starting to make some headway. Don't convince the television execs, become them. Imagine how much the producers might enjoy making a show free from the mainstream pressures of television? It's exciting stuff.
Now, here's my favourite twist; imagine the power the fans suddenly have on the show. Jar-Jar Bink-like characters can be nixed in the bud before even reaching the screen. You can take this concept much, much, deeper. Fans can decide upon plot lines or opportunities, maybe even decide how much the stars should get paid?
These cult shows are the ones that can make the real money. Cult shows are the ones that fans will determinably watch, no matter what hoops they must jump through to do it.
If you want to learn how to build online communities. I can't think of a better place to start. Pick your favourite TV show and try to bring it back. Perhaps just a Christmas special. It's a cause, with an established audience and a measurable goal. You probably wont succeed, but what a way to learn.
Most online communities want a few members to contribute their time. So they put up a post asking for volunteers. They’re usually lucky to get any dedicated members.
Not many people want to do a job that the majority can’t be bothered to do. Fewer will take pride in doing it well.
Where is the appreciation and respect? Don’t invite contributors, headhunt them. Approach people you think are perfect for the positions, and tell them so.
Don’t try to build a community all by yourself.
It’s more work than any sane community builder should try to take on. Are you really going to produce every scrap of content yourself? Recruit and welcome every new member? Resolve every dispute?
Don’t try, it’s crazy.
Instead you need to find people who will enjoy doing this work. This means it’s your job to make this work enjoyable, and seek out the people who will enjoy it.
This isn’t the same enjoyment as watching a film. It’s something else. It’s the same joy of volunteering for charity, or contributing your ideas for free and just helping out someone else. This is the same joy that comes from deep human needs and desires, like being wanted, having power and feeling appreciated.
To reduce your work load, make your work enjoyable to others. Just don’t try any trickery, no-one’s going to paint your fences for you.
I have a new word, powerizing. It’s like unionising, only it sounds better. Adding to Seth’s piece today. Swing and independent voters should powerize themselves.
If you’re a swing voter or independent voter, then you absolutely must find every other swing or independent voter you know and build an online community. Think of the power. You’re in the 10% that will decide the election.
You could sell advertising to candidates and arrange your own events. You have the candidates at your mercy. If you think this through, you can do it for your local elections, anything that you have a democratic vote for.
You probably wont get anything as good as this though. Thank heavens for PMQ.
Stick with this second one, it’s brilliant.
You have to look at the community from it’s member’s side. Take your organisation out of it, and answer “why would people join this community?”.
The purpose of your online community should fit into one of these 4 categories.
Leisure: Some people spend their leisure time in online communities. People come together, talk about games, sports, TV, music and have fun doing it.
Relationships: The world is a lonely place, it’s hard to approach a strangers. You might try to find fellow recovering alcoholics, expand your business network or be seeking true love.
Fix Something: Something isn’t right in the world and you want to fix it. Maybe the environment is going to hell, your politician is doing a bad job, or Microsoft Vista isn’t as good as it needs to be.
Self-Improvement: You want to improve your life. Perhaps be better at your job or expand your reputation? Maybe it’s to save time or seek help in finding the perfect pair of shoes?
Perhaps the very best communities can fit into all four. However, if your community doesn’t fit into one of these, it’s going to be much harder to build.
The products are more fun when shared.
It’s harder to build an online community for corner shops, television suppliers or interior designers.
I hope this means a community builder also needs to be a consultant who encourages clients to turn their products into something sociable.
I heard about Cramster yesterday. The online study group site is shockingly successful, and has just received $3m in capital to expand. Here are five great ideas you can tinker with to boost your online community
- Are you a parent? Sign up your son or daughter: This is very clever, how can you get friends to sign up their buddies for them?
- Karma Points: Those that help answer a question are rewarded for Karma points which can be redeemed with gifts and rewards. Tougher questions offer greater Karma points. Having more points for tougher questions is a good idea.
- A Score Board. Keeping score of a member’s post count often encourages spam. Keeping score of how much you’ve helped someone else, is genius.
- Online Study Pals: Find people that have helped you before, and invite them to be part of your study network. Genius.
- Facebook App. Cramster offers one of the best Facebook widgets I’ve ever seen, and perfectly targeted at to it’s audience.
It’s nearly always worthwhile spending a few minutes to join a community and find out what makes it tick.
The members of most communities are polyamorous. This means your community’s best members are also in your biggest rival’s community.
You begin fighting for a greater share of the audience’s time, rather than a greater share of the audience. This has 3 interesting implications.
1) Not all time slots are equal. Would you rather have a visitor at 7.30m or 11am? Which is more valuable?
2) Analysing time-slots. Knowing how to analyse which time-slots are the peak-slots for your community is vital.
3) Attack time-slots like market segments. If different time slots have different value, then attacking the important time slots can be important. Imagine creating discussions, hosting events or releasing information at 7.30pm to 8.45pm.
Attacking time slots wont work for everyone, but having an engaged member at a peak time is far better than a passive member at a fleeting hour.
