- Your Home Page
- Registration Pages
- Confirmation/Welcome emails
- Blog Posts
- the credibility of the sender
- the style and content of the message
- the mindset of the receiver.
Let’s face it, without your members your community would basically be like you sitting in a darkened room talking to yourself. Pulling members in, getting them engaged and then keeping them engaged is tantamount to the success of your Community and ultimately one of the crucial aspects of your role as a Community Manager. As your customers become engaged and (hopefully) super-engaged, something you should look to do is help raise their profile and try find ways to bring them into the spotlight. They’re already doing this by being who they are and engaging the way they do within the Community itself, but there are a few things you could consider to really build on the partnership you’re nurturing and help promote the brilliant people that they are. Here’s some suggestions:
Do you look to spotlight any of your members and help to raise their profile? Any other tips and suggestions? Let us know in the comments.
If you’ve got a customer facing online community, and your not using it in conjunction with your product team, then you’re really missing out an opportunity to not only strengthen the ties between you and your customers, but also to find out what makes them tick and what they think can improve your products. Make them feel a part of the process. Here are some ideas:
Just a few ideas to think about when trying to pull your product team in to the Community, collaborating with your customers to build better products to help everyone become even more successful. What other ideas do you guys have? Let me know in the comments below.
Getting new members to actually visit your community is probably one of the first hurdles you need to get through as a Community Manager. A lot of members realise they would find value once they get there, but in the hectic, busy lives we all need, sometimes we need a nudge to remind us. So how can you provide these nudges? For me it all starts with getting them used to being nudged and giving them reason to actually click on a link and take them there.
I was very much influenced by Nir Eyal’s Hook model: essentially you have a trigger, either internal or external, which pushes people to your community, where they are rewarded with something of value, are enticed to look around, hopefully contribute something of their own and then return later to continue the loop.
I use this by trying to get triggers out to members whenever I can. External triggers are the best way to start thinking about this. An external trigger could be an email or a link on your corporate website etc. External triggers will hopefully lead to users developing associations attached to various thoughts and emotions and eventually become internally triggered to access your community.
An example: you have a new user who has been @mentioned in a post and receives a notification in their inbox. From there they click on the link to see the post and reply with a comment. Whilst there they have a look around and find value in several other posts, liking and commenting as they go through. These interactions lead to others commenting or liking which very likely creates another notification in the inbox, pulling the user back in to the community to continue the conversations. Over time this process leads to the new user associating a visit to the community with finding information out, probably in the form of tips, advice or help with specific issues. Thus when they encounter an issue themselves that they can’t figure out a solution for, they then remember what they’ve seen on your community, which results in them visiting and making their first proper post, a question. This leads (hopefully) to replies and likes, creating more notifications and the cycle continues. Each time strengthening the internal trigger until your community is a part of their daily routine and habits.
Here’s how I begin to use this for new members:
All of this takes place over the course of their first week and very often leads to people visiting and hopefully receiving their reward of value from at least one of the triggers they receive. You’re now ready for the next step – keeping them there and getting them to make their first post.
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After a great first day, a rare full night’s sleep for me and a refreshing walk through the centre of London had me all geared up for a great day at the conference element of FeverBee’s SPRINT Europe event.
Day two saw the more standard conference format kick in, with the first session featuring the “smiliest man in the community world”, Joe Cothrel from Lithium, talking about how we can grow our existing communities, based on a great strategy of Targeting, Attracting, Converting, Engaging and finally Super-engaging members. It didn’t escape me how this had similarities to the popular Hook model that’s been gaining a lot of attention recently and I’ve read quite a lot about. Joe also pointed out that 30% of content is generated by our communities’ superusers and therefore how we all need to be considering how to formalise the superuser process.
Registration was another key issue in Joe’s talk – popping registration could double your abandon rate, whereas on the flip side, if you worded things a bit softer, almost making it voluntary, you could as much as double your success rate: e.g. “Would you like to join our community?”
