Archive for the 'Tips' Category

Getting them talking

25 June, 2009

Part four in my ‘Getting an online community off the ground’ series. Today I’ll chat about Content.

Over the last week or so, I have blogged about finding great people to join your community, then having a chat with them to encourage them to join the community. In many ways getting them into the community is the easy bit; often people, if encouraged will sign up to an online community, the trick is getting them to come back a few times a week.

The people we have targeted to form the core of the community know their stuff and are eager to participate so we’d best make use of them! The community is all about the members so we can get them to do some of the planning. Ask them to debate the core purpose of the community, ask them to agree on the community’s rules of engagement. This can be confronting, at this point we are releasing some control, we’re no longer producing a product for the market to simply consume, we are letting the consumers shape the direction. While it is scary it will be helpful for a couple of reasons, firstly it will give those core people that you want to hang around something to talk about which is critical to keeping their attention. Secondly it will help them to develop a sense of ownership over the community. Finally it will give us an important insight into the needs of the people we are trying to engage.

It is great to hand the keys over to the community but  it is really important to stay involved in the discussion, this is our community and while we are working to help the community members we are not going to be able to meet the needs of everybody. Get involved in the conversation, talk about the motivations for creating the community and listen to the responses of the community members. If a suggestion can not be implemented, explain why and try to work with the community members to come up with an alternative approach. This is important work, it is laying the foundations that the community will be built upon so we need to get it right.

Throughout this process the most important thing we can do is listen, this will help us to understand the needs of the community, which will help us to identify the content that will bring people back. Understanding the content the community members are interested in will influence, the links we post, which discussion topics or members are featured and what events we run.

Next up – Events!

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Melbourne Community Manager Roundtable

19 March, 2009

Last Friday I got into the office did a few bits and pieces then headed off towards Footscray to check out Lonely Planet’s funky HQ and more specifically to participate in the first Melbourne Community Manager Roundtable.

Lonely Planet’s Community manager Venessa Peach decided that she’d had enough of all the cool conferences and meet ups being on the other side of the world or the country and decided to bring one to little old Melbourne. When I heard about the idea I thought awesome! At the moment I’m in planning and research mode for a number of online community projects at the moment so chatting a bunch of people who have already got their communities up and running seemed like it would be a great opportunity…It was!

The day was a free flowing conversation around many issues of community management ranging from dealing with moderators who have passed their used by date, community / community member life-cycles and even a chat about the technology hosting online communities. I wont go into details about the conversation as Venessa has done an awesome job of capturing that on her blog, instead I’ll just jot down a few of my thoughts.

Online communities can be crazy places, Community managers are faced with all sorts of stuff appearing on their sites that should not be appearing on websites anywhere let alone next to your logo!(think threats, abusive posts,  posting of people’s personal details). Coming up with a standard rule about what content to allow and what to block is pretty much impossible to define. In the room on Friday we had people all kinds of networks ranging from ours which is a professional network for people in Finance and Accounting  to parenting networks to virtual worlds for teens just to pick three. Each of those environments have their own unique line that defines acceptable and unacceptable. What is not acceptable in one might be perfectly normal in another, the key message is get to know your community, build a good relationship with your community leaders, figure out what works for them AND what works for you. You, after all are hosting the party.

Community leaders (formal or informal) have an enormous influence over the tone and type of activity that goes on within the community. You need to work closely with your community leaders to make sure that the community develops in the direction that works for everyone. It can be tempting to say ‘the community is about the members so let them decide’.  The risk with this approach is that the members will steer it in a direction that works for them but does not work for you. For example it is very easy for a community to develop cliques that can be intimidating for new members. The community leaders might be having a great time but new people don’t hang around as they can not get into the ‘in’ crowd. For you, that is a problem.

A final point that stuck with me was the importance of keeping moderators fresh. If you make a member who is an active participant and leader within the community a moderator they may not stay as interested as they once were. Everyone gets to a point where a community they are a part of is not as relevant to them as it was when they joined. It is important to recognise when a moderator / leader’s interest in the community is waning and to come up with a plan to move them out of the moderation role. This can be a tricky process and needs to handled with extreme care.

The day was filled with so many interesting conversations it is difficult to get it all into one reasonably short blog post, I’m very much looking forward to the next meeting and continuing the facinating discussion!

Mick’s 5 steps to twitter bliss for newbies

17 March, 2009

My mate Paul (@pbeacham) and my brother Ben (@bjleyden) just joined twitter – if you weren’t already convinced that fact alone should be enough to tell you twitter has gone mainstream! 😉

Seeing as twitter can be a little hard to navigate when getting started I decided to send them an email with some tips… it got kinda long.  – Here it is.

1. Add a bio and Pic (does not have to be of you, but put something in)

People won’t follow you back if they don’t know who you are.
If they don’t follow you back they don’t see your tweets,
If they don’t see your tweets they don’t reply to your tweets
If they don’t reply to your tweets, you don’t get any conversation.

