Reactivation Programs and Bringing Members Back

“Our top members have drifted away, but I’m hoping after [take action] they will come back sharing knowledge again”

I’ll predict that won’t happen.

Moz had this problem too. Top SEO talent used to love participating in the community. The top members built a strong following and launched their own blogs/communities.

They occasionally return to participate, but only on posts about them, in webinars where they’re the guest star, to write special guest posts, or to participate in speaking at events etc…

Top members don’t usually drift away because of a single tech issue. They drift away because they’re relationship and attitude towards the group has changed. A sudden change might precipitate that issue, but the wheels were already long in motion. They feel their status is above this group level.

Don’t try to bring them back to perform the same behaviors, try to bring them back to do something different – something more befitting their perceived status (in their eyes) today.

It’s rarely a good idea to reach back into the past for community ideas. So look ahead and design new ways for people to participate in the group. Ways with high status and provide a sense of challenge.

Social Responses To Questions

An interesting paper to note:

Contrary to the theory of reciprocity, and in line with predictions by the bystander effect, we found that receiving high quality answers negatively influenced new knowledge seekers’ future likelihood of knowledge contribution.

Consistent with the social exchange theory, receiving high quality answers positively affected newcomers’ future knowledge seeking behaviors. Social responses (votes to the new members’ questions) were found to have strong positive effects on both newcomers’ future knowledge contribution and seeking behaviors.

This closely aligns with what we’ve seen.

Providing a really good answer to a question might encourage more questions but not more answers to a question. Reciprocity doesn’t work well within most online communities as people primarily interact with strangers.

If you want to convert an asker into an answerer, you usually need to tickle their needs for status and validation. Give them a small taste of importance (stress the impact or influence of the question). Great answers alone aren’t enough.

BIG GUIDE: Nurturing And Fostering Superusers In Your Online Community

Building and nurturing a powerful group of insiders is going to be a critical part of your job.

The challenge is to identify, nurture, and retain top members. These are the people who will answer every question, welcome new members, and put their soul into the community.

My colleague, Sarah Hawk (just about to depart for a fantastic new job at Discourse), has spent the last 8 months putting together the biggest and most comprehensive guide to building superuser programs ever created.

The guide includes breakdowns and tips from over a dozen managers of top community superuser programs, a detailed set of resources detailing how to get one started, and what you can do to turn your program into a monster success.

You’re going to learn the psychology, technology, and the processes that make yours succeed.

You can find the complete guide here:

Get The Templates for Free

Mobilize, a tool which can help you manage superuser programs, have sponsored each of you with a set of templates to optimize your efforts.

You can download them for free here:

The Most Important Idea In Community Development

Speaking this week to community managers in Israel, one idea struck a chord; asset-based community development.

It’s the most important concept in community organizing you probably haven’t heard of.

ABCD is when a community organizer (builder, manager) stops treating communities as a group with a collective problem to solve and starts treating the community as a group with countless opportunities for growth.

It’s the belief that every single person who walks through the door of your event, who joins your community, or engages with you in some way has something they can offer the group.

It’s the belief that every single person has unique skills, knowledge, experiences and more that they can contribute to the collective benefit of the group.

Your community today has people with backgrounds in design, law, technology, marketing, sales, customer service.

Your community has people who have spare rooms, a car they’re not using, books they don’t read repeatedly, clothes, food and more.

Your community has people who know people. People that need to fill jobs, can give medical advice, or have traveled to wonderful places.

In short, your community has people who can design things, translate things, lend items, provide expertise and be more engaged if you can make the connections and make them feel special about doing it.

Someone asked in the Tel Aviv session, ‘What’s the secret to keeping members actively engaged?’.

ABCD is the answer.

The Community Insights And Innovation Strategy

Communities are a goldmine for innovation and insights, but you need to get the strategy right. Insights don’t appear by chance, they appear after a successful execution of your community strategy.

You can use a community to directly solicit ideas, gather feedback, identify bugs, track sentiment, identify popular trends, and refine ideas through getting early feedback (content, possible new features, and potential product changes).

More than any other goal, innovation requires internal alliances (and strong internal relationships) to realize the value.

I’ve spoken with many community managers this year who have shifted from customer support to an innovation-driven approach. It’s the most effective way to gain internal support.

Goals and Objectives

First, make sure the goals (the change the community makes in the world) and the objectives (behaviors you need people to perform to achieve that goal) both align. If you’re measuring engagement (clicks, likes, shares) you have the wrong objectives.

Some examples are below.

The objectives should be really, really, specific here. Think very carefully what behaviors will actually achieve the goal. There should be nothing vague. If you want members to refine products/improve content, you need them to read/engage with it first (action 1), you need them to reply with suggestions/feedback in the community (action 2). You might also want them to complete surveys about the products too (action 3).

That’s 3 very specific actions. All other engagement metrics are irrelevant.

Now you need a strategy for each of the objectives you’ve established.

