How To Build An Online Community: The Ultimate List Of Resources (2013)

This is a collection of my favourite and most popular posts from the last six years. It should give you a great overview about both the strategy and the process of creating an online community from scratch.

The Online Community Basics

  1. A Primer About Successful Online Communities
  2. The 11 Fundamental Laws of Online Communities
  3. The Four Tenets Of Professional Community Managers
  4. Building An Online Community: How You Start With 0 Members
  5. How Do You Build An Online Community?
  6. 7 Contrary Truths About Online Communities
  7. Don’t Start A Community For Any Of These Reasons
  8. Basics Community Building Principles
  9. What Is An Online Community?
  10. Different Types Of Communities
  11. The 4 Fundamental Things A Community Provides Its Members
  12. Types Of Communities And Activities Within Those Communities
  13. Visitors, Lurkers, And Members


Online community resources

Strategy & Planning

  1. A Free Online Community Strategy Template
  2. The Online Community Lifecycle
  3. Understanding Conceptualization: The Process You Go Through Before Launch
  4. How To Develop Your Community Management Strategy
  5. How To Write A Practical Online Community Plan
  6. Online Community Strategy & Data
  7. Setting Objectives For Your Online Community
  8. Settings Targets For Your Online Community
  9. Starting An Online Community? First Get The Concept Right
  10. Planning For A Big Online Community?
  11. How To Make Your Community Better, Not Just Bigger
  12. The Online Community Ecosystem
  13. Total Feasible Audience Size: And Why It Matters
  14. Which Communities Tend To Succeed?
  15. Big Launch Syndrome: Don’t Faill Victim To This
  16. From Maturity To Mitosis: The Problem Facing Large Communities
  17. The Establishment Phase: Building Structures & Shifting Processes
  18. The Huge Gap Between Reading and Participating
  19. Identifying And Articulating The Community Benefit
  20. Audience Analysis In Online Communities
  21. Ensuring Your Community Personifies The Interests Of Its Members
  22. The Rush To The Niches
  23. How To Position Your Online Community
  24. The Importance Of Developing A Strong Community Identity
  25. Don’t Target The Wrong People
  26. How To Make An Accurate Membership Projection
  27. Naming Your Online Community
  28. 12 Ways To Doom Your Community Before You Launch
  29. A 3-month Pre-Launch Strategy
  30. The Assets Businesses Need To Develop Successful Communities
  31. Don’t Dilute The Community Identity
  32. Make The Community About Your Members

Building An Online Community Website

  1. Before You Spend $500k On A Community Platform
  2. How To Optimize Your Community Website
  3. Test Before You Invest
  4. How To Design Your Online Community
  5. 20 Things That Should Be Included In Every Online Community Website
  6. The Perfect Landing Page
  7. 8 Overlooked Elements Every Online Community Should Have
  8. A Radical Change In Our Approach To Community Platforms
  9. Developing Forum Communities
  10. Easy Ways To Add Value To Your Online Community
  11. The Toolbox Of Community Reputation Systems
  12. A Simple Reputation System
  13. Pick An Online Community Platform That Works
  14. Stopping Human Spammers
  15. 7 Things A Community Can Live Without
  16. The Problems With Incentives
  17. A Basic Online Community Wireframe
  18. Essential Elements Of Community Platforms
  19. The Notification Cycle
  20. The Case Against Facebook As A Community Platform
  21. Using Your Real Estate: A Quick Case Study
  22. Easy -vs- Difficult -vs- Impossible: Exporting Community Data
  23. Refine or Develop?
  24. Social Density In Online Communities

Launching An Online Community

  1. 5 Things Every New Online Community Should Focus On
  2. 20 Ways To Start An Online Community
  3. Never Wait For The Website To Be Ready
  4. Seeding Your Online Community
  5. Who Are You Trying To Reach?
  6. Who Do You Need At The Beginning?
  7. How To Find Your Community’s First Members
  8. The Founder Role In Starting A New Community
  9. Create An Easy Reason To Take A Small Step
  10. How Small Businesses can Launch Successful Online Communities
  11. Simple Steps To Creating An Online Community

Converting Newcomers Into Regulars

  1. How To Convert Newcomers Into Regular Members Of Your Online Community
  2. Designing The Perfect Newcomers To Regular Conversion Journey
  3. The Ultimate Welcome For Your Online Community’s Newcomers
  4. How To Keep Newcomers Hooked For 21 days
  5. Awesome Questions To Ask New Members Of Your Online Community
  6. Which Visitors Are Most Likely To Become Regulars?
  7. Newcomers: Are They New To The Topic?
  8. The Online Community Joining Process
  9. Optimize That First Contribution
  10. How To Help Members Overcome Their Fear Of Initiating Discussions

