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What happened to me when I invested in social business Birdsong

Like most of us I am a regular charitable donor. Whether supporting your charity run or texting cash for a DEC appeal. I am there. To me it does not matter if you finish the marathon in super speedy time. I have donated because you asked me to support a cause that you care about.

I have even pre-bought product through crowdfunding. It was great knowing the I had helped get something out into the market by buying to before it was made. I got my purchase. 

But I have never before invested until now, until Birdsong, the ethical online clothes store did their first ever raise. I am now an investor – get me!

I know the team – they are awesome. I trust their values and that they can deliver it. But most of all the business they have built is about solving a real problem.No sweatshop. No Photoshop. So my contribution is 99% motivated by the same drivers as i would make a charitable donation.

So when I hit the button to make my small £25 contribution I expected it to feel like making a charitable donation. After all I was claiming a stake it because I care about what they doing and if I never got the money back I won’t really miss it.  

What actual happened was something very different. I had invested! I don’t just mean cash wise. I became personally invested in making what they do successful because I am bound to them now in some small way as they continue their business journey. 

When they hit their target I didn’t just say well done. I told my mates that this was something they should invest in too. I wanted them to raise more because I have skin in the game. 

I didn’t just ‘donate’ and forget. I found myself relishing every update on their progress and will continue to do so, because nestling in amongst the big investors is my £25. I am now in a relationship with an ethical company that has a future stretching before it!

Just wait till Christmas, my Facebook will be full of the great ways you can gift from ‘my’ company Birdsong.

By investing £25 they also got a bit of me, an ambassador, a customer and a loyal good word for the long-term. This blog 😉

If you have never invested before then I encourage you to try it. Dip your toe in the water with as little as £10 and see how it feels.  Birdsong’s equity crowdfunding is still open (for one more day). It’s where all the ‘best’ investor are putting their money right now!

(please excuse my bad spelling and typo’s – my autocorrect is on a meditation retreat!)

YouTube for Marketing and Online Community Building

The topic for the April 2016 Building Online Communities MeetUp was “A Beginner’s Guide to YouTube Marketing & Building An Influential Community”. The speaker this month was Dan Colbert, aka CameraDan, an entrepreneur, filmographer and self-learned online marketer.

Dan started by listing the three uses for a YouTube channel: (1) getting more clients, (2) generating income and (3) selling your product or service (none mutually exclusive aims of course). He emphasised the importance of defining your ideal audience (in terms of their niches, demographics, etc), and creating at least a couple of audience profiles to aim for.

Dan then took us through the two main types of videos: traffic and conversion ones, both divided into a few sub-types: traffic videos can be mass audience, viral/trending or general interest. They get viewed a lot, generate more likes, comments etc, are under seven minutes long (and usually under three minutes), and can be monetised via ads. The conversion videos can be about upselling to your audience or sharing knowledge/demonstrating your service. They get fewer views, likes, comments etc, are longer (up to two hours), but that’s not what their job is.

Mass audience (traffic) videos can be about or tagged onto news, trends, updates, trailers, ads, events, holidays.

Viral (traffic) videos include pranks, PR stunts, collaborations (very important according to Dan!), animals (especially cats of course), cover songs, inspirational/motivational clips, and spoof sketches. These can get a lot views if you’re lucky, but you should still keep them relevant to your channel/personality/company/organisation.

General interest (traffic) videos are the “unintentional virals”, such as social experiments, product experience, reactions, “how to” or guide videos, game/movie reviews, product comparisons and compilations.

Knowledge (conversion) videos include tips, dos and don’ts, advice, tutorials, opinions, vlogs, interviews, talks, and presentations.

Demonstration of service (conversion) is as you’d expect, client transformation, product and service demos, portfolio work, testimonials, reviews, gameplay and documentaries.

As noted before, these categories are not fixed, and without clear borders: any video can be about both traffic and conversion.

Dan then talked about the “YouTube funnel” of a typical customer journey, which goes something like this:

A person searches for something on YouTube; they watch the 1st of your videos; and another; they check out your channel; they look at your banner and welcome video; they browse through your playlists; watch a couple more of your videos; subscribe to your channel; watch more videos; come across an upsell video; and convert to a paying customer of your product or service.

