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.
There’s so much written about the building of communities and how to get them running.
But for everyone that supports an online community that is only the starting point. And as I mentioned to a group of people the other week, ‘we all know how to build them, but do we really know how to make them successful and fulfil its purpose?’
When it comes to the actual day to day stuff and ideas of things to do and try to encourage activity with the community, I believe there is less info and also less effort put into this.
I still get the feeling that everyone believes it’s a bit like the Field of Dreams or Wayne’s World (If you build it, they will come.)
So these are some of my thoughts and ideas.. They are based on a concept from Denham Grey and are a combination of things that I have picked up from the people above and also from some of the members of the community that I help to nudge along.
|From October 10, 2011|
Stranger to Passer By
- Email invite
- recruiting via a blog posted in a related community
- Community flyer
- Community benefits
- Clear community purpose statement
- Success Stories
From Passer by to Lurker
- Welcome and Introduction Forum
- What you need to know wiki
- Community Charter
- Welcome Statement
- Notice Boards
- Hot Topics
- Useful Resources
- Remove 0 responses
- Hire paid bloggers
- Forum post exchange
From Lurker to Participant
- Detailed member profiles
- Online Conferences
- Back Channelling
- Peer Assist
- Case Studies
- member of the month
From Participant to Regular
With the Community Facilitator / Manager Appreciation Day on the 24th of Jan and even a meet up to bringing facilitators together in London on the same day via Blaise.
This will be a place to meet really good community managers/facilitators rather than the amateur that I am.
Anyway I was reminded of a Story from a while back about Tom Humbarger.
I’m starting to see what happened to Tom’s community, happen on the Communities of Practice for Public Service. And with the shake up due to the spending review it will result in a lack of resources to keep some communities going. Which raises a big concern that some of the great work that has happened may get wasted.
But back to Tom Humbarger story
I think most community experts would agree that active community management and ongoing strategy are vital to a community’s health. However, I don’t know if anyone has been able to fully quantify the impact using actual community metrics.
Until now – when I decided to analyze some of the 2008 data for my former community during the period of active management and the period of passive management.
I was the community manager for a professional community from January 2007 through July 2008. During that time, the community grew from zero to 4,000 members. We were rigorous with the tracking of metrics and updated community analytics weekly through a combination of our platform reports and Google Analytics. I was laid off in July due to financial hardship of the community sponsor, but the community doors have remained open albeit with no community management or minimal upkeep.
During the time of my involvement, active community management and consisted of:
- delivery of bi-weekly email update newsletters
- production of monthly webcasts
- active blog posting and blogger outreach
- uploading of fresh content each week
- continual promotion of the community in various forums through guerrilla marketing
- ongoing brainstorming and strategizing with respect to improving the community experience
- priming of discussion forums, and
- ongoing communications with individual community members
It’s interesting to discover that a neglected community will indeed continue to function without a dedicated community manager. However, the results are lackluster and the picture are not ‘pretty’.
For example, this is a screen shot from Google Analytics graphing the number of weekly visits to the community from 1/1/2008 through 12/31/08:
|From Communities and Knowledge|
Google Analytics – 1/1/2008 to 12/31/2008
Additional details from the metrics include:
Membership growth slows significantly – Community membership grew 62% from January to July at a average clip of 55 new members per week. From July to December, the membership only grew 13% at an average clip of 20 members per week. This is a fall-off of more than 63% on a week to week basis.
Number of visits drop 60% – The number of visits from January through July averaged more than 1,300 per week. For the second half of the year, average visits dropped nearly 60% to an average of 522 per week.
Number of pages viewed per visit drops 22% – Not only did the number of visits drop, the number of pages per visit also decreased by 22% with the average pages per visit going from 3.76 to 2.95.
Time on site decreases by 33% – Driven by the fewer page views, the time on site in minutes during active management was 3:38 vs. 2:37 after July which is a 1:19 or 33% decrease.
Fresh activity on the site since August has been pretty nonexistant as well – just 10 new blog posts, 4 new file uploads, and less than 25 discussion forum questions or comments have been posted. For some interesting reason, the activity on the related LinkedIn group has picked up and included 15 new discussions in just the last week. This definitely is worth taking a deeper look in a separate blog post.
So what does this mean? Clearly, the analysis proves that active management contributes significantly to the health of a professional community. And that it is ultimately important to the success of a community.
I know this will cause a lot of disagreements between people, but sit back and enjoy the videos.
Overt the last few years I have used these videos to explain some of the concepts of Communities of Practice and what happen to most of them.
Building Airplanes in the Sky
I still feel this is the case for most online communities that they start flying ahead with work with out getting all the pieces together. And during the flight you might have some of your members getting a bit messy.
Running with Squirrels
Another great video. When it comes to the building of an online community so much emphasis is put on the technology which can scare people off. If it was explained in simple terms and it’s about how the technology can help support what you need to do.
Rather than here’s loads of technology of you go. Would you really be scared of the squirrels?
Another favourite. And community facilitation can be explained in this way. You will take a few scratches on the way. But if you put the effort in, you will get your reward.