It’s 2016. The holidays are over, the results are in and the time for congratulation/commiseration over last year’s results have tragically/thankfully ended. It’s time to look ahead to the New Year and make some resolutions as to how you’re going to maintain/start building the great community that you deserve. Please tick as applicable. I don’t want to generalise by assuming everything is going fine. Your community might be terrible.
Resolutions are, traditionally, awful. Something about losing weight, something about learning an instrument or language, something about learning to juggle. Here at Vanilla, we’re more practical types. We’ve not only provided you with resolutions, we’re also going to give you advice on how to ensure they’re not the kind of resolution you hastily stop talking about when February rolls around.
Resolution 1: Commit to Great Moderation and Stamp Out Abuse
The days of the wild west internet are over. It isn’t enough to add a disclaimer that the views expressed by your community members don’t necessarily reflect your brand. In modern markets, your community members are your brand. Prospective customers don’t just think “how good is this product?” they think “how good are the people that like this product?”. If your community is toxic and abusive, it’s a problem that won’t solve itself. It’s a problem that can’t wait. Having a great community means investing in great moderation and making it clear that toxic elements aren’t acceptable. It doesn’t require huge investment. It doesn’t require hours and hours of work. All it requires is the commitment and the will to see it through. You can’t please everyone in the modern market, so focus on pleasing the people that make your community great.
Resolution 2: Use Gamification as Encouragement, Not a Crutch
Gamification is a great way to get people started in your community, and encourage them to engage and contribute. It’s been around long enough now that we can all admit that it isn’t a magic bullet that will make any community great. Gamification is fantastic for some things. Building early engagement, rewarding loyal users, and encouraging behaviours that your community members might otherwise be unlikely to carry out. Great gamification strategies will focus on executing these goals brilliantly rather than simply plugging in a haphazard solution and hoping it works. I wrote a whole e-book on it. You can read it if you want. Don’t say I never gave you anything.
Resolution 3: Cut jargon and gimmicks out of your life and focus on results
Community isn’t a new gig, but it’s one that’s grown considerably over the last few years. This means that smart, experienced people are sharing best practises that have been proven to get great results. It also means that community is big enough to attract pseudo-science, snake-oil salesmen and other charlatans. We’re a new enough industry that we’re still able to define our own path. 2016 is a great year to ensure that the path of community is free of jargon, dishonesty and magic bullets.
Instead, 2016 should be a year for defining and refining the results that community can achieve. We can identify what community does well and excel at it. We can cut away the fat and focus on proven strategies that provide real value. The knowledge is out there, and there are plenty of examples to follow and learn from. Get it done.
Resolution 4: Replace Whatever You’re Using With a Vanilla Forum, Unless it’s Already a Vanilla Forum (in which case, keep it)
Look, I’ve got a job to do here. You should use a Vanilla Forum. It’s better than all the other forums out there. It’s prettier, faster, more reliable and mobile friendly out of the box. Call a sales guy and they’ll tell you more. The first 4 had nothing to do with selling forums, that’s just free knowledge. This one has to be salesly. Do me a solid. I’ve got numbers to hit.
If you already have a Vanilla Forum, well done. You’re right on track. Maybe think about an upgrade? If you’re already on the highest plan, I have no feedback. You’re doing a great job.