It is important to build rapport with your viewers at all stages of the funnel. And note that prospects that come through your website etc can take a shortcut route through the funnel. It is important to build a relationship with your audience: pay attention to your branding, theme and the look of your channel, including the thumbnails. Many people miss out by not having an introductory video, or a catalogue of their content and playlists.

It is also important to be clear about what your content is in the descriptions and video names, to make good use of tags, and communicate with your audience by taking part in the comments and elsewhere.

In general, Dan said it’s good to upload two new videos each week, as the YouTube search algorithm seems to favour regularly updated channels.

There were again many interesting questions, around copyright issues, on how to overcome camera shyness and much more. A couple of points I made were on tags: Dan suggested using three “filters”: tags relevant to your channel (your and your business’s names), to the video in question (title words, focus, audience) and generally popular keywords. Another question was about ads: do you have any input into what ads people see with your videos? The answer is no, but they are tailored to the viewer, so this shouldn’t be a massive issue for you.

Click here to download Dan’s slides: You Tube Presentation

How to scale a community and keep it engaged

Kajal from Change.orgThe March Building Online Communities MeetUp’s speaker was Kajal Odedra from the worlds largest petitions platform change.org. From their beginning in 2011 they now have ten million UK users.

Kajal talked through her six insights, which were:

1. (Having an) authentic voice – this is really important (and impactful) for their community. People sharing their own story, what brought them to the campaign they have started, and updating the community themselves make it more real and engaging.

lJLqdSPbEXUqtlM-800x450-noPadFor example, Fahma Mohamed‘s campaign on educating girls about FGM before the summer they are most at risk was a very specific ask within the whole FGM campaign, but came from her personal experience and her knowledge – which gave the campaign its strength.

2. Little big thing – this means the tangible thing that brings your issue to life. In contrast, really big things can be hard to make sound urgent. So many campaigns have a specific ask to a specific organisation or business – they may seem small against some of the big challenges and changes people want to see, but they are more easily winnable, and everyone likes to see success.

For example the campaign to get Boots to equalise prices betweens men’s and women’s products was very rapid. It caught the zeitgeist, but the ask was also very specific. It is not world peace but it is change!

3. People like email more than you think. This is a point that keeps coming up in different contexts. And it means that it’s fine to send updates etc. to your community.

Someone asked about the optimum frequency of emails? Kajal said they sometimes send as many as three in a day or two around important events, but otherwise weekly seems a good frequency, and a bit more for the most active users. She also noted that regular emails on a campaign are better than occasional ones (leading to fewer unsubscribes).

In change.org’s case updates on small wins or milestones is also a kind of reward and keeps people engaged.

4. Online + Offline. Not everything happens online. It’s always worth asking how people can engage with you online, but think also about how they can do more in the real world if they want to. Many people in your community will have useful skills they will be happy to share (for example legal or media expertise).

Change.org also work hard to build the capacity of their campaigners, so they train them and support them face-to-face as well as online. Their work with Laura who started her tampax campaign two years ago gave her confidence, kept the momentum going, and helped her support emerging campaigns and campaigners in other countries.

5. Crowdsource – how can your supporters help grow your movement? It’s always worth asking how people can help your campaign. In amongst those signatories are people with expertise and skills – you just have to ask. Change.org have a new user forum coming live soon, which will also allow you to list any useful skills you can make available to campaigners. 

6. Test test test. Never assume that you know what people want. So get them to tell you, by using A/B testing and other methods.

Kajal’s final point was about giving power to your community. In the Q&A she also noted that size isn’t always everything: even small but well-timed and targeted campaigns can make changes happen. And that you can also “pivot” your campaigns if need be.

Thanks to Tech Hub for supporting this meetup as always.

A MeetUp about MeetUps

jussi no back

Written by Jussi Tolvi

The first Building Online Communities of 2016 had Robert Fenton from Hipsters, Hackers & Hustlers (aka the Triple H) doing a “fireside chat” with Laura from Club Soda. Robert told the story of how he took over a dying MeetUp group with a couple hundred members, and turned it into the biggest tech meetup in London, with 25,000 members, all from organic growth.