Growing Your Online Community

  1. How To Grow Your Online Community
  2. Why People Aren’t Joining Your Online Community
  3. Create A Criteria
  4. Types Of Community Growth
  5. Use The Right Symbols To Attract The Right Members
  6. Growing A Community: A Campaign-Based Process
  7. How To Get More People To Join Your Online Community
  8. How To Find Your Community’s Founding Members
  9. Basic Tactics To Grow Your Online Community Without Any Promotion
  10. Target Clusters Of People At A Time
  11. How To Get Members To Invite Their Friends
  12. 3 Perfectly Acceptable Ways To Invite Someone To Join Your Online Community
  13. Growing From A Social Media Following To Small Groups
  14. How To Persuade Your Employees To Join Your Online Community
  15. How To Get The Best People To Join Your Online Community
  16. The Right And Wrong Way To Grow A Forum
  17. The Problem With Asking Members To Invite Friends
  18. How To Convert Existing Contacts Into Active Community Members

Increasing Participation

  1. How To Increase Activity In Your Online Community
  2. Why People Join And Participate In Online Communities
  3. A Brief Guide To Reaching Unbelievably High Levels Of Participation In Your Online Community
  4. How To Keep Members For The Long Term
  5. Increasing Activity And Participation In A Community
  6. Using Social Proof To Increase Activity In Your Community
  7. Creating A Sense Of Community
  8. Sustaining Long Term Participation In An Online Community
  9. Initiating And Sustaining Discussions
  10. The Basics Of Increasing Interactions In Any Online Community
  11. Why Members Participate: Fame, Money, Sex, Power
  12. A Few Quick And Simple Tips To Boost Activity In Your Online Community
  13. 4 Types Of Contributions You Want Your Members To Make
  14. The Only Way To Keep Everyone Active
  15. 20 Questions which Will Stimulate Activity In Your Online Community
  16. 7 Kinds Of Conversations That Always Stimulate Activity
  17. Concentrate Activity
  18. A Weekly Debate: A Good Idea
  19. How To Find New Discussion Ideas For Your Online Community
  20. Simple Tactics To Encourage Your Members To Talk More
  21. Sense Of Ownership
  22. Two Types Of Participation Problems
  23. Programme Of Activities
  24. Epic Events
  25. How To Find Major Issues To Boost Activity And Unite Your Community
  26. Why People Stay In Your Online Community
  27. Create A Guide To Be A Top Member
  28. Segmenting And Contacting Members
  29. What You Can Do To Make Your Community More Fun
  30. 8 Ways To Encourage Individual Contributions In Your Community
  31. The Benefits Of Off-Topic Conversations
  32. Open -vs- Closed Questions
  33. Themes And Topics

Managing an Online Community

  1. The Community Management Framework
  2. The 10 Principles Of Professional Community Management
  3. Building An Online Community Team: The 5 Roles You Must Fill
  4. High Value Community Management
  5. What Tasks Should Online Community Managers Prioritize?
  6. Community Management: Planning The Week
  7. Moderation Strategy
  8. Turning Data Into Activities: A Simple Example
  9. What Affects Most Members Over The Long Term?
  10. Interact With Your Community Like A Human Being
  11. Attaining Power And Influence
  12. Hierarchy Of Communicating With Your Members
  13. Uniting Your Online Community: Creating Strong Ties
  14. The Art Of Forging Strong Friendships
  15. A Process For Dealing With Complaints
  16. The Base: Every Regular Participant Is A Big Win
  17. The Behaviours You Really Want To Discourage
  18. How To Subtly Influence Members Of Your Online Community
  19. How Many People Can You Really Look After?
  20. Creating Momentum
  21. The Personality Of Community Managers: A Few Tips
  22. A Brief Guide To Building Relationships With Your Top Members
  23. 10 Excellent Rewards You Can Offer Members
  24. Creating Titles For Members
  25. How To Use Transferrable Elements To Develop A Strong Sense of Community
  26. The Unlimited Supply Of Important Work You Need To Do
  27. The Small Simple Processes Which Make The Biggest Difference To Your Community
  28. How To Handle Troublemakers
  29. Using Data To Prevent Violations Of The Rules
  30. Finding Inspiration In Other Communities
  31. Reorganizing Your Forum
  32. Allocating Your Time As The Community Grows
  33. The Status Dilemma: Don’t Bite The Hook
  34. 11 Processes For Scaling Online Communities
  35. Huge Online Communities: What Do You Work On Next?
  36. Resolving Problems
  37. Building Strong Relationships Between Members: A Few Practical Steps
  38. Why Fights Are So Important
  39. A Guide To Rewarding Members Of Your Community
  40. Helping Members To Have Influence
  41. Community Guidelines
  42. The 24-Hour Response Rule
  43. 14 Events You Can Organize And Celebrate In Your Online Community
  44. What Would A Passionate Community Manager Do?
  45. Link Your Community Management Activities
  46. Member Lifetime Value
  47. Explaining Conflicts In Communities

