If you ask how a branded community increases loyalty, you might get a response like this.
Participation doesn't lead to loyalty.
Loyalty (increased retention rates, premium buyers, increased frequency of purchase, greater advocacy) emerges from participating in value creation within that community. Value creation enforces a sense of shared destiny, responsibility, and reciprocity with the organisation.
If you're simply trying to ramp up participation, that's fine – sometimes it's even necessary – but it won't create the ROI you want.
Find the shared activities for the group. Create a sense of you and the customers working on resolving the same problems. You might:
- Make the community the place with latest news on the topic (org and members share their news)
- Have a place for members to highlight their biggest challenges and tackle one each week.
- Let members suggest topic-related initiatives that the brand helps the member to achieve.
- Create the right connections between members. Connect members that can help one another or are similar to one another.
- Create a wiki and gradually categorise and document every useful tip shared by members.
..there's not really a shortage of ideas for creating value.
This is the best part. The more value you co-create with members, the greater their loyalty to the brand. It's not just the value of the co-creation, it's how many members you can involve in the co-creation activities.
Aside, this is one of the best papers I've read on communities in a while.
Here's a few that come to mind:
1) Lurkers are bad, active participants are good. Lurkers offer no benefit to the community. They rarely become active participants. They consume with contributing. They rarely share community content (the people most likely to share are the contributions. The only reason the lurkers are seen as good is because most community professionals don't know how to convert them into active members. It's a defensive argument to pretend bad practice is good practice. This doesn't mean lurkers are necessarily bad – they're just a zero.
2) Big is bad. Bigger communities are worse communities. There is less motivation to contribute. The sense of identity drops. It's tougher to organize collective action. Members join groups that increase their self-concept relative to their peers. If everyone is a member, there is less motivation to join.
3) The community space is not rapidly growing. There is no data to support this and some to suggest it's contracting. We're not shrinking rapidly, but we're not rising to the mainstream popularity as much as we think.
4) Communities don't usually generate a measurable, positive, ROI. We've measured this with a few organisations, the results are mixed at best. We might need a longer time-frame for measurement. For now, the majority of communities aren't generating the extra $200k in sales most need to justify the outlay. This is the result of bad practice, poor measurement, and (often) a bad idea to develop the community in the first place.
5) Gamification doesn't increase participation. Handing members a stack of points and symbols to represent status ensures members only participation for extrinsic reasons. This leads to members with the lowest self-esteem participating the most. It's bad for your members' psychological health too.
6) Personal welcomes are largely a waste of time. They have very little impact upon whether someone becomes a regular or not. Sending a greeting to every member is not a good use of time and has limited impact. Sending messages after a member has made their first contribution has a bigger impact.
7) Forums are probably dying. Most of the data suggests that traditional forums and some of the cheaper community platforms are dying. New entrants, Discourse, Huddler etc…have unique business models that might prevail. The rest are behind and don't seem likely to keep up. No organisation today is launching an online forum to host their community. A forum-like structure will be the bedrock of interactions for many platforms to come, but the notion of the sole-forum platform is of a bygone era.
8) Most communities fail. Look up press release sites for the phrase "launches an online community". You will get thousands of organisations who have launched a community. Now check how many are still alive, most are long-gone.
9) Members don't care about privacy and security. With the exception of mixing identities (i.e. work and personal) and a few topic-specific sectors (e.g. health), members really don't care much about their own privacy or security of their accounts.
10) Communities should not be easy to join. The easier a community is to join the less meaning the act of joining a community has. Most people join and never participation for this very reason. Incentives to join, making the registration form simple to complete, ensuring and automating the speedy process is the best way to get the most people through – but it's not condusive to getting them to participate. You want to weed out the bad people here and ensure the good are well-motivated to be involved.
I'm sure there are plenty more.
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Robin writes a terrific post about status-seeking:
"At which point these new behaviors will have become your new status game. You see, status-seeking behavior must be a respected behavior that isn’t seen as overtly status seeking. Because we all agree that we don’t respect behavior that is done mainly to gain status. Even though we do, we do, we very much do."
Status-seeking is the inexhaustible fuel which drives activity in most social groups.
The majority of people participate to increase their status. They're insecure, unsure of their ranking, and need to receive positive feedback. That feedback is the quantity and quality of responses.
This is extrinsically-motivated behavior.
You can make the status symbols more visible. You can have lists, rankings, scores, and badges. You will get more activity, but members won't internalize their behavior.
