I’ve been looking for a format to share thoughts while on the road, I like Instagram for now.
You’re welcome to follow me there.
FeverBee Experts has both a new (collapsible) homepage and plenty of discussions covering some of today’s most important topics.
If you’re looking for a more substantial debate than the fleeting nature of Facebook/Twitter, I hope you will join us.
I’ll be speaking at Influitive’s Advocamp in San Francisco (Dec 6 to 8). If you’re interested in advocacy and community, I recommend you join us.
In the inception stage of the community lifecycle, you promote the community to the fringe radicals, the true believers, and the people who know you best and are closest to you. These are the people with the passion to create something that doesn’t exist yet.
In the establishment stage, you promote the community to the topic enthusiasts.
These are the people who most love the unique niche you’re targeting within the broader space. They are the ultramarathon runners among the marathon runners and the bitcoin miners among the bitcoin investors.
You find them via referrals, on social media, and build close relationships with them.
In the early-maturity stage, you target the people struggling with problems, want to improve themselves, and need a better solution than what’s out there today. It’s only now that you should begin promoting the community en-masse.
There are exceptions, I’m sure, but they are the exceptions. If you’re getting lots of people joining but not sticking around, you’re probably confused about either a) where you are in the lifecycle or b) who you should be promoting the community to.
Sense of community is to community professionals what Maslow is to motivation (albeit with more scientific evidence).
Then learn how to apply it. This video below might help.
There isn’t a good excuse today for not being an expert in the psychological underpinnings of your day to day work.
Does a newcomer have the information they need to be a good participant?
Do they know what good participation looks like?
Do they know how to look up and find information they can share with others?
Do they know what’s on the edge of domain of knowledge?
Do they know what the best examples, books, and resources are?
Do they know what tone of voice they should use when they participate?
Do they know they don’t need to be an expert to participate?
Do they know good questions are better than good answers?
Do they know the 20% of topics which account for 80% of discussions?
Do they know who the top people in the field are?
Do they know who’s in charge and who to contact for help?
Do they know you genuinely want them to succeed and will do everything you can to help?
Do they know how long a post should be, to self-disclose information about themselves and reveal their emotional state when they ask a question?
If the answer is no, you have some work to do.
Diversify growth streams.
Google will send you traffic, but Google can change quickly.
Get yourself featured more prominently on the company website, newsletters, or outbound emails to customers.
Get inbound links on major news sites which get lots of traffic.
Answer questions on Quora, Yahoo Answers, and Stack exchange.
Build up bases on social media that share the best content from the community.
Develop partnerships with major organizations to help drive traffic to the community.
Whatever you do, start looking at building new streams of members into the community.
While speaking at IAC in DC on Sunday, someone asked what to do about rival communities.
This depends if you’re dealing with a split or a shift.
A split is when two factions emerge and you need two communities to handle them.
In Bitcoin’s case, there has been a very literal split.
In a split you double down on being relevant to the segmented audience you have.
A shift is more worrying. This is when a new trend (or new need) is arising and you’re not covering it well. This opens the door for someone to start a new, more focused, community that may soon dominate the space.
Shifts need to be covered quickly. Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and WhatsApp was a great covering strategy. A new need emerged and Facebook covered it. Likewise, Instagram/Facebook’s stories are good examples of covering Snapchat.
Your case is likely to involve using new technology or covering new topics. This will upset your current members. That’s the hard part.
The strength of most community platforms is they are asynchronous.
If someone doesn’t login today, they don’t miss out on anything. They can catch up tomorrow.
But that strength is also a weakness. If you don’t need to visit today, then why bother? In fact, why not wait a few weeks?
A growing number of apps tackle this by incorporating the daily bonus.
If you don’t login that day, you miss out.
What would your daily bonus be? What piece of information, exclusive activity, or unique opportunity is only available today?
If you want someone to visit today, give them something that’s only available today.
Does it make sense to focus on a single platform when your members participate across many?
Your platform is a utility, like a clubhouse, that your members will sometimes choose to visit.
Like a clubhouse, people visit the platform because of a unique value it provides (privacy, intimacy, knowledge, fun activities, autonomy etc…).