(this is also why you should only have 1 goal and a max of 3 to 5 objectives).


Remember strategy is about inducing an emotional state that will get people to perform the behavior you want.

If you want members to report bugs, why would they do that if they’re not already?

As we see above, you might decide to stress the frustration they might feel and change the environment to highlight how they could easily remove the frustration.

You might focus on building a sense of pride. This might mean creating a group of people who proactively look for bugs that everyone else has missed.

You might focus on jealousy, and see who can resolve the most bugs.

You might focus on belonging, being part of a ‘bug squad’ that goes out there looking for bugs as part of their group identity.

Only pick one strategy per objective (I know how hard it is), but any more will diminish your focus on making the strategy successful.


By this stage you might be pursuing two clear strategies:

1) Belonging – Create a bug squad of insiders to seek out and report bugs.

2) Fear – not getting your bug fixed if you don’t click/share if the bug affects you too.

The tactics should now fall relatively neatly into place.

1) STRATEGY: Belonging (creating the bug squad)

Tactics here might include:

  • Create a separate place for the group to interact and collaborate – also where they have direct access to staff members.
  • Build relationships with the leaders of the group.
  • Facilitate off-topic bonding-related discussions for group members to interact and get to know one another better.
  • Host an offline group meet up for members to connect.
  • Create unique avatars members of the ‘bug squad’ can use.
  • Creating rituals and traditions for new members of the bug squad.

Whatever your strategy is, all your actions should be subservient to it.

2) STRATEGY: Fear (that your bug won’t get fixed)

Again, tactics might include:

  • Publishing a regular list of ‘top bugs’ and sharing the roadmap. Inviting members to select the ones that affect them or they won’t get fixed.
  • Asking members to check if their bugs are at the top of the list, or they might miss out on getting it fixed.
  • Having quarterly ‘closures’ of time when people can vote on which bugs they want fixed next.
  • Email campaigns highlighting time is running out to get your bug fixed before the next engineering sprint.

Notice how every tactic embraces the use of fear but for positive aims – to get bugs fixed.

By this point, you should have an extremely clear and coherent strategy that connects your tactics, to your strategy, to your objectives, and your goals.

You should have moved past the ‘driving more engagement’ and focused specifically on the kind of activity you need members to perform.

What Is An Online Community?

An online community is a group of people who have built relationships around a strong common interest and primarily use the internet to communicate with one another.

That definition used to be enough, I’m not sure it is anymore.

We wrote about this 3 years ago.

The shift since then has been less about relationships between members and more towards the strong common interest and online interaction alone.

Community today most commonly means everyone who shares the same interest regardless of their interest with one another. It includes your social media followings, 3rd party groups, your mailing list, and everyone you connect with online who shares the same interest. That interest might be your field or your product.

e.g. you and I might not know each other, but if we both use an iPhone we might be in the iPhone community.

This presents opportunities and risks. The opportunity is a more expansive, broader, and a more powerful role for the community manager. Perhaps one that includes figuring out the best way to engage people across multiple platforms and social tools.

The risk is it becomes difficult to define community compared with customer experience, customer success, customer support, customer relationship management, online marketing, and similar disciplines.

Push for a more expansive role engaging with customers across all platforms if you can, but be aware it might be in a different discipline.

Possibilities With Open-Source Community Software

Most companies using open-source community software end up with a community site which doesn’t look great.

Either they display a long list of discussions like BoingBoing or do some development work like Marvel.

Both are ok, but they miss out on the opportunity to spend a little more money developing something that looks as good as most enterprise platforms out there today.

Most enterprise communities (e.g. Dropbox and Square below) focus on ensuring the community is clean, easy to participate, and easy to navigate.

They do this by having a landing page. You don’t drop people into a mass of discussions, you drop them into a page that makes it easy to find what they want and help them get started.

It’s pretty easy to build a front-page for an open-source platform. We’ve been exploring it for the redesign of our community (below)

(we’ve also added a button to hide it for regular members)

If you’re going to use an enterprise community platform, it shouldn’t be for how it looks (that’s down to the implementation partner), it should be for integrations, security, and reliability.

If those aren’t as critical to you, then use an open-source platform (Vanilla/Discourse etc) but please spend just a little extra to develop a proper landing page for the community.

p.s. Come and join us at

The Customer Satisfaction Strategy For An Online Community

Continuing from online community strategy.

Let’s imagine your community is to improve customer satisfaction (or customer success).

Your objectives first are to establish what behavior would drive that success. These are the behaviors your entire community is designed to facilitate.

Once you have these behaviors, it becomes easier to establish what to measure (see below):

Those metrics above are the only things you should be reporting internally. Forget number of members, levels of activity, and participation. If your community is designed to encourage these behaviors, these are the only things worth reporting. This ensures you’re only measured by what you actually influence.

Notice also that creating tips is pointless if no-one reads them.

Each objective to increase customer satisfaction needs its own strategy. The strategy is based upon amplifying a specific emotion. This emotion is what will move people to take action.

