Category Archives: Online Communities

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.

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…

 

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.

Sleepio – how to keep your community members engaged for longer – by Claire

My first time attending the Online Communities Meetup organised by Laura Willoughby and, while I’m a bit of a newbie to using social media for anything other than mild narcism, the night was both eye opening and self affirming – I’m not totally at a lose end! I think we also made some kind of meetup record too – with 2/3rds of the people who clicked attending actually showing up!

So, it’s with a packed out room that Helena, the Happiness Officer at the digital medicine company Big Health (creators of Sleepio), shared her learnings about motivations of community members and how to foster them, backed by research and experience. For almost 3 years now, she has been co-managing and managing the Sleepio website Community – an anonymous online space where people going through the Sleepio program can connect with each other or seek advice from Sleepio experts.

Since the release of their iPhone app, Helena has learnt some tough lessons about community engagement – specifically about how intrinsic motivation works to keep people engaged in online communities and what you shouldn’t do if you want to keep it intact for the long term. During Helena’s talk she introduced me to Amy Jo Kim (is it a social media faux pas that I had no idea who she was?) and it’s actually changed my life as a Community Manager. Helena spoke about membership life cycles, and catering for each of these users at different stages as well as understanding who they are. What are the motives behind user participation in social communities? Understanding why users participate can lead us to understand further how to engage users and increase their participation in online communities. Before anything, we must first learn a bit more about our users.

Membership life cycle for online communities

On the Sleepio platform, Helena broke down these phases into three parts: First time user, lurker, engaged member. Amy Jo Kim suggests 5 phases of a user’s lifecycle within a community:

  1. Peripheral (i.e. Lurker) – An outsider, not participating but we know they are listening to conversations
  2. Inbound (i.e. Novice) – New user, beginning to invest in the community, on his way to full participation
  3. Insider (i.e. Regular) – Committed participator, member of the community
  4. Boundary (i.e. Leader) – A member greeting newcomers, creating interactions and content, as well as encouraging/sustaining participation
  5. Outbound (i.e. Elder)  – About to leave the community.

We spoke a lot about ‘Super Users’ and how they fit into the lifecycles as engaging new or lurker users, and nurturing those relationships, a role which then plays into the longevity and the passing on of community ethos. For example, inviting people to be greeters by offering them memberships in return.

Main Take Aways:

  • Speak to your users regularly.Online, offline, smoke signals…. Be human.
  • Figure out the intrinsic motivation of users.  Importantly, do not ask them what they want, but what they need as this will generate completely different responses. Many online platforms generate add on based on what users need which then just sit there idle as they weren’t actually needed.
  • Do your user research.  Why do members stay engaged within the online community? What is their intrinsic motivation? Understanding users intrinsic motivation through self actualisation and Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, as well as the importance of the dual relationship between helping ourselves and helping others.
  • Once you’ve figured out the need. Ask – “how can the community address that need”?
  • Keep it Simple. Participating in the community should be simple for the user. The simpler it is, the higher the participation rate will be.
  • Stay watchful.  Do not break the feedback loop.
  • Triggers Use as many triggers as possible to nurture through intrinsic invitation.
  • Create Reactive Content.

Claire Tunnacliffe – Community Manager – Club Soda

 

How customer and user forums can help build your business

Thanks to Chris for sharing at our latest meetup how his jobs forum has grown into Wikijobs today.

Just like everything in life, it is never good to compare your fledgling start-up with a company that has been building over 7 years. But by delving a little deeper you find the problems, dilemmas and hard work are just the same for everyone at the beginning.

How it began:

In 2007 Wikijobs started their forum – and like every community they had to build members quickly. After all no one wants to be the first at the party.

So a combination of posting themselves and linking their community on other sites helped them build a user base quickly, “Build bridges into your site so it is no longer an Island”.

Here are the 3 key pieces of advice that came from Chris:

1.  Content is King: The posts they made in their own community were detailed and useful – lots of advice on getting a job. Advice that could not be found elsewhere on the web. This drew people in.

And here is the piece of advice I wish I had a year ago – whether you are writing blog posts or your forum is generating great advice, it is this content that draws people to your community.

So if you are starting your community, one  easy first step could be to start a blog and allow people to make comments. It will not only help you develop the tone for your business, but begin to draw people to your idea. Their comments will provide valuable customer insight (as well as being the start of a forum).

For WikiJobs, their growing forum posts helped them create the content and articles and brought people in – like example questions for tests run by the big companies for recruitment. All crowdsourced by the community.

2.  Email is still vital. Email people and let them know what is going on in the community and encourage them to participate. So pick a platform where that email data is yours! There are a lot of off-the shelf platforms that can help you do that (Drupal, Buddypress etc). 

Email keeps your customers hooked.

3. Once you have a community you can sell. The size of their community attracts advertisers and their community also use 3rd party products (like practice psychometric tests) from which they get a good affiliate fee. So once you have a community of size there are ways to monetise. 

They also reward their community for bringing friends into the community.

What we can learn from peer to peer support

The second Building Online Communities meetup happened on Tuesday at the new Google TechHub in Shoreditch. The theme this time was “What we can learn from peer to peer support online”, and the speaker was Jamie from TalkLife. Here member Jussi Tolvi shares the finding from the event. Want to come to the next one – sign-up here.

TalkLifeTalkLife is a peer-to-peer support network, for talking about personal problems and mental health, via an app or on the web. Jamie talked about how he came up with the idea and how it has developed in the last three or so years. It’s safe to say that there have been ups and downs… This type of community obviously has some very special issues to deal with, as it involves mental health and young people, but it sounds like TalkLife have managed to create as safe a space as reasonably  possible, with an amazing active group of people keeping it that way. And in fact we talked about the possibility of having so much safety and security that the community just doesn’t function any more.

One of the most interesting points for me was TalkLife’s algorithm for quietly pushing posts up if nobody has responded to them. The aim is to make sure that everybody in the community gets their voice heard, and to keep engagement up. And that what happens in the first 15 minutes after joining TalkLife is the key factor in retention. Jamie also made some good points about their metrics: what is really important for them might not sound that exciting for others (e.g. potential investors), but absolutely make sense for their particular business and community. And their “vanity metrics” such as user numbers are very impressive too!

And if you didn’t write them down (or weren’t at the meetup!), these are the books that were recommended by Jamie and others:

The Hard Thing About Hard Things: Building a Business When There Are No Easy Answers by Ben Horowitz

Onward and Upward: Reflections of a Joyful Life by Michael Wiese

Hooked: How to Build Habit-Forming Products by Nir Eyal

The Facebook Effect: The Real Inside Story of Mark Zuckerberg and the World’s Fastest Growing Company by David Kirkpatrick

Elon Musk: How the Billionaire CEO of SpaceX and Tesla is shaping our Future by Ashlee Vance