Posts tagged community building
My Biggest Project To Date!

One of the most fun, yet challenging aspects about working for a small company is that you have to be willing to go out of your comfort zone to get things done on behalf of the business. If there's software that you need to use, you're going to have to learn it. If there's a strategy you need to create, yet don't have experience, you're going to have to research and figure it out. When the question of outsourcing to freelancers comes up, you're going to have to decide if it's worth the time and energy to bring them on board.

The project I recently completed entailed all 3 of those challenges, and so much more. It took a lot of long days, and late nights, and a fair amount of swearing at my MacBook Pro. But the work has been done, and now I'm so proud, and thrilled, to share it with you.

Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome FeverBee On-Demand. A brand new, self-paced training platform for online community managers!

WHY TRAINING MATTERS

Community management is a really hard job. A really hard job. You're required to be as creative as a designer, as empathetic as a therapist, as responsive as a customer support agent, as witty as a copywriter, as aggressive as a sales professional, as innovative as a product manager, as energetic as an events manager, and as connected as a CEO. In fact, aside from a CEO, I don't believe that there is any other single position within an organization that requires as much multifaceted thinking and execution than that of a community manager.

Most of the top community managers learned on the job because they had to. There was never any real training for community professionals before 2010, so the people who have been in the game for a long time are truly pioneers. Ellen Petry Lense, Bill Johnston, Susan Tenby, Joe Cothrel, Blaise Grimes-Viort, John Coate, Randy Farmer, Amy Muller... these are just a few of the many people who have paved the way in the practice of online community management. We owe a lot to each of them. 

While there is plenty of value in learning from the school of hard knocks, the industry has matured significantly in the last few decades. It's outdated to expect that every community manager should have to figure it out for themselves when proven best practices have emerged from the field. No two communities are unique, so there is still opportunity to to learn on the job. But community professionals don't have to learn everything on the job.

ABOUT THE COURSES

FeverBee created the original Professional Community Management Course in 2010 as an exclusive resource for clients. As the need for community management training grew, we opened the course up to the full market in 2011 in effort to bridge the gap between personal and professional experience. The original course has been a smashing success, and still is. In fact, I trained 17 professionals last semester alone! (Testimonials)

FeverBee On-Demand takes the original course modules, and delivers through a self-paced, responsive platform that can be used on any device. Students can start and stop at any time. Binge, or snack. Sprint, or stroll. You get the idea. :)

How To Start An Online Community is perfect for those who are brand new to online community management, or if you've never started an online community before. Believe me, there's a big difference between managing an existing community and starting a new one from scratch. This course teaches how to do the latter, following our proven process. 

Successful Community Management is fantastic for anyone who has already "launched" their online community and reached critical mass, or for those who are managing an existing community that's in a good place. It focuses heavily on the day-to-day tasks that you need to execute in order to move your community through the different phases of the lifecycle.

Advanced Community Strategy is designed for those who are working a bit further beyond the day-to-day community management tasks. This course focuses on things like strategic planning, time management, scaling strategies and techniques, holistic business integration, and more. Oh, and we talk in depth about how to calculate return on investment too. NBD.

Click through the links above to view the individual syllabus associated with each course. You can also read through the business case as well.

WHAT'S INCLUDED

I've packed as much value into each one of these courses as as possible. All of the lectures have been recorded in 720 and 1080 HD, and I've included exclusive presentations from our SPRINT conferences and podcast interviews to reinforce the learning concepts.

Students will get access to our corresponding templates and worksheets. I've also included my personal recommendations for blogs to follow, articles to read, and apps to use. Students can partake in group discussions via the integrated Disqus threads, and can also download an in-depth companion PDF that covers all of the lecture content, and the cited articles from all of the social science research.

Once the lectures have been completed, students will be able to download their digital badge and certificate of completion to proudly display. These skills are really valuable, and marketable, so they should be featured on LinkedIn, About.me, relevant community profiles, and on personal websites! Additionally, students will have access to the course for as long as the site exists. This means free access to any updated videos, new PDFs, or any additional content that gets added to the course. 

FINAL THOUGHTS

The scariest part about putting your work out into the world is just that... it's out there. I've put everything I have into building this product, with the ultimate mission of being able to provide a program that will help both professionals and amateurs alike, all over the world, build stronger communities.

I hope you like it.

Building Community On Twitter: How #TChat Gets It Right

FeverBee defines community as "a specific group of people who have developed relationships around a strong common interest." In this definition the platform, or place, that serves as the community’s meeting point doesn’t matter. It's not even part of the equation.

Relationships are a defining characteristic of both online communities. If you’ve got a bunch of people who are following you or your brand, but they’re not building relationships with one another, then you’ve actually developed an audience. This might be an attentive audience, or an audience that likes you enough to promote your content, but its an audience nonetheless. And audiences are very different than communities. :)

Twitter is a place where many communities and audiences can take shape. Unfortunately the practice of building a community on Twitter is largely misunderstood for the practice of developing an audience. In fact, if you Google the phrase, “building a community on Twitter,” the first page of results will advise you in tried and true audience building techniques.

This week I interviewed Kevin W. Grossman on the topic of building and sustaining communities on Twitter. Kevin is the co-founder and co-host of #TChat, a thriving community of HR practitioners and enthusiasts that come together weekly to discuss new happenings and insights in the world of work on Twitter. The community is centered around a weekly chat that takes place under the #TChat hashtag, every Wednesday from 7-8pm EST. Though the topics vary weekly, this core discussion has taken place without fail, since November 2010.

