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 can’t take credit for the above title or topic of this post, it is inspired by a recent article I read on FeverBee.com - Identifying and Articulating The Benefit Of The Community.
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!
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:
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?
A good community manger should stop thinking about how to build a community, and start thinking about how to ruin it!
Patrick O’Keefe of ManagingCommunities.com said it best in a SXSW 2011 presentation
You’ll become an expert in the quickest ways to kill your online community, using tips you can take and use today to kill yours as soon as possible!
Recently I’ve been getting back to my roots and doing a lot of public speaking again. Tonight I’ll be discussing this topic at meex6 and here are the 5 points I will cover:
Yes it’s broad, but that is the point! I’ll update this post with my presentation tomorrow.
If you had to add points below the 5 steps what would they be?
Side note: I’m breaking one of my the rules by posting this :)
Recently I re-watched Robots with my son, what a great movie!
For those who have not seen it-
Even in a world populated entirely by mechanical beings Rodney Copperbottom is considered a genius inventor. Rodney dreams of two things, making the world a better place and meeting his idol, the master inventor Bigweld. On his journey he encounters Cappy, a beautiful executive ‘bot with whom Rodney is instantly smitten, the nefarious corporate tyrant Ratchet who locks horns with Rodney, and a group of misfit ‘bots known as the Rusties, led by Fender and Piper Pinwheeler.
Bigweld, the master inventor, is like the start-up guy who succeeded and that everyone wants to be, his tagline in the movie is “Find a need, fill a need”. This is marketing 101, but does it hold true?
I’ve been thinking about how so many start-ups fail from a common mistake, trying to create a need. They develop their ideas on an internal view of what they need. It’s a simple trap and a deadly mistake.
Many modern marketeers (I think you can call them that) believe that this is just a bunch of BS and just because marketing advice is repeated often … doesn’t make it true.
However, I think its alright to find a need and fill it. You can learn a lot from the process of trying to find a need. Filling a need is not just filling the gaps but to provide a solution, a lasting one.
That being said, there is a camp that believes the WANT of a consumer is much greater than the need. The need can invite commodity pricing and eventually lower the overall value of your business.
People will pay a premium price for what they want, just look at the Apple Store.
Should we be looking to find a want? Develop a market and lead a movement?
Let’s discuss this further at ThinkUpMtl :)
Look up, it’s a cheesy title!
However, we all know it to be true. Since I’m still trying to figure out exactly what ThinkUp should be I’ve decided to to do what I do best, build the ThinkUp community by leveraging the communities I already lead or contribute to - we’ll start with PressWork!
PressWork is side project I co-founded with @bavotasan. I’ll make this brief, this is not a pitch for PressWork even though it’s awesome and you should try it, PressWork is an open source WordPress framework and we have built a very vocal and passionate community around it, it’s the perfect fit, I hope, for ThinkUp.
What makes an open source community successful online and offline, at least in my opinion, is the open debate and conversation that transpires amongst its members or prospective members that help drive the project further along.
Since I’m also one the community leaders, organizers, or whatever you would like to call me for WordPress Montreal, why not get them involved too :)
I see ThinkUp being something where anybody from any community can propose a topic for conversation.
So, let’s see where this takes us …
First, let me introduce myself -
My name is Brendan Sera-Shriar a.k.a. digibomb.
I’m a WordPress designer, developer, and blogger, social addict, techy, father, community manager and builder, toy geek, collector of many things, and published author from Montreal, Canada.
More about me
OK, back to the point of this post, what is ThinkUp? There are many meetups, I know ‘cause I attend a good majority of them and even organize a few :) For a while now I’ve thought about putting together a social gathering of sorts where professionals, students, enthusiast, and just those interested in learning and thinking about community both online and offline can come together and share their knowledge, experiences, and ideas.
The idea is simple - come drink, chat, learn, and think in a casual setting. The structure would be an open forum, kind of like a demo camp or ignite, but no slides - I envision something more like a round table where we discuss and debate openly - we ThinkUp!
If this is something you’re interested in and you live in the Montreal area let me know. I’m in the process of organizing the first ThinkUp in Montreal so all feedback, suggestions, and ideas are welcome.
I’ll use this blog as a way to post information about upcoming ThinkUp’s and to recap each one. I also see this as a shared space where we can ThinkUp (yes I know , stop branding :) ) anything we want.
So, let’s do this!