Next up was the always entertaining Jenn Lopez on how to ensure that SEO is integral to your community’s strategy.
Jenn was very clear throughout that links should be earned and not built, so the quality of your content and indeed how you title it, is of upmost importance. As ever Jenn shared an absolute myriad of tips and tools about how to format your posts and keywords to help people find your content and indeed link back to it when they do.
You can check out her slides from the session here, and I strongly suggest you do, there are so many lightbuld moments – not least about the NASA guy with the cool hair!
Next for me, as the day broke up into two different tracks, was to head over to listen to Tanja Knorr-Sobiech, from Bosch, about how the internal community there is simply growing and growing, with over 20K communities on their IBM based platform. Almost 90% of employees are active on this community – an incredible success rate, and one of many statistics that most people in the room had twinges of the green-eyed monster about. Tanja shared some really great ideas about how they onboard people in to the Community and keep them engaged by encouraging content production and participation through a wide variety of initiatives, from World Cup themed problem solving games via the vast number of selfies that were shared to celebrate the community’s first birthday.
Just before lunch was a lively session with the brilliant Dan Spicer, from Hootsuite, giving some great tips and advice on how to cultivate your community of advocates or super users, sharing the tried and tested tactics used at Hootsuite. These guys really have this nailed on and Dan gave some great advice on how to get your fans and advocates really raving about your brand. Key takeaways were around making sure you engage actual customers and not just influencers; merging your on and offline worlds with meet ups and conferences and, perhaps most importantly, making sure that your advocates know that you’re listening to them, showing that you’re taking onboard their feedback and how you’re applying it to your roadmap. A really great session by one of the industry’s bright young stars.
After lunch I started out back with Caty Kobe as she spoke about putting together your community strategy. There was a strong message throughout about knowing where you were right now in the community lifecycle and having an understanding of where you wanted to go, using what Caty referred to as “The Goldilocks Principle” for knowing how much to do – not too much, not too little, working out what was just enough to push yourself whilst remaining achievable.
After a short break I headed to the venue’s smaller room to listen to Kim England speak about how learning giants Pearson had gone about building a highly engaged community. This session proved to be so popular that an eleventh hour decision was made to with rooms with the other session, so Kim found herself in the main room with a packed house, and what a great story to hear about too. There seems to be a changing tide in the learning community about how communities can really help people learn, more and more people are getting it now and helping their stakeholders to understand, and it’s people like Kim that are helping to spread this message. strategic use of gamification, building use case to drive adoption, truly global initiatives to bring people together and work together and learn from each other. A really great session that provided so much inspiration for people there to observe I’m sure. You can check out the Mini Rough Guide that she spoke about during the session here
The last session in this track was with Matt Doris of Etsy where we learnt how the growth of Etsy teams, driven by members of the community who were also Etsy customers and sellers, were helping each other online AND offline, working together in their local regions to put offline activities such as pop-up shops and Christmas markets on. There were examples of how community members were teaching others the skills they would need to be successful on the site in classroom based sessions, sponsored by Etsy and local councils. What were Matt’s key points in how this comes to be in this endearing story? Being a supportive friend. Being a gracious host. Being an involved citizen. Great lessons to take away.
The day, and indeed the event, was completed with a fun and frank Ask Me Anything session with Justine Roberts, founder of parenting and community behemoth Mumsnet. Some great stories around the history of the site, ethics, freedom of speech and how making small changes often can help you to remain agile and relevant in what can at times be crowded marketplace for information.
More drinks and networking before heading back up north rounded out my first experience of a Community Managers event. I met some great people. I heard some great stories, both on the stage and off. I learned a ton of great information that I know, when I’ve been able to reflect and digest everything, is really going to help me and subsequently our community, be successful. FeverBee put on an incredibly well organised two days with an awesome group of speakers. I learned that Community Managers are a great bunch of genuine, lovely people, and I’m happy to be a part of the crowd and look forward to following some of those stories and meeting everyone again and continuing to learn with you all.