Content

  1. Creating A Content Calendar
  2. The Secret To Awesome Content
  3. Basic Community Newsletter Tips
  4. Converting Traditional Content Into Community Content
  5. Information Needs And Why Content-Driven Community Strategies Are Flawed
  6. Writing Content That Bonds Your Online Community
  7. 20 Fantastic Content Ideas For Your Online Community
  8. The Power Of Exclusives
  9. Interviewing Members
  10. Every Online Community Needs A Local Newspaper
  11. An Online Community Newsletter Clinic

Community Psychology

  1. Getting Members Into The Community Mindset
  2. Motivation, Opportunity, Ability
  3. Understanding Motivation In Online Communities
  4. Recognition Is A Complex Tool
  5. Influencing Behaviour And The Problem With Broken Windows
  6. Permeable Boundaries Between Groups
  7. What Discussions Are Most Popular To Men And Women?
  8. 40 Participants In 20 Minutes And Information Overload
  9. Participation for Intrinsic Reasons
  10. Community Boundary Maintenance And Behaviour Modification
  11. Compliance Without Pressure
  12. An Aligned Process – Motivation To Participation
  13. The Shame Effect
  14. The Efficacy Factor: Increase Participation By Accentuating Impact

Measurement/ROI

  1. Techniques To Help Measure The ROI Of An Online Community
  2. Measuring An Online Community: Master Your Data To Gain An Unfair Advantage
  3. What To Listen For, And How To Listen For It
  4. Establishing The Value Of Online Communities
  5. Measuring The ROI Of Online Communities
  6. Ace The Community ROI Question
  7. How To Check Your Community builder Is Doing As Promised
  8. Communities, ROI, And Misplaced Enthusiasm
  9. Measuring DIY
  10. Proving Benefits Of Building A Community
  11. How To Spot Your Community Is In Trouble: 8 Red Flags
  12. The Huge ROI Of Small, Exclusive, B2B Communities
  13. Data Secrets

Monetizing

  1. The Definitive Guide To Monetizing Your Community
  2. Becoming A Community Intrapreneur
  3. 40 Ways To Make Money From Your Online Community
  4. The Pros And Cons Of Charging For Membership
  5. Community Souvenirs
  6. How To Give Sponsors Access To Your Online Community
  7. Integrating Your Community With Your Business
  8. Getting Innovative About Monetization

Branded Online Communities

  1. Never Let Your Company Start An Online Community
  2. 10 Things Organizations Should Be Comfortable With When They Launch A Community
  3. 12 Steps For Successful Online Communities
  4. Brands Must Use Their Unfair Advantage To Build Successful Communities
  5. A Case Study Of A Branded Onine Community
  6. Why Most Online Communities Shouldn’t Try To Create A Community
  7. Why Branded Communities Fail
  8. 6 Huge Advantages Big Organizations Have Over Amateur Community Builders
  9. A Requirement For Branded Online Communities
  10. Brands: Get The Benefits You Want Without Upsetting Members
  11. Common Branded Community Mistakes
  12. The Choice Most Brands Don’t Know They Have
  13. The 2 Most Common Reasons Why Branded Communities Fail
  14. Decide Between These 2 Types Of Communities
  15. How Do Online Communities Make Your Business Money?
  16. Why Amateurs Build Better Online Communities Than Businesses
  17. Failed Corporate Communities
  18. Your Dream Online Community

Non-profits and Online Communities

  1. Fundraising From Online Communities
  2. What Non-Profits Need To Change

Examples

  1. The Slow And Steady Evolution Of A Successful Online Community
  2. 15 Examples Of Successful Online Communities
  3. 15 Ideas You Can Steal From The UK’s Best Community
  4. You Can Learn A Lot From This Wildly Successful Community
  5. The Best Online Community You Can Begin Today
  6. Case Study: How To Improve A Recently Launched Community
  7. Some Great Ideas From A Terrific Community
  8. What Is A ‘Successful’ Community?
  9. The Genius Of Kotex’s Community
  10. A Simple, Effective, Community Design
  11. 10 Examples Of Great Online Communities
  12. A Great Example Of An Online Community
  13. Never Hire A Marketing Agency To Build Your Online Community
  14. A Great Example Of An Online Community
  15. Hampton People
  16. A Great Examples Of Game Mechanics In Online Communities
  17. The Usual Errors From The Big Brands
  18. Importants Lessons From A Failed Online Community
  19. A Lesson In Successful Communities
  20. The Evolution Of A Big Community Launch
  21. Stories, Clicks, and Relationships: The Sad Story of MetroTwin

