I’ve seen roll outs of different technology including SharePoint , Microsoft Office , CRM, Clarity Project Management etc, etc. And you always hear the same comments, I don’t like it, it’s clunky, it’s the wrong colour, it makes my eye hurt (I made the last one up) etc, etc.
So how do some online communities survive and thrive when the tech they use is sometimes odd, old and clunky. My only explanation is the purpose and the WIIFM. Otherwise known as COMMUNITY
Take sites such as Money Saving Expert and Golf GTI Forum. They are a bit messy and on first look hard to understand. I have to admit MSE is so much better now. But what they do have is a strong sense of community, a clear purpose of what it is and what it can do.
So there are examples that show community beats technology.
All you need to ask yourself is, do you have a compelling purpose for your community, that no matter what barriers technology, people or otherwise that get thrown in the way that the community survives and thrives.
Myself and @dimplerathod sat down the other week after finishing the Golden Rules from Online Facilitators and had a chat about what would our top 10 tip be to someone starting an online community, but also what would they need to do to keep the community going.
Here’s our top 10 tips.
Next time it might be top 20 or 30
After reading the excellent blog by Blaise Grimes Voirt and his ebook called 60 Insights from Experienced Community Managers.
I’ve always wanted to do the same thing with the people I work with.
I might not have got to 60 but here are 16 insights from Online Facilitators across the Knowledge Hub mainly based on our Online Facilitator of the Month interviews.
I asked 22 facilitators from across the top 50 groups on the Knowledge Hub, how much time and what activities they spend it on when it comes to facilitating their group.
So a big thank you to Daisy, Sarah, Alex, Lesley, Sadie, Rebecca, Michael, Cathie, Richard , Ian, Nick, Michelle, Joshua, Wajeeha, Jonathan, Zoe, Barrie, Jacqueline, Jo, Richard, Michael and Tim.
These are the results compared to activities a professional community manager would do.
This is a great blog from Paul Schneider about the 90-9-1 Rule and is it soon to be replaced by the 70-20-10 Rule of Community Participation
There is a rule that has floated around in the social media world for quite some time called the Rule of Participation Inequality or the 90-9-1 Rule. This rule states:
User participation in an online community more or less follows the following 90-9-1 ratios:
- 90% of users are Lurkers (i.e., read or observe, but don’t contribute).
- 9% of users are Commenters. They edit or rate content but don’t create content of their own.
- 1% of users create content and are Creators.
This rule gives both hope and discouragement to organizations that are creating online communities. It gives hope to companies and associations who launched an online community and are not seeing any business-level benefits since they believe that 1% engagement is acceptable. It also discourages organizations from exploring how an online member community or customer community can impact their business if they believe that only 1% of their audience will fully engage. If you are creating an online community for people to participate in, and 90-9-1 statistics dictate that a high percentage of people will not participate, where is the benefit?
Having heard this rule for years and seeing what I suspected were higher levels of participation in our customers’ online communities, I began to ask myself if the rule is really true. So, I set out on a quest to see if that 90-9-1 Rule holds water.
Is the 90-9-1 Rule Still Valid?
Why Did I Conduct This Research?
If the rule did not hold up, many companies and associations may be damaging their business and marketing strategies by basing decisions and benchmarking results using a general rule created in 2006 . So that the readers of this blog have a point of reference for when this rule for online communities was created, keep in mind that Facebook ended 2006 with only 12 million users (Facebook now has over 650 million users).
Study of Online Community Customers
I compiled statistical data from a random sample of our customers so that I could crunch real numbers to determine if the Rule of Participation Inequality was true for private online communities. To begin, I had to assign actions to measure at each level. So here are the actions I assigned:
- Lurkers: Have logged in and viewed information.
- Commenters: Have commented on or edited a blog, wiki or file or have answered a forum post that was already initially asked.
- Creators: Have initiated a blog, file, wiki or forum post.
The thing about the rule is that it infers that all users are doing something since the 90-9-1 all add up to 100%. The problem is that many organizations have profiles of users that are deactivated, past members, or guests. Also, not all members of an online community have access to the same tools, content, and functionality. So, to make a fair correlation, I ran two sets of numbers – one set accounting for all profiles in the system and one set with only the participating users making up the 100%. These numbers are below:
Findings of the Online Community Research
My belief is that the second chart is a more accurate comparison to the 90-9-1 rule since all users have to be doing some activity to account for the 100% of the sample. So based on the data in that chart, there are a few interesting things we can learn:
- All but one online community had more Commenters than the 9% the rule suggests. So, people seem to be more open to editing and commenting on existing information.
- All sites were higher in Creators than the 1% the rule maintains. One as high as 17%! With more and more people getting comfortable with social networking sites, perhaps people are more comfortable in expressing their opinions.
- The averages for each area are far higher than the rule suggests. (Well, other than Lurkers, but that is a good thing!)
