When I was growing up, and I’m probably going to be showing my age in this, I enjoyed a tv show called Worzel Gummidge, where the main character, Wurzel, a scarecrow, had different heads for different situations. He would unscrew one and replace it with the appropriate one for what he needed. This is a bit like being a Community Manager! There are so many different situations we find ourselves in; so many roles we need to take on, that sometimes it would be great if we could just screw on a different head to handle them.
Here’s some of the different heads we might need as a Community Manager in a branded community:
The Cheerleader head – you’re the face, the voice, like you just stepped out of the salon and you will use it to champion everything you can. Your company’s products; your company’s people; your members. Connecting people to each other and helping your members build relationships and expand their networks.
The Confidante head – you need to be able to gain the trust of your members and create an environment conducive to sharing. People need to feel they can trust both you and the community as a place. Can they trust what you’re telling them and the connections you’re helping them with? Will they feel comfortable enough to ask a question they might think a tad trivial, or to share their latest successes?
The Mediator head – it’s reasonably inevitable that at some point you are going o have to mediate and resolve some form of conflict. It may be a member with some negative views of your company and you have to take steps to placate them and maybe even turn them around. Or perhaps two (or more) members clash and have a public difference of opinion. You become the mediator and try to figure out how to resolve the differences and get everyone playing nice again – all whilst making sure people still feel their opinions are valued and their voice is being heard.
The Spokesperson head – there are times when you need to make sure the values of your community are being upheld and your voice turns to that of a spokesperson for the rules, drawing attention to the guidelines and the etiquette. This head also comes in useful when you need to be the Community’s spokesperson internally, to the people within your community that perhaps need to hear the feedback being given about their products, or the experience of dealing with your company.
What other heads do you sometimes have to screw on in your communities?
This week I spent two brilliant days at the stunning and awe inspiring Royal Institute of Great Britain, home of the Christmas Lectures and decades upon decades of historical scientific discoveries. I wasn’t there however, as a sample to be experimented upon (or maybe I actually was), but as a delegate at the annual FeverBee SPRINT London workshop and conference, Europe’s ONLY event specifically for Community professionals. This was my second year attending and my eagerness to learn from the awesome speakers was just about able to lift the bleary gloom of the 5.30am train I was travelling on from Leeds to make it in time!
So, what happened? Well, the first day saw around 45 professionals from across Europe be enlightened, enriched and inspired by a full day’s Tactical Psychology Workshop, led by FeverBee’s brilliant founder, Richard Millington, and covering topics such as Motivational Theory, Cognitive Biases, Psychological Mind Hacks and Persuasive Communication to help us increase engagement within our communities. I’m going to briefly summarise this first day by talking about the four main things that I learnt.
Fix your Call to Actions.
Many websites and Communities often have near pointless calls to action in their buttons, links and messages, that neither inspire people to take action or engages them with what they actually want to achieve. To remedy this we should look at using Self Determination Theory (SDT) to align these messages and CTAs with our users’ core motivational needs. SDT looks at three internal needs that we have: Competence, Autonomy and Relatedness. Linking our messages to these needs can really begin to make the connections in people’s minds that clicking on the link you present them will actually help to satisfy one of their needs; a need for improving a skill, or one for being able to take control of their learning, or even a need to belong to something. A good starting place for this is to create an inventory of all the Calls to Action that you currently have in and around your community. Thinking about where people may first hear about it, this could be (although by no means restricted to):
Your Home Page
Once you’ve got an inventory, you’re going to need to look at replacing any standard, non-engaging CTAs with motivation-driven messages that really speak to the needs of your members.
Hack your members’ minds!