The topic of the day was using MeetUps to build communities, and Robert talked about both the good things of MeetUp.com (it works for small groups, lots of people are there already) and the bad ones (getting data and metrics out of the system is hard if not impossible, difficult to use). For triple H, Robert now uses Eventbrite for ticketing, with MeetUp just as a marketing channel, and they are also building their very own online platform, with some quite exciting features to come.

He also talked about how much work needs to go into organising events, especially if you use several event platforms to draw more people in (HHH use about 20!). He puts a lot of effort into the details of his events, from meeting and greeting attendees to making sure that the tech works. This ensures that the good word of mouth helps them grow and each event is a marketing boost for the next they run.

We all know the no-show rate on MeetUp is poor. For HHH the no-show rate is usually from one in three to one in two, depending on the MeetUp, which sounds about right in my experience too.

There was an audience question on franchising MeetUps. 3H are setting up their own “chapters” outside London. Robert thought that it will be important to set up clear terms and conditions for these, ask franchisees to attend the original events to see how they work, and for the main one to keep an eye on the franchised ones.

Another question was on finding topics for your MeetUps. Robert suggested surveying your members to find out – also about potential speakers etc. On funding events? Robert’s list was: franchising, finding sponsors, setting up paid-for classes and workshops and other events, selling merchandise and charging for membership.

So the big takeaways were:

  • MeetUp is great for recruiting members and people interested in what you do, but it is not the perfect tool on its own.
  • You can monetise your MeetUp – but it takes hard work to get into a rhythm of producing events that draw the crowds so you can find sponsors.
  • Just like any other business, you need to know your audience, and where to find it and what it wants.

Our next Online Communities MeetUp is with change.org – book here.

If you want to keep the NHS you need to take government guidelines on drinking on the chin

At a health tech pitch event last year a group of guys were presenting a new app they had created – a way for you to challenge four mates to achieve a health goal and bet on who will win. The first person to achieve the goal won the pot of cash or it went to a nominated charity.

In behaviour change terms this is a neat app. It won’t appeal to everyone but for those that it does it’s a great little tool. When asked how they were going to fund it going forward they stated they were looking to public health because this sort of thing was the Governments responsibility.

I was annoyed. Our personal health is our responsibility. Why should the Government pay for my poor life choices? Is it the Government’s role to interfere in every aspect of our health? What happened to individual responsibility? Should the Government fund everything to do with health? If they did would it actually encourage us to get healthier or would it have the opposite affect?

I firmly believe every aspect of our health should not be outsourced to the Government. But we are several generations into a tax funded health system that has impacted on our health behaviour, both positively and negatively. We seem to rely on the fact that however we treat our bodies at some point the NHS will pick up the resulting problems.  The Government has never really excelled at preventative health. Once there is a problem to treat it is engaged, but developing services to help us avoid those problems or stopping our own behaviour exacerbating our poor health condition, in this it is less skilled. No surprise, preventative health is hard and expensive, you have to cast the net wide to have an impact because you are trying to stop things from happening rather than treat something that exists.

So should the Government be telling us how much to drink? Well it comes back to the life choices argument. We do expect the Government down the line to pay for the choices we make about our diet, drug taking, extreme sports and stupidity. But  the Government also has a responsibility to balance the budget and prioritise how the allocated cash will be spent. So whilst we make individuals choices the final bill for the health impact of that choice is funded through a tax pot we all contribute to. The Government, therefore, does have an interest and legitimate role in sending big messages that they think will change behaviour and reduce demand or allow them to sift priorities.  Setting alcohol drinking unit limits may not be the most effective behaviour change technique, but as far as Governments can nudge our behaviour guidelines certainly have their role. Their primary aim is to reduce long term demands on the NHS.

Whilst I don’t personally like being told what to do by the Government I do want there to be enough budget for an improved NHS that is here for the long term. So I have to take on the chin that it is within their responsibilities to send out messages about our use of a widely used substance that impacts on nearly every short and long term health condition going – from our poor quality sleep through to increased cancer risk. If the guidelines impact on just 2% of the drinking population (which is 85% of adults) then the financial saving is significant. It is a preventative message aimed at nearly everyone to hopefully impact on a few.

