I’ve been thinking about this tweet.
Content is king, but format is queen.
Your content can be great, but if its not easy to consume, it won’t be seen.
How can you improve your tweeting style?
By stealing from the best.
A thread👇 pic.twitter.com/mFfhPKseqC
— Alex Llull (@AlexLlullTW) August 19, 2020
It’s written for Twitter but it highlights something important.
The most important information you want to distribute to members will be ignored if it’s improperly adapted to the medium(s) you’re using to send it.
This rule gets violated often. I’ve spent too much time trying to persuade clients to stop sending email announcements with big blocks of text to their community.
Over time certain types of content are best suited to different mediums. Whenever you have a message to distribute to the community, you need to identify the right way of doing it.
On some platforms that’s to publish an announcement.
On others it’s to share a video (even a video broken down into smaller videos for each social media platform).
On others it might be to host a live discussion about the topic.
On others it might be to ask a question or make a short, definitive, statement.
On others it might be to have influencers share the message adapted to their own audiences.
On others it might be to post a short banner announcement.
On others it might be a scannable list of key points.
Once you know what type of content is popular on each medium, it becomes a lot easier to adapt your message to match.
If you’re managing a community, there’s a natural pressure to try and create a destination where friendships are forged and people feel like they can belong.
And in many communities (notably around hobbies, health, and smaller groups) that’s the right approach.
But in many other communities, especially customer communities, that’s neither what members want nor what they need. You can waste a lot of time and cause a lot of frustration trying to build close relationships between members who neither need nor want them.
A sense of belonging is just one of many types of value a community offers. It’s not even the most valuable one.
In almost every member survey I’ve seen, access to information, collaborating with smart people, and seeing what others are doing, ranked higher than building friendships and feeling a sense of belonging.
Yes, the word ‘community’ has clear connotations, but that doesn’t mean those connotations are right to you. If you don’t feel members want to build relationships with each other (you can check with a survey), then you don’t need to push them to. You can focus on what they really want instead.
Your community should have the single best place to find the right equipment, settings, configuration, or resources to engage within your topic.
I haven’t seen any content in any community perform as well as a properly compiled and reviewed list of resources.
If you don’t have one yet, this might be a good end of summer project to work on.
Ask members to list and review what equipment they use, what settings they adopt, what books they read etc…then find an interesting way to compile and visualise the list.
It’ll pay off many times over.
Sharing your strategy with members instead of just a broad vision statement changes things.
It lets members give feedback and play a participatory role in the process.
It lets members ‘see behind the curtain’ and how the community process works.
It holds you accountable to a time-frame for members.
You can adapt it later if you need to, but sharing your strategy (at least a simple overview of the strategy) probably has more upsides than downsides.
You’ve probably seen reaction videos before.
Fans of Game of Thrones might like this:
Or you might’ve seen this one:
Or you might’ve seen one of the many unboxing videos.
Their popularity reveals something fascinating; we really want to see how people like us respond to things.
The more powerful the emotion, the more we want to see it. We want to know not just what members of our tribe think, but what they feel. Some call this bingeing on emotions.
Amongst the biggest value of a community to members is knowing others feel the same way that you do. If you focus activity solely on exchanging information, you’re only providing a fraction of the value your community could provide to members.
Not every situation lends itself to reaction videos (although these aren’t utilized in communities anywhere near as much as they could be). You still however can push members deep into sharing how they feel about topics, not just what they think about it. Knowing your fellow members are happy, sad, and angry about the same thing at the same time is one of the tenets of belonging.
Everyone has weaknesses.
You might be so accustomed to yours that you a) don’t either notice them or b) deny they are weaknesses.
Here’s some common ones to look out for:
Does the community leader come off as cold and uncaring?
Does the community leader seem reluctant to give praise?
Does the community leader get defensive at every possible perceived slight?
Does the community leader focus on the one aspect of the community they’re good at?
Does the community leader not consistently check in on how top members are doing?
Does the community leader struggle to build authentic relationships?
Does the community leader focus on what’s exciting rather than what’s strategic?
Does the community leader spend too much time making a few members happy?
Does the community leader not engage with passion and empathy in every interaction?
Does the community leader seem to lack confidence when talking about the community to colleagues and senior executives?
Does the community leader seem reluctant to host events, webinars, or public talks before community members?
Does the community leader spend too much time planning and too little time engaging directly with members?
Sometimes a little mentoring and training can overcome these weaknesses.
Other times they’re more chronic character traits. For example, if you didn’t receive much praise as a child or always felt in competition with a sibling for attention, you might be reluctant to give praise and feel you need to ‘win’ an argument against members. These probably need a trained therapist (p.s. there’s no shame in working with a therapist to rectify these weaknesses).
A useful task this week might be to identify your weaknesses. Get feedback from your colleagues or members if you like. It’s a lot easier to overcome them once they’ve identified them.
