Archive for the ‘community management’ Category

Architecture and Civil Engineering applied to Community Building

02 Apr

Mainimage in Applying A Pattern Language To Online Community DesignI’m a big believer in looking towards the practices of other industries for inspiration and new ideas.

I’ve said before that I’ve often referenced the practices of an online hip-hop community to inspire the creative interaction I use with software customers.

Recently I stumbled upon a community management article that does a wonderful job applying design principles from the 1970′s book A Pattern Language to online community building.

This article effectively shows that the same principles that have been used within architecture to create vibrant and effective spaces, can also be applied towards the design of online community spaces that have a focus on their desired user experiences.

Check it out. It’s pretty long, but well worth the read.

Applying “A Pattern Language” To Online Community Design

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The Power of Taking First Action

07 Sep

I was glancing over the book Trust Agents again this week, and I came across this passage that really resonates with me.

From page 95: The Power of Taking First Action:

cover-trust-agents“Humans understand how favors work. Doing and trading favors is woven into the fabric of our culture. When people are the recipients of a favor, it’s in their nature to want to pay it back.

Doing nice things does make people feel good, but there’s neurology behind it too. We want to pay people back because it is in the nature of a community to do so; it keeps communities strong and protected against the outside world.”

This sentiment couldn’t be more true and is one of my secret weapons when it comes to building community. Taking first action and earning goodwill is one of the best ways of creating the relationships that develop into a loyal and active userbase.

Here are some suggested ways you can take first action with your community members:
  • Send an email noting an accomplishment (a year of membership, 100th post etc.)
  • Comment on a members personal blog
  • Bookmark and review a members content on stumbleupon & delicious
  • Public appreciation (helpful employees at company meeting, Follow Friday on Twitter,  User Interview in newsletter)
  • Provide a linkedin recommendation to a client or coworker that has helped your community succeed
  • Send an old fashion hand written note to a member
  • Give a gift to the 100th,1000th, or 10,000th user
  • Privately ask one of your active users for their opinion on a pending decision
  • Send a quick private message when you see users making a strong contributions
  • Send a personal welcome message to a new user and (using their profile info) connect them with another community member who has relevant expertise and/or interests
  • And many more… (would love to hear some of your additional suggestions in the comments)

If you’d like to learn more about this and other community engagment techniques - Please join me on 9/15 as I present the online seminar Strengthening Online Communities Through Improved User Engagement.

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Using Twitter to Strengthen Your Online Community

07 Jul

Twitter can be a great tool to use in support of your online community building efforts.

Here are 3 different online communities I’ve seen leverage twitter to facilitate success:

1) Adobe groups

Adobe twitter list

Adobe Groups uses a twitter list to display the activity of 450+ of their members right on the community homepage. This list is maintained by their community manager and is a great way to engage with their audience.

Using this list provides value in a variety of ways:

(1) Does a great job at exposing the personalities of community members

(2) Gives members an easy way to keep up with each other (by simply choosing to follow the twitter list)

(3) Provides Adobe Groups Community Manager with insight into the activities of their members , exposing great opportunities to engage and reward.

2) The Community Roundtable

The Community Roundtable leverages twitter through the use of an account created specifically for their community @TheCR. I love the variety of ways they use this account to support their efforts

CR - recruitment

Welcoming new members
CR - welcome new members

Highlighting active members
 Highlight Active Members

Connecting members with each other
CR - Connecting members with each other
This is a strong example of how a community specific twitter account can strengthen relationships and expose your community to new members.
3) The Business Exchange

The Business Exchange community uses the twitter account @BXBW to support its Featured User program.  In association with displaying the Featured User on the homepage, they do a tweet encouraging their followers to connect.

Businessweek FU pageBusinessweek

As a member of the Business Exchange, I can speak first hand on the value of this program. I had discontinued being active and nearly abandoned my account, and becoming the Featured User provided me with an influx of traffic to my blog and effectively re-engaged me.

What other examples have you seen of online communities using twitter to support their building efforts?

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5 Ways to Humanize Your Community Interactions

02 Jun

Strong online communities are built on strong interactions. Here are some things you can do today to humanize your interactions and strengthen the bond between your community and its members.

1) Leverage Signatures

Often, someone with a username like LakersFan246 will end their post or comment with their real first name.  If this happens begin your response with “Hi Kevin” rather than – “Hi LakersFan246“. your user is showing a subtle sign of trust in the community and will feel good about having that sign engaged.

2) Follow Up on Any Shared Event Information

Many times when people are asking a question from a community, it’s related to a timely event.

(i.e. I’m preparing for a presentation… My son’s birthday party is next week,…I’m training for a marathon.)

Even after the original question is answered, it’s great to follow up with a comment asking how their event turned out. This shows that you are listening and care about the happenings of your members.

3) Highlight Your Newest Users

Add a panel to your community homepage that displays the names and/or avatars of your most recent members. this will (1) help those users feel welcomed and (2) encourage seasoned members to warmly welcome new users into the community.

4) Reach Out and Say Thank You.