So whilst I would always encourage individuals to take responsibility for their own health you still have a personal choice. You can listen to guidelines or your can listen to your own body and common sense – the chances are you know deep down if alcohol is having a negative impact on you.  If not for yourself then consider your own health in the context of helping manage the long-term costs of the NHS. You would certainly be more likely to take notice of that financial cost of you were paying a premium to an insurance company that reduced your fee based on your lifestyle choices.

The case for better behaviour

If I am to be honest, my reactions to many social issues, problems or general day to day decisions are based on gut feelings. I know full well these responses are in large part emotional and have been shaped over time by my background, experiences, politics and friends. I also notice it most when I am with colleagues who have been to private school or studied law. They argue using facts and weigh alternative arguments in their head – powered by a different style of education. I acknowledge “because it feels right” is not always a reasoned argument!

Which is, I suspect, why I am naturally drawn to behaviour change science. It gives a fancy name to exploring gut feelings, but of course is more complicated than that. Behind every rational decision we take, whatever our schooling, are more actions we don’t notice that are shaped by the environment and people around us, and which impact significantly on how we interact every day.

Club Soda is a behaviour change business because we are trying to support people to change a habit, by not only understanding how factors around us shape our everyday actions but also, by properly testing our gut feelings or hunches, we can find tools and techniques that will help people unpick and re-programme behaviours they want to change.

It is the same with my role at the Consumer Council for Water. The water sector is heavily regulated by logic, schedules, processes and contracts, and the water in our tap is brought to us by amazing feats of engineering. But how much we use, how we react when a pipe bursts, what we flush down the loo are governed by unseen psychological factors that are harder to manipulate. To make real change in this sector we need to be more scientific about behaviour.

Which is why I am jolly glad to have heard Rory Sutherland, from Ogilvy Change, speak last week (you can see his Tedex talk here). He describes himself as an accidental techie, but actually, what I see is an ideas person who likes exploring hunches and ideas, and can see how technology can measure and, if it works, make those ideas real. A man who has an instinctively good hunch about things but has realised these hunches can be tested and implemented – small tweaks leading to sustainable change at a fraction of the cost.

One example Rory used was HS2. Like him, every time I go to Manchester I think about whether HS2 is necessary. Surely making journeys easier to work on rather than shorter is what could improve the flow of business between the North and South? Rory shared a number of hunches around HS2 that are completely rational if you think about it for at least a second, and must be worth testing out before the Government spends millions unnecessarily. But why is it not happening?

We already have evidence that small tweaks can achieve great change, for example Ogilvy have successfully redesigned the security scanning system at an airport based on knowledge of queue panic as well as customer flow – interestingly the same behaviour we have identified as being a major issue for customers wanting to make healthier decisions at the bar!

The Government is not blind to this stuff. It has a behavioural insights team after all, but its reach is not yet very wide, and its influence not very deep. I have learnt a lot from the Government team – I have seen the outcomes of their work on tax payments a few times. But they are basically tasked with nudging the existing system using mostly comparison and penalty. They have not, for example, had the opportunity to re-engineer the whole tax system to change how we view and pay taxes as a society, using reward triggers instead. Now there is a real challenge that would involve behaviour change to be considered at policy stage!

Nudging people within badly designed services and isolating behaviour change within a few disciplines (letters and payments) is not a game changer. As a society we need behavioural insight to go deeper – all the way into policy making. That is a tall order, but we could begin to show the power of behaviour change methodology by introducing it as a step before major financial commitments such as HS2 – there should be time and space to explore hunches before we throw money at a problem.

From a Club Soda and CC Water point of view this raises other questions the are worth exploring. How can both be agile enough to test hunches before making big changes, planning new programmes or shelling out cash!

CCWater is reorganising its structure and developing a new business plan. It has an opportunity to not only look at what it wants to achieve but the most effective way to do that. Looking at how behaviour change is a feature of everything it does and using it as driver for agile working – using the super combination of staff and local consumer advocates to test hunches in a meaningful way to make rapid changes in the way it delivers its service and supports the sector to achieve some of the big behaviour change challenges (reducing usage, metering, waste disposal). This is not traditional big scale customer research but service design, rapid prototype testing and implementation.

