How to Increase Participation in Your Community

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Learn how to drive engagement and participation among every segment of your community.

Speakers
Richard Millington
Founder & Managing Director

In this session, FeverBee's Richard Millington will share the principles of maximising engagement and participation in your community for every segment of your audience. During this session, you will learn:

  • ​Why really people join and participate in online communities.
  • ​What a great onboarding journey looks like for newcomers.
  • ​How to write messages which get the best response.
  • ​How to harness powerful forces of psychology to keep top members engaged.
  • ​Which tools to use to engage which types of members.

Richard Millington (00:00): Hi everyone. And welcome to this talk. The first talk I've done with Orbit but hopefully not the last. What we're going to be looking at today is driving high engagement. And I'm sure you've heard so many talks like this before like, "Oh my God. Another talk about high engagement." What we are going to try and cover today are some of the things that I think moved the needle and some of the things that I think don't. If you don't know much about me or what my company Feverbee does, what we essentially do is help organizations develop the most successful communities they can. And I think what maybe makes us unique or what I hope makes us unique in this space is that we are very data driven about what we do. We come up with ideas or we hear about idea, and then, we test them with different clients or on a dataset.

Richard Millington (00:46): So we research them and figure out what really works and what really doesn't work. And what we've found over and over and over again, is that around maybe 75% of the things that most people managing communities today are working on really don't make a difference. They really don't move the needle. They really don't significantly drive more activity, more engagement, more participation. And to understand why that is, it's worth thinking about how a typical community works. Now, say before we begin, there's so many different models of communities, developers, support, success, communities of practice, but generally there's a standard route we typically see, which is people progress through a community in a fairly standard way and your level of engagement... And by engagement, I don't want to go too deep into semantics, but we talk about things like the number of posts, the number of people participating. It's kind of a casual term here, but the level of engagement is very much dependent upon some things you can control and some things that you really can't control.

Richard Millington (01:55): And so, on the far left here, we see that ultimately, the biggest predictor of the number of people that are going to be engaged in any community is dependent upon the two things in the top left here, the number of people with problems that they need help to solve or the number of people interested in a topic or the number of customers you have, and then subtracted from the number of people that have already been through a community and turned out. Yes, it's theoretically possible to reengage these people in some magical way. Practically, looking at data we've seen, that really doesn't happen that often, especially not in a sustained way. So the level of engagement fundamentally is often determined by the total feasible audience you have in the first place. And then, it's a case of how much of that audience or what percentage of that audience can you then convert into engage members of the community.

Richard Millington (02:49): This is how many of them will find you when they look for you or a problem through search. How many of them can you outreach and promote the community to? And what about word of mouth? How many people are already in that community that can promote it to others? And then, that's the strengths of any competitors or any other channel where people can go to get that information. And then, we look at the engagement activities. This is where most people spend most of the time focusing upon at the moment. This is where we talk about things like the user experience or the benefits and the positioning and the communication of that community or the top member program you're running or how the community has managed things like moderation, how you personally engage with members and those processes and those systems. This is everything people see when they visit that community and the onboarding, how you convert a newcomer into a regular.

Richard Millington (03:42): And then, we see after a period of time, people tend to churn and there's a variety of reasons why they churn. The most common is that the community is no longer relevant to them. Maybe they had a problem, they came to the community, they get their answer, and then they don't need to participate again. Or maybe over time, their needs just drift away from the community's needs. Maybe they go to a more senior role. Maybe they move to a different job or maybe they're just not interested in that topic. Another one is inconvenience. A lot of communities are affected by this idea at the moment that they're still offering a very standard forum based experience and forums are great. But if you think about the tools that we spend most of our time using online today, they're not forums, they're social platforms. They offer this really slick, really convenient user experience.

Richard Millington (04:35): And so, that traditional platform becomes more and more inconvenient to use compared to everything else that's out there. Third is low satisfaction. When people visited the community, they didn't have the experience they wanted and then they don't come back. And the last one is kind of a casual term for things like the sense of community, whether they found the community fun and fulfilling, any of these have alternative uses. And then, you have the reasons why people are inactive for the long term and this is very similar as well.

Richard Millington (05:08): There's a lack of a need, a loss of interest in a topic, they joined the competitor or they had that poor experience and don't really want to come back. And when we think about how we drive more engagement, they often were focusing on the wrong places. When we have to predict what is the kind of impact that different things have within that community? What are the things that predict a real success? And we've measured this, we look at things like search traffic and how many people participate in the community. The number one predictor inevitably is how many people are interested in the topic.

Richard Millington (05:41): I would estimate around 45% of that variability you'll finding in the level of engagement is determined by things you can't even control, but it's a one to come after that. Whether you can convert people interested into people that are aware that you exist and whether you can keep them engaged or whether you can stop them from joining. This is where people start to think about the big win. And what happens is that we tend to focus here, but what I want to do in this session today is take a broader look. Yes, you can tweak things in the community platform and experience and all these kind of things.

Richard Millington (06:14): And there are some small gains to be made here. But what tends to happen is that people spend 80% of their time on things that are only going to move the needle by maybe two or 3% and I want to go after some of the big wins. Now, obviously we can't cover everything in this session, but I want to tackle a couple of things that we think about when we think about how we drive more engagement. One of them is how do we engage with newcomers in the community? Or another way of thinking about this is why do people really join a community in the first place? We've kind of touched upon this already, but why do people really join a typical brand community in the first place? I'm not talking about the communities you have in your local area or with your friends or family.