Today sees my re-emergence back in to the real world after spending two days submerged in the elaborate halls and lecture rooms of the beautiful Royal Institute of Great Britain. A really fitting venue for community management gurus FeverBee’s European SPRINT conference for community professionals.
Firstly a brief note on the venue: what a stunning building, with wall-to-wall books in every room, oil paintings and busts of (in)famous scholars and scientists; cabinets of experiments of a by-gone era and a truly wonderful lecture theatre that evoked a real feeling of learning some awesome things in an arena where so much theory and learning occurred that shaped all of our lives in some way.
Anyway – onto the event. I was lucky enough to be attending both days of this event, with the first day being split into two half day workshops; the tricky part being deciding which ones to take.
The first half of the day for me was spent with FeverBee’s head of training, the lovely Caty Kobe and the organisation’s charismatic founder Richard Millington. Caty kicked things off by talking about how to use influencing skills and charisma to drive community success. Being likeable and friendly, reciprocity and using your expertise were all strategies for building influence within your community, with most people probably using one over the others. The tie that bound all of them together, however, was the rule of being always being authentic. Don’t say things in your community if you don’t mean it. Probably better not to say it at all.
Charisma was identified as being a skill you can work on to help with those awkward internal conversations, trying to sell the concept of Community to stakeholders, with confidence, presence and developing a charisma mindset being key to owning the room. How you put your case across and are able to confidently speak with authority about your community is a great way to begin winning those conversations.
Richard’s session was around developing your Community’s story, starting out with making sure that you had an interesting name, rather than simply “brand-name community” (I wonder how many do fall in to that category), and whether or not it passed the -ers test (a current example being the Beliebers phenom). This also led to funny conversation with Dan Spicer the following evening about why HootSuite users should/n’t be referred to as Hooters!
Richard also talked about proving the group’s efficacy by highlighting successes from across your community, press coverage and doing things that change your industries, and finally about having rituals and traditions that really bound people together in community. The workshop was consolidated by having some great activities to bring this to life, one of which was to take our own Communities and look at applying these theories to it. We had a great example around our table of taking the story of Yannick Porter from Greenpeace and his fledgeling community, GreenWire. There is a great story behind it but Yannick now had so many more ideas about changing the name, rituals to keep people coming back and ways to help members celebrate each other’s successes. A story I’ll be sure to follow after this event.
In the afternoon I encountered the brilliant Jennifer Sable Lopez from Moz as she guided us through a session on SEO. I wasn’t too sure how relevant I was going to find it, as our community is a closed community and we have our own SEO people, but as we went through the afternoon I found myself having quite a few “A-ha” moments about how I could use some of these dark arts within our own community’s internal search engine, and be able to think about tailoring the Community’s content to help people in their searches there. Jenn is a great speaker; entertaining, knowledgeable and full of everything you need to keep you engaged after a good lunch. She brought with her such a toolbar of tips, tricks, tools and resources, all of which she shared, that you couldn’t fail to be in the session and take plenty away with you. In fact several people were fixing their own site’s SEO during the session!
At the end of the day we had a great opportunity to network a little and solidify some of the connection we’d been making through the day, with a few drinks at a nearby pub, the Burlington Arms, organised by the lovely Christie Fidura, with some money behind the bar, some lovely food, scotch eggs and lots of great conversation, it was a great end to the day. you could already see the new connections, friendships and networks being built as the day and evening went on, all preparing us for day two.
When you first start out on the road to building your community, a question I’ve heard over and over is, what’s more important – the people or the content? This is a conundrum that can be difficult balance in finding what you want to focus on first.
