12 Replies Latest reply on Nov 11, 2010 3:34 AM by richmilroy

    How do you make it grow??

      At my organization we've had a fair amount of luck in being able to grow membership, yet have not had the same success in being able to grow content at the same rate. Just curious what others have done to help this along?



        • Re: How do you make it grow??

          Hi Dave!


          What type of content are you looking to grow?  Attracting new users is relatively easy (prominent links, ads, or some well placed syndicated content does the trick).  Getting them to contribute can be challenging.



          Now, not knowing what your community is about (peer-to-peer support, enthusiast/social, collaboration, ect.) I'll offer a few general tips.  We can expand on these if you find I'm totally off base for your community:


          1. Make your new users feel welcome.  Use your registration e-mail templates to set the proper tone for your community.  Provide links to content to get them started.  This might be some simple videos (doesn't have to be, but most people don't like to read) you whip up to show them how to personalize their profile, search, make a post, etc.  This material should make the functions of your community appear insanely easy (Like GEICO: so easy a caveman could do it).  The material should also be presented/written in a warm, encouraging manner.
          2. Since people tend not to read e-mails these days, make sure your home page has a small widget that has the same effect as the above.  Give it some color and some inviting text (not too much.  keep it simple).  Get creative with it.  Go beyond "New Users Click Here".  When they click through, make sure the page they land upon gives them a clear message that explains the purposes and benefits of the community and leads them to concise steps on how to get started and where they can go for help.
          3. Give your new users a special icon (possibly by defaulting a special icon to users with zero of very few points).  Encourage your existing members to watch for users with this icon and 'play nice'.  Remind them that they too were once new users and not everyone knows how to search.  If needed, supply your existing, tenured users with a script to use after they answer a repeat (new user) question.  The script might even link to a document or video all about searching.  If you write the script, you can be more comfortable with your users not being snarky with their otherwise helpful tip.
          4. Set clear expectations for conduct.  With clear 'rules' your users should know what is and is not acceptable within your community.  Nothing prevents a new user from posting (or joining at all) more than negative comments (especially those directed at other users).  New users want to be comfortable posting their 'stupid' question without fear of peer flames.  If you see this happening, squash it.  Let both members know the action you took and why.  This will inform the offending user, but also let the new user know you're 'always watching' and 'have their back'.


          I'll cut it short there.  In summary.  Make them feel welcome and show them it's easy.

          • Re: How do you make it grow??

            Another quick tip: (again depending on your community)  Add a discussion everyone can relate to/participate in.  Gia does a good job of this with a simple "Introduce yourself" discussion.  Everyone can add to that one, right?  Think about a "What are you doing right now? Post a picture!" thread. 


            In more traditional peer support communities, you might have an off-topic area or "Lounge" for things like this.  You'll find the community really forms in the Lounge and you get to see much more personality from your users.  I'd suggest exempting such an area from your user ranking system and search if possible.  This way, the folks who may choose to spend most of their time there don't appear as your most valuable/trusted users and their 'fun' discussions don't clutter up your search results.

            • Re: How do you make it grow??

              Hi Dave,


              Potential provides some great tips. Give your members an easy task like introducing themself or throw them a "softball question." Not a question about softball but a question that everyone can answer like "What healthcare devices do you specialize in?"


              Make it fun too. Run a contest to entice participation. Doesn't have to be a pricey reward, some community-branded swag will do. I know the members in the our community go nuts over a hat or a t-shirt. After a while, your members will get into a rhythm on contributing and you'll rely less on rewarding. But it's a good tactic to give your community a content boost.



                • Re: How do you make it grow??

                  Thanks all for the good suggestions. Specifically we're looking to get some of our clinical users more active. So I think giving them an opportunity to tell their background is always great. I always like the idea of tossing out easy questions to get the discussion moving along. We've also given thought to posting clinical based case studies to get the 'experts' to comment.

                    • Re: How do you make it grow??


                      My users are mainly clinicians as well.  They are a tough bunch to get the ball rolling with - at least the ones on my site don't buy into the "get to know you" type questions - they are on the site to obtain value through solve problems and gain perspective, not to be social.


                      Here are a few strategies we used - some have already been mentioned:

                      • Set up a site advisory-type group of users.  Create a secret/private group where they can discuss with you and among each other.  Invite a variety of members to the group - those who are super users and also those who are already influencers at their organizations.  Don't invite too many people (I would say 10-20 only) so that it's still special and exclusive.  The group can help brainstorm ways to get more users involved, and also feel a sense of ownership, which will lead to them encouraging others at their organizations and on the site to participate.  Ask them to let you know about issues that they notice, ways you can improve the site, etc.  Give them "sneak peeks" at new site features, content, etc. so that they can provide feedback, which in turn will make the whole-site rollout more successful.  Recognize them in whole-site blogs or announcements.
                      • Forward email notifications to your internal or client SMEs and encourage them to respond directly on the site.  We do a lot of this even today (after having an online community for 2 years).  Eventually, they'll get that users REALLY appreciate when they get a SME's response.  Don't let those SMEs worry that they'll be barraged with questions instead other SMEs end up emerging.
                      • For topics when a clear knowledge leader emerges but there are still lots of questions, or in which there is a lot of in-depth discussion, set up an hour-long webinar where the topic can be discussed "in person."  Perhaps have the SME present for 30 minutes and then take questions/hold discussion for 30 minutes.  Record the webinars and post the video recordings on Jive.  In your case, you might be able to get someone involved in one of the clinical research studies to present a short summary of their findings and take answers.