But if your community efforts end at the front door, you’re not going to get many people reaching the front door.
Why deliberately limit your hard work to a small percentage of your audience who visit your platform for a small percentage of their time?
Treat the community as one of several pillars of the community. Have yourself, your staff, and your members continue to participate and support the other pillars.
This doesn’t mean you need to jump in on every topic, but it does mean you and your people can (and should) build connections and be a valuable resource anywhere you can.
Imagine how many more great ideas, retained customers, testimonials and success stories and advocates you can get when you stop limiting yourself to a single platform.
What is the limit of your community? Who is or isn’t a part of it?
Is the community only the active participants on your community platform?
Is the community everyone who has registered on your platform?
Is it anyone that ever visits your platform (registered or not)?
Is it your customers (and only your customers)?
Is it everyone who has expressed an interest in your business (customer or not)?
Is it everyone that has expressed an interest in your field?
I recommend having this discussion early, because it changes everything.
p.s. One way to drive more value is to have a more expansive view of community.
Unless you’re in the advertising business, having members lead areas of the community (e.g. Reddit, StackExchange, and Nextdoor) isn’t the most valuable thing they can do.
Your best members, those with the magical combination of time, knowledge, and passion for the topic, should be guided to do the most valuable things. The very things that take the most time, knowledge, and passion.
Most people don’t really explore the full range of what this can mean. Responding to questions might be good, but creating incredible resources is probably better.
We helped one former client realize customer reviews on major sites (Amazon, Bestbuy etc…) were the biggest influence on purchase decision and rally the community to leave and respond to reviews. This has a direct influence on sales from these channels.
Another organization helps their best members share recorded coaching videos.
These videos show how to use simple features to create really remarkable effects. These videos are then posted in the community and shared by members on Reddit and other channels.
This brings in several hundred new registrations per month, a double-digit percentage of whom enroll for the free trial. That’s a big win.
Be more creative here. Whether your ultimate goal is more sales, retention, ticket deflection, or better collaboration, get your top members working on whatever will have the biggest impact on those goals.
In a short spell, Karen posted 12 short tips in the Adobe Photoshop Beginners community.
Every tip was targeted at beginners. Topics included:
These tips have received 200,000+ views in the past few years.
Two points here about turning your members into ALLIES…
1) It’s far harder to get members to contribute expertise targeted at the beginner level than expert level. Yet you’ll have far more beginners than experts. Have you answered and featured the best beginner-level advice from your members?
2) Beginners are more likely to churn than experts. They have less invested in the software, may be on free trials, and are more likely to be overwhelmed when they first start.
If we conservatively estimate just 1% of those who viewed these tips stuck with Photoshop because of the advice, this equates to 2000+ customers.
If we conservatively multiply this by Adobe’s lowest subscription fee ($120) and these short, simple, tips alone may be driving at least $240k per year.
And this is just one set of users’ tips, for one forum, for one product, for one year. Once you start doing the multiples here, the value of getting members to share tips for beginners will rise exponentially.
Most experts want to impress their peers by sharing expert-level advice. The bigger win might be getting members to share advice for beginners.
3 years ago, I worked on a community where about half the members I interviewed complained about the community manager.
She was too brusk, bordering on rude. She wasn’t the kind of person members wanted to help and build relationships with.
Her personality was undermining everything she wanted to achieve.
My efforts to make her aware of this were met with unsurprisingly curt responses.
So we took a different route. We ran an anonymous survey of community members. People could rate the community manager on different traits (helpfulness, knowledge, friendliness etc…) and give qualitative, constructive, suggestions as well.
The results were predictable. The feedback was honest and constructive, albeit with a pinch of bitterness over past interactions.
I shared the feedback privately with the community manager. It didn’t go well. She challenged the style of the questions, the bias of the people responding etc…etc…
But from that very day onwards, we slowly began to see her change. She became more friendly and generous with her time. She made more of an effort to get to know members and understand their emotions. She also began to build relationships with a few members.
It’s really hard to see your own flaws (I continue to speak from experience). You might disagree with collective feedback, but it’s hard to ignore it. Get someone else to run a survey of community members and gather feedback on how you’re doing. The results might completely change how you run your community.