On the first hand, it’s called a community. Communities need people. That’s a fact. Without people coming to your community there’s no engagement, no interaction, no relationship building, no breaking out of silo’s, no learning from others and so on. So what are you doing to get people into your community. If it’s internal, how are you teaching people about the benefits of community to their working life and other areas of their lives? How are you encouraging people to be involved? Are your leaders on board? If it’s a customer community, how are you highlighting to your customers what they can hope to get out of your community and why they should be there? Where are your touch points before the community, to guide them in?
Then we begin to see the overlap with the second point: once you’ve guided them there, what keeps them coming back? Compelling and engaging content, for sure. Conversation and relationship building. When they need to come to your community as part of their daily work. All of which leads us to the second point of interest here.
Without content, when people turn up at your community, there’s nothing for them to do. Nothing to engage them and keep them clicking, reading, posting, liking, asking, helping, learning. It’s like turning up at a bookstore and the shelves being bare.
Why would you stay? There’s nothing to see here!
So who contributes this content? According to an often cited theory, the 1% rule, only 1% of your users will actively contribute content. The rest, pretty much, will consume, or lurk. Part of the community manager’s job is looking for ways to convert those lurkers to joining the 1% and becoming active contributors. The answer of course is that anyone can contribute. But how are you managing that? Who are your early adopters and how are they being encouraged to post? If it’s a customer community, who are your advocates out there in the customer population and how can you encourage them to become active contributors? Maybe you need a community advocacy program like Salesforce’s MVP program? Do you have internal champions or ambassadors who are ready to reply when people post and continue encouraging participation and engagement?
I guess the answer to the conundrum I posed at the beginning, what’s most important when building your community – the people or the content – well, they must be of equal importance to you if you want your community to be a success! You need to drive people to your community, make sure they know the benefits and what it can do for them. But then you need to make sure that when they get there it does all of that, and more. Make sure that you keep them there and that they keep on coming back. You need to reach a tipping point for people where visiting your community is how they find things out, how they learn, how they get things done.
One way to ensure that all of this starts off on the right foot is to have a clear idea, not just of who and what, but WHY. Why would people use your community? What’s in it for them? What’s the point of it? If this question isn’t answered with clarity in your planning, then it’s time to stop for a moment and reign things in.
Take some time to establish why you want to implement a community; why people would contribute; what they might contribute; and why people would want to view and participate once there.
Once that’s clear for you then you can begin to have a better idea of how you’re going to drive people there and what content will keep them there.
What have you found has worked with your own communities, has one come before the other? Have you got a clear sense of why? What is it? And how can you use that in your driving both traffic and content? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
Your leaders should be using your internal platform. Fact.
Too many times do we hear of business leaders not engaging on internal collaboration platforms such as Yammer, Jive and Chatter., often citing reasons such as , “I just don’t have time, I’m too busy”, or “I don’t do Facebook!”
REALLY??? They’re completely missing the point.
How else are they supposed to keep up with what’s really going on around their business?
We’re not talking word of mouth from some middle manager who wants to make sure their team looks good. We’re talking the real talk that employees are probably saying at the water cooler already, or in a private Facebook group, but they’re not hearing.
How else are they going to begin engaging with staff around issues that affect the workforce?
Staff are likely going to use the platform to voice concern over issues that affect the way they work, whether it’s the need for a new printer, or debate around a long term service award, or the latest changes in products. Ongoing conversations often start here and their presence is needed.
How else are they going to be able show the rest of the business how transparent they’re being?
The opportunity to show staff the work that they do in keeping the business running, the meetings they’re having, efforts to improve things, challenges they’re facing. This can all encourage debate and problem solving. I would hazard a guess it’s not happening right now.
How else are they going to gauge immediate opinion on key debates?
Real time response to key issues and news releases. Announcing that you’re introducing a good long term service award – post it on your community and see the responses that come in. Removing another benefit? Do the same and watch the debate.
Where else can a 2 second action, such as liking a post, have such an empowering effect on the recipient?
If you see a post you like, then Like it. The effect it can have on one of your employees to know that you read it, and you liked it, if nothing else, it will make them feel they are being heard and have the confidence to post again. Then imagine the potential when they actually begin engaging in conversation there too.