Richard Millington (07:01): I'm talking about why do people really join a brand community? And the only model we've seen that really predicts how this all works is this one that we've adapted here, which is there's reasons why people don't join, there's this reasons why they join and initially participate and there's reasons why they stay engaged over the long term. And the reasons why people join and initially participate in a community, almost always the same. One, they want to solve a problem they know they have. Two, they want to improve their skills or their knowledge. Three, they want some sort of social reward, maybe increase their status if it's an exclusive group. Or four, most people they know are in that group and now, they have this big fear of missing out. Or five, they just want to pursue a passion with people with interests like themselves. They often, when we present this chart to clients and we use it in some of the work that we do, the client will say, "Yes, we are definitely a community where people can pursue a passion, but this actually comes up last in the survey results we've seen."

Richard Millington (08:04): It's almost always that people want to solve a problem they know they have or they want to improve their skills or knowledge. And this has a big impact, because if you're only solving a very narrow band of problems that people have, then that's the only reason why people come to that community. And that might be once a day, that might be once a week or more likely they come, they get an answer and they leave and they never come back again until there's another problem that they want the answer to. And then finally, over the long term, people start to feel more competent, more autonomous within that community. Maybe they begin to connect with others and they start to direct that genuine interest in a topic and enjoyment of participating, et cetera. But this only applies to a tiny fraction of the members.

Richard Millington (08:50): So what I want to focus is not how we retain that tiny sliver of members that get to that level, at least not yet. I want to focus on the newcomer level. And the journey prior to joining your community is really critical here. The biggest impact you can have is really satisfying the needs of people that visit your community, but the channel they come from is really important. Let's imagine you're doing a community for any kind of support, developer support, customer support, any of these kind of channels. If you think about why would people visit a community instead of say a help center, instead of contacting friends or any of those other channels they have open to them, and what we find is that communities tend to live in this in between area where if there's an easy issue to solve or it's quite common, then a help center and virtual agents, they can definitely help with that.

Richard Millington (09:43): People can find a knowledge article that could help lots of people at once, or if the problem is really difficult and it requires some kind of inside expertise, maybe had to share your account information and personal information, then that's definitely an issue for customer support, but where community really thrives and where we think about the whole positioning of that community here is in the niche, I should say, in the USA, the niche problems where the answer either hasn't been found already or someone doesn't even know what terms to look for.

Richard Millington (10:15): This is where a community really thrives. And in fact, we can put this into a broader picture as well. And by that, I mean, if you think about how people typically go about solving problems today, I'm not sure why this is a bit below, sorry about that, but we find they use and visit a search engine. Maybe they visit the company site or they ask friends and colleagues and then, there's a journey that they seem to go on where it might be a help center article or community discussion. And if not, then they file a ticket. And it's important to understand how people visit your community, because that's going to have a big impact upon how you can satisfy the needs of people in that community.

Richard Millington (10:53): So let me give you example. When we think about a newcomer joining a community, there's three common journeys that we look at here. Journey one is that there's a problem that they want to solve and then they search for an answer, they arrive on article/discussion and if its solved, often they leave because they don't need to come back. If it's not solved, they might search for another question. And after a period of time, they'll just ask a question themselves and they'll register to join. Journeys two and three are really interesting, where people are interested in that topic already. They may not have a problem to solve, but they're interested in that topic. This applies very much to thought leadership communities and those kinds of groups. Slack groups as well fall into this category. They find a link to the community from the brand channel, it's promoted to them. They land on the homepage or the group or whatever it is. And then, if their interest is perked, then they decide to register or join the community. If it's not, then they leave and then they participate or they subscribe.

Richard Millington (11:53): And journey three is more that affiliation journey, where their contacts are already there. Then they might be invited by people that are already in that community, that word of mouth is really working for them. They land on the homepage and if they find something interesting, again, they join and then they connect with friends. If they don't find something interesting, they leave. But these are three very different journeys. Really, you can have a big impact upon your newcomer conversion rating if you understand that journey that people come from in the first place.

Richard Millington (12:26): So the question is, for each of these three groups, what do they need? What do they need to keep them engaged? And what I want to do for the next, maybe 15 minutes or so, is talk about when these tactics work and when... So let's talk about which tactics work for which group and how we've applied them for clients in the past. So, let's go with a common tactic. One, the easiest way is to get more people to visit your community or to get them more engaged is to change the positioning of that community. When we talk about the positioning, we talk about that very unique space that the community occupies in someone's mind. At what point in the day will someone decide to visit that community compared with going to any other channel? And very often, communities are positioned quite badly. We worked with a client a couple of years ago and the messaging for their community was like this. Community is an exclusive group dedicated to empowering leaders by sharing world class expertise, exchanging insights and revamping industry best practices.

Richard Millington (13:32): Take it a second and think, what do you think of that? Is it powerful? Is it persuasive? Does it resonate with you or not? What we find is that it's kind of gibberish. There's no point where someone in that community is going to resonate with any of those arguments, because it's not clear at what point in their day they're going to visit the community. We haven't positioned it in the mind of someone. And so, we changed it. We changed it to this. The community is a private place to solve your toughest problems. And this changes the attitude. What we're saying is when you have a tough issue that no other channel can solve, this is when you visit the community. So tactic one is about changing the positioning. What we've done before is if previous messaging was about being a part of groups of like-minded individuals, but then our research showed that members wanted quick responses to all those long tailed questions they have, then we can change to unique messaging here to getting answers to questions no one else can answer.

