Show and Tell
Share your progress and case study from last week’s assignments.
Before you begin actively trying to attracting new members to your community, you should have a very clear idea of what you want to happen there:
- Will your community be tightly focused on one topic and/or geographic area, or more open to rambling conversations?
- What are your ultimate goals for the community? How will you know if it is successful?
- What benefit will members get from their active involvement?
It will help to have already completed the steps outlined at the end of last week’s lesson. To review:
- Decide what type of community
- Define what your goals are
- Decide what your desired audience looks like
- Outline what reasons this audience will want to join
- Establish community rules
- Create a content srategy
- Begin strategic partnerships
Inviting New Members
The method for inviting new members to a community will depend upon the platform. For example, Facebook has a number of paid and organic methods for attracting new members or followers. Lots of social networks provide suggestions based on material you are already responding to. For websites that are not as frequently visited, they made need to get a little more creative.
Go join other communities in your niche. Learn enough to be able to define how your community will provide value that nowhere else can—your value proposition. Identify what they are doing well and doing poorly.
Once you’ve created a value proposition, here are a few ideas for creating awareness of your community:
- Invite your friends and family.
- Encourage friends/family to extend the invitation to others.
- Ask any existing members to invite friends/family.
- Reach out to experts/celebrities/”A-listers”. Ask them to join and/or for advice.
- Collaborate in the creation of the community with people who have a lot of enthusiasm, and a lot of friends or followers (influencers).
- Offer rewards for joining, tangible or not.
- Offer special information or events only available to members.
- Make a video and share it.
Getting People to Join
Once a potential new member has arrived at your community portal, they will evaluate whether or not to join. How will they make that decision?
How will they make that decision?
You need to illustrate your uniqueness somehow. Often this is done with a group description and accompanying images. If the conversations are visible to nonmembers, this may entice others to join so they can respond.
If your niche is popular enough, you won’t have to work very hard at first to get people to join. Other times, you’ll need to make your value proposition quite evident.
As people begin joining, ask them to help continue building the group. They might add to the group descriptions, refine the rules, create community graphics, and moderate conversations. You want to identify a handful of very active members and give them some sense of investment in the success of the group.
Model the behavior you want to see from your community members.
Start a lot of conversations, but not at a dizzying pace.
Some conversations will fizzle, and some will take on a life of their own.
Be sure if you want the group to stay on topic, that you and other moderators read what’s going on. Quickly step in if you need to remind people of the group’s purpose.
It’s also really important to step in and voice a warning when someone becomes disrespectful to other members. If the behavior is egregious enough, you may want to remove the member.
Close or delete a thread that has run its course and can only serve to hurt people if it continues.
How to Inspire Dialog
Here are some tips for keeping the conversations lively:
- Ask questions. The more opportunity for members to share their unique perspective, the better.
- Encourage members to ask their own questions.
- Provide valuable information.
- Encourage members to take action for a cause.
- Share news items and ask for their take on the matter.
- Plan events together.
- Find additional ways to collaborate on projects.
- Offer to meet people in real life if they are/come to town.
- Close the community discussions to nonmembers. This makes it harder to attract new members, but provides privacy to existing ones.
- Play a game within a conversation.
- Encourage people to brag about their achievements without doing blatant self-promotion.
- Run an off-topic thread once a week. Pictures of kids and babies are very popular. Some are funny memes. Or dedicate one day for that blatant elf-promotion you usually ban.
- Introduce new members and tell others a little about them.
- Tell stories that people can relate to, and they may tell theirs.
- Encourage people to tag/message a moderator when they want to report anything.
- Allow people to discuss negative feelings (respectfully) as well as positive.
- Listen to members’ concerns.
- Be yourself.
Here’s a great conversation starter in a Facebook business group. Look at all the related concepts that members can respond to (35 comments!), and Sarah is speaking with her authentic personality.
Here’s a game started by an admin in the Facebook group Sanctimommy Said What? There were dozens of responses.
This Facebook page editor wrote an article that challenges conventional wisdom—often a good way to spur conversation. She also included a few sentences to pull people in. The page has fewer than 3,000 fans, but this post was shared widely outside the usual page reach.
I usually discourage the following activities in my groups, because they kill conversations and camaraderie:
- Other forms of self-promotion from members who don’t otherwise contribute
- Very basic questions that have been answered over and over and over already (encourage them to use group search or Google)
- Cross-posting to other groups (this doesn’t discourage chatter on its own, but it’s a sign of someone not especially loyal to your group)
- People getting snippy because their question wasn’t answered in precisely the manner they wished
- People who are rude or aggressive toward anyone, but especially the moderators
- Racism, sexism, ageism, etc.
Dealing with Growth
As your community grows, add more moderators to your team.
You may select moderators based on their location worldwide, covering day and night, if your group is international.
You may select moderators based on specific tasks they are responsible for.
You may select moderators simply to help out when they have a chance.
How do you get more moderators? Ask in the group and see who responds!
Make sure to run any group changes past your team and get their feedback. If they feel that they have no stake in big decisions, they may feel used and have less of an emotional investment in the success of the community.
If your moderation team is large enough, you might want to start a secret group just to have conversations about the group—it’s so meta!
Ultimately, your team goal will be to collaborate together, to increase and sustain engagement in the group.