This is a trick I’ve used a bunch of times over the years, and to be honest it’s something that doesn’t get done nearly enough.

When you see someone who is making strong contributions – send them a private message thanking them for being a part of your community.

This simple act of appreciation goes a long way and almost always solidify continued engagement from your active users.

5) Interview Your Users:

Perhaps the best way to reward your active user base is to set up a user of the month program, or by a “10 questions with…” series. (here is a good example from the community associated with hip-hop artist Tonedeff.) These actions help expose the commonalities between your users and are great ways to facilitate personal interaction.

What other suggestions do you have for humanizing your community interactions?

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5 Tips I’ve learned Managing a Corporate Blog

24 May
Be Brief:

Contrary to what you may think, posts that are short and to the point tend to garner the longest Time on Site.  That’s not to say that a long post is never merited, but I often encourage authors to break up long posts into multiple entries.  Though we’d all like to believe that everyone is closely reading every detail in our posts, the fact is that most people will quickly scan through blog content.

Which brings me to my next point…

Break Up Your Content:
By breaking up your content and using formatting variations like italics, bullets, BOLD, and colors, you dramatically increase the chances of grabbing the attention of your readers.

Tip: try the 15 second test with a friend.  Are they able to get the gist of your post through a quick 15 second scan? if not, you may want to make further edits to add clarity.

BlogrollUse a Blogroll:

A blogroll is a great networking tool that should be leveraged by all bloggers.  I recommend starting off linking to 3 prominent bloggers & 2 peers in your niche.  As you grow, continue adding the names of  frequent commenters,  guest posters, customers and active re-tweeters etc.  This is an easy way to reward those who take the time to engage with you and your blog.

Update Your About Page:

The 1st thing I want to read on an About Page is a 1-2 sentence pitch for why I should care about your blog. 

  • Here is an example framework you can use: {blog name} is for {audience} who is looking to {value proposition}.

The 2nd thing I look for is some links to your strongest entries.

  • This validates that your blog has quality content, and will increase the likelihood of converting a subscriber.
Subscribe OptionsHave a Subscribe Section at the Top of Every Page.

I recommend having the option to subscribe by RSS, email & Twitter.  Most blogs  include an RSS feed, but often neglect to include these other two options. Even if your readers are a highly technical audience, you will be surprised to see how many of them choose to subscribe by email over all other options (over 33% based on my experience).

Also many people are spending less time in their RSS reader’s in favor of finding new content via their twitter followers.

For Email:  use a tool like Feedburner to create an email subscription option via your RSS feed.
For Twitter: set up a unique account specifically for your blog, and use a tool like TwitterFeed to automatically tweet out your new posts.  This is a one-and-done activity that is well worth the effort.

I have many more points to go into here, but I figured I should take my own advice, be brief, and save them for another post.
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Customer Relationship Management Going Social

18 Mar

We are now at a time where Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools are a regular and expected component of successful business operations. Companies like RightNow, Salesforce and NetSuite have helped rapidly advance this industry over the last 10 years.

and 2010 is the year when these tools are going to see some of the coolest improvements to date.


Because this is the year when activity in social media and branded customer communities will be truly integrated with the advanced contact management capabilities of CRM tools.

We already began to see movement in this direction in 2009 – though in a relatively basic manner that was just scratching the surface.

Soon we are going to see some extremely useful information coming from this integration.

For example, by automatically tracking who is making positive referrals about your business – you will be able to easily find great candidates for customer loyalty programs and customer marketing efforts (like case studies, regional user group participation etc).

Similarly, if you can automatically flag customers who are complaining via social media – you can improve the immediacy in which you identify and manage at-risk relationships.

All this while improving your ability to accurately forecast non-renewals.

Now the integration I am most excited about (largely because of my experience managing Agile Commons) is that between branded customer communities and CRM tools. Customer communities contain a wealth of candid and valuable information – information that is often underutilized in business intelligence.

There is huge value in easily knowing who is submitting support cases so you can prioritize appropriately for your most important customers.

And by providing quick access to the desired feature improvements associated with a given contact, Account Managers will have the ability to easily speak to the unique priorities of each customer. How helpful will it be to see all the contacts who voted for a newly delivered feature request – and easily reach out to them with some welcomed news?

I’m just touching on a few of the benefits, but hopefully this gives you a glimpse into how social integration is beginning to strongly improve the effectiveness of CRM tools.

Keep your eye out for some significant moves on this front from all of the main CRM tool vendors.


Did Your Power User Slip Through the Cracks? A Personal Example

09 Feb

Today’s Lesson – Never let a contribution to your community go unanswered.

Case in Point – Kelly Barratt.

Kelly Joined Agile Commons in December 07 – and in retrospect – was perhaps one of the strongest contributors we had back then.

We had other active users  – but Kelly took it a step further than most by creating her own blog/discussion area in our community; Kelly’s Agile Journal. Just the act of navigating our community’s admin settings to create her blog was an investment larger than that made by most of our users.