Any objective can have multiple strategies, as we see below, but you should pick just one. You select this option based upon your ethnographic research into how people feel.

It’s always tempting to pursue multiple strategies, but this doesn’t work. It’s best to double down on the one strategy which will have the biggest impact.

The next step is to identify what tactics will best fulfill that strategy.

Take the strategies for our first objective above.

1) If you’re looking to provoke jealousy, you want leaderboards, interviews with top members, and recognition of the top members. These are the tactics you execute upon.

2) If you’re looking to provoke pride you need to identify areas they are experts in, provide them with metrics to measure themselves (but not compare), and communicate gratitude to them from internal letters etc.

3) If you’re looking to amplify the sense of helping others, encourage gratitude and feedback from people they’ve helped, let them track how many people they helped, give them an inside track on what issues most members are struggling with and provide them with training to help more members.

Everything in a strategy should connect. You should never be engaging in tactics just to drive activity. Everything should be part of a plan to achieve the goal.

This is a simplistic, but essential overview of the kinds of strategies available to increase customer satisfaction within a community. Be aware also there are plenty of different objectives you can focus upon to improve customer satisfaction, we’ve picked just three.

More information at:

The Futility of Benchmarks

Benchmarks from other organizations don’t usually tell you how you’re doing, they only tell you what’s possible.

If you want a 100% accepted solution rate to every question, that’s not possible (without removing the questions which don’t get a solution, but I digress).

But if Dropbox, Airbnb, or GiffGaff get that number up to 75%, then you can study them to see how they did it.

Comparing yourself to other organizations is a dangerous game. A product with thousands of customers will have VERY different benchmarks from one with millions of customers. They develop at different speeds too (broadly, more people = faster process through the lifecycle).

And passion for the product or problems with the product vary greatly. A buggy product used by millions may have a seemingly better community than a great product used by the same numbers.

I get the temptation to compare your community to others, but try to resist it. It’s rarely a fair comparison. A better comparison is whether your community is better today than yesterday, if not, what will you do about it tomorrow?

Building The Pipeline Early

We’ve been involved in plenty of recruitment of community professionals for clients recently.

Here’s a simple tip, build a profile of the kind of person that would be the perfect fit (or kinds of people) long before you need somebody.

Now go out and attend events (Lithium Linc, CMX, Community Roundtable, Jiveworld, OCTribe, Community Breakfasts etc) and begin meeting people. Yes, you might know most of what’s discussed already, but the connections are invaluable.

Better yet, apply to speak at events. Share publicly your successes and what your community is working on. Evangelize your community and make it a community others want to work on.

Look out and regularly add people on LinkedIn and Facebook. This is the one time where sheer quantity of connections can be useful.

The difference between posting a job ad and hoping someone good applies and reaching out to 30 people you would like to hire and another 20 who might know somebody is huge.

This takes up time initially but can save you so much time in recruitment (and replacement) later.

What Will Be Different In September?

Summer starts and activity slumps.

For many of you, this will be the few weeks of the year you get to work on your big win.

No more complaining about feeling overwhelmed or stressed out.

Get your head down and do the work.

Don’t ease off and relax. These might be the only few weeks of the year you get to work on your game-changing idea.

What is the one thing you’ve always wanted to do for your community? You have my permission to work on it beginning today.

That might be a comprehensive wiki filled with the best tips, a new site design, entice the top 10 experts in your field (not just your community) to participate, build that active member program, plan and organize that event, write that book, create that video series.

Pick the one thing that will really move the needle and really devote the time to making it work.

When your community slows down, you should speed up. July and August isn’t the time to relax, it’s the perfect time to sprint like crazy. In fact, it’s the only time you get to sprint like crazy. Go for it!


Nothing really beats ethnographic research for getting valuable insights.

Years ago, we forced a video game developer (who wanted a strong community) to get his customers in the room and sit next to them as they played the mobile game.

Every time they got stuck or had a question we created a link back to the community.

“Stuck here? Check out this discussion!”

“No luck? Ask a question?”

Every time they felt a sense of achievement, we encouraged them to share it.

“You just tackled [level], share the reply in the community and help others in the future”

Then there are the teachers who didn’t have enough time to participate in the community, until we made it about teachers who share time saving tips.

Most recently, a client building an internal community struggled to get people to participate. The discussions and activities they were initiating were completely removed from what staff talked about. We advised him to spend time with his audience, see what they spoke about, and build activities around that instead.

You should absolutely take $2000 and go travelling to meet as many of your members as possible. Watch them use your product or service. Get to know them personally. See what their daily challenges are and what their problems are. Then start seeing how the community can be relevant at the day to day level.

One of the biggest mistakes we make is creating and trying to develop communities around big, noble, goals which have no relevance to the day to day frustrations members face. Do the ethnographic research.

If Mark Zuckerberg can find time to meet Facebook users in every state, you can certainly find time to visit a few dozen of your members.