How else are they going to convince people that this new fangled community thing isn’t just a shiny new toy that the grown ups are given to the kids to play with. It’s an insanely valuable tool that will be used to engage, share, collaborate and be open with everyone across the WHOLE business.
Now, what were you saying about not having enough time to do this?
Surely this is just too important for you not to be on there?
What do we mean by community, when we talk about socialising your business and setting up an online community, either internally or externally?
A sense of belonging
People want to feel like they belong to something when joining a community. When you move into a new neighbourhood, what is it that makes you feel a part of the local community? What do the people that already live there do that makes you feel like you belong and that this is home? What follows are my top 5 tips for creating a sense of that neighbourhood-style community for your online version.
Make them feel welcome
Welcoming people is such an important part of establishing a sense of community. It doesn’t take long, is pretty much labour-free and is a great ice-breaker and relationship starter. When you see someone new joining your online community there are a couple of ways you can do this. If you’re using a platform where a status is automatically posted saying “Johnny Newbie has joined your awesome community”, then why not post a reply to that status welcoming them to the site. It doesn’t need much more and don’t be tempted to post anything that puts pressure, albeit virtual, on them to commit to posting, maybe just a reminder to shout up if they need anything. Another way to do this is to welcome them with a private message. Here you can give a little bit more info about yourself perhaps along with some starter tips, but again, don’t attempt to push them into participating, let them do that organically by seeing what unfolds. If you’re a Community Manager then you need to be doing this for every new user to your community. Put it on your daily and weekly checklist.
Share and share alike
Like the age old welcoming party, with a brew and some home baked biscuits, (this happens outside TV shows doesn’t it, surely), it’s important to share within your community. Whether it’s sharing your knowledge on a particular subject, or your work practices, a la Working Out Loud, or whether it’s sharing an inspiring or interesting article you found online, by posting these things it; a) encourages others to do the same; b) helps the community grow by expanding members’ knowledge and learning; and c) opens you up to others by revealing a bit more about yourself with each post you make.
Answer the door
The good thing about online communities is that there are lots of doors to knock on when you need to find something out and as such it’s important that when somebody knocks on your door, you respond and open it. This could be in a number of ways on your site. Maybe someone posts a question that you know the answer to. Say so and respond with the answer. Maybe someone knocks on the wrong door, by posting in the wrong group. Politely let them know and point them in the right direction, or perhaps bring the post to the attention of someone behind the right door by @mentioning them.
Keep it down
Nobody likes a noisy neighbour, or a nosy one and similarly on your online community it’s important to not be the only voice that everyone hears. It’s good to let someone else answer the questions first for a change. Doing so encourages the community to grow from within and become self-sufficient and self-serving. Obviously as a community manager you’re still expected to play a big part and post plenty of interesting and relevant posts, keeping things on track and point people to the right doors, but a sense of satisfaction can definitely be gleaned from helping the community become it’s own thing, growing organically to the point where the line between your members and champions is increasingly blurred and everyone becomes a super user.
No one wants to live in a ghost town and for that reason it’s important your online community doesn’t become one. Harness the knowledge and experience of your advocates and early adopters to post and share things as often as they care to, with as few limits and restrictions as possible. What can often happen, for communities that don’t work, is that a user visits and sees no content or interaction. This leads to them not really seeing the point, or how it’s relevant to them, or how it’s going to add value to their life, online and off. They inevitably leave, never to return. Don’t let this happen to your community. Be there. post interesting articles and commentary. Reply to others posts and let them know your reading. Encourage others to do the same and be open and responsive to changes and trends.
A new housing estate is built in the hope that people will buy the homes available.
A new community is built by collaboration, co-operation and a little TLC.
Don’t let the lack of community turn your new estate into a ghost town.
Do you have any other tips for creating community online? How does it work with your businesses site? Let us know in the comments below.