As a community we did okay for a little while, with our company founder even responding to a few of her posts. But as the engagement stopped, so did her activity.

Kelly hasn’t logged into the community since March 2008 – which was 2 months after her final contribution.

Walking in her shoes, I can see how I too would become disinterested if I was putting hours of effort into a community that didn’t engage my contributions. I bet if we had continued to engage her posts, and had gone even further and highlighted her work to the broader community, we would have been privileged to many more of Kelly’s thoughtful entries.

As a takeaway from this, I encourage you to take the extra effort to give acknowledgment to all contributions to your community (or life for that matter).

And if you notice in retrospect that you dropped the ball by not engaging one of your own users, why not reach out to them and let them know your appreciation and regret?


Keeping Your Community Focused – Why Less is More

18 Jan

Keep Your Community Focused

Keep Your Community Focused

When building an online community, it can be easy to get excited about all of the cool and unique ways you can interact with your users.

Questions, reviews, introductions, general discussion, link sharing, event calendars, idea generation – the list goes on and on

all of these are great things – but only when used in moderation

This is a lesson I learned first hand managing Agile Commons.

When we launched the community in 2007, it had many different sub-areas: Community Blog, Greening Ideas, Conference Reports, Project Management Discussions, Book Reviews, Favorite Quotes – you name it, we had it.

What resulted was long periods of inactivity in many of the sub-areas. Even though we were seeing a strong uptake in our keys sections, the inactive sub-areas gave off the appearance that the community was being underutilized.

I led a redesign in early 2009 to combat this, and one of the first orders of business was to combine posts from 8 different discussion areas into one “general discussion” zone. This made it much easier for users to find new discussions, as they now only had to keep up with one area.

The community appeared more vibrant and the lurkers who were previously tentative to put effort into a post, now felt more confident that their potential contributions would be engaged by the community.

This resulted in a significant increase in the amount of new posts we were seeing from our users.

So in my experience – having Less options creates More activity.


I am a Member of a Community of Thinkers

08 Dec

Last Friday Liz Keogh, Jean Tabaka and Eric Willeke created this statement that they are encouraging be shared around the blogosphere.

I work closely with Jean and know how truly passionate she is around sharing, facilitating and enjoying the benefits of community and collaboration.

Though more specifically tailored to the software industry – its values are something we all can all reflect upon as we interact in our own professional communities.

“A Community of Thinkers”

I am a member of a community of thinkers.
I believe that communities exist as homes for professionals to learn, teach, and reflect on their work.
I challenge each community in the software industry to:
    • reflect and honor the practitioners who make its existence possible;
    • provide an excellent experience for its members;
    • support the excellent experience its members provide for their clients and colleagues in all aspects of their professional interactions;
    • exemplify, as a body, the professional and humane behavior of its members;
    • engage and collaborate within and across communities through respectful exploration of diverse and divergent insights;
    • embrace newcomers to the community openly and to celebrate ongoing journeys; and,
    • thrive on the sustained health of the community and its members through continual reflection and improvement.
  • I believe that leaders in each community have a responsibility to exhibit these behaviors, and that people who exhibit these behaviors will become leaders.
    I am a member of a community of thinkers. If I should happen to be a catalyst more than others, I consider that a tribute to those who have inspired me.

    ”A Community of Thinkers” by Liz Keogh, Jean Tabaka and Eric Willeke is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Please attribute to the distributor of your copy or derivative.


    What QN5 Records Taught Me About the Power of Community

    23 Nov

    Interesting where one gets their inspiration.

    In regards to Community Management – I’ve read books on the subject, countless blogs, and even attended conference sessions.

    Perhaps the place I’ve found the most inspiration from is the community associated with the hip-hop label QN5 Records. I first stumbled upon the site in 2004 when searching for album information and it was immediately clear that this was different from other music websites I had been to.

    What was the difference?

    They had a forum where all of their artists were available, active, and engaged.  Gone was the the “I’m too busy, mysterious, important and/or cool for my fans” attitude. Instead it was replaced with a transparent, appreciative & and all around warm atmosphere.

    Fans could now not only get to know the artists on a personal level – they could get to know each other on a personal level.

    The power of creating these connections is best showcased each August when the label’s fans ascend on New York City for what is called The MegaShow.

    In the months preceding the event, NYC locals post threads offering up their spare couches, out-of-towners organize road trips from 300 miles away, unofficial pre-parties are scheduled and people from as far as New Zealand are sharing news of plane ticket purchases.

    In almost every single one of the post concert reviews, people talk about how meeting all the forum members in person was among the most gratifying parts of their experience. And while QN5′s ability to put on a great show shouldn’t be discounted, the produced takeaways from these events are far greater than “that was my favorite concert”.

    People talk about how seeing this event changed their lives, how this is now their second family, and how much they will genuinely miss each other waiting for next years event.

    Much more of a childhood summer camp vibe than a hip-hop concert.

    This example taught me that by creating a community around their brands, companies can produce customer experiences that are beyond what can be achieved solely using traditional forms of interaction.

    Simply put, it pays to connect your customers.