Resources

  1. A Simple Example Of A Great Online Community
  2. 8 Brilliant Posts About Online Communities
  3. Essential Reading For Online Community Managers
  4. Forrester Wave Report

Misc

  1. How To Improve Any Online Community Without Spending A Penny
  2. Great Findings From Social Sciences Applied To Online Communities
  3. Creating A Community From Your Social Media Efforts
  4. The One Essential Task For Newly Hired Community Managers
  5. The Online Community Narrative
  6. Social Scaling Processes
  7. Rethinking How We Hire Community Managers
  8. The 7 Most Likely Ways Your Online Community Will End
  9. Struggling To Build An Online Community? Try This Easier Approach
  10. What Data Disproves Common Community Myths
  11. The Easiest Solutions To Your Community’s Biggest Problems
  12. An Example Of How To Diagnose And Resolve Common Community Problems
  13. 10 Steps To Building An Online Community In Your Spare Time
  14. 8 Ways To Merge Your Online Community With The Real World
  15. How To Revive Your Local Community
  16. How To Create Exclusive Online Communities
  17. 6 Social Psychology Hacks For Online Community Managers
  18. 5 Features Of Really Strong Online Communities You Can Embrace
  19. Searching For Online Communities
  20. The One Book Every Community Manager Should Read
  21. Rules For Growing A Group Of Insiders In Your Community
  22. Community Awards 2010
  23. Beyond Your Website
  24. What’s Wrong With Community Management?
  25. Turning Employees Into Stars: A Tip For Internal Buy-In
  26. Integrating The Community With Major Events
  27. Making Tough Community Decisions
  28. Tactics -vs- Processes

Reports & eBooks

  1. 2012 State Of Community Management
  2. 2012 State Of Branded Communities
  3. Howard Reingold – The Virtual Community
  4. The ROI of online customer service communities
  5. The Forrester Wave Report
  6. eModeration White Paper – Communities of Purpose
  7. Deloitte – 2009 Tribalization of Business Study
  8. Lithium – Community Health Index
  9. Radian6 – Building & Sustaining Brand Communities
  10. Jono Bacon – The Art of The Community
  11. Forrester – The ROI Online Support Communities

Websites & Assocations

  1. e-Mint
  2. The Community Manager
  3. The Community Roundtable
  4. Facebook Community Manager Group
  5. Community Builders
  6. The Community Management Group

Blogs

  1. Alison Michalk
  2. Amy Sample Ward
  3. Angela Connor
  4. Blaise Grimes-Viort
  5. Community Roundtable
  6. Connie Benson
  7. Dave Cayem
  8. Debra Askanase
  9. eModeration
  10. Eric Foster
  11. Holly Seddon
  12. Jake Mckee
  13. Jeremiah Owyang
  14. Jono Bacon
  15. Judi Huck
  16. Juergen Derlath
  17. Kirsten Wagenaar
  18. Lauren Klein
  19. Mario Ogneva
  20. Martin Reed
  21. Matt Rhodes
  22. Michael Norton
  23. Patrick O’Keefe
  24. Phil Wride
  25. Rachael Happe
  26. Sue on the web
  27. Ted & Rosie O’Neil
  28. UX Booth
  29. Vanessa Dimauro
  30. Vanessa Paech

 