2. Conversation is what it is all about!

If you just watch other people’s tweets Twitter is bloody boring, who the hell cares what a random person thinks about public transport in Perth.

A tweet on it’s own is not SUPER interesting, what could be interesting is the conversation that can flow from it, very quickly you could have 3 or 4 people talking about public transport systems, what is good around the world, what sucks and why they suck.

Sure, that conversation is not going to change your world but it is one of thousands of micro-conversations you could have. The interesting part is the enormous amount you can learn from participating in these conversations.

3. Find people who are interested in what you are interested in

You need to find people who are interested in the stuff you are into. To do that start with http://search.twitter.com. Type in a word or phrase and it will return all tweets that include that phrase.

You can then click on the person who tweeted the phrase and see what else they have said. If you think they seem interesting, click follow.

Another good way to find new followers is go to twitter.com > Settings  > Notices > then change @ replies to show all. That will allow you to see who the people you follow are talking to, it is a good way to find new followers. (this option has since been removed :-()

The great thing about  twitter is if you decide they are not to your taste just visit their twitter page (twitter.com/username) and click on the follow button again, this time it will say “do you want to remove” then say yes and they are gone from your life for ever.

I’d also add, that I don’t think the twitter ‘superstars’ (Stephen Fry, Kevin Rudd, Barak Obama,) are that interesting. Try to find normal folks who are up for a chat. Why feed some famous persons ego?

4. Say Hi to people you follow.

Many people get so many new followers (and spam followers) they might have a quick glance at your profile but will most likely ignore you. Unless that is, you make contact with them! If you follow someone just @ or DM them and say something like

“@interestingperson – Hi just started following, nice to meet you, enjoyed u’r blog post about ferret racing”

They will the notice you mostly say hi back, often follow you back and the conversation has begun.

5. Stick with it!

The first few weeks of twittering will be slow, uninteresting and you will spend a lot of time thinking “this is stupid, why am I wasting my time”.

But if you stick with it, follow people and reply to people you will start to see what the fuss is all about.

Finally open dabr.co.uk in the browser on your phone. It is a fully featured version for mobile and is awesome. Heaps better than most twitter apps…

The Webinar Question

20 February, 2009

I’ve sat in on a bunch of webinars lately, generally they get some slides on the screen and conduct a kind of interview. User interaction is tpically limited to the occasional poll or the ability to ask a question using the chat window. I don’t ever find these overly useful, sometimes you get some good tips and tid-bits that prove to be helpful, but they never really hit the mark as a learning experiance.

So yesterday I had my first chance to run a webinar of my own. Admitedly it was only with 6 participants and they were all staff but it was nice to try the technology out, and see if I could go close to making a webinar as good as a training session.

In short, it wasn’t as good. But it wasn’t too bad either. There are a few things that I reckon are worth keeping in mind if you are about in embark upon training via webainar.

Open the webinar client 1.5 – 2hrs before the session, just leave it open. We use Elluminate internally which I used last week so I was pretty confident that it would open straight away. It turns out I used Elluminate 9 last week and I was using Elluminate 8 yesterday. Elluminate 9 is installed on the PC and works fine but Elluminate 8 wouldn’t work. That meant 20 mins before the session I was forced to change computers and use my 12″ iBook that has a broken VGA out port. In the end it worked ok and I was very glad I logged in a long way ahead of the start of the session.

Have two screens, it might be that I don’t know how to use the tool properly but it is really helpful to have one screen showing what you are sharing (PPT, Applications etc) and one screen for you notes and the ‘preview’ window that shows you what the participants can see. This is vital for two reasons, it means you don’t ask “can you see x” every five mins it also will alert you if your connection drops (as mine did a couple of times).

Run through your session a couple of times to make sure it flows and you know what you are jumping to next. The rules here are the same as face to face training. Think ‘the 5 P’s’  – Perfect Preperation Prevents Pretty (there is another word that can fit in there but we shouldn’t use it in polite company! :-)) Poor Performance.

Use the tool A LOT before you run your first real session, know what every button on the screen does. It will make running the session much simpler.

Be interactive, (I didn’t do a good job of this one) conducting a poll at the beginning of the session is not being interactive, unless the speaker is incredibly compelling people will tune out.

There are too many distractions,  people will have your webinar open in one window, then in others have a combination of email, twitter, facebook, RSS reader, their favourite news paper, YouTube a, a half written report etc. You are competing against all of that stuff for their attention so don’t ever think that your dulcet tones and your funky powerpoint will be enough to keep them focused.

Finally if you don’t have too many people, encourage questions. If a participant misses something and feels they can’t ask a question they are far more likely to close the window and give up.

Many of the techniques used in running successful face to face training sessions can be applied in a webinar, the difference is getting it right much more important. There are very few people  that will get up and walk out in the middle of a face to face session but if you’re online people will close the window.

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