Monthly Archives: March 2016

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.