Richard Millington (14:37): And then we make sure this is just reflected in the banner, in the core direction and everywhere else where anyone can get help. And that framework on the left... On the right side is an easy way of thinking about it. Sometimes it's common, easy questions. Sometimes there's convenience. Sometimes it's personalization. Sometimes people want answers to the hard questions, but really think about if this is what your community is working on, where would you... What kind of benefit would most work for this community? But here's the challenge as well. We'll talk about in a second. Which of the three journeys would this work for?

Richard Millington (15:16): Let me see if I can go back to chat quickly here. I'm not quite sure how well to work. I'm trying to find the chat channel while I'm doing this so I can see what you're saying. Okay. I'm trying to see if there's a way I can see your chat while you're speaking so I can get your feedback on this. I'm guessing not. So, we'll do it here and I'll just load up the slides as I need. When we think about changing the positioning, which of the messaging, which of the journeys would that make sense to? And this is what I'm going to go back to time and time again, and you can put your answer in chat if you'd like. But when we think about the journeys... Yeah, I can put the journeys back up. I just don't know how to see chat at the same time as I can show slides for some reason, but it doesn't seem to let me do it.

Richard Millington (16:08): I'll see if it's a way around that. But when we think about changing the positioning, which of these three journeys do you think will have the biggest effect for? Think about journey one, people that begin with a problem to solve. Think about journey two, people interested in a topic. Think about journey three, when their contacts are already there. Which one do you think the positioning have the biggest impact for?

Richard Millington (16:37): Give you maybe another 10 seconds to think about that. I'm going to see if there's a way to see chat while sharing the slide. It doesn't seem that there's a possibility of this tour, which is a bit unfortunate. Let's see, we have journey two, journey one. Interesting. Thanks Maria. So most people say journey three or two. Journey one. Yeah, I think journey one is a big one. For support, it's a big one. Changing the positioning is a big one. Pop out chat next to across that topic of chat. Ooh, that might work. Let's see if that works. Maybe. All right. I'll give that a try. Let's try and see if that works or not. No, the chat just disappeared on my screen again. That's a shame. Yeah. So when we talk about this, it's usually journey one where this has the biggest impact.

Richard Millington (17:28): And then we can start thinking about the other tactics as well. So if we think about tactic two, when we're changing the homepage, one of the common things that people tend to do to get more newcomers to engage and participate is to change the homepage. But what's the problem with changing the homepage? If we think about which of the groups they apply to, if we change the homepage, which of the journeys will it impact? We'll come back to this in a second, because when we talk about changing the homepage, it's some very specific things that can work well in specific audiences. What we've done before, for example, is changed from the top post to the last post. If you're just getting a community off the ground, what we've found is that latest posts seems to be far more popular. This is one of our more niche clients here.

Richard Millington (18:13): And we see again that here, if you can get to show the latest posts, people tend to participate more. The problem with the top post is that your top members tend to have already seen them a lot already, but when it comes to latest posts, that's when you can really see what the impact is. Another great way you can prove your homepage is for having a clear call to action, to join and participate. UiPath, another one of our clients, have done a pretty good job with this customization here. Another thing you can do is change the banner. We worked with Eventbrite many years ago on this community. I think the community has disappeared now. But what we found is that the banner on the left was horrific. It wasn't working, it lacked really clear calls to action, there was no differentiate of the purpose.

Richard Millington (19:01): And so, we revamped it to be very clear what the community was about and then some specific next steps as well. And this had a big impact really quickly within the community. And when we talk about homepages, we usually think about who visits community homepage in the first place, who are we trying to help? Is it people that are disappointed with information they've got already? It's the people that are curious and they're casually visiting the community. Is it they're regulars in that community? Because each of these groups has different needs and the challenge is always thinking about which of those needs are we going to satisfy within a community?

Richard Millington (19:37): A great example of a good homepage is the digital ocean site. If you go to the digital ocean community, hopefully someone could put their link in chat. And man, I really wish I could see chat while share my screen. It's really driving me crazy. But you can see here, the community's actually set out pretty well. And when we think about this kind of group, which of the journeys do you think they are supporting here? And this applies more generally as well. When you are changing the homepage of that community, if you're trying to increase the number of newcomers or the attention of newcomers by changing the homepage, which of the groups do you think will have... Which of the journeys do you think are most important? Do you think journey one, two or three?

Richard Millington (20:21): What I want to do today is really not just show you what tactics work and what don't work. I really want to highlight why they work and in what situations they work. So think about changing the homepage, where would it have the biggest impact? Which group do you think it would have the biggest impact on? I'm going too quickly. Oops. I clicked the wrong button, didn't I? So about that. Sorry, the buttons are up here in the wrong place.

Richard Millington (20:53): Okay. So journey one, two or three, what do we have? Journey two, journey three. Yeah. So most of you got the right answer. Journey two is typically the one that has the biggest impact here and journey two works really, really well because it's for people that are curiously visiting that community. If you have a problem that you just want the answer to then journey two doesn't typically give you... I mean, journey two is typically what gives you the right answer.

Richard Millington (21:21): So yeah, let's go back to you. Let me share my screen again. Cool. Let's go for tactic number three, changing the article or the discussion pages. What's really a shame is that a lot of communities based around support spend a huge amount of time tweaking their homepage, but what they don't realize is that most of their visitors never visit this homepage at all. And what tends to happen is that most of the visitors, they search for information, but they don't land at the homepage. They arrive on a discussion page, maybe something simply like this. This is a typical post posted in the apple online community and it's not bad. I mean, there's nothing about it that's terrible. But what it's really missing is any opportunity to get people deeper engaged.

