Let me guess – you launched a private community and it was a dismal failure. Or you’re too stubborn to admit that it’s dying a slow death. Here is what happened – you hired me to build you a beautiful garden. I come back in 3 months and everything is dead. I tell you to fire the gardener and you ask – what gardener! So in 3 months you haven’t watered, fertilized, pruned, or otherwise taken care of the garden and you were magically expecting a beautiful basket of fruits and vegetables? That’s exactly what happens with many private communities. Regardless of the provider – not really but I’ll get to that in a minute – it’s NOT just about a cool tool…. I am often asked about the ongoing care and feeding of an online community and I have found that making the analogy to tending a garden resonates with everyone. We all have had the experience of trying to grow a tomato or keep a house plant alive. It’s not easy. There are tricks, there are a ton of tips, but until you have actually done it successfully, it can be really frustrating. Plant it and it will grow, is similar to build it and they will come. Neither are true. Right? You have to do more than just build it or plant it. You have to nurture, cajole, seduce and dedicate precious time to assuring success. That tomato doesn’t grow itself, it needs help. Your community will not grow itself either. [Read more…]
One of the most important people involved in the success of one of our networks is the Community Manager. We pay a lot of attention to them and work closely to make sure the platform helps them be successful. In any profession it is great to have a support community to lean on and to learn from. Community Managers are very fortunate to have the Community Roundtable as a resource. They have recently relaunched their website and it’s even better than ever. You can sign up for their materials and learn a lot. We suggest to all of our clients that they take advantage of this vibrant community. The founders (@JimStorer and @RHappe) are fantastic and passionate about delivering tremendous value, which extends beyond the Community Managers and to the executives who make decisions about implementing social strategies. They are also agnostic about internal or external communities and there’s plenty to learn from commingling the people responsibile for the different types of networks. They just published this great deck for Community Managers that we thought we’d share here. This gets into a lot of the real issues that come up after time and are only now really getting visibility now that many organizations have a few years of experience running communities. We appreciate your comments and encourage you to let us know your thoughts about this fascinating topic.
In this talk from UCTV to the University of California Santa Barbara Technology Management Program students, CEO Mark Sylvester explains the history of the company, the problem the company set out to solve and how the Visual Matching Engine works in practice.
We are frequently asked how to make the online experience more compelling, more engaging. Here are 20 proven techniques that will work. Not all are applicable to all types of Communities. You will get a sense for what will work and what won’t with your given audience. Pick two or three to start with and experiment. Then add a few more. Please leave us a comment below to tell us which ones you picked.
Want more engagement? Be more engaging.
1. Be a Leader
- Cultivate pride and identity in each member so they see that they are a part of something bigger than themselves. You set the tone for the Community.
- Step in and encourage users to interact with each other.
2. Make it easy to participate
- Use multiple entry points. (email, newsletters, intranet, posters)
- Make the Community a regular part of your normal communications.
3. Welcome and Encourage Newbies
- Ensure that new members are welcomed and feel acclimated to the new community. One to one contact from the Community Manager is a fantastic way of building good foundations. Thank your members for performing actions, suggest content they might like or point them towards new activities in order to build long-term engagement.
- Create a Welcome Wagon group that reaches out to new members, including a tutorial movie (Jing) on how to get the most out of their interactions.
- Make sure that the purpose of the Community is clearly articulated for every new member.
- Be very clear about how members can engage and encourage them to start posting and making connections early in the process.
- Post a tutorial on how a complete profile helps them get the most out of the Community.
- Have an Ambassador in charge of highlighting or interviewing new members weekly, then posting highlights in the Dashboard Digest.
4. Create a “water cooler” environment in new communities
- Make your online community a place where people can go to engage in light-hearted conversation with their peers in a non-threatening way. This is an important way for members to establish a comfort level with each other before broaching more sensitive topics. Idle chit chat is an important part of a community and it will take some creative influence to help executives understand that it is a crucial facet of the business case.
5. Interact with your Community
- Interacting lets members know that someone is listening. Make comments in Forums and frequent interactions with Group creators.
6. Post inspiring content
- You created the Community with a business objective in mind and have effectively communicated that purpose to the membership. Your choice in content posts should echo and support those objectives so that the Community reflects it’s purpose and has continuity with your brand identity.
- Set a goal to publish or upload at least 2 new pieces of content a week.
7. Ask questions that matter to the community
- Asking questions using actionable language is recognized as a good way of generating discussion. However, this only works if the questions you ask are relevant to your audience. Take the time to understand what your audience reacts to and then plan around this.
- Make the questions structured, i.e. Do you agree or disagree?
- Make sure you follow up and acknowledge them when they answer the question.
