Category Archives: Community Building

Three Ways Your Community Can Generate Sales Leads

Online communities are often seen as simply the price of doing business. An entry on a ledger somewhere reads “Community Budget”, because it seems that Everyone Is Doing It. As great as online communities are for engaging your customers and cutting support costs, your CFO might still see your community as a cost centre. In fact, the ability for communities to generate leads can make them a great source of new revenue. If you’re looking to improve your community’s status on the balance sheet, here are are few suggestions for where to start:
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How Micromanagement Can Damage Your Community

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One of my main responsibilities as a Professional Internet (Editor’s Note: no it’s not a typo – it says that on Patrick’s business cards – long story) is to consult with clients about best practises and methods for running their community. These meetings are rarely with the moderators of the forum, but are normally with the project managers who are responsible for the oversight of the project. Needless to say, they aren’t in the trenches of the community themselves, but I can normally tell a lot about them from the way they speak about their moderators, and the tools that they use to manage them.

It’s not uncommon for a manager to want the specifics of how to remove as much power from moderators as they can. Specifically, they want to ensure that moderators can’t delete posts, edit content or ban users. They also want to use analytics to monitor exactly how much each moderator is doing, to ensure that they’re pulling their weight. The frequency of these requests raises three questions for me. Firstly; if a moderator can’t ban a user or edit content, what specific use does the manager expect to get from them? Secondly; if the people you’ve chosen as moderators are so untrustworthy that they can’t be trusted with this functionality, what made you choose them for the role? Thirdly; since moderation is invariably an unpaid position, why would a moderator want to volunteer to be on a team where they aren’t trusted?

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Product Community vs. the Social Community: Which Is Better?

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Art by Laura Wilson – http://lauramakesart.com/

The product focused community:  the hard sell approach

A product focused community will typically have a lower tolerance for off-topic discussion than a “social” community. These communities will normally be focused on support, product questions and discussions with existing owners. The main selling factor of these forums is aspirational, a prospective customer can read about your product, interact with existing owners and begin to develop a Gollum/One Ring style relationship with it. For a great example of this, you need look no further than the official Tesla forums. All content is product focused, and as a heavily aspirational brand it benefits hugely from this. With premium priced products such as this (or say, Apple products), customers will also be keen to talk to each other about how great your product is and reinforce the wisdom of their own decision to pay more. In communities like this, a wider focus and chatty atmosphere would detract from the value of the forum. They benefit from a tight focus and controlled environment.
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Should you soft launch your community?

Community launch

One of the most nerve-wracking parts of launching a community is the moment where it actually goes online. All your preparations are finally tested, your plans go into action and your users step, blinking, into the glorious light of your new community. A lot can go wrong. Your moderators could become befuddled by the interface, your categories may turn out to be confusing or redundant, your theme might aggravate the eyeballs of your userbase. The list of potential hiccups is endless. Given how hard it can be to rescue a community once it starts going south, it’s understandable to look for a way to manage that risk. Soft launching can be a good way to do this. In the simplest terms, a soft launch is opening your community to a limited number of users to test and perfect before opening them to the larger community. In software terms, it’s similar to a closed beta.
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