Richard Millington (22:09): Now, if you compare that to the digital ocean, okay, it's a little bit more cluttered. But what you'll notice here is that your eye is drawn to the question. You might get an answer, you might not, but then there's a call to action to join that community. Then there's a call to action to see related questions as well and that's a really powerful thing to have. Then there's related tutorials and popular topics in that community, in a search bar. So when we want to improve this, we want to improve the support side of community. Having the right things around a discussion has a big impact. Think about this, if 90% of your traffic visit pages like this, this is where you should spend a lot more of your time, not just on the design of the homepage, but the design of the discussion pages. That's going to have a huge impact. Okay. Task or tactic four, personalized responses. I think it's quite common, especially in smaller communities perhaps, is to try and get personalized responses to people that post a new question or a post in that community.

Richard Millington (23:13): And what we've done with clients in the past are set up a very simple framework that looks a little bit like this, where we know that if someone gets a message from the person managing that community or a real person that's personalized to them, typically they then tend to keep participating. So what we've done before with another client, it's designed a system where every moderator, community manager and even some of the top members of that community can follow a simple flow chart for anyone that posted their first question 30 days or more ago, to be able to respond again. And this actually had a really big impact. And the challenges here is that if we've designed this kind of system where people can follow the first post and the second post and then get responses that are personalized to them based upon what they've already done, when should we use this?

Richard Millington (24:01): Is it journey one, two or three? Let me give you maybe 10 seconds to answer that. For which of the journeys, does it make sense to do something like this? Is it for people that are visiting when there's a problem that they want solved? Is it for people that are interested in the topic or is it for people that are connecting because their friends are already there? And this framework, we keep coming back to over and over again, because if you get it right, you can select exactly the right tactics you need to succeed. Quickly check the chat again. Most people are saying two and three, one and two, two, one. Yeah. It's a really interesting mix here. Really interesting mix.

Richard Millington (24:51): Yeah. This is one of the ones where it tends to work best for option two and sometimes option one as well, but option one, you have to be careful. You can be a little bit annoying if you're sending out too many messages too quickly. Okay, tactic five. This should be easy. Building connections between members. One of the tactics that we see used quite often is people will create a group for newcomers to the community to join and this is a place for newcomers to ask questions for one another. And what tends to happen is that most of these newcomer to the community groups don't get used that often. And there's a reason for that is that most people are visiting simply because there's a problem that they want to solve. But when it does work well, we've done this with the file maker community or now called Claris. When we found that members were nervous about asking questions and there's a newcomer group for them, it did start slow, but what you can kind of see here hopefully is that that new group is now the most popular group that they have.

Richard Millington (25:50): That's not an accident. It's done extremely well. We've got MVPs that are now managing, responding to questions in that community. So this can work, but it only works in very specific situations. Another thing we've come up is the members of follow list. With a client in the past, when they started their community or when they joined the community, their feed looked a little bit like this. I had to hide the groups. They were a couple of groups there, but their feed look like this. And this is an abysmal way. This is an abysmal community experience. So what we did was came up with members that they can follow.

Richard Millington (26:27): It's a top verified members list that they can follow both inside of the community and then on Twitter and other channels as well. The goal is to really make sure they're connected with other people in that group. Now I'm guessing it should be relatively to figure out that this is a great tactic only for people that are joining to connect with friends or colleagues, and maybe, maybe in a more customer success style community. Then it can work well as well. But giving people a list of members to follow, their top members, that can work, but again, it doesn't work for a support based community. You've really got to structure your tactics by the right kind of community.

Richard Millington (27:08): And finally, creating or curating great content. You can waste a huge amount of time creating PDFs or guides that people might click on out of interest, but then they never really engage with again. Again, very common in a customer support community to do that and digital ocean, an example I use a lot because I really like their community, especially these days, is we've seen before if people ask a lot of the same repetitive questions, then a guide or curated list of resources can work. But it works when people are interested in the topic and want to learn more. When that mindset where they want to learn more about the topic, that's when these guys can work. If people come in because there's a problem they want the answer to or they're coming to connect with friends or colleagues, then this isn't the right tactic. It's a different approach that you need. So, that takes us through the first part. Let me just do a quick... Does that all make sense? Is anyone confused? Does that all help?

Richard Millington (28:10): Hopefully that makes sense. Sorry I have to keep jumping in and out of this. It's driving me crazy as well, but hopefully everyone is still with me. Any questions about the newcomer side of it? There's obviously a lot of depth to this. One thing I will touch upon as well is automation rules. People often love automation rules, automating all these complicated messages that people get. Generally, we found these have almost no impact whatsoever. The people that were going to engage, still engage and the people that weren't going to engage don't engage. So let me give you a quick couple of seconds in case anyone has a question at this point and then we'll move on to the second side of this.

Richard Millington (28:51): Okay. I think we're good. Question from Simon a while ago, do you think it's better to DM new members within the system rather than send an email? Does that reinforce to stay in our ecosystem? DM within the system doesn't work as well as an email because people have to remember to visit the system in the first place, so it's better if it's connected. The only danger there is that if people get too many DMS that are triggering an email, that can be an issue. Anyway, I think we're still on the same page. So let me go to the engagement part of this.

Richard Millington (29:24): And we're going to talk about super users and we're going to talk about experts. And I think one of the challenges that we have a misunderstanding about super users in most communities, not all of them, but most. And we tend to think of super users as people that make the most posts, so therefore they must be super users and they must be in a program specifically dedicated to them.