Academic articles

  1. McMillan and Chavis (1985) Sense of Community
  2. Robin Hamman (1997)- Introduction to Virtual Communities Research and Cybersociology Magazine Issue Two
  3. Moore and Serva (2007) Understanding Member Motivation for Contributing to Different Types of Virtual Communities: A Proposed Framework,
  4. Williams and Cothrel (2004), Four smart ways to run online communities (Sloan Management Review, 2000)
  5. Bughin & Zeisser, (2001) The Marketing Scale Effectiveness of Virtual Communities
  6. Iriberri and Leroy (2009) A Life-Cycle Perspective on Online Community Success
  7. Ridings and Gefen (2004) Virtual Community Attraction: Why People Hang Out Online, JCMC 10 (1), Article 4
  8. Ardichvili, Page and Wentling (2003) Motivation and barriers to participation in Virtual knowledge-sharing communities of practice, Journal of Knowledge Management, 2003; 7,1
  9. Wang and Fesenmaier (2003) Understanding the Motivation of Contribution in Online Communities: An Empirical Investigation of an Online Travel Community, Electronic Markets, Vol 13, No 1.
  10. Sugiyama and Rothaermel (2001) Virtual internet communities and commercial success: individual and community-level theory grounded in the atypical case of TimeZone.com, Journal of Management 27
  11. Sangwan , S (2005) Virtual community success: A uses and gratifications perspective
  12. Andrews, D.C (2002) Audience-specific online community design, Communications of the ACM, Vol 45, N. 4
  13. Barab, S.A, MaKinster, J.G, Scheckler, R. (xxxx) Designing System Dualities: Characterizing An Online Professional Development Community
  14. Baym, N.K. (2007) The new shape of online community: The example of Swedish independent music fandom, First Monday, Volume 12, Number 8 – 6
  15. Stanoevska-Slabeva, K. (2002) Towards a Community-Orientated Design of Internet Platforms
  16. Arnold, Y. Leimeister, J.L, Krcmar, H. (2003) CoPEP: A Development Process Model for Community Platforms for Cancer Patients, Community platform engineering process
  17. Porter, C.E. (2004) A Typology of Virtual Communities: A Multi-Disciplinary Foundation for Future Research, Journal of Computer-mediated Communication, Vol, 10. No. 1.

 

FeverBee’s Products

  1. FeverBee’s Podcast
  2. Book: Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities
  3. CommunityGeekCommunity Geek is an exclusive community of practitioners dedicated to sharing knowledge about how to grow and curate successful online communities.
  4. On-Demand Training Courses
  5. Live Training Course
  6. FeverBee’s Community Consultancy

Why Can’t The Community Manage Itself?

February 18, 2013 Comments Off on Why Can’t The Community Manage Itself?

Kirsten asked a good question last week.

Why not just hire a community manager until the community can run itself? 

Isn't this the ultimate goal? Once the community is self-sustaining, can't organizations let it run itself. 

There are two problems with this logic.

The first is why moderation companies exist; something bad might happen. The community might be invaded by spam, the community might engage in an activity that makes the organization liable to legal repercussions, the community might flame out, or member's might engage in non-stop fights. 

This is easy enough for everyone to explain and understand. Yet it's the second reason that's more important.

The second reason is the community won't be developed to it's potential. A community manager is the person that develops the community to its full potential. A community manager pushes the community as far through the lifecycle as it can go and keeps it there. That role never ends. That role keeps paying dividends. 

As the community progresses through the lifecycle, the community manager's role evolves. They begin on micro-level tasks, move to macro, and finally to optimization-level activities.

This presents a danger to community manager's whose role doesn't not evolve and those that are doing the same tasks they did last year. This means you're not progressing and developing your community. 

The community can always be bigger, more active, have a better sense of community, and deliver a better ROI. If you reach critical mass and drop the community manager, not only will your community likely regress, but it will also never reach it's potential. You get better returns from keeping the community manager. 

Handling Abuse

February 8, 2013 Comments Off on Handling Abuse

Last week, I had to change the time of a free community strategy webinar by one hour.

A few people e-mailed me with abusive messages. 

Our approach in this situation is pretty consistent. We block their e-mail address and unsubscribe them from any of our mailing lists. We don't engage with abuse.   

Over the past five years, I've unsubscribed several hundred people. This has saved me hundreds of hours in trying to placate individuals I probably won't like and a lot of mental energy. This has freed up my time to organize events/webinars, publish books/ebooks, keep the blog going, and otherwise do important work. 

Any minute I spend on these people would be a minute I can't spend on high impact activities. Too often, community managers hesitate about removing members. They try to placate members or convert unhappy members into happy members.

Remove them quickly. Focus on the members that do want to be there. Focus on the members that are worth your time. Your time is limited/precious, don't waste it on the poor quality members. 

For organizations, you might lose a customer if you do this. However, you will have more time to recruit new members, undertake activities that benefit the community, and broadly increase the ROI of the community. That's a good trade to make. 

There are two other benefits here. First, the likelihood of receiving abuse falls as your zero tolerance policy becomes known. Second, the people you remove will most likely to join the communities most similar to yours (i.e. your competitors).

p.s. Relevant blog post from Seth. 

The Principles Behind Referrals

January 9, 2013 Comments Off on The Principles Behind Referrals

If you want to increase the referral/word-of-mouth traffic to your community, there are a number of tactics you can use. 

