Drumming up Great Content From Your Community

Newspaper standLaunching a collaborative online community: Really Tough. Nearly Impossible. At the very least, ceaselessly challenging. Collaborative communities rely on great content that everyone can discuss and develop. The content represents ideas. These ideas are put forth to the community, and if it’s an active community, an evolution of that idea takes place. It becomes better than it was before. That’s the ideal anyway. Think about this evolution of ideas in terms of a Hegelian Dialectic: Thesis, Antithesis, Synthesis.

But, before you can get there, you’ve got to have some content that provokes thought, compels opinions and spurs dialogue. For most communities that is a tough nut to crack. It gets even more challenging when your community content is 100% user-generated. How do you get your users to furnish amazing content that moves ideas forward and pushes the community closer to its collective vision?

It starts with nurturing your members. Every member needs a certain amount of hand-holding when they first arrive: learning the tools, navigating the site, understanding the guidelines. But the type of nurturing I’m talking about is deeper than that. You’ve got to identify members who have promise as star contributors. Who are the thought-leaders? Who has something worth saying? Who has strong or even divisive opinions? Who has notoriety? Who has something at stake?

Think through these questions as you go through your member rolodex. Once you’ve identified these folks, put them to the task. Ask them to contribute! But frame it in a way that gives them something to win. Gamify your proposition with recognition, visibility, points, rewards, or whatever it takes to motivate them to contribute.

Case in Point: One thing we’ve been experimenting with in our community is a “Blogger” program. With a capital B in fact. This is an official program for our star contributors. They commit to one 500+ word blog post per month. In exchange we feature them on the home page of the community website and in the weekly community newsletters. We also elevate their status in the community by giving them a special badge that displays on their profile page and on any of their official Blogger posts.

The hard part with this is motivating them to generate that first post. To assist with that, we created an editorial calendar that they all have online access to. It details each blogger, their monthly topic and the date that it will be published. This shows them that they’re part of a team. They see the stature of their colleagues as well – everyone here knows that the other is a well-known figure for their company or cause. Giving them a specific date will do wonders for 90% of the bloggers too. Nearly all of us love (hate?) a deadline. Once we’re given one, if the stakes are appropriately set, we’ll stick to it.

The second hardest part is getting them to do it again. To help with this we used the concept of a dashboard. Every couple weeks we email the blogger group and list all the recent posts. We also list out the number of views and the number of comments that post received to-date. This gamification tactic gives them social validation (if they’re numbers are highest) but also gives them motivation to either keep their game up, or to try and beat out the top posters for that period.

Good community managers and social strategists know that content is crucial to a successful community. But when you can’t fully control the content creation, you’ve got to get creative. I believe collaborative communities need a solid blogger program to keep the ideas evolving.

What do you think? Have you had experiences with your own “blogger” program? What other ways are there to facilitate *good* content development?


Are Using Contests To Build Community A Bad Idea?

83/365 So many board games.I read a recent post by Patrick O’Keefe, a very well-respected community manager and blogger, about the place contests and giveaways have in building community. Rather than a community-building tool, he says that “contests and giveaways are marketing for your community”.  While its true that the oeuvre of traditional marketing knowledge indicates that the most common usage of contests and games is to recruit new members, there is a lot of good research to back up the notion that games can be used in very effective ways to build community. (more…)

The Cupcake Conundrum [VIDEO]

Last month I got the opportunity to speak at Portland’s Digital Marketing Conference. I did an ignite-style presentation titled “The Cupcake Conundrum: Turning Lurkers into Contributors”. 5 minutes, 20 slides that auto-advance every 15 seconds. Here’s the video. (For a copy of the text and the slides, check out this post.)

The Cupcake Conundrum – Ignite Presentation

I recently gave an Ignite style presentation at this year’s Digital Marketing Conference in Portland, OR. What a rush of nerves and excitement! It was an honor to talk shop about my burning ideas on online community engagement. I only wish it could have been longer. If you’re not familiar with Ignite, it’s a presentation format where the presenter has exactly 5 minutes to talk their talk. They have 20 slides, rotating every 15 seconds. You have no control over those slides. They go with or without you.

While it was exhilirating to experience this as a presenter, I’m sure there were a few blank stares on some of my slides. It’s sort of hard to whittle down the concept of intrinsic values and extrinsic rewards in the context of online community management in a mere 15 seconds. So I wanted to give you the slides, one by one, along with the script I wrote for each. Without the timer running, hopefully it’ll give more food for thought. (more…)

9 Ways to Drive Online Engagement At Your Next Conference

In the realm of what I call distributed social business, where your community members are geographically dispersed, I think one of the best ways to increase participation and engagement is through conferences. In most social business or deep collaboration environments, the real world is still where the rubber meets the road in terms of actually pushing forward towards the group’s common goal. So it makes a lot of sense to fully leverage a conference where most or all of your online community members will be. Doing so can deepen bonds among fellow members, enhance the overall sense of community, and build solidarity around the community’s common goals and vision.

I just returned from a conference where nearly half of our online community key players were attending. The goals of the conference were similar to that of the online community’s, so it made a lot of sense to tie the community website to as many pieces of the live conference as possible. I’ll dig into 9 ways we leveraged the conference to foster higher levels of participation and engagement with our community website. (more…)