Richard Millington (29:46): And they often, we take somebody that's working well, someone that's participating a lot and sharing a lot of really great advice and then we ruin it by offering rewards for people that were doing the things that we already wanted them to do. One of the really dangerous things you can do is add a leaderboard to a community. If it's already there and it's working fine, it's great, but I'd really caution you about doing that. And the reason is, imagine if you visit a community and you've been participating there for years and years, you know the top members, you're friends with them and you're just happy. You like helping out. That's the reason why you're doing it. And then one day, you join and your name is on the list and you are in a competition with all of your friends in that community to answer as many questions as possible. It'll have a negative effect upon you.

Richard Millington (30:33): And a lot of super user programs, honestly, they are simply pulling a fence around what people were doing already and saying it's a fence that was causing it. And there isn't a lot of data that says that super use programs, especially in their common form, actually drastically increase the level of posts that super users are making. And I'd be mindful of that. What I would be thinking about is more of a program dedicated towards experts. Super use is great and it's important to keep them happy and give them access and things like that, but that's not too difficult to do.

Richard Millington (31:10): Where you can really add drastically more value in a community is figure out who the experts are and then how you get those experts to participate a lot more. If we think about who is actually an expert, when we think about who makes the best contributions in a community, it's typically people like Troy here. What do you notice about Troy? This is in the Zapier community, I think. What do you notice about Troy?

Richard Millington (31:43): Hopefully what you're not noticing is the badges or the location. What you're noticing is that he's certified in what he does, but what you might also notice is his job role here. Here's an automation consultant. So why is being an automation consultant significant? And hopefully, you'll come to the answer that he can directly convert the attention he gets from answering questions into potential business. Every time he answers a post, he increases the odds that someone will click on his profile and he might get more clients as a result of that. If you're looking for an automation expert at the moment, he'll be a fantastic person to reach out to because he's answered 7,389 questions in that community.

Richard Millington (32:26): And this goes back to the real reason why a lot of experts do or don't participate in a community. When we think about experts, there's three different types of people that we're typically referring to. Group one are the partners or consultants. In most of the communities today, the people, especially the hosted kinds of communities that we're talking about, the people that are sharing their best advice are partners and consultants and these are usually people who can sell products and services to the audience that they're publishing for. And this is true for us as well. I'm a consultant in this space. I'm hoping that if you like the work we're sharing, some of you might reach out to us for help. And I know we've had a bunch of clients on this already, but that's typically how it works. I'm happy to share what we've learned because I think that might real help people realize that we can help them as well.

Richard Millington (33:12): And what experts often want is the opportunity to build an audience that they can connect or they can contact with their products and services, the opportunity to build a reputation against their competitors or to build relationships with prospective customers. Notice what they don't want. They don't really care too much about leader boards, badges, any those kind of things. These are the things that really moved the needle for them. Group number two, which is a really interesting group. It came up a lot when I was working with HP and some other kinds as well, is that a lot of veterans of companies often then begin participating in a community as well. They might be that they've retired or they moved on, but they just like helping out or they might still be in that company as well, but they might be sharing the expertise to get external recognition for their work, to build internal support for what they're doing or to build a reputation amongst their peers.

Richard Millington (34:06): A lot of you here in the community space, you've shared your blog post you've shared articles before in different channels. My question is why did you do that? For those of you that have shared or given any kind of talk at CMX or other events, what was the driver for you to do it? I'm guessing for a lot of you, it was this category here, to get external recognition, to build internal support, to build a reputation amongst your peers.

Richard Millington (34:34): And the final group are what we call the senior execs or the VIPs. These are individuals often running organizations and they're not going to participate in a hosted community experience, but where they will participate is if they can earn a speaking fee or if they have a really scarce leading reputation opportunity, maybe they feel part of the elite or maybe they want to promote their organization positively to stakeholders. And the challenge is how do we adapt our tactics to suit these needs rather than trying to get these kinds of people excited about things that they're never going to be excited about? A lot of you today, especially people in the community space, might be promoting badges while realizing that you yourself wouldn't be motivated by badges or other things.

Richard Millington (35:21): So I really think about if you want to move the needle, you have to change the effort and reward paradigm. Let me ask you a question as well. For those of you that have shared blog posts, have shared advice, where do you share that advice? Let me give you just a minute, because I'm sure I recognize a lot of names here. Where do you share your advice today? Let me quickly look at what you're saying in chat. For those of you that shared advice elsewhere, where do you go to share advice? Maria says blog posts, interesting. Slack, peers on Twitter.

Richard Millington (36:00): So Twitter comes up a lot. Instagram, LinkedIn, Slack, Instagram, cross posting to LinkedIn, CMX. Slack, Channel. So here's what's really interesting. Most of you have participated in other communities for community professionals, right? Maybe you participate in CMX. Maybe you participate in console or any of the other groups out there, but when it comes to sharing your advice, most of you use LinkedIn or Twitter. Why do you go there? Why is that the channel that you use? Think maybe 20 seconds and try and put an answer.

Richard Millington (36:40): To be seen by other professionals. That's where the audience is, wider audience, ease of use, more followers. There we go. Quicker reach, more followers. You go where your audience is. Let's see, what else do we have here? Build a reputation. I think with Twitter is that there's an almost infinite audience that you can reach and it's an audience that you have some level of control over that you can reach out to them whenever you want. And this is true for any kind of expert you want. And I'm really worried. A lot of people are living in almost dreamland where they think that all of us are going to come to a hosted online community to share a blog post and advice, when if there is advice we want to share, we want to do it in a channel we can build a following and we can build an audience. And it's as true for all of us as it is for the audiences we are trying to reach as well.