However, it's important to understand the basic principles.

First, word-of-mouth/referral growth is the best type of growth for a mature community. It replenishes the members you're losing, attracts the members that are most likely to become regulars, and broadly helps foster a stronger community (newcomers already know people). 

Second, people refer others/share content for one of two reasons. They either want to impress people (increase their status) or help people. The former is typically stronger than the latter. 

Your tactics to encourage WOM must live along one of these two axis; increase status or helping others. 

Let's take that first axis; increase status. You could, for example, take the concept of involvement. If you're involved in the co-creation of a community eBook, you're more likely to share it. It increases your status amongst the people you're sharing it with. 

Likewise, if I can invite people to exclusive community events/activities taking place, that increases my status when I share it. Status-orientated tactics work well.

Along the second axis, helping people, it's key to realize these people have less knowledge than your members. Be sure to appeal to more simple questions about the topic, newcomer guides, how to get started, basic equipment advice, newcomer bonuses etc..

Too many communities hope for referral/WOM growth to happen as they grow. That's a mistake. You need to master the principles and proactively drive it. 

P.S. Join me for a free webinar, Unleashing the ROI of Online Customer Communities on 24th January 2013.

The Right Tactics For The Right Audience Size

November 7, 2012 Comments Off on The Right Tactics For The Right Audience Size

The total feasible audience size (TFAS) changes how you approach your community.

If the TFAS  is small (say, <1k members), then your plan for growth is more relaxed.

You grow a little slower. You spend longer building relationships with each individual prospect before inviting them to join the community. Your time allocation shifts towards relationship development.

You probably won't grow via promotion or search channels. You will reach out to all 500 members personally. You spend the time building the connections first. If they're high value (like most most professional B2B communities), you might want to invite them all to an event (and foot the bill). 

It's important to showcase that this community is attracting exactly the right target audience (and not just everyone). 

Retention is paramount. If you lose 10 people that's 2% of your total possible audience gone forever. If you lose 100, that's 20%. 

You can worry less about spam, removing bad posts, and generally moderating the community. There won't be as many discussions – one person can probably handle it. You need to design and plan your community accordingly. 

If your TFAS is larger (usually >10k members), then it's important to establish a foothold,  to highlight what makes this community unique, to showcase momentum, plan for spammers and handling 10k+ comments per week.

In these communities you initially grow via direct invites, but you soon switch to word-of-mouth and outbound promotion.

Most of the people you're trying to reach know if they're likely to be 1 in 500 or 1 in 100,000. You need to adjust your efforts accordingly. 


You can now buy my first book, Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities from the links below:

Preparing Communities For The Future Fragmentation

October 19, 2012 Comments Off on Preparing Communities For The Future Fragmentation

There is a finite number of people in the world. 

Each of these people can give a finite amount of attention to a community. 

The number of communities is rapidly increasing. Most will fail, but many will succeed. 

The competition for people and attention is getting ever fiercer. We've seen from other sectors how this is likely to play out.

1) There will always be big communities in each sector. The number one community will probably remain the number one community. They will have a lot of people and a lot of activity. Their overall number of members, however, will plateau and then decline. It will be chipped away by highly focused communities. This leads to point 2.

2) More highly focused communities will emerge. These will be highly targeted at specific groups. For example, Communities for marketers {qualifier 1}, in London {qualifier 2}, who are passionate about measurement {qualifier 3}. These qualifiers will be demographics, habits, or psychographics (who people are, what they do, and what they think/feel). 

3) The non-leaders are in trouble. The communities that aren't the biggest and aren't heavily focused are in trouble. They face a rapid reduction in membership to the leaders and the niche communities. 

This has some important implications:

First, if you manage the number one community in your sector, you probably need to increase the ROI per active member by around 30% (pure guesstimation). Can you survive if the number of active members declines by 30%? How will that impact your business model?

What new products/services can you develop for community members? You need to fight for every member, each active member is going to be valuable. Build a strong sense of community. Invest in the experience. 

You also need to develop systems that retain the interest and engagement of active members in large communities. Losing an active member is a big deal. Stop worrying about growth, worry about keeping the members you have. 

Second, if you're developing a new community, don't make it generic!! Focus on tiny niches that are easy to attract and sustain. Build multiple niche communities, not single large communities. Don't compete with existing communities. Create the only community of its kind. Closely mirror what members really care about, don't worry about the rest.

Third, if you're in the middle, decide now either to take on the big community with a significant push (if it was this easy, you would already have done it), or consider reforming around more niche interests. The biggest predictor of a member's likelihood of becoming a long-term regular is their strength of interest in the community topic. You can decide a topic that closely matches the interests of smaller groups of members. 