Testing gut feelings is what we do by accident at Club Soda, as this is the nature of a start-up. So for us the challenge is how we embed our learning about behaviour change as we evolve the service and create processes so it’s built in from the start. Every thing we write, every piece of design, every widget we add to the website has the potential to support the behaviour change our members want to achieve. How do we do this quicker, cheaper and improve outcomes for our members as a result?

To me using behaviour change and agile methodology is a no-brainer for any service, but especially public services. The question is how do we get there quicker?

Ironically that is a behaviour change project in its own right. So I guess I throw this back as a challenge to Rory, who sits in a position that means he is more likely to be listened to. And how can he engage those in other aligned domains to superpower that goal?

In the meantime you could do worse than downloading UCL’s Behaviour Change Taxonomy app and looking at their online training and other materials. I find it a useful way to order my thoughts when writing anything for Club Soda.

Facebook does not own community

Written by Jussi Tolvi.

The November Building Online Communities MeetUp guest speaker was Shelley Taylor, who has been doing exciting things in tech for 20 years. In her own words an earlier venture of hers, a digital entertainment platform, was “both a huge success but also a failure” (the success part was 300,000 users). Very Silicon Valley!

A few years ago Shelley started thinking about old-fashioned fan clubs, which have of course been around for ages. Originally using magazines and letters in the post to communicate, it would be easy to think that Facebook and Twitter had completely destroyed the idea of fan clubs. But as is becoming more and more obvious, social media has fallen prey to its own success: artists, record labels, athletes, brands, can’t actually reach their audience on social media any more. This is largely due to the changing business models of the platforms – they rely on advertising for their revenue, so anyone wanting to reach people on them will now have to pay for the privilege (you can read articles with titles such as “What I learned spending $2 Million on Facebook Ads”). In plain terms, the Facebook algorithm will not show your update on your followers’ feed for free. And there are other pitfalls too. There are in the region of 60 Rihanna apps available. Sadly, they all fall under the umbrella of “unauthorized” – the artist has nothing to do with them.

rihanna

So it might not be an exaggeration to conclude that social media marketing is mostly a waste of time and money. What is needed instead is direct contact and communication with your audience. Face to face, phone, email, can still reach people. Apps may also work better (if you get people to download them first!), as push notifications do get noticed. More old-fashioned, and more hard work, but probably also deeper and better quality communication as well?

This is where Shelley’s Digital Fan Clubs idea comes in. An artist can set up their own branded app, provide content through it, and actually reach their fans who can download the app for free. And it’s not just pop stars that can use the template. Anyone who needs to communicate with specific groups of people can use the same idea. And other organisations have seen the potential benefits, especially those with local information to share (such as a student housing provider).

intro_screenAn interesting and timely application of the idea is Shelley’s prototype refugee support app. Any organisation providing help and support for refugees can app information about their services to the app database, and refugees can then easily find local sources of support, whether legal support or information, food, shelter, or medical help (see image). By the way, it sounded like the biggest issue with this app was collating the data from all the aid agencies into a usable format. That does not surprise me at all…

 

Should we be more worried about the usual than the unusual?

imagesOut of all he unusual things discovered in Britain’s sewers sex ‘adult’ toys surprise me the least. I suspect its quite easy to lose some smaller ‘items’ down the u-bend!

It’s the list of do’s and don’ts and the consequences of these items cluttering our sewage system that interest me more.

The odd butt plug going amiss is an accident, but what are the regular items that we are constantly chucking down the sewers that are causing the biggest problems?

So these are the questions the latest ‘sewer news‘ news raise for me?

As a mooncup user of over 10 years I am very happy to longer flush any ‘over taxed’ sanitary items down the loo (although obviously I do flush lots of cups of blood – not on the P list). But what damage do tampons do? And are people flushing the plastic backed sanitary towels – is this an issue? Are these more or less dangerous than disposable wipes?

I always got that flushing fats down the sink is a bad idea, but as a 5th floor flat dweller, I now realise that flushing them down the loo just creates a problem further on (saving the pipes in your property is only part of the story). Is the tactic of diluting it and breaking it down with washing liquid still not good enough? Is this only about big batches of fat or is all fat in the system bad?