There are a few different characteristics that make #TChat a community, and not an audience. The most obvious one is that members have developed relationships between one another. The same people come back each week, and they know what’s going on in each other’s lives. Members check in with each other during the week, and share photos from where they’re participating. They offer jokes, and have rituals.

The community ebbs and flows based on the schedules of members, but there are regulars in the community who have participated nearly every week since the start. Some have since taken on volunteer roles to help ensure #TChat’s success and vibrancy. Newcomers are greeted, and made to feel welcome. More established members show their support of newcomers by retweeting their thoughts, and answering their questions.  

Finally, the concept of #TChat is based around the core topic of “the world of work.” It’s not based around Kevin and his co-founder, Meghan M. Biro’s, personal follower counts. It’s not based around the products or services that their firms provide. They understand the community isn’t about them personally, and are happy to act as guides, facilitators, and investors in its broader success. They listen to their community members, and have experimented with the timing, content, and platform as result.

What #TChat, and other successful Twitter-based chats, prove is that communities can be sustained on the platform. The true key to unlocking the success is recognizing that the community is so much more than just a Twitter following. You have to be present in the conversations, and work to make connections between community members so they find value. You have to be consistent in your presence. And you have to recognize that, like any other form of community building, it takes a lot of hard work to create something truly transformational.  

If you’re interested in learning more about building a successful community on Twitter, or about #TChat specifically, I invite you to check out my latest podcast — available from CommunityGeek, iTunes, or Stitcher. I'd also love to hear your thoughts on the topic... do you think Twitter is a sustainable platform for building an online community?

3 Ways to Drive Executive Participation in Your Community
executiveparticipation

Every year The Community Roundtable spends months collecting data from in-the-trenches community practitioners, and publishes it in a succinct, actionable slide deck. This year is no different. 

There are tons of nuggets and insights packed into this year's report, but I'd really like to call your attention to the importance of slide 18. In this slide, Rachel and team provide concrete data proving that executive participation within a customer community will greatly impact a community's success. According to the research, C-level participation in a community drives 2-3 times more collaboration and content creation behavior in a customer community than a community with no C-level participation whatsoever.

 

A Story About Executive Participation

As most of you know, I used to lead the community team for Get Satisfaction from 2012-2014. Prior to getting C-level involvement in our community, true engagement in our community was tough to find. We had plenty of customers posting surface-level product questions and problems, but the collaborative conversations and thoughtful ideas didn't really start to flow until our customers began to see that our executive team cared about their opinions.

The movement for executive participation was really spearheaded by the leadership and collaborative nature of CTO, David Rowley. I had previously struck out with getting other execs on board with the idea, but Dave was different. Because he lead our product team, Dave naturally understood the need to have product-related conversations with our customers in the community, but on top of that he also had a personal interest in building relationships with our customers. 

Knowing that Dave's available time was slim, we started by setting up a 30 minute, weekly recurring meeting between my team, Dave, and our product managers. In this meeting, we would share community-submitted ideas with the product team, they would give us their thoughts, and then we'd respond in the community. Over time, Dave and the product managers began taking more initiative in responding in the community, and by the time I left the company Dave was consistently the top, most active non-community employee in the community. To date, Dave has posted over 1,000 replies back to customers in the Get Satisfaction community, and the overall community conversations have become much richer as result.

To show Dave how cool you think his community spirit is, send him a Tweet! Go ahead, I'll wait. :) 

How to Make it Happen

As community managers, our job really hinges on the success of the community and its impact to the organization. If executive participation increases engagement in your community, which ultimately leads to community success, then it's in your very best interest to drive C-level participation in your communities. Here are my 3 tips for making that happen:

  1. Make It Matter
    An executive is not going to take the time to participate in the community unless it's for reasons that personally matter to them. We all only have so much time in the day, and senior leaders seem to have even less time than most of us, so only the really important initiatives will make the cut. Dig deep. Find a particular issue that resonates with them and tie it into the community. If you can show that participating in the community will help advance their goals and initiatives, they will be more apt to prioritize time to participate. Not sure how to figure out what matters? Check out Robin Dreeke's talk from CMX Summit for tips.

  2. Make It Easy
    Leadership team members don't have a lot of time on their hands to learn new systems and browse through posts. Make things easy by curating the top 1-3 topics in your community that they would be interested in/ need to take action on, and send it in an email with explicit instructions. If you need them to post a response, say so. If you need them to re-tweet a particular article, tell them. Don't forget to include the exact links while you're at it!
     
  3. Make It A Habit
    Be mindful of your executive's time, but also take care to begin building a habit of checking in with them about the community. Even if there's nothing that you need for them to do in the community, it's still good to check in weekly with an update to keep it top of mind. Share some positive stats, especially if it's related to engagement on their contributions, and give feedback on how their efforts are working. Don't forget to share this information with the rest of the organization too! Once a habit has been formed, the momentum around participating will continue to build and likely spill over to other members of the executive team.

The data proves executive participation matters to the success for the community, and I've just shared 3 tips for doing just that. What are yours?

Don't forget to check out the details of these findings, and more, in the 2014 State of Community Management report!