We might not have reached this stage yet, but we we're gradually edging towards it. 

Speaking

October 16, 2012 Comments Off on Speaking

Speaking

Richard Millington is a frequent speaker at online community, online marketing, social media, and internet events around the world.

In the past five years, Richard has spoken in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada, The Netherlands, Spain, Italy, France, Denmark, Romania, and Lithuania.

You can invite Richard to speak at your conference, corporate-training event, or host a live webinar for your audience. 

Richard likes to speak about:

  • How to use social science to build highly addictive communities
  • How to start a community from scratch
  • The ROI of online communities (and how to increase it).
  • How to manage existing communities (the community management framework)
  • How to increase membership and activity in communities.
  • How organizations can develop successful communities. 

Videos of Richard speaking:

Richard Millington, FeverBee: How To Use Social Science To Build Highly Addictive Communities (MozCon – 2014) from FeverBee on Vimeo.

Richard Millington (Feverbee) Introduces Vircomm14 from FeverBee on Vimeo.

 

You can contact Richard at this address: [email protected].

About Richard

Richard is the founder and managing director of FeverBee, a community consultancy, training course, and author of Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities.

Over the past 12 years, Richard has helped to develop over 100+ successful communities, including those for Google, The World Bank, Oracle, Amazon, Autodesk, Lego, The United Nations, Novartis, and many more.

Richard’s blog, hosted on FeverBee.com, is read by 10,000 community professionals every day, and is widely cited for establishing best practice in this field. 

Real Feedback from MozCon 2014

In 2014, I spoke to 1400 online marketers at MozCon in Seattle. Snippets of feedback is included below

 

Smart Growth In Online Communities

October 15, 2012 Comments Off on Smart Growth In Online Communities

You can grow too fast.

If you’re just getting started and trying
to build the base, you might miss a key step.

If you only have limited manpower to
support the community, growth can hurt.

If you’re juggling a job
with multiple priorities can you handle 1000 new messages per day?

If you have
a mature, happy, and highly-engaged community, will an influx of strangers be a
good idea?

We need to change the mindset that growth is always good. It's not. If growth hurts what you have already, or if it becomes impossible to manage,
or if your community is perfectly fine as it is, then growth can be bad

When you grow, the level of engagement (activity) per member can decline. That can lead to less ROI per member, and thus a  less valuable community. If you grow the community to a size you lack the manpower to manage, you're creating problems for yourself. This is just as big a problem as a lack of growth.

Growth is just one channel to have a more
valuable community
. The other is to increase the level of activity per member and/or increase the ROI per member.

Fortunately, excess growth is easier to
resolve than limited growth. You can remove members, close the community to
newcomers, open up a waiting list, halt promotion efforts, switch to an
invite-only system, have an application form, remove the bad members, or simply
make the process of joining the community a little more difficult (e.g. ask for
more information on the registration form).

Growth doesn’t necessarily mean a better,
more active, or more valuable community. It has side-affects. If you have excess growth, that
can be a big (but easily fixable) problem. 

The Huge Gap Between Reading and Participating

September 25, 2012 Comments Off on The Huge Gap Between Reading and Participating

The difference between someone reading and participating is huge. 

Too many organizations aim to attract readers. They try to get experts publishing content that members want to read. This is a flawed content-driven community strategy.

The only viable community strategy has to be based around active participation between members. 

If members are only consuming information, they're not emotionally engaged. They're not interacting with each other. They're not building relationships. They're not developing a sense of loyalty, community, and commitment to the group. They don't get emotionally involved in the community. They will quickly jump to anyone else that produces the same content slightly better, or slightly quicker. 

If they're not participating, you don't get the ROI. You don't get the increased loyalty, repeat purchases, decreased marketing costs. You're in a cut-throat world of content. 

If you want to build an audience, go ahead and publish a lot of content and compete with hundreds of similar outlets publishing almost identical content. That's a rough ratrace.

The alternative is to build genuine communities based around participation.

That means gearing everything towards encouraging participation. Prioritise the interactions, come up with ideas to stimulate interactions between members, shape an environment that orientates around interactions between members. Organize events and activities, highlight the most popular interactions, document what interactions are taking place. 

The irony here is you don't need a community to write for, you need a great community to write about. 

The best content for a community, is content about the community. 

Community Management Framework

September 20, 2012 Comments Off on Community Management Framework

We’ve covered this before, forgive the
repetition (it’s for the newcomers!)