Richard Millington (37:31): And this is really significant because when it comes to engaging people in that community, when it comes to thinking about how we get experts engaged, one thing we could try and do is get all of these experts to visit our community and participate. But I'm guessing for all of you that are sharing your advice on Twitter, all of you that are participating in chat today, there's not much that could persuade you to do it in a hosted community instead.

Richard Millington (37:59): So the challenge is how do we work with these trends? That's what gets really exciting. Or if we go through the typical experts and format, so social media very popular and the benefit, I think a lot of you have noticed is that you can build an audience that you can contact anytime. It's always an opportunity that one of your articles or posts might go viral, and you can compare yourself to your peers by the number of followers or likes you get. And the format here is Twitter threads, TikTok, Instagram posts, YouTube videos, LinkedIn articles. If it's personal sites and that's usually to build an audience for professional benefits, it's not a surprise that most consultants in this space also have their own blog or mailing list that they can reach out to. There's a reason why we do that, obviously. Then the format here is longer word post, weekly emails, podcasts, those kind of things.

Richard Millington (38:52): Individual organizations with existing audiences. This is where the influencer crowd, major companies, they must have built awareness within the industry, promoting project for service, or maybe to siphon existing traffic. This is where a lot of the hosted community stuff comes into play. Things like webinars, guest posts, conference talks. This is where content can be promoted within a community, but it's very much targeted that consultant crowd.

Richard Millington (39:20): And then, we have the private peer groups as well. This is something that only, I think one of you mentioned in chat, but this group is really interesting because it's very common to share some of your best advice in the smallest possible group, a group of people just for doing your kind of work or at your kind of level. Let me ask you a question, how many of you are in a private exclusive group for other professionals in your field?

Richard Millington (39:47): I'm talking about a group of like, 20 of you or less, 50 of you or less, this kind of group because there are a lot of these kinds of groups where people share their really best advice, but because it's exclusive to get a chance to impress their peers and they genuinely want to help their friends. And so, whatever channel you're using, you have to match the format and the benefit up. Everything has to be aligned. And if you get this right, you can get a lot of great experts engaged in your community, but you have to change what your community is and how you think about it. And what I'm envisioning when I say this is that if you think of your community only as a hosted platform, you are grossly limiting the number of experts that will ever participate.

Richard Millington (40:32): But imagine if in your community, you were pulling in tweets or you were highlighting the top tweets or the Twitter threads that had been shared each week. Maybe you were highlighting the best blog post that had been shared in the digest of your community. Maybe you're taking all this expertise that people were already sharing one another and then promoting it within your community and sending people out to those channels as well. Because that benefits you, it benefits them, it benefits everyone.

Richard Millington (40:59): Now, for sure, it might not show up in the stats exactly the way you want to, but that's an easier problem to solve than try and get experts to completely change their behavior. So I'd really think about how you could take advantage of all of the different experts you could reach out to. And a lot of it is very much about mastering that effort and reward paradigm. Reward paradigm is that certain groups of people are going to be attracted to certain kinds of opportunities.

Richard Millington (41:25): So there's some groups that just want to build reach. So partners, consultants, industry veterans, generally, yeah, webinars, guest posts, conference talks. They want to build reach and if you can give them opportunities to build reach, that's going to be a big win. Industry veterans, maybe some VIPs, paid talk at major events, TV, news, appearances, join activities with respective names. If you can set that up, give them opportunities to build their reach, they're going to participate. Or if you want to build trust, then partners and consultants doing their own stuff on their own newsletters and VIPs in the invite only events. But hopefully, this all makes sense is that if we want to get more experts engaged in participating, we have to adapt our activities to the experts. If we want VIPs to share their best expertise, do we need groups set up just for VIPs?

Richard Millington (42:15): If we want more activity from partners and consultants, we have to figure out how can we give them as much reach as they can possibly get. If we want industry veterans engaging in our community to give them... Letting them talk at an industry conference, paying them, that can make sense. So I'd really try and think about with this reward paradigm, there's a threshold and I think we all have an internal threshold that we're thinking of here. There's a threshold that has to be crossed to make things worthwhile. If you are trying to get an expert to participate in an hour long podcast interview for a tiny audience, don't be surprised if they say no or they don't want to promote it. Or common mistake is a tribal knowledge base and the answer is very simply because it's so much effort and so low reward. Likewise, participating in the testimonial video, it's so much effort and such a low reward.

Richard Millington (43:09): And to change that, you either have to reduce the level of effort or you have to increase the reward, the exposure, the prestige, the influence of that event. So in a simple opinion round up, people might participate in it. It's low effort and it gives them some exposure or agreeing for existing content to be aggregated in the community. I mean, I often agree for my content to be shared with other channels because it doesn't harm me. It helps promote me. It doesn't require much effort, but to really give a lot of effort and time into it, it's about really increasing that exposure, the prestige and the influence that people have.

Richard Millington (43:45): So participating in hour long interview for tiny audience, that doesn't make sense. But if it's a really well known, respected industry podcast, then people are far more likely to do it. People don't want to create a detailed knowledge based article if they don't know how many people it's going to reach, but they will share that same expertise in a blog post, if they know it's going to reach like 10,000 people in that audience. Or they will write a how-to article if it's prominently featured and links to their company as well. So you can change the reward to increase the number of people that are likely to engage in that way.