In some communities you don't need members to internalize that behavior. In customer service and knowledge-sharing/CoPs, for example, responding to a question and contributing knowledge for whatever reason achieves your goal.
If you just want activity, extrinsically-motivated behavior is fine.
The problem is one of autonomy. If I'm participating to increase my status, I'm not participating because I enjoy the act of participating. It's coerced participation. I don't feel a sense of unity or connection with other members (or the host). I don't feel a greater sense of brand loyalty or commitment.
That's a problem in ROI terms. It's why some communities simultaneously have high levels of activity but a low sense of community.
You have a choice then. You can make the status symbols, whatever they may be, more visible or you can make them less visible.
Less visibility of status might mean less activity but a stronger sense of community. It certainly means members not have the freedom to rationalize or internalize their participation however they choose. That's a good thing.
You have 46 days remaining to buy your tickets.
- How to optimize and design a community platform.
- How to increase activity in a community.
- How to promote or grow membership in a community.
- How to get employees to join and participate.
- How to master psychology behind community participation.
- How to measure the health and ROI of a community (in metrics!)
- How to launch a community from scratch.
- How to manage a community with a limited budget.
For just over a year now, I've spoken to community professionals who bristle at the same problem.
The way we make decisions for our community is wrong.
We make decisions that will increase activity in a community.
We're measured by our success in increasing activity (or member counts).
If we succeed, we have a very active platform. But a very active platform isn't a community. You don't get the benefits that a community provides.
In fact, many of the actions we take to increase activity destroy the sense of community.
Community professionals build communities
We are community professionals. Our goal is to create communities. We need to stop making decisions that will increase activity and starting make decisions that will increase the sense of community. Sometimes we get lucky. The two are closely correlated.
Communities aren't highly active platforms. The're not technology, they're not cost savings, they're not even people.
They're the psychological feeling that people believe they are part of a community. We often need to do things that seem strange to develop that sense of community. We might reduce the focus of the community, create strong boundaries to joining, celebrate a minor member milestone, participate in seemingly silly social events.
But, every single one of these actions, is carefully considered to create a stronger sense of community.
Too often we push too hard on activity and forget what we're trying to do is get people to feel a sense of community.
Creating this sense of community helps us achieve goals. Those goals include knowledge exchange, social capital, customer loyalty, better collaboration, and cost reductions.
Every single decision and action you take in your community should be designed to increase the sense of community that members feel with one another.
This will usually mean it answers positively to one of the following questions:
1) Will this decision make boundaries between insiders/outsiders more visible?
2) Will this decision make people feel safer voicing their emotions on a topic?
3) Will this decision increase the sense of belonging and identification with the group?
4) Will this decision encourage people to invest more (time, energy, and emotions) within the community?
5) Will this decision help spread a common symbol system?
1) Will this decision give members more influence within the group (i.e. to make things happen?)
2) Will this decision help the group achieve goals external to the group? (group efficacy)
Integration and fulfillment of needs
1) Will this decision allow members to achieve a higher status within their community?
2) Will this decision give members a better sense of belonging (i.e. not feeling alone), explore a topic with others like them, support one another through unique circumstances, or allow them to achieve things they can't alone?
Shared emotional connection
1) Will this decision increase the frequency of contact and familiarity between members?
2) Will this decision improve the quality of contact (i.e. move the contact up the hiearchy of communication)
3) Will this decision give close to previous shared activities between members?
4) Will this decision help establish or reinforce agreed group norms? (i.e. not your norms enforced upon a group)
There are two follow-up questions to every positive answer. "How will it achieve this?" and "is there any better way of achieving this?" (better = cheaper, faster, more reliable, more effective.)
Using this framework
The difference in using this framework is you often forgo increased activity in favour of developing a stronger sense of community.
A gamification system might increase activity, but no-one has shown it linked to creating a stronger sense of community (it might even do the opposite).
Paying a six-figure sum for an expensive, good-looking, platform might increase activity. However, imagine you used that money to directly help your members (or the community) achieve it's goal (it's reason for existing). That would create an incredible sense of shared success that no platform change would ever match.
We need to embed the notion of sense of community deep within our decision making process. Will the actions we take in our community today lead to a stronger sense of community?
More importantly, we need to measure our success by improving the sense of community (using a quarterly/bi-annual survey – SCI2) and not via the activity metrics. Activity is good. Lots of activity might be really good. But it might also be a complete waste of time if it doesn't also entail a stronger sense of community.
It's an urgent problem
Organisations are wasting thousands, often millions, on tactics designed to increase activity in a community. They're spending months panicking about how to increase activity and ignoring the fundamental thing that reliably does increase activity (a stronger sense of community).
