This has always been a topic of debate, at least for me and most of my colleagues, where ever I have worked. In the last post I talked about how most communities are designed for lurkers and, in my opinion, the false value added to big numbers (likes, follows, etc.).
I didn’t however discuss the differences between members and subscribers, which I believe to be significant and worth understanding, especially if you are considering building a branded community or adding a content vertical/strategy.
Members, should be, a dedicated group of like minded individuals who actively participate in a community setting, like a forum, focused around your brand, product, etc. These are individuals who you have already enticed to join in the discussion, they are your brand ambassadors, your customers or clients. This is your community - regardless of the numbers!
As previously mentioned in other posts, it’s better to have 200 actively engaged and participating members than 10’s of thousands that stay silent. If they are quiet they are not members -yet!
Of course the above is a very watered down explanation, but you get the point.
Subscribers on the other hand are individuals who are interested in what your brand or community has to say but they aren’t ready to or don’t want to participate in a discussion with others. Don’t confuse them with lurkers, people who sign up for a limited time offer like a coupon or contest or people who watch the conversation but don’t actively engage. Subscribers just want information they can consume on their own time, like a newsletter, RSS, or download of some kind.
In my experience if you give visitors of your site the option to “Sign Up” to a community or “Subscribe” to a newsletter, they usually choose the latter.
However, this does not mean you shouldn’t offer both!
You should always give potential members the opportunity to also subscribe to a newsletter, but don’t bombard them with a ton of options. However, with newsletter subscription, I would keep it simple, a direct call out to subscribe, don’t bombard them with a ton options, they are subscribing for a specific reason. You can convert them later.
Subscriptions are a great way to convert people to members. Through a simple newsletter subscription you can gain subscribers quickly and creatively use the content in your newsletter to illustrate the benefit or added value of becoming a member. It works!
The key is remembering that each member you attempt to or have acquired is unique, and they evolve, in terms of community participation, at different speeds.
What are some of your experiences with members vs. subscribers, or examples of how you creative converted subscribers to members?
I’ve been a community builder and manager for a very long time and I have worked on and with many different kinds of communities and unfortunately many of these communities do not stand the test of time. It is easy to set up a community and get lot’s of followers, but how do you retain these members and keep them engaged? This is the question we all want to answer. Believe it or not it is easier answer than you think, it just takes time and patience, which most communities owners unfortunately don’t have.
I say this in all due respect to the brands I have worked with over the years, however so many brands fall into the same trap - we want a million members by the end of the year! Brands are so focused on the BIG number they forget about the value of each one of those members.
I get it, numbers are important to a brands reputation and perception, plus it goes a long way in a board meeting, but is this really how you want to build your community?
The problem is that most brands design communities around a topic of interest. For example, our customers like urban clothes, so let’s build a community around that interest and set up a marketing campaign to get people to join and talk about clothes. This will initially get you lots of signups. However, there is no real added value for joining. This kind of community is passive and does not engage members or ignite any kind or real participation.
Result: you end up with lurkers and high drop off.
Is it not better to build a community that get’s your members to actively participate?
A few points from FeverBee that I think all community builders/managers/owners should live by;
The challenge is to articulate a benefit that both a) aligns with these motivations and b) places the recipient in a participating mindset. This means you will be targeting less people, but you get the ones that participate.
Build your community around the proposition that you, the member, will benefit from joining and participating.
This process takes time, and you need to nurture your community. Listen to your community. Align and re-align your content strategy based on member feedback.
You own this community, so you should know your members better than anyone! If not, do the work to find out: ask questions, poll and survey, address your members fears and concerns, most importantly let the community shape the community!
The human computer interface helps to define computing at any one time. As computers have become more mainstream the interfaces have become more intimate. This is the journey of computer technology and how it has come to touch all of our lives.
#ThinkUpMtl May edition is around the corner - what shall we ThinkUp?
When ThinkUpMtl was initialy incarnated the idea was to let the community choose the topics to be discussed/debated at our monthly meetups. This is still the case. However, being that ThinkUpMtl is still in its infancy, a lot people still don’t really get what it’s all about! Me too :) but that is what makes this whole adventure fun and worth experiencing.
I had the following topics down as potential candidates for the inaugural ThinkUpMtl just to get the juices flowing:
Facebook vs. Instagram - the Future of Social Media Sharing Apps
The Mythology of Social Influence
Understanding Motivation in Online Communities
We are less than 2 weeks away with an almost full house so I decided to ask the question once again - what should we discuss/debate at OUR first edition?
No one is productive at 80+ hours a week - Let’s face it, nobody is really productive at 80+ hours a week. You’ll burn yourself out and be of no value to anyone. There are always exceptions, maybe you’re working on a big project or an important presentation, but you can’t do hard hours like this for an extended period of time without killing your self. I’ve personally never seen it!
It’s 5pm, pause and go home - Believe it or not it easier than you think. When 5pm rolls around, or what ever your 5pm is, find a way to pause and go home. You can always bring your laptop with you and find time to work later if need be, or take advantage of a service like dropbox. At some point you need time for self or your family.
Over the past few months I’ve made the effort to pause at 5pm, got home, eat with the family, and work after the kids go to bed if I have to. I’ve really been enjoying this balance.
Dinner with the family - This is really important to me! For those of us with young kids it’s so important to spend time with them when you can. I want to be a BIG part of their life and it’s not fair to leave my wife responsible for them all the time. I know how demanding a job can be. As a community manager I spend a lot of time on the road and many evenings at events and meetups. So, when ever I get the opportunity to be with family I do it! Sometimes I’ll even come home first, eat with them, then head out.
If you don’t have family spend the time with your friends, we all need to interact with “real” people and people other than who we work with.
Rule your weekends! - The weekends are the only time you are not getting paid to work, unless you work weekends, regardless what your “weekend” is it’s yours so OWN IT! Your weekends should be used for you, hobbies, activities, etc. I enjoy shopping with the family, taking my son to swimming lessons, or going to the park.
You’re on salary - This one is controversial. At the sake of creating ripples if my boss is reading this, if you’re not on the clock why go the extra mile? I’m very passionate about what I do and super motivated. I will go above and beyond when I need to, but there is no reason to be taken advantage of (disclaimer: my company treats me very well by the way) or work hours that you are not be recognized for. When it comes to salary there needs to be a give and take between you and your company - give me a reason to do more!
If you have ever been freelance or operated your own business then you know that if you are being paid X hrs for X dollars it needs to be worth your time, other wise your killing yourself for nothing and will eventually go out of business.
Salary works the same way!
Finally, a tip if you have a family, try to include them in your work whenever you can. Take them with you on the road, do an activity with them and blog about, have them help you out if you can.
I’ll leave you with this - in the end you need to be happy. You have to find that right balance between work-life or one will suffer. Something I did not touch on is how some companies today are integrating creative ways to incorporate work-life balance in the work place. A great example would be the google campus.
What ways have you found to make work-life balance for you?