Richard Millington (44:21): Likewise, sharing a case study. Often, people won't share any private case studies at all, but they'll do it in a private group if it's exclusive, if they feel like they'll be respected as a result. So a lot of the ways to get experts more engaged is to give them higher opportunities or high reward opportunities to be engaged.

Richard Millington (44:42): And this is what we think about when we combine this all together, we want to make sure we're targeting the right group, figure out what they can share in that community as well. Different kinds of groups can share different level of expertise and I'd really be clear about what kind of group you're trying to target with what you're doing. I'm going to just go out of full screen mode so I can share this and see the chat as well. But let me just do a quick check there. Does this make sense? Is everyone understanding how we're going here? Is everyone understanding how the different groups work together here?

Richard Millington (45:16): And so, it's very much about figuring out what kind of expertise do you need? Which group of people are you going to approach for that? What do they want and how you can figure out the best channel? That's what we want to be doing, figuring out the best channel for them. So let's go through an example together if we can and I'll stay out of full screen mode just so I can see the chat here. Let's try and work through an example together in the time we have. Let's say you have a problem, that your newcomers are taking a long time to get up to speed on your products. You have a community to help. It's more of a customer success based community. What would be some good objectives here? How do you think experts can help? Come up with some activities that you might want experts to be doing to help? Think maybe 30 seconds to a minute, just quickly put your answer in chat. How can experts help?

Richard Millington (46:10): You can always think about a challenge like this as how did an expert help you? We're talking about how can experts help newcomers get quickly up to speed on the products of a company. I want to try and work through an example together. It might not work. To be honest, I've never tried this slide deck before, so we'll see how it goes. Answer questions. Yeah. I mean, I'm going to say no to that, mostly because newcomers don't often know what questions to even ask in the first place. It's not entirely unrelated, but yeah, it might not be great. Okay, Shana. Sorry if I'm pronouncing that wrong. What do you say? Sharing best practices. Yeah, but be more specific. Be more specific. What kind of best practice specifically? Sherry says sharing their stories about using the product. Yeah, but being more specific. But hosting AMAs or sharing their own journey, sharing their own journey is interesting.

Richard Millington (47:23): Think about a newcomer. Think about a product that you've just begun to use. Meaning imagine you signed up for Photoshop or I don't know, some product that's a little bit complicated. Rex says introducing them to who the experts are. Yeah, but we're talking about what we want the experts to do. You're not wrong, I just changed the language. Sharing their expertise with newcomers. That's no, no. Be more specific. If you're a newcomer, what specifically do you need? Benny, tutorials of metric implementations that is easy, offer a template for a specific solution, being welcoming.

Richard Millington (48:05): Okay. Most of these are bad answers. Sorry. If you're a newcomer to any product, what you need is help getting it set up for the first time. You need help getting your first usage out of that product. And that's what we are talking about with the kind of responses that we want. We might have 20 tutorials to equip newcomers with everything they need to get up and running. What are the very specific things that they need? I'm not talking about people that are new to a community, I'm talking people that are new to the product. So it's often there's a big overlap. So I would really think about what does a newcomer need? Where does a newcomer typically get stuck? And let's make sure we have a tutorial or guide or someone they can contact for that.

Richard Millington (48:52): Newcomers, they want to know how to get set up. They want to make sure they don't make any big mistakes and they want great examples. This is what they almost always want in every kind of community. So experts can help create exactly this kind of stuff. And then, this creates a next challenging thing. Oops, which is what kind of expert do you need to provide these things? Think about the types of experts we had before. If the objectives, as they say, create 20 tutorials to equip newcomers with everything they need to know and take great examples. What kind of experts do we need to do that? I'm going to go back to this slide.

Richard Millington (49:39): What kind of experts do we need here? Veterans, veterans, company veterans, company veterans. Interesting. Most people are going for company veterans. Yeah. Consultants would typically be a good guess. Veterans can help for sure, but when it comes to the tutorials, consultants are far more likely to provide them because think about this, who is going to be benefit most? Who's going to be able to convert a newcomer to a potential client? A consultant has a vested interest in that. So that very much is likely to work.

Richard Millington (50:27): When it comes to the examples, that's where veterans are likely to have a lot of great expertise. If we think about what the veterans can do here, they're great in a case study showing how they tackled a problem, showing how they achieved the goal. These are great case studies that we can use. And then, we can start thinking about what is the channel that we can use here. For consultants, we're not just going to tell them, "Oh, go write this long guide down in our community." Because most of them might not want to do it. That's a lot of effort and the reward might not be that particularly high.

Richard Millington (51:01): So what if instead, we ask them to write a guest post that we send out to our entire audience. Now it's a different thing. We can turn that into a tutorial ourselves, if we like, but it's a guest post that we promote, then that's a much bigger win for them than saying, share a tribal knowledge article or write a whole knowledge article that we'll store in the library. Or you can do a recorded webinar where they can do a breakdown of the topic. It's far less effort than trying to write a whole tutorial and then, you could always convert it.

Richard Millington (51:31): Same with industry veterans. If you want a veteran to share 10 great examples, if you reach out to them, they'll probably share that they don't have the time, but if you invite them to speak at the conference, sharing their example or to share their story in a webinar, they're far more likely to do it. Does that make sense? Want to make sure everyone's on the same page here. And just so we wrap things up, then we can think about the benefits they offer. This is where we can think about promotion of the content to the mailing list, helping them build their reach. This is where we can think about how we add them to our most successful customer list if they're a veteran. We can promote them to future customers as well. This is where everything ties together. Hopefully that all made sense.