They don't see the ROI of their efforts and think it's because they don't have enough activity. This is almost never the case. The reason a positive ROI isn't achieve is because you've got a lot of activity but a more limited sense of community.
This then creates the belief that communities themselves don't work. That, maybe, communities don't generate a positive ROI. This couldn't be further from the truth. The truth is communities do generate an incredible ROI, they just haven't developed one yet.
If we could do one thing better right now, it's to align all our efforts to creating a stronger sense of community in every group to which we're a member and stop endlessly trying to boost activity.
If we want to write posts that are popular and widely shared, we know how to do it.
1) Use a benefit-led headline. "7 Ways To Get The Audience You Crave!"
2) Use bullet points. A lot like these, only more of them and not numbered.
3) Keep it short. Keep the posts to around 150 to 250 words.
The problem with attracting the masses is it rarely benefits you much.
By every standard metric (views, shares, likes, tweets), this post about calculating the ROI of customer service communities was among the least popular I've ever written.
It also gained business from 2 new clients (from 4 that approached us), 4 new members on CommunityGeek, and several interesting discussions via e-mail with people I admire.
By that measure, it's quite possibly the most successful post I've ever written.
This isn't an isolated example. It's happened several times. Long, detailed, posts that cover a very specific topic in depth aren't shared, but attract exactly the sort of people a company like us needs. They are a flag for a specific group of people.
We face this choice when building our communities.
We can round-off the edges in our work to attract the masses. We can make the process of finding, joining, and participating in the community easier and easier. We can churn out ever-generic material using all the latest viral techniques to attract the crowd. We can initiate discussions that appeal to the mass.
This might give you a quick blip in the numbers, but it won't lead to a long-term, sustained, community.
Far better to do the opposite. Initiate discussions, create content, and organize events that go very deep into niche topics. You will attract exactly the sort of people you want.
On October 29th to 30th, the world's top 250 community professionals are going to SPRINT in San Francisco. Will you be one of them?
FeverBee's Community SPRINT
October 29th – 30th
250 Community Professionals
Yes everyone, this is it.
On the 29th to 30th October, we’re going to run the event we’ve been planning for the best part of the year. If you sign up this week, you get both days for $315 (or much less).
Are you going to SPRINT?
On October 29th – 30th, we're going to bring the world's top community experts (some you know, some you won't) to Share Practical, Relevant, Ideas and New Tactics (SPRINT).
Day 1 will be an intensive workshop. We’re going to train a small group of you in advanced community skills.
Day 2 will be a more traditional conference featuring the best experts in the world. This event will be dedicated to the one thing, getting practical actions from top speakers to increase activity in your community.
No fluffy high-level ideas you can’t apply, just great people sharing specific, relevant, practical ideas and new tactics.
The problem with most events
If you go to as many events as we do, you know that too many events have speakers that don’t give you anything new you can take back to your boss or immediately apply to your community.
Think about it, when was the last time you applied something you learned at a conference?
We're going to change that. We’re going to force every single speaker to be very specific in their suggestions to you.
Best speaker line-up ever?
For the past few months I've been badgering my friends to agree to share their precious time at our event.
The line-up is best I've ever seen for any community event.
The line-up includes:
- Myself, Richard Millington (FeverBee)
- Loree Draude (Head of Communities, Google Adwords)
- Jeff Atwood (Founder, Discourse)
- Philippe Beaudette (Director of Community, Wikipedia)
- Caty Kobe (Director of Communities, OpenTable)
- Justin Isaf (Rugged, rogue, Community Consultant, Communl)
- Rachel Happe (Founder, Community Roundtable)
- Allison Leahy (Director of Community, FitBit)
- Douglas Atkin (Head of Community, AirBnB)
- John Baku (Founder, FetLife)
- Rob Ludlow (Backyard Chickens, seriously – check it out!)
- Dianne Kibbey (Head of Communities, Premier Farnell)
These are the people actually doing the work and getting incredible results.
Every single one of you will walk away with great ideas – or you can claim a full refund (seriously!).
Get your ticket here: http://sprint.feverbee.com
We're adding the last few speakers to the agenda as we speak.
The current agenda breaks down as follows:
October 29th – Intensive Workshop
On October 29th, we will be training a smaller group of you in specific community skills.
This will include:
- Data and Analytics (how to measure/what to measure/setting up analytic systems)
- Optimizing a community website.
- Using social science to persuade members to join a community.