                      Now here's my question regarding community growth: has any used the "unanswered questions" widget to encourage responses?  If yes, has it made noticable difference?




                  • Re: How do you make it grow??

                    A couple of the suggestions here along the lines of introduce yourself or posting a question that everyone can answer make sense to me if there are a small number of communities/groups.  We have 1,000 groups, so one of our challenges is helping people quickly find what they care about.  The longer they spend doing other things or searching for content, I would argue we are quickly losing their interest and engagement.  Given that:

                    • Do those of you with MANY groups still have a "Welcome to the Community" group for the basic introductory stuff, or do you help them find one of the groups they care about and encourage them to introduce themselves there?
                    • Do any of you have complaints from users about not being able to quickly find the communities they care about? Have you used any tactics to make it easier for them to find those groups? And if so, is it manual or something automated based on elements of their profiles (for example)?
                    • Do any of you have users who don't react positively to the "Lounge" areas? Do they look at it as a sign that the community is not business-oriented, which also causes some disengagement?
                    • Re: How do you make it grow??

                      So this is a really hard thing to get started and the suggestion regarding welcoming people and giving them something easy to participate in are great.  I think of community content/activity a little like a fly wheel - very hard to get started and as inertia takes over, much less difficult.  In the beginning the community sponsor has to do a lot of the content creation themselves to give members something to respond to initially.  The other thing that good community managers do is they get to know their members and they reach out on a back channel and specifically ask them to contribute in specific ways. It is much less likely that someone will say no if asked directly and specifically.  A lot of that type of encouragement will be necessary in the beginning. Over time, the community manager will need to do less and less of that and more content curation.

                        • Re: How do you make it grow??

                          I did exactly what Rachel describes - that backchannel stuff - to get the Jive Business community blog going. I also reach out to individuals when I see a question going unanswered for too long.


                          Spending that social capital I collect during cocktail hours at conferences.

                        • Re: How do you make it grow??

                          I am facing a similar challenge:

                          We have invested a lot of design resources in our Community and tried to rearrange the design to promote better usage of the community.

                          The result has been less than satisfactory. Our Community is lodged in as a subcomponent of our "Customer Center" that receives hundreds of hits per day, but our community only sees about 5-10 vists (on a good day).


                          What we are noticing:

                          • Users are not moving into the community to view content as much as we anticipated - We don't understand why.
                          • Users are not subscribing to the community to create new content - particlulary because of the tedious registration, email confirmation and and multiple fields process. How can we improve this? We had to postpone SSO due to lack of R&D resrouces so we launched without. The additional fields are a must for identifying customers.
                          • We offer free chat and email support. How do we encourage customers to opt for community support FIRST without removing these offerings?
                            • Re: How do you make it grow??



                              Rachel's analogy of the flywheel is spot on.  Existing activity is key to attracting new users.  If your community is only receiving 5-10 visits per day, it is likely these users are encountering a place that feels like 'ghost town'.  A place where nothing is happening and they may not feel as though they will get any help.


                              I'm unsure how your community is arranged, but with so few visits, you shouldn't have more than a couple places in your community where users can contribute.  Limiting the number of discussion areas, for example, will give the appearance of more activity (10 people posting in 5 areas looks rather sparse, but 10 people posting in a single area looks active).  Accomplish this by whittling your topic areas to the lowest common denominator(s), then building back up (adding more and more specific topic areas as needed).  A guiding principle I try to follow: a single discussion area needs an average of 10 new posts per day to sustain itself.


                              Now... how to get these places to look active and helpful with only a handful of users: Recruit!  These can be employees of the company (who should be your biggest advocates) or other trusted customers.  Reach out and ask people to get into your community and answer questions.  I don't want to advocate 'staged' discussions, but you might have to do that.  What you want to do is make your community appear active to the lurkers so they don't feel like the lone wolf.


                              Getting over the registration hurdle: Make it interesting.  People need to be inspired to complete those forms.  They aren't difficult, but they need a reward in doing so.  That reward doesn't have to be monetary or anything if real value.  You simply need to make them 'want' to contribute.  Generally speaking, we see the more 'controversial' discussions in our community drawing the most views and new user posts.  On our community it might be 'the (insert phone name here) really sucks' thread that inspires others to join in (mostly in a positive manner).  You don't need to take your efforts to the extreme, but you might want to think up a topic where you know people will have (or should have) an opinion.


                              Make your community the first and most prominent option.  On our own Contact Us page, we place our self-help knowledge base and community first and bury our actual customer service contact number, chat, and e-mail options.  People can still find them for sure, but they have to scroll beyond our community link.   Make sure this link has a clear 'call to action' around it.  Perhaps something like: "Join the discussion" or "Get help from our community of experts!  Post your question, suggest an answer." 

                              Another idea you can consider once your activity ramps up is syndicating content to your various web pages.  Show people what is happening in the community.  As mentioned above, this will help build interest and make people want to get in and voice their opinion.

                                • Re: How do you make it grow??

                                  Thanks. I've been 'artificially creating buzz' around the community over the past week. I haven't seen a significant increase in traffic but I did see a high participation rate than before.

                                  I'm still playing with the law of small numbers, so I will have to wait some time to get more accurate results.


                                  Thanks for the advice!

                              • Re: How do you make it grow??

                                We are an events company and Ive just joined this group as we are experiencing growth in our membership and online activity.  My suggestion to "make it grow" and create a never ending stream of new content is to run live events.