Richard Millington (52:19): If you want to learn more about me, I know we're almost out of time here. Honestly, we do fantastic work for clients. I don't want to brag, but I think we can help a lot of people on this. So if you want any help with your community, go to RicharD@feverbee.com. Hopefully this helped, sorry about the minor chat issue, but hopefully that hasn't been too much of a problem. Any questions? We've got a little bit of time left. If there's any slide you want me to go back to, feel free to let me know.

Richard Millington (52:48): Sherry says, go back to a previous slide. You have to tell me which slide. I'm guessing this slide. Is that the one? I think that's it. Let's see, any other questions? Let me quickly scroll up. What's happened here? Do-do-do. Okay. Do you have a link to the slide deck? I think Orbit will send that out. If not, just reach out to me and I can send that out. Cool. So the slide about building knowledge about your product. Was this the slide you meant? This is just an example slide. Don't pretend that this is exactly what you should do. This is just an example. Honestly, one of the things that really drives me nuts sometimes is that people will take an example that I made up on the spot and would then start applying it to their organization. It's the process that matters, not what you fill in the boxes here. So please adapt it to your situation.

Richard Millington (54:06): Okay. Any other questions? We've got two or three minutes.

Richard Millington (54:24): Okay.

Speaker 2 (54:28): I had one above, but because of the chat snap back, I can't get to it. So if you don't mind, I'm just going to ask.

Richard Millington (54:37): Oh, interesting. I didn't know that people were allowed to speak on this chat. Okay, awesome. Yeah, go ahead.

Speaker 2 (54:42): It's a benefit.

Richard Millington (54:42): That's amazing. Go ahead.

Speaker 2 (54:46): My main question is involvement on social media. So, I initially did go to Twitter, to Facebook, to Instagram in order to build an initial following and I truthfully found that it was just people clamoring on top of a hill and on top of one another to become giants. I switched that strategy because it was very damaging for my personal mental health as a community manager to also have to play social media manager. It was very difficult for me as a consultant and I have found that because of my role as a consultant, it is far better and far easier for me to focus on smaller communities. And I'm kind of approaching it the same way you do SEO, where you have a high volume with a high potential, but you have to have the media share versus being on the smaller, long tail and you want to be somewhere in the middle.

Speaker 2 (55:40): So it's a much smaller audience, but it's a place where I can help more, I can build more reputational trust and I can create institutional trust in my brand. So for me, it seems like the opposite is the case where I tried Twitter, it did not go well and it broke my mental health. And then when I came down into the local institutions, I saw more success for me personally. So my big question is what damage have you noticed happens long term for consultants who does move forward with a smallest best strategy? Do you foresee that my success with this approach is going to break down?

Richard Millington (56:25): Honestly, I have no idea. I would say there's people in this space. I mean, I'm not an expert in your approach, so I can't comment too much on it, but there's people that have done really well with a small approach for sharing expertise like Bill Johnson, for example, hosting meet up of, I think it's very exclusive, 20 great people in the community space and he benefits from that because he is connected to that entire group.

Richard Millington (56:50): I think a friend of mine, Jake McKee with Community Five does the same thing. So it's a great way of being connected, but I don't know if you lose out. I think where you might lose out is on SEO. You might lose out on some big companies searching for your content, but really I think it's kind of a unique case because it's not from a community perspective, but if you want to reach out to this so I can have more reasonable thoughts. It's like 10:00 PM here in the UK, so I'm not at my best at this point. Thanks for the question. Any other questions?

Richard Millington (57:35): Okay. I think we're good. It's funny, I can see when people are typing a question and I don't know if it's going to be a question or Tom is just going to write to the queen. So yeah. Thank you for that contribution, Tom. That's nice and random. Awesome. Thanks a lot, everyone. Honestly, thank you so much for listening. Thank you so much for paying attention and if there's anything we can do to help feel free to reach out, I really appreciate you participating and sticking with me on this. So thank you so much, everyone.

Up next

Nexus 2022

Talks
Talks
Keynote: Product, Model, and Partners
Keynote: Product, Model, and Partners
Creating Opportunities for Cooperative Work
Creating Opportunities for Cooperative Work
The Secret Sauce to Growing Open Source Community
The Secret Sauce to Growing Open Source Community
Community Driven Growth at Supabase
Community Driven Growth at Supabase
Lessons Learned from Growing On Deck Internationally
Lessons Learned from Growing On Deck Internationally
Using Orbit's Glossary to Communicate Value at Bramble
Using Orbit's Glossary to Communicate Value at Bramble
Fireside chats
Fireside chats
The Power of Asking a Great Question
The Power of Asking a Great Question
Scaling a Thriving Community
Scaling a Thriving Community
A Community-First Approach to Driving Competitive Advantage
A Community-First Approach to Driving Competitive Advantage
Data-Led Community Programs and Strategy
Data-Led Community Programs and Strategy
Panel
Panel
Community as a Practice: Trajectory and Trends
Community as a Practice: Trajectory and Trends
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Workshops
Grow and Measure Your Community with Orbit
Grow and Measure Your Community with Orbit
Using Orbit to Communicate the Success of Great Events
Using Orbit to Communicate the Success of Great Events
Using the Orbit Model to Demonstrate Community Value
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Building a Beta Group or Champions Program in Orbit
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Git it Right! Measuring What Matters in OSS Contribution
Git it Right! Measuring What Matters in OSS Contribution
Building Go-To-Community Strategy for your Pitch Deck
Building Go-To-Community Strategy for your Pitch Deck
How to Increase Participation in Your Community
How to Increase Participation in Your Community