- Moderation and conflict resolution.
- Converting newcomers into regulars.
- Building a powerful sense of community.
- Boosting the search rankings of your community.
- Core relationship-building skills.
- And plenty more…
October 29th – Evening: Social Gathering (CMGR SF Meetup)
Susan Tenby and the CMGR SF Meetup team have kindly delayed their event by a week so we can join them for an evening of socialising, beer guzzling, and getting into the SPRINT spirit.
Meet and greet not only your fellow attendees before the big conference the next day, but also many of the great people in the San Francisco community scene.
October 30th – Conference
This is the main conference day. This will begin at 9am and end around 5.30pm.
Each speaker will be given 30 to 45 minutes to share their best ideas you can apply to your community.
- Richard Millington: How to use proven social science to increase activity in any community.
- Justin Isaf: How to reduce your moderation costs from $1.00 per comment to $0.05 per comment
- Loree Draude: How to measure the ROI of Customer-Service Communities.
- Douglas Atkin: To be announced.
- Jeff Atwood: How to optimize any community site (tips anyone can apply)
- Philippe Beaudette: How to build a powerful volunteer army with proven psychology.
- Rachel Happe: How to get employees participating in internal communities
- John Baku: How to ensure members keep their details private
- Alison Leahy: How to build a global, multi-language, community (and community team!)
- Rob Ludlow: How small businesses can launch thriving online communities from scratch.
- Caty Kobe: To be announced.
We will also be allocating plenty of time to networking with your fellow community professionals and getting help on your toughest challenges.
And lunch is on us!
October 30th – Afterparty
We haven't confirmed this venue yet, but expect a variety of beverages and all the usual fun.
Get your ticket here: http://sprint.feverbee.com
Early-bird Tickets – On Sale Now (for those that want to save money)
Tickets are available now for those of you that want to pay less than everyone else (and get some bonuses). These prices will rise on August 4th.
Here are five early-bird options.
- $150 – Community star (conference only ticket)
- $560 – Brand Community star (5 conference only tickets – bring your colleagues!)
- $315 – Community VIP (conference + workshop)
- $1150 – 5 Brand VIP (conference + workshop for 5 people)
- $6,500 – THE SUPER AWESOME MEGA EPIC TICKET (Conference, Workshop, full access to FeverBee’s online training course, 10 books, ongoing consultancy form us, and communitygeek membership for 5 people for 1 year)
Want to pay even less? CommunityGeek members get a 50% discount!
Feel free to apply to www.communitygeek.com first.
SIGN UP TO ATTEND THE EVENT: http://sprint.feverbee.com
If you manage a large, customer-service based community, calculating the ROI is a challenge.
The common approach is to measure the number visitors, questions asked, questions answered, or reduction in call volume. Each has their problems.
- Tracking the number of visitors. This is the worst metric, it includes every possible form of visitor regardless of quality, whether they asked a question, or whether the problem was resolved. It includes people searching for something else entirely.
- Tracking the # questions asked. This doesn’t track whether the question was answered. The same question might be asked repeatedly to get an answer. Each would add to the return (when it should reduce it).
- Tracking the # questions answered. This doesn’t track whether the problem was resolved. The answer might be wrong. A member might ask a question, receive an answer, and then call the customer service line to check. This becomes an extra expense.
- Tracking reduced # calls received. This doesn’t track community attribution. When WidgetCo releases a new product, a lot of people will have questions about it. Over time those questions will be answered. Less people will need to answer questions (call volume naturally declines for new products). It’s hard to attribute this to the community (even with strong correlation).
Using a survey to determine problem resolution.
We instead need a system that tracks a) if the problem was resolved b) if it was resolved satisfactorily, and c) if it led to a reduction in calls to the customer service team.
Google use a simple survey to ask if a visitor’s problem was resolved (collect e-mails to avoid duplicates). They then multiply the % whose problem was resolved by the % of visitors. This provides a call deflection number.
However, the response rate here is low (single-digits). Second, it’s prone to a non-response bias. Those that received a positive response are more likely to click the link to do the survey. You can’t generalize a small, self-selected, sample across the entire community.
Using quotas to generalize across the community.
We need to know the demographics of the audience (you can also do habits and psychographics if you have the resources).
Then determine the breakdown of the audience’s total composition. Most organizations have this information in their CRM system. If you don’t, use an incentivized poll to a large, random, sample of members.
This should tell you that your audience is 57% male, 43% female with further age-related segments. By the end you should have 10+ % segments.