Community management comprises of 8
elements:

1)
Strategy.
Establishing and executing the strategy for developing the community.
Collecting data. Analyzing data. Establishing strategy. Developing action plan.
Communicating the strategy and action plan. Project managing.

2)
Growth.
Increase active membership of the community and convert newcomers into regulars.
Direct marketing, promotion, referral/word-of-mouth. Optimize membership
life-cycle funnel.

3)
Content.
Create, edit, facilitate, and solicit content for the community. Create content
about the community. Use recognition and social influence principles.

4)
Moderation.
Remove obstacles to participation and encourage members to make contributions. Initiate
discussions, develop and refine guidelines, solicit contributions, highlight
popular topics, remove the bad stuff.

5)
Events
and activities
. Create and facilitate events to keep members
engaged. Initiate regular online and offline events, organize irregular online
and offline events.

6)
Relationship
and influence
. Build relationships with key members and gain
influence within the community. Recruit and manage volunteers. Build and manage
an insider group.

7)
User
experience
. Improve the community platform and
participation experience for members. Increase social density, remove redundant
features, add new elements, and refine the design.

8)
Business
Integration
. Advocate internally within the organization
and integrate business processes with community efforts. Measure and increase
the ROI. Integrate the product, price, promotion and distribution of the
organization/product with the community.

Everything you do in a community at any
time is focused within one of these categories.

The key to getting really good at managing a community is to
develop plan that spends the right amount of time on each activity for your
stage of the life-cycle.

Most of the plan will be repetitive week
after week, but always geared towards developing the community, not maintaining
it.

Techniques To Help Measure The ROI Of An Online Community

September 19, 2012 Comments Off on Techniques To Help Measure The ROI Of An Online Community

We’re passionate about measuring the ROI of communities.

If an organization is investing in a community, they deserve to know what they’re getting for their money. When we
help an organization boost it’s ROI, we like to be able to prove it.

The most common objections to measuringthis ROI are
1) You can’t measure everything
2) it’s not about ROI

The first is right, but you can still be accurate. The second is misguided (what does engagement eventually lead to if not greater profits?).

There are a few techniques that can really help here.

1)Measure the increase since joining the community.

You can’t compare the spending habits of members to non-members.
Those that decide to join a community are already likely to be your best and most passionate supporters. You need to benchmark buying habits of members when they join the community and then 6 to 12 months later. This shows what possible influence the community has had on their behavior. If members (on average) spent $35 a year when they joined the community and now spend $55 per year. That’s $20 per year increase.

2)Non-members as a control group.
When Apple releases the iPhone 5, millions of people will spend more on Apple products. You can’t attribute that to the community. To remove this, you need to use non-members as a control group (we’re abusing science a little here).
Track the buying habits of non-members and remove any increase in spending from what you’re measuring. This gives you an amount that is attributable to the community. If the average customer (non-member) spending rose from $25 to $35,
that removes $10 from the above figure.

3)Survey religiously.
This is your secret weapon. You can’t track every purchase from every member (unless e-mail accounts are used to purchase the service and join the community). You need to survey the buying habits of your members. Not all members, but specific samples at certain times. This won’t give you an exact figure, but it will give you an accurate figure. You really want to know the value per active member – then you can multiply by the number of active members.

4)Multiply by years.
If community members, on average, spend $10 per year attributable to the community, and you have 50,000 active members, that’s $500,000 per year. Multiply that by the year (and number of active members for each
year) and you get a very accurate projection of future benefits of the community.

We have 2 places remaining on The Pillar Summit
– Advanced Community Strategy course
. If you’re fascinated by measurement, ROI, strategy, scaling, and social theory, you might like to sign up: www.pillarsummit.com/apply

Using Communities To Attract New Business

September 18, 2012 Comments Off on Using Communities To Attract New Business

You generally shouldn't start communities to attract new customers.

The only people that join, are people already in your audience (typically your customers).

Why would people that don't already purchase the product/service participate in a community about it?

Yet, there is an exception. Imagine if you sell high-price products and services (consultancy, most business services, homes, cars etc…), the potential value of each individual participant in the community is high (see the amazing value of B2B communities).

Instead of developing a community around your data security consultancy services, you can develop a community about data security. You invite the people you know in the sector to participate, gradually they invite others and it begins to take off. 

Through this community you can identify potential leads. You can identify problems members are having and drop them a note to see if there is anything you can do to help. This doesn't scale, but it doesn't have to given the huge value of each person. If each participant is responsible for $50k worth of services, it is a valuable activity.

How much easier would it be cultivate and convert leads generated from a genuine discussions compared with cold calls. How much more credibility would you have being the founder of the community compared with other channels?