An easy way to bond a community together is to send them to war.
Not so much the gory guns and killing kind, but a war of pride. If your online community has a big rival community, challenge them to a contest. It can be a quiz, a content creation contest, a battle of skills – just keep it relevant to your community.
Perhaps find some respected independent judges to rate who wins. This should rally your community together, and attract members from your rival.
Have fun with it. The winner gets to brag, the loser demands a rematch.
I just wonder if it might be impossible to buy an online community. Imagine the hurdles:
- Deciding what to buy: Do you buy the website? Rights to the Facebook Group? The e-mail list of members? The forum profiles of the community manager? The Ning group?
- Lack of ownership and control. These aren’t employees. The community might suddenly decide to stop talking, or worse, fragment/implode. Imagine if a popular community member receives an offer from your competitors to take a big chunk to them. Ouch.
- The community doesn’t want to be sold: I’ve seen a fair few communities not appreciating the idea of being sold. They have done all the hard work, why aren’t they being rewarded?
- Who are you buying the community from? Are you buying it from a webmaster who set up a website and might not even be aware of how popular his forums are? Are you buying it from the people with the most visibility? Are you buying it from somewhere in the right position to sell it? If so, what happens when that person then hands the community over and walks away from it?
- There are no benefits to buying an online community. If you want to advertise to this community, then pay for adverts. If you’re going to spam them, they’re going to disappear. IF you’re going to make radical changes, they will leave. If you’re hoping to engage them more in your product, why aren’t they engaged already?
If you can’t build one, it really isn’t practical to buy one. The money could be better spent becoming a prominent member of that community and orientating your business to attracting it’s members.
If you absolutely feel the need of some sort of control, then place a value on the community. Divide that value by about 12 and use that as a monthly fee to pay those you think have ownership of the community (it might be more than just the webmasters). These are wages to help you become the owner of the community.
If it’s clearly not working after 3 months you can save 75% of your money.
If you’re trying to reach someone important, it might help to create a welcoming page just for them. Roll out the red carpet. You can fill it with references to previous conversations or articles they have written, links to the most important information they need and you can write it in a tone and style you know they will prefer.
Whether you’re trying to convince a key influencer to join your community, a journalist to write about your company or someone to hire you, there is no reason why you can’t do this. It’s all free.
Research your prospect, create the page, and hyperlink the link on the e-mail or press release back to the page just for them.
Even better, you can track if they visit the page and how/if they progress through your website. I’m willing to bet that the extra effort will pay off.
I loved the concept of Dell’s Digital Nomads site recently. So did others, I was thrilled when Bruce commented on my blog a fortnight ago.
However, given the size and scale of Dell, I’m really disappointed by how dry the content is. Not to mention the lack of interaction between members. Shouldn’t we be sharing ideas and responding to each other’s questions on here?
So I wrote down a few ideas to improve Digital Nomads, some of it is about content, some of it is about direction. If you have more, add them in the comments and I will include them in the list.
- Advice to Non-nomads. The Digital Nomads seems, largely, an aspirational group. More people want to become nomads than are currently nomads. So can we create a 101 outlining real, practical, steps to become a digital nomad?
- Badge of Honour: The Digital Nomads badge isn’t getting used much. I think that’s because it’s free. So can we make it a badge of honour? Lets people submit their digital nomad stories, and if approved (I suspect most of them will be – it’s extra content) then create a Digital Nomad badge (with their name on) which they can proudly display on this blog. This should mean the best digital nomads are encouraging others to join the group.
- List of the top Digital Nomads. Lists are fun, they keep people entertained. Maybe combine this with the first idea – I bet everyone wants to be on the approved Digital Nomad group right? Maybe the top Digital Nomads in the UK, or the 10 Digital Nomads who spend the least time at home. It wont be precise, but it will be great reading.
- Best Digital Nomad Pictures. On a beach? In a Bar? Blogging on top of a mountain? Lets get the wackiest and best Digital Nomad pictures.
- Digital Nomad Tracker. Break out the Google Maps, let people share where they are right now. However use an optional GPS system, where people can log on and reveal where they are in the world. Optional of course. Maybe it will let some Digital Nomads meet up in passing.
- Digital Nomad Packages and Discounts. Let the experts agree on the best Digital Nomad gear – then negotiate discounts for Digital Nomad members.
- More Useful Content. I want to know which trains have Wifi, how much coffee should I buy to justify working in a café for 6 hours, what are the most picturesque locations in the world to work from? Will my laptop get overwhelmed by grains of sand if I work on a beach. Are there any celebrity digital nomads?
- Close the Group. Can we close the group and let future people apply to be a Digital Nomad. Maybe once a month, approve everyone that applies. It gives people in the group that insulated, connected feeling, and it gives people outside a group they want to get in to. Those in the group get more help from Dell (maybe a special customer-service line (or twitter account) to resolve any technical issues.
These are a few ideas, I’m sure you have more. If you add them here I will submit the link to the people behind Digital Nomads at the end of the week.