So, maybe we don’t need to be so dire about how many people engage in your online community. Based on this data I would suggest a new rule (with a little rounding):
The 70-20-10 Rule of Community Participation
Has a nice ring to it doesn’t it!
Frédéric Mazzella CEO of Blabcar recently spoke at a conference with the main question “how are people able to trust one another enough to share their journeys?”
In order to answer this question, Blablacar teamed up with Groupe Chronos to do a study on how much trust members of online communities, specifically members of Blablacar, put into their online community, based on the completeness of the user profile.
With some really interesting results. I personally try and encourage members to have a full profile and especially facilitators of groups as this start’s to build trust.
But the results from Blabcar really back this up.
“Members with a complete online profile are trusted more than a neighbour, and almost as much as a friend or a family member.”
The study took four ‘profile types’ in its online community: members with empty profiles, only a photo, only a verified phone number, only positive ratings, and someone with a complete member profile (photo, verified number, ratings, etc.).
The most interesting part of the study is the fact that members of an online community with a complete online profile – photo, ratings, verification, etc. – are almost on the same level of trust as a Friend or Family member.
The full details are available in Blabcar’s blog post
Producing a Body of Knowledge (BoK) on a specific area is a good thing especially around Project Management, right? It can be but what if lots of people do not understand what they are really for and do not notice that there is a big thing missing in them.
If your a member of APM’s linkedin group you may wish to add to the conversation that has been taking place. That’s if your courageous enough.
Richard Millington rightly points out that encouraging participation is one of the keys to a successful a vibrant group. As part of his Feverbee blog he says there are three types of discussion:
- Conveying information – people interact to exchange information with one another.
- Bonding with others – this refers to all conversations that lack purpose, but increase the sense of kinship between members.
- Status-jockeying – people interact to defend or increase their status.
And the challenge is to initiate the right balance of discussions as conveying information is often misidentified as the most valuable by facilitators when developing their group.
On a recent webinar by Richard one of the things that stuck in my mind was to find other popular discussions on other forums and see if you can adapt them for your own community
So I asked facilitators from across a few communities on the Knowledge Hub what has been your most active discussion?
This is a snapshot of the types of questions that where popular. All you have to do is fill in the blanks.
- Does anyone know how to….. ?
- What is your favourite……?
- How is your xxxx organised?
- Has anyone got an xxxx framework?
- What software are you using to do xxxxx?
- Can anyone recommend a training course on xxxx?
- Why do people leave xxxx job?
- How can we help more people get into xxxx?
- Is the xxxx a priority in your area?
- Should xxxx register with multiple agencies?
- Share your pictures from XXXX event
- When will further guidance be available on XXXX?
- Can anyone clarify the standards that should be used regarding XXXX?
Steady, smart content curation can help grow the number of return visitors you have to your online group and encourage higher participation.
You can do this by filtering out all the rubbish and showing your group members all the good stuff.
In exchange, they start paying more attention to your group and are more likely to participate and contribute good stuff themselves.
This is a step-by-step look at how I do my daily content curation. Nothing fancy:
You can even read a recent blog showing the slides used in a recent webinar for the Online Facilitators Community by Steve Dale on Content Curation.
Less time than it takes to make a cup of tea?
Can you content curate in less time that it takes to make a cup of tea. I believe you can.
As the Telegraph has mentioned “Scientists have discovered that the key to the best tasting brew is to let it sit for six minutes before drinking.”
I did all of these things once, to get my toolset in order:
- Set up Google Alerts using key words
- Set up Feedly (Google Reader Alternative)
- Set up Tweetdeck (Add Columns to include relevant hash tags e.g. #kmers = Knowledge Management)
- Set up Scoop It with a theme (Install the Scoop it bookmarklet to my browser)
Add my favourite blogs, news feeds and anything interesting from Google Alerts into Feedly
This should take about 30 minutes and is a one of thing.
Making Sense (Morning)
Review my Feedly / Google Reader list.
- If a headline looks interesting, I read the story.
- If I think my group will find it useful, I open the story in a separate browser window. The reason: You probably first read the post in Feedly / Google Reader. You need to view the article on the publishing web site for the next step.
- Click the Scoop It bookmarklet
This will appear
Add an insight. You can also post this to other social networks as well.
Making Sense (Afternoon)
Go to Tweetdeck and review the topics of discussion and links on the hashtags you follow. If one really stands out or is getting a lot of retweets. Open the tweet and if it is of interest use your scoop it bookmarket.
There’s a whole range of ways you can share all the great content you have curated.
Scoop it offers the option to embed a live stream which could be used in your Announcements, Wiki etc.
It also provides a RSS Feed which can be used in conjunction with Blastacasta to import the feed into the group
It also has a new addition of newsletters. If you select Downlad as zip file and open this in a webpage. You can copy this and add it to a Blog post.
But I prefer the old fashioned way. Because this stimulates more conversation and return visits. And that is to pick the best content and use it to stimulate a discussion.
6 minutes a day – that’s all it takes