Aside from the ethical discussion around this (there was only one person in the room who potentially found the issue to be contentious) the benefits of hacking deep in to the minds of your members, and potential members, is vast, if you can just learn the basics of how to approach it and build an understanding of your members’ potential irrational biases. Richard gave us some really great insights into using a variety of heuristics, in a similar way to how savvy restauranteurs might play with you on their menu to order the most expensive things. The Availability Heuristic includes providing a short time span, specific benefits, being visual and telling a story – something potentially like “Join now in 30 seconds”; the Anchoring Heuristic, where we make decisions or form opinions based on the first piece of information that we receive. Here things such as average behaviour, first impressions and social proof come very much into play – you could do this by highlighting the high value posts, or posts with a high response rate; the Affect Heuristic and how our emotion and state of mind guides our decision. the better your mood is, the higher the benefits seem and the lower the risk. This could include using feel good or even bad news stories to show positive and negative angles, questions versus answers. A great example that came from Richard was for a health and fitness community – “do you want to get fit” or “how to avoid injury and illness”; and finally the Effort Heuristic, where the perceived value of something is determined by the effort being put in to building it. Efforts around this could include using your user levels to increase state and building out your ambassador programmes and what they might include. This was a big learning point for me but also one that I’m yet to develop a battle plan for. I’ll probably revisit this one in a future post!
Changing peoples behaviours.
I’ve already written on this blog previously about knowing why your community exists, but Richard asked the question to the room, what business are you in? Only 20% of attendees had the word community in their job title who potentially says a lot about where we’re at as an industry and/or discipline right now, but the question is valid. Perhaps the term of Community Management is being outgrown and it’s important for us to think of it from a different angle. Are we actually in Retention? Or Innovation? Perhaps we actually work within Customer Support or Success? Whichever it is, it’s important to be sure to understand it in order to begin building an idea of who your members actually are, what their behaviours currently are and how you’d like to change them; what’s the behaviour you want to see them displaying instead? Consider why people are displaying the current behaviour, what’s driving it? Is it their personality (motivation/values/attitude etc)? Or is it due to social norms, where they don’t see others displaying any other type of behaviour? Maybe the environment is wrong for them and the perceived effort is too high for the value returned? Or maybe the rewards aren’t evident and the value is seen to be neither worth it or relevant and perhaps not returned soon enough? Once you have a better understanding of these, then you stand a better chance of switching things up to better accommodate and appeal to your different types of members and convert their behaviour to align with what you want to see.
One of my favourite sessions of the day was looking at the language we use, along with the rhetorical devices we employ to try and persuade people (members) to change their minds and opinions. We were looking at moving people along a mindset axis, where some people are against something, some are undecided, and others are favourable. We learned that it was best to not try to move someone the full length in one fell swoop, and in fact was better to try and get someone that was against something to become undecided about it first, and then attempt to convert them to being favourable later. An interesting point to further understand here is that much of this persuasion happens before you even open conversation, rather depending on:
the credibility of the sender
the style and content of the message
the mindset of the receiver.
As such, understanding the mindset that your community’s members might be in when they come to engage is important, so that you can approach changing their minds in an appropriate way.Richard gave us some great tips for moving people between the stages, such as planting doubt in the minds of those against and asking what would persuade them to change their minds. Surrounding the Undecided people with believers, providing them with evidence and relevance but also providing them with emotionally based arguments. and for those already in favour then you can rally them with progress and affirmations. Two examples we looked at, from opposite ends of the spectrum, were a Barak Obama speech and a post that sparked the recent Reddit revolt! Again, this is a subject I’ll probably post more about in time, but it’s fair to say, blog posts are a great way to start employing some of this one 🙂
The workshop was simply awesome and it’s unlikely I’ve done it justice in this recap, however, it’s helped me to begin to digest what I learned and start to put some context around how I can begin to use Tactical Psychology in managing the communities I manage. Learning points from an equally impressive Day Two are coming shortly!
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:
Get them on your blog. If you have a blog why not run a monthly spotlight feature, a Q&A or Case Study done in collaboration with one of your leading influencers? It’s a great way to get their name out there but also to get insights, for both yourself and your members (and even the wider public audience if your blog is public), into what value they’re both gaining and generating in your Community. We’ve started a monthly series where we feature some of our most influential members and they give some great insight into their business and use of our products but also into how they approach Community. You can see some of them here.
Follow them on appropriate Social Channels. If you’re not following your members on Twitter then you should be. It gives you the opportunity to get to know your members even more, but also enables you to share the great content that they’re contributing to the wider world. I have a list in Twitter with members from my Community in and I LOVE to read what they’re doing outside of our Community world. They also produce some great content and share some awesome features from people you might not normally see.