8. Identify and nurture your power users
- Getting together with them as equals and co-conspirators helps bring more volunteers into the fold, because you give them a vested interest in the success of the Community.
- Solicit the Top Posters to moderate a monthly ‘Great Debate’ on a specific topic that they are expert in. (Use Manage to find this information out.)
- Interview the Community Experts. (Use Advanced Search to find them.) Having them actively involved will build engagement and encourage other experts to ask to be interviewed when they see the recognition it gains.
9. Showcase and cross promote UGC (User generated content)
- Be clear on the purpose and desired response to posted content and conversations – it will help members know what is appropriate and feel comfortable contributing. Clarity of purpose will also help you track and measure results effectively.
- Remind people that they can subscribe to a Forum thread so they don’t have to check back in when new posts are made.
- One of the best ways to pull people into a conversation is to let them know that they have an audience. Encourage peers to respond to new content that is posted, particularly if a newer member of the community posts it. Responding as the community manager is OK but it is not as satisfying as a peer response and it can inadvertently halt the discussion because it is viewed as the opinion of an authority figure.
- Curating and showcasing community content energizes and motivates users and can help get new content contributors.
- Feature a Member a Month based on interesting content they’ve posted.
- Post Top Commenters/Posters in the Dashboard Digest or Company Newsletter or other regular communications.
10. Encourage posting of images showing the Organization in Action
- Create a Resource area for photos from around the Organization.
- Monitor most active and give rewards to groups that are most active.
11. Be timely about reviewing UGC
- Make sure you review and comment if needed on Forums and Resources.
12. Reward contributors
- Create a metric that combines posts, group membership, logins, aggregated time spent online into a score and give a monthly prize.
- Run a contest with a random drawing from all posters to a specific Discussion with a great prize. (something from Apple?) When tied to one of the content strategies above, this works at stimulating meaningful interaction.
13. Encourage Robust Profiles
- Regularly review the Most Aligned and Least Aligned reports. (Via Manage)
- Contact Least Aligned monthly to urge them to be more involved.
14. Contextualize the data from the backend reports section of the Community
- Take a look at the Word Selection reports and consider creating Groups or Forum posts that take advantage of this information.
- If you had a group of words: I Need Help With, and I Can Help With, you could easily find the experts who could provide help and solicit their support in a Discussion campaign.
- If you see that Movies are a top interest, create a Movie Lovers Group or a general discussion thread that anyone could contribute to (so they didn’t have to join the group to see what is going on).
- Instead of just reporting on statistics you find in Manage, try to draw conclusions that help your users.
- If you find that 18% of your users say they are Entrepreneurial, use that information to find a way to tap into that resource. See if you can harness that energy in Team Building or New Product Development. Be creative with the information you glean from the network.
15. Use the Marketplace for Promotion
- Create at least ten graphically rich house ads to announce events, special classes or programs. Change them out often to avoid staleness.
- Be aware of the branding and visual nature of these ads and make them engaging.
16. Get more out of Groups
- Create a ‘Getting Started with Groups’ post that highlights best practices.
- Create logical categories for Groups that support your business objectives.
- Talk with Group managers, be cordial and lay out guidelines.
- Regularly check to guard the quality of the Groups that are created. Help them when you see there’s only one person in the group, them.
17. Create an Ambassador Group that meets regularly
- Having a group of interested people who can provide ideas, help promote engagement, and do things like serve as a Guest Editor, and soliciting stories can be a valuable resource to the Community Manager.
18. Create RSS feeds in Online Resources that are applicable to your Community
- Be the first to publish information on industry and related topics.
- Example of an RSS Feed from a Cartographic Blog:
- Here’s how you would return Twitter feeds for Mark Sylvester:
- Here’s how you would return Twitter search results for Community Managers, where the tweets also included links to posted content:
- If you are good at building HTTP strings you can look at this resource to learn more about Twitter:
19. Use the Dashboard Digest weekly email feature strategically
- Pick a day and time that works best for it to be well received by your members.
- Feature Community updates, current conversations to pay attention too, Top Users, Interesting Stories, etc.
- Make sure that it’s easy to contact the Community Manager with ideas to improve the Community.
20. Create an area for Continuing Education and Ideas related to Community
- Use this as an avenue to improve the organizations’ use of the Community while maximizing their ability to Connect, Communicate and Collaborate. Solicit stories, examples, links and ideas that help everyone.
- How to make great connections
- How to write compelling communications
- How to collaborate effectively
21. BONUS Solicit anecdotes about Connections or Collaborations
- Look for stories that are a direct result of use of the Community and highlight them on a regular basis in your Communications.