What about coffee grounds? which seem to clog up the pipework in many a victorian building in London. I really want to find a way to stop every at google campus flushing them down the sink – we flush them down the loo. Good or bad? Is the bin or food recycling the only option?

I am sure the list of questions water customers have is longer than this and whilst I know the advice is to keep to ‘Paper, Pee and Poo’, individuals will often make decisions based on ‘least worst option’ – I would be interested to know what questions others have.

For me, I want to know what the top 10 worst (rather then unusual) items are that damage our sewerage system.

Please join in!

r_767-water-companies-face-complaint--backlash-

The power of complaining

I always encourage people to complain. You spend good money on things (through buying or taxation) and it seems mad that we accept poor quality, bad value and shoddy service. But complaining is hard it takes time and energy and we don’t always know what ‘good’ is and when services fall short. Complaints are also not the same – there is a  big difference between your water supply not working in your home and thinking that generally, a service could have been delivered better. The staff a bit nicer.

For me complaining is not about the one interaction I may have with a company or public service that was a bit shoddy – for me it is about the next customer too. If the company does not know that this a problem that affects many their customers how can they change what they do. Get better. This is why I complain. Lots.

I complain mostly to banks, especially because they ask you to either write or use a premium rate number to make a compliant. This, in my view, is a poor service tax and is completely unacceptable. It should never cost me money to complain.  I also always ask how things will change as a result of my complaint.

It is part of the reason why I went for a role at CCWater. I wanted to champion the consumer and level the playing field for customers in a sector that used to be a public utility where the relationship is complex. You can’t move water supplier. It is also a vital service (water and sewage) that keep us healthy. Water is precious.

As always these things are not simple. In water a complaint about price, a leak, customer service, a major incident are all different. They alert a company to something fundamental and sometimes unique about their service offer and how it can improve or deal with risk and disaster. But whatever the complaint, they are all about a element of service delivery and how it can improve or evolve.

Water is not an easy  business, but it is affected by the weather (flood or drought) with an infrastructure that is buried underground with expensive and technical equipment that purifies the water we drink. It needs keep pace with the things (like pesticides) that sneak in and affect it. Most business will never have to deal with such a complex set of external, unknown factors.

The bill and its cost is the simplest complaint of all, and in most cases it is the only interaction we ever have with a water company. The only lever we have as customers.

So what am I getting at?

I have heard a series of presentations from water companies today about their complaint numbers.  The payments they get for delivering water in part relies on good performance in this area. I am generally quite impressed, water companies are not slow in innovating around complaints. They do see them as fundamental to service delivery. They have an incentive to do well.

So here are my key thoughts from the presentations today:

How do you measure light touch comments and complaints made through non-traditional providers?

Complaint numbers for most industries are collated from the phone and email complaints. But there are many more ways to complain – they may be a quick picture of a water leak from the phone on twitter. Is it captured? Does it count? Do you ask people to go and fill in an online form? (yes Islington Council I am looking at you here)

Is the sector interacting with new platforms powered by consumers rather than themselves? I am keen to talk to Resolver about how complaints to Thames Water and other companies is going. How are they planning to disrupt complaints ? What can water companies learn (what can CCWater learn?). Are these complaints measured? Are they included in the ‘official’ figures?

Is the process for comments and ideas different to complaints?

Islington once sent out a great set of posters saying they were a listening Council. They wanted ideas as well as complaints. But there was a no process for an idea or comment. Everything was treated as a complaint. You can’t have the same process for engaging people around ideas as you do problems. You have to build new systems that do the right job.

How can water companies really engage customers in co-designing and even prototyping their future? A good case in point is redesigning bills. Water bills go out once a year the window of opportunity to change it narrow – not very agile.  Maybe there is a group of customers that could form something more dynamic than a focus group and instead become the companies early trial group. Here I always use the example of the Maramarati (of which i am a dedicated member) – a dedicated fan group who test ideas (mostly marketing) for social media before they are launched on the public. It is harder to engage people around being a special-sub group around water. Not impossible. But its a challenge worth investigating (I see water conservation and health being key pulls). These customers could be tour beta testers and changes can be made before roll out. Real critical friends.

I am interested to here more innovation and ideas of good practice in this area and if there is inspiration from other sectors.

How do you think ahead?