Now you can survey your web visitors (even those that don’t ask questions may be receiving help) to ask if their problem was resolved and use this quota system to ensure it reflects the overall breakdown of the community.
For example, 77% of responses might be from males aged 30 to 45. However, if this segment only comprises of 27% of your overall audience, then it accounts for just 27% of the responses.
Did it lead to less calls to the customer-service line?
This doesn’t show whether the problem was resolved as well as the customer service team may have resolved the problem. Nor does it show if the member would have called the customer support anyway (or just lived with the problem).
Therefore, we need to ask three important questions.
1) Was your problem resolved?
2) On a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with the resolution?*
3) If the problem was not resolved, would you have called customer support?
*Question two can be changed with any comparative customer service question (e.g. how happy are you with the customer service, are you likely to recommend etc…?)
Understanding total return
Now we can make a rough calculation of the return on the customer community.
Step 1) Determine the cost per call of traditional customer-service line.
Divide the cost of your customer service efforts by the number of calls to have a cost-per-call of your traditional customer service efforts. Let’s assume this is $1.75.
Step 2) Measure % of web visitors who didn’t call because of the community.
Multiply the % of satisfied customers (answer to survey question 1) by those that would have called the customer service line. Let’s assume this is 87% that had their problem resolved, but just 73% would have called customer service.This tells you that 64% of web visitors who would have called customer service had their problem resolved through the community instead.
Step 3) Determine the number of calls deflected because of the community.
Multiply the % of call reduction above by the total number of unique visitors to the community. If your community has received 740,000 visits, you can estimate 473,600 of them had their problem resolved through the community.
Step 4) Determine the value of calls deflected because of the community.
Multiply the figure above (473,600) by the cost per call in step 1 ($1.75). This tells you the total return in value terms ($828,800).
Step 5) Compare the satisfaction rate from each method.
If the customer service team scores an average of 4.2 out of 5 (or using any comparative method e.g. NPS, future purchase intentions) and the community satisfaction rate is 3.7, we need to divide 3.7 by 4.2. This gives us a figure of 88.1%. The community resolves problems 88.1% as well as the customer service line.
Step 6) Multiply the total return in $ value by the comparative satisfaction rate.
Now we incorporate the comparative rate by the value of the calls deflected. In this case it would be $828,800 by 88.1%. This gives our final figure of $730,172. We can then divide this by the investment in the community (platform, staff, overheads) to determine the ROI.
To justify the community, we want a % that covers the costs (it should be positive %), better than putting the money in a bank (about 5%) and the opportunity cost (another 5% to 10%). This usually requires something in the region of 15% to 25%.
A few notes
1) This isn’t a perfect system. It’s a rough idea. It relies upon samples to reflect the overall community. Developing the right quotas and collecting enough data for significance is the hard part.
2) It doesn’t track other benefits. It doesn’t track possible improved SEO, increased lead conversion, shorter sales cycles, improved team morale/beneficial internal changes, product feedback etc…
3) It doesn’t track ‘real’ reduction. It doesn’t actually track if the customer service expense was reduced as a result of the community. It tracks the theoretical reduction. A manager might be reluctant to let staff go.
4) ROI increases over time. A community incurs significant initial costs which negatively skew the ROI until the return has been established.
The goal of this post has been to highlight a (simplified) process for measuring the ROI of customer service communities. At present, too many biases (notably non-response/selection biases) are creeping into measurement. We need most community professionals trained in using data to avoid these biases. I hope this post helps.
If you want to discuss advanced topics in more detail, sign up to www.communitygeek.com.
This is a typical first conversation with clients.
Q: What's the objective?
A: To increase loyalty
Q: What happens if customers are more loyal?
A: They visit our website more frequently
Q: What happens if they visit the website more frequently?
A: They buy more of our products.
The objective of the community is to sell more products and services to existing customers. This is good, we can measure existing benchmarks, establish antecedents (increased visits to the website), and track whether it succeeded.
Too often, we use terms such as loyalty, knowledge exchange, and improved sentiment when we should be talking about real ROI metrics.
Here is a useful sheet we use to help those that take our course: http://course.feverbee.com/ROI.pdf.
You usually have to get behind the initial response and go 2 to 3 layers deeper to uncover the real ROI of a community. Don't be afraid of doing that.
Our first steps with new clients are always the same:
1) Establish the objectives in ROI terms
2) Ensure a community can achieve these objectives (i.e. not something short-term or targeting new customers)
3) Identify a method to measure the increase in ROI (usually split tests/control groups etc…)
4) Identify visible antecedents of the ROI for checking progress more frequently (the ROI is a complicated thing to measure, establish easy antecedents you should also measure)
Going back to the ROI sheet here, the objective is the second column, you measure the third, and check the fourth.