Community strategists, directors, and moderators are great. But the one essential role for every community is the ‘in the trenches’ community manager. This is the person who spends nearly all their time directly engaging with members.
I worked with a client recently who had a few members of staff, but none committed to this role…and it showed!
Members weren’t getting the quality and quantity of responses they deserved. There wasn’t someone they could trust and build a good relationship with. The tone of the community was polite and direct instead of warm and welcoming.
When helping hire for these (often junior to mid-level roles), I encourage clients to look for one critical trait:
Is this person 100% committed to helping our members succeed?
If you ask a potential recruit what excites them about this work, does helping members succeed come up?
In their past role, can you see evidence that they went the extra mile to answer questions?
Will they reply with warmth and personality? Does this shine through in other online engagements?
Is their motivation truly aligned to doing everything they can to support our members?
While community skills can be taught, it’s impossible to imbue someone with this trait. They either have it or they don’t.
A while back, WordPress buried a small joke deep within their terms of service.
If you clicked the link, you would (bizarrely) see a plate of BBQ food.
A simple search shows hundreds, maybe thousands, of communities have copied these terms of service (including, to some extent, our own). These often include not just the ‘easter egg’, but the wrong jurisdiction too.
Some have copied from another source (which changed the link to an article in the New Yorker). Others copied the text (not the HTML), and have no link at all (communities on Discourse seem especially affected).
Copying terms of service, documentation, and design elements is always going to happen. It’s often how good ideas spread. It’s easier to edit and work with an existing template than developing something new from scratch.
However…you should comb through every single word of what you’re copying to ensure it matches your needs and no-one has slipped some nefarious content in there (i.e. what if the policy said your website will pay every visitor $20?).
p.s. It might be worth checking your terms of service today.
The easiest way to lose the trust of your community is to make a false promise.
False promises often originate in times of stress. Members (or a member) might be angry about something so you make a promise to fix the issue.
This placates the upset member(s), at least for a while.
However, you soon discover the issue is harder to fix than you had anticipated. It might require resources, abilities, or support that you don’t have. Technology issues are notorious for taking far longer to fix than first anticipated.
You can apologise, but you’ve still lost credibility with the community. It reflects terribly upon your organisation too.
A better approach is to provide ongoing updates. Engage the member in clearly defining the problem, explain you’re scoping out potential solutions, detail if/which can be implemented, and why they can or can’t be introduced.
Failing that, apologise for the issue, but don’t make a promise you’re not 100% sure you can keep.
This week I looked at the breakdown of visitors to FeverBee and was stunned to discover just how much it has changed over the years.
FeverBee Audience Breakdown, 2010
This is a breakdown of the audience from FeverBee back in 2010.
Notice how over half were based in the USA. There aren’t too many surprises in this bunch. Let’s see how this compares to today.
FeverBee Audience Breakdown, 2020
This is the audience breakdown so far for 2020.
The USA now represents just 30% of the audience and the UK just 7%. This isn’t because fewer people are visiting from the UK/USA. Quite the opposite. Traffic from the USA and UK has risen at a steady rate every year.
This is a huge change. Not only are both India and Philippines now a bigger audience than the UK, other countries like Nigeria and South Africa are growing rapidly.
No-one notices a difference of a few % per year until five to ten years have passed.
This represents missed opportunities. I could have spotted the growth in India and Philippines a lot sooner. I could have helped sponsor or create early events, fly out there, and build a presence there, help start early communities. I can consider the same in Nigeria or South Africa today.
I’d bet your community is probably missing similar opportunities too. So, a quick task for you. If your community has been running for a few years, look at the composition of your audience by location several years ago compared to today.
What countries/regions are rapidly representing a growing share of your audience? How might you engage them?
If you want a community to thrive, you need to get members to stick around.
We often have the wrong idea about what gets members to stick around in a community.
To help, I’ve created a short video explaining the member motivation model below.
I hope you find it useful.
FeverBee has been working with Sephora for 6+ months now.
A (small) part of that work was helping update the homepage design to make it cleaner and easier to navigate.
This is what the homepage looked in the old design:
It’s not terrible, but the key calls to action are buried, the background draws attention away from the key elements and it’s really difficult to find the most popular areas of the community (groups and galleries etc..)
This is the updated version:
This design makes it dead simple to navigate around the community.
If you’re new, there’s a clear place to get started, there is a simple (separate) area for customer support, and the most popular groups and photos are listed right there.
You can also see the vital statistics. The community feels a lot more alive now. Most importantly, everything is aligned to the primary reasons which draw people to the community in the first place.
It’s also important to keep the navigation levels clear. Community has moved to the very top bar in the top right (next to sign in).
The top navigation bar enables members to still browse around the entire Sephora.com site and make purchases.
The secondary navigation level provides another place for members to quickly navigate through the community.
The homepage experience is one of the major areas where you can exert influence on what members do. Too many homepages are simply far below best practices today. Spend some time on Sephora’s community, get help if you need it, but, most of all, make the tough decisions about what to prioritize and why.