Competition is about to come into water for non-domestic customers and there could be some spin-offs for household customers – businesses demanding more and better can drive change as a whole. But I don’t think this is the only change driver – technology, environment and political and policy changes will create a different expectation from customers. How you use all these factors as a positive rather than something that takes you by surprise.

How do we (CCWater) use what we know about water companies and their customers to campaign back to water regulators and the Government?

I don’t think this role (a LCA) is a one way street. Meeting the challenge of us all using less water is not just the responsibility of water companies. But its not clear who is taking the lead. The same with the complete arse about tit way the social tariff has been done (more on this at a later date). What are the issues we can take back the other way, bring together a coalition of interested parties and make a real difference? There was a long list produced at recent stakeholder meetings and I would be interested if, in developing its workplan, CCWater will be introducing some bark as well as bite.

 

Communities that drive positive change

Screenshot 2015-10-17 11.52.56

Patrick from Which? is a bit of an old hand. He’s been running their community discussion website, Which? Convo,  since 2010. But Which? is even older. It was started in 1957. So how has a membership organisation that was founded before the internet risen to the challenge of connecting with people online?

Since 2010 ‘Which? Convo ‘ has had 8m visits, 130,000 comments, 400,000 poll votes, 200+ authors, 4,000 conversations – and all of that starting with a blog on WordPress and expanding to using Buddypress. It just goes to show you don’t have to go all flash and bespoke to get started or even to grow. Their revamped site is still built on the same system.

Interestingly, for an organisation whose funding is from their paying, subscription magazine members, this site is for everyone and they don’t do a hard sell. They see the value in their community members powering the campaigns that bring about change – and then, I guess, cementing their reputation as the effective friend to consumers. 

So here are some of the lessons we learnt.

Nurturing keen members

Rather than a free for all forum they have divided the new site into subject areas. As their consumer brief covers so many items, this allows the community to navigate to their area of interest. This means they can also create content written by their experts and by members who have a deep interest in a subject. Giving active members the space to blog is one way to reward activity and also allows people to help share the agenda. 

But they also use polls to generate content and use this as a way to test ideas for future campaigns. 

Most useful was their approach to criticism and controversy. There is unlikely to be an online community where people don’t disagree with each other or take issue with your policy line. They see this as part of the territory, allowing discussion to happen, using member blogs to show both sides of the argument and being honest when its just not something that Which? as an organisation can agree with!

Using conversations to change the world

They can also gauge which members would make great case case studies for the media. Their trail of comments are a great way to test whether they have something to say and can say it well. 

“Our community has helped shape our move to campaigning with consumers. The community stopped the abolition of cheques, and directly influenced the launch of our Fixed Means Fixed, Costly Calls and Nuisance Calls campaigns.” Patrick Steen

Lee Beaumont set up a premium rate number and made cash from nuisance calls. He became the consumers hero. But Which? found him on their convo site (we salute Lee!)

They had 30,000 comments and 260,000 signatures on their nuisance calls petition. Community Members Martin Bostock and Lee Beaumont spoke to the media, not as Which? but as informed consumers with stories to tell.

Using the data to make campaigning more effective

We all struggle with knowing what data to collect and how best to use it for insight. You would think a big organisation like Which? had it licked. But they are really just building in the ability to collect more data to make their campaigns more effective. 

This was a useful reminder to me. You can crunch as much data as you like, but the real test of whether you are getting things right is if people are responding to your content. Only build in whiz bang features if it helps your community do more of that! 

Which?’s revamped site is all about making it easier for the community members to tailor their interaction. They achieved this with a simple modification requiring a simple sign-up process.

 Take homes

  • Your community needs a shared purpose and they need to know what it is
  • Show your community’s achievements back to them
  • Your biggest advocates can be your biggest critics (and vice versa) – listen to them honestly and you can turn them around… Don’t be afraid to let go
  • You don’t need the latest software – give them features they want not what you want
  • Don’t let data go to waste
  • Don’t hide your community away – they are a huge asset to your brand so put them front and centre
  • Push the importance of your community within your organisation – everyone needs to be involved, especially if you are a small organisation. 

You can see the slides from the event below and do join us at the next one  – from Fan Clubs to Supporting Refugees with Shelly Taylor.