Pull them into conversations where you feel they might be able to provide value. If one of your members posts a question that you know, or think, one of your top members would have an opinion on, or some advice or experience to share, then make sure you @mention them and bring them in. You can do this both inside your Community but also in the wider social sphere, assuming you took care of number 2!
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.
Recently i’ve started working my way through the great training course from FeverBee, put together by the brilliant Caty Kobe. I’m going to use this blog as reflection on some (not all) of the topics as I work through.
The first point that was covered, and one that I’ve seen debated recently in several forums and networks, is the age old conundrum over what a community actually is.
I liken an online community very much to offline communities that we’ve grown up with since forever; the streets, towns and cities that we live in, the niche groups we become involved in relating perhaps to music or sports etc. In essence, for me, it’s a group of people that gather at a place or event and talk, share, help each other, swap stories and all that good stuff. This for me doesn’t change for an online community.
I moved house several years ago and really feel like we have a great community here in terms of people chatting in the street, kids growing up together, helping each other with challenges and getting things done, socialising and asking for help. Without that community feeling here I wouldn’t enjoy living here as much and would possibly be looking to live somewhere else.
Online communities are the same for me. The community I manage right now has a core group of members (residents) that chat, discuss hot topics, swap stories, ask for and give help, offer suggestions to make things better etc. Around that group, we have new people moving in all the time; some are transient and stay for a little while, others are quickly becoming part of the community and we’re working hard to keep that number rising all the time.
How would you define a community? What does it mean for you? What sorts of community have you come across?
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:
Have an Ideas board. With some platforms this is an actual feature, somewhere that your customers can submit ideas to your product team if they think of something that would make a great product feature. Other users can vote for Ideas that they like. If your platform doesn’t have this as a feature then it would be easy to create a group in your Community for this purpose, just be sure to have a system in place to monitor the ideas and feedback to customers what’s happening with their ideas, whether or not they get taken forward.
Look for volunteers. Your product team should be in your community looking out for the people that have the great ideas, that ask the great questions and show a real keen-ness for being involved. Why not put the word out for volunteers interested in testing out some of your features? Or for people to give you feedback on enhancements and new layouts. Our volunteer numbers have rocketed since we started reaching out for people in our Community, yours can too.
Be there. As a bare minimum, people from your product team should be in the Community, checking out what conversations are taking place about their products. What are people saying? What pain points are they feeling? What do they think of your new features? What suggestions do they have for more improvements? Product teams need to have their fingers on the pulse, and what better way than in your Community.
Keep your ears open. Remember that you are also an important connection between your customers and products. Make sure that you continue to connect people that may be looking for help, or to be involved, or for those who might have the right mindset for testing. You also might (should) have ongoing conversations with your top users, perhaps via email or some other form – they might also divulge important feedback in those conversations. Be sure to feed that back to your product team. You’re a conduit here too.
Take it offline. Set up some offline user groups/meet-ups whatever you want to label them. Bringing communities together offline is a powerful tool for making the sense of community even stronger between your members, but also another really great opportunity to get people talking about your products and solicit some great feedback. Don’t forget to make sure that the main topic of the meet-up isn’t you soliciting feedback though – your customers need to get something out of the session too; hands-on training maybe, some insight into your roadmap.
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:
Welcome emails: each new member receives a welcome email from me, explaining what they will find in our community and where the likely value will be for them. I also tailor the email to point out specific groups that I feel would benefit them from a product perspective. These are linked back to the group, hopefully encouraging the user to click and follow the trigger into the community.
Follow them: the day after the welcome email I go in and follow them. This will create a notification in their inbox, hopefully tempting them to click and see a) who I am and b) what’s in there that may be of interest to them.
Welcome post: each Friday I post in our general group with a topic to discuss (loosely based around the week just gone and the one coming up) and in which I encourage other community members to welcome the new ones. I then @mention each new member, creating a notification in their inbox telling them they’ve been mentioned in a post. Hopefully this will lead to them clicking the link and visiting.
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. Follow my blog with Bloglovin
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.
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.