Posts Tagged ‘Communities of Practice’

Think about your online community as a business

January 4, 2018 Leave a comment

Building an online community is easy, right?  You just press a few buttons on some great new bit of technology and everything happens for you.

Everyone is doing it.  Hundreds of thousands of online communities are springing up everywhere due to the enhancement of technology and our use of social media.

But there is a wasteland of inactive online communities out there, that had so much promise.

They thought they would get members, engage them and make it self-sustaining and just like the underpants gnomes from Southpark whose business plan was

  • Phase 1: Collect underpants
  • Phase 2: ?
  • Phase 3: Profit


They failed.  But why did they fail?

At least the underpants gnomes had some sort of plan.  Most online communities start with none and try and make it up as they go along.

If you were to start a business that would be crazy.  Yes, you would be learning as you go along.  But if you did not have the basics in place it would be a waste of time and effort. Don’t let this happen to you.

Let’s start to think about building your online community in the same way you would start a business.

Could you answer these questions before you start?


1: Am I ready to start a business?

Are you ready for the time commitments and attention that you need to make it a success? Will you have too many distractions that will take you away from working on it, then perhaps it’s not the right time


2: What value am I providing?

You need to provide value otherwise no one will want to take part. You provide value by solving a problem or filling a need.


3: Who else is doing what I’m doing?

Your competitors are the second most important factor. While you have obviously started with an idea, you don’t want to do it exactly the same as someone else. Figure out how you can do it better and/or different than your competitors.  This will help you stand out from the crowd.


4: What contacts do I have in my industry?

Building a strong network is extremely important when starting. You can’t do this on your own. Build relationships with your industry and work out the ones that will participate and the ones that need to know.


5: What is my growth plan?

There is no shame in starting small and growing organically. In most cases, it will limit the amount of time you need to get started. It also gives you a chance to work out any kinks in your planning before you start scaling up.

Regardless of whether you are starting big or starting small, you need to set out a growth plan to ensure you hit milestones to indicate success. Start by identifying what you ultimately want to achieve and then work your way backwards to the beginning to figure out how you will get there.   And be realistic about your goals. It’s highly unlikely you’ll take over the world within the first 6 months.


6: How do I resource my growth?

Once you figure out what your launch looks like and when and how you will grow, figure out your resourcing needs. Only indicate what you need, regarding time, people, content and resources. This may change throughout your growth, so look at options for each milestone.


7: What are my hard stops?

One of the most important things is to know when to call it quits. It doesn’t mean you can’t move on to a new idea, but sometimes, what you are working on just isn’t working. Be realistic about your limits right from the start:

  • How many hours are you willing to put in each week before things get going?
  • How much resource do you need to help you make this work?
  • How long can you go without any engagement?
  • What is the minimum number of members you need to sustain activity?

The list could go on. Determine what is important to you and what you are willing to give up.


8: Is a plan really that important?

Yes. You’re not getting finance from a bank or other investors.  But a plan will help lay out your strategy all in one place. It will act as a roadmap for you to achieve success. And if you feel things aren’t working, then you can go back to your plan to figure out alternative strategies.


9: Do I believe in my idea?

This is possibly the most important question you could ask yourself. Believing in your idea doesn’t just mean “it will work.” You need to have a bit of passion for what you do because you will be spending a lot of time with that idea, shaping it and growing it.

Starting a business is never an easy thing to do, even if you feel like you “just fell into it.” It takes hard work and passion to get the idea off the ground, but it also takes sound strategy.

That’s nine tips on how to start a business.  How many have you thought about when starting your online community?


Creating a playbook for Community Managers

February 24, 2014 Leave a comment

Madden '96There are some great community playbooks out there that take you through the establishing and launching of your community with a few tips on how to keep it going.

Such as Cisco’s Community Playbook, Salesforce’s Community Playbook and DNN’s Community Playbook

One of the things that there are an abundance of material on is the creating of an online community or community of practice.  But there’s not so much on how to really facilitate the activity in the community and help it thrive.

What techniques, what tactics can use you to help move your community forward?

For me the word Playbook goes back to the days of playing John Madden on my Sega Mega Drive.

And the three key elements

  • Offense
  • Defence
  • Special Teams

Can you take those elements in to Community Management and create techniques to help your community?

If you did, what techniques or tactics would you use for the below?

Offensive plays would be all about breaking down the boundaries of the community and moving it forward. You will be looking to increase the number of discussions and participating members.

Improve the quality of the conversations and content, and encourage better relationships between the members.

Defensive plays – Most online communities are happy as they are.  Help them hold onto that position of contentment, but they will still need a consistent flow of activities to keep them happy.

Special Teams – would be activities that have the ability to cause momentum shifts, increasing participation as well as building a stronger sense of community.


January 29, 2014 Leave a comment

Monday the 27th Jan is a normal day for most people unless you work in the community management environment.

This year the 27th was a Monday and this meant it wasCommunity Manager Appreciation Day

It’s the 5th year this has run.  And each year it gets bigger and bigger.  Who would have thought that 5 years ago there would be a 24 hour Google Hangout talking about community management?

I have been doing small things over the last few years since I came across #cmad.  It started with just saying thank you to some of the great facilitators that I worked with and has slowly got bigger.

Last year I was able to run a small event that included great presentations from Alan Boulter and Richard Millington which I made a little storify for.

But this year I was able to link up with the Knowledge and Innovation Network to do something slightly bigger.  No not a 24 hour hangout.  But a blended event online and offline bringing a range of different people to talk about how they run communities in their organisation and the tactics they use.

So a big thank you from me for making it such a great event goes out to Erica Hurley, Phil Ridout (Phil’s Skype account) and Dimple Rathod for the organisation.  Sarah Jennings and Liz Copeland for tweeting and helping to capture the day.

A special thank you to all the presenters:

Not forgetting all the people that participated in the day, face to face, online or via the webinars.

Hopefully next year we can make it bigger and spread the word even further about the importance of great community management.

Here’s this year’s Storify

Show your ap-pre-ci-a-tion

January 22, 2014 Leave a comment

It’s that time again.  For that one Monday in January we all say thank you to the facilitators of our communities during Community Manager Appreciation Day

Please take a moment to say thank you to those who put all the hard work in behind the scene to keep the communities that you participate in going. It’s not often they get thanks.  And just one thank you makes such a big difference.

10 ways to create and active and thriving group

July 5, 2013 Leave a comment

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

How do facilitators make an active and vibrant group?

May 31, 2013 Leave a comment

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.

Do you notice any significant differences?
How facilitators make vibrant groups v2

“How much do you trust your friends & family?”

May 24, 2013 Leave a comment


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

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