If you want to master the social science approach to building successful communities, sign up for our Professional Community Management course.
Registration is open now. The course begins on April 28th
This week we opened registration for our community management course.
Here are a few details:
The course is divided into 3 modules of 6 weeks.
We run all modules each semester, but you take them sequentially (like a college year). Some people, for example, have completed module 1 and are working on module 2 this semester.
We run 3 semesters per year.
The course includes:
- Live and recorded lessons. You will never miss a lesson.
- Guest speakers from throughout the industry. We have a library of the best speakers in the world you can access.
- Over 100,000 words of written material.
- Our own template scripts, templates, and strategies. Learn how we tackle the hard parts of building a community.
- Unlimited personal coaching from us. Take advantage of this. It's us giving you consulting advice on your personal community efforts.
- Access to our playbook and digital library of case studies.
- Graded assignments. Prove what you've learnt.
- A certificate of completion. These are framed. You can hang it next to your degree.
In our course, we take participants to a higher level.
This includes things like:
- Creating a powerful community concept that attracts members.
- Developing and designing an excellent community website from scratch.
- Using scarcity and exclusivity to attract and keep early members.
- Reaching critical mass through momentum and social identity theory
- Using principles of habit formation to increase the frequency of visits and level of participation per member.
- Creating sustainable streams of new members.
- Increasing the newcomer to regular conversion ratio via applied data/science.
- Removing spam/negative material efficiently in small and large-scale communities.
- Gaining influence within and over the community.
- Measuring the health and ROI of the community.
- Building out a community team.
It's not an easy course. You are expected to do the work. But we think you can handle it.
If you want to learn more, click here.
We once did a workshop experiment which went like this:
I asked people who believed that communities could be measured to a financial value to raise their hand. About 30% raised their hand. I asked them to keep their hand up if they had measured the true ROI of the community and had more than 10 years of community experience.
That left a group of 10 people. They went to one side of the room.
Next I asked people who didn't believe communities could be measured to a financial value to do the same (if they had 10+ years of experience). They went to the other side of the room.
Each group was then tasked with choosing a leader, ideally the person with the most experience or most powerful role between them. Then a spokesperson, someone with some media/debate/speaking experience.
The basic principles at work here are simple.
The goal wasn't so much to prove that communities could/couldn't be measured to a financial value (we believe they can). The goal was to prove that you can use basic principles from social science to create an incredibly strong sense of community.
During the debate (point, counter-point, closed discussion, point, counter-point, closed discussion) the rest of the group would vote if they felt one side had made a stronger argument than the other.
At various points, other members of the group were asked a direct question by the audience (they were allowed to seek support before answering).
We then had the group nominate one person to note down all the key arguments their group made for a final pitch to the audience.
Note the social science at work here:
1) Establish a high boundary & group feeling. First we created a group boundary and an in-group feeling. Members felt they were among their peers. People had the same experience/expertise and beliefs as themselves.
2) Create an enemy. We created a rival group. They had an enemy to help bond them together. They had an existential threat. They were subtly pressured to align more in their goals.
3) Force interaction and self-disclosure. By making members nominate the person with the most experience in their field (and then the person with the most speaking/media experience) we forced participants to talk about their experience and expertise. We forced a level of self-disclosure from members.
4) Provide all members with influence. By allowing members to ask direct questions to other members (and allowing them to seek support of the group) we ensured everyone felt influence within their group.
5) Provoke a shared emotional connection. We used voting to provoke emotional reactions from each group. One group was either winning or losing. They either felt pride or shame (and a little anger). This helps bonds the group together.
6) Documented the group history. By documenting all the history and the people they made them, we're creating a shared group history. This is the narrative of the group.
We only did this experiment once and probably won't run it again.
A few thoughts about this. First, you can use these tactics in almost any situation to build a stronger group identity among people. They work as well online as they do offline.
Second, people that know these principles manipulate people every day to achieve different goals. The identification of an enemy, the slicing of people into boundaries, the deliberate emotional provocations, the twisted group history, the illusion of influence – these are all tactics to watch for.
Curiously, at lunch, most people sat with their own groups – even the voting audience.
If you want to learn more, sign up to the Virtual Community Summit in London from Feb 20 – 21.
This is the first event dedicated to mastering the psychology you can use to increase growth, activity, and the value of any community. Learn more, click here.