Before diving into community’s creation, it is essential to understand what members can gain in joining such communities.
In traditional business models, access to information has allowed companies to hold the upper hand in their commercial transaction with their clients. However, communities have turned this market dynamics upside down by what John Hagel call “reverse market” (Net Gain, 1999). This entails members to gain information about different companies to find the best deal in terms of quality/price (e.g. Airbnb, yelp, Esty). By aggregating customers, information and transaction, communities are shifting surplus from vendor to customer.
Therefore, members’ interest in joining a community is not only relational but also transactional.
The biggest challenge in creating a community is to acquire a critical mass of members who will allow community to be self-perpetuated. As Carl Shapiro explained, the exponential growth of a community relies on the “network effect” (Business Insider, 2011):
“the value of a product to one user depends on how many other users there are”.
One efficient and proven way to reach critical mass of members and yield this network effect is to grow your community with the gardener touch of seeding, feeding, weeding (Net Gain, 1997)
Generating traffic: Seeding
No one is willing to take part in a community with no members. So how could you break through this chicken-egg dilemma?
In the early stage of community’s creation, Michael Silveman, CEO of Duo Consulting, recommends community managers to attract members by publishing interesting content. Indeed, content attractiveness can be very effective in forming a pull strategy as it:
- Sparkle interest with entertaining or educational content.
- Enhance the marketing effectiveness with SEO-friendly content. (to create a successful SEO strategy you can use: https://www.google.fr/trends/ , compete.com, www.alexa.com)
- Showcase an active community
- Display your brand identity
Nevertheless, content attractiveness is a good entry strategy, it should not be used to seed your community. Indeed, many community managers often mislead their community toward a social network based on content. For instance, Joseph Natalie, the vice president of “children with Diabetes” was proud to say: “we have 32,000 page of content based information “. However, according to the review of e-marketer (2010), only 5% of members describe this website as an online community.
Joseph Natalie has underestimated the human element of the community by seeding his community with content. Consequently, website’s visitor does not feel engaged to enter in direct communication with the community. Users remain in the “observing” stage of the engagement pyramid. Therefore, publishers should focus their effort to create conversational content that will engage users and spark their interest to discuss with others (Mark Sylver,2013)
Seeding a successful community would always start with finding people willing to discuss specific topic, not content. Hence, community managers have to set up forum and chat room around the 4 principles of interaction (Michael Silverman, 2012):
Interest: professional (learn about market trend, best practice e.g. Bloomberg Current) or personal, narrow interest (sport, music, travel)
Relationship: demographic community which aggregates people willing to discuss about a new experience appearing in their life (health issue, new parents…)
Fantasy: activity-based communities where users enter in an imaginary role-playing game (http://www.virtualregatta.com/)
Transaction: communities aggregating people that will exchange information and experience regarding a particular product. Airbnb and Etsy have shown the power and success of combining transactional communities with geolocation feature. When setting up this type of community, it is important to consider specific transaction models in different countries (James Barisic, 2016)
Engage members: feeding
By providing engaging and trustable environment, members would feel involved in reaching the “endorsing stage” of the engagement pyramid (see graph below).
In this stage, your objective will be to motivate members to reach the “contributing” stage and post their own content.
Sean Moffitt (2015) describes 3 ways to feed and motivate communities in order to crowd source information’s creation:
Extrinsic motivation refers to recognition and reputation. Leader board has shown persistent success in motivating users to contribute in the content creation (Forbes, 2012).
Explicit motivation is an effective but expensive way to engage members by offering discount, perks and gift card (Michael Silverman, 2012)
Feeding your community with tailored content, extrinsic and explicit motivation will allow communities to crowd-sourcing their content’s creation.
Retain traffic: Weeding
Crowd-sourcing content’s creation enables communities to aggregate a huge amount of information. However, communities’ organiser would need to weed and categorise all this information to sustain the quality of the content over time. Therefore, communities have to set up strict and clear policies and investing in an efficient moderation system (Business insider, 2010) in order to keep a high standard information and interaction.
If successfully seeded, fed and weeded, your community will enjoy the economic return of a self-perpetuated organisation by creating the content attractiveness loop (Forbes, 2015)
Crowd sourcing, “the next 100-billion-dollar company”
No one can deny the power of content loop expressed above. Companies that will successfully nurture this loop by seeding, feeding and weeding, will be rewarded by unrivalled customers’ loyalty and compelling economic return. According to Eric Schmidt, the former CEO of GOOGLE from 2001 to 2011, the next 100-billion-dollars companies will be a website or community, which will be able to crowd source knowledge in order to have the most accurate information in a particular field.
So, start to seed, feed and weed your community today and hopefully you will be the next big player in your sector.
Funder of Windbuddy
Clark Quinn (2009) Leanlets “seed, feed & weed” http://blog.learnlets.com/2009/09/seed-feed-weed/
Forbes (2015) 11 Tips For Growing An Active And Engaged Online Community
Forbes (2010) The New Power of Consumers to Influence Brandshttp://www.forbes.com/sites/simonmainwaring/2011/09/07/the-new-power-of-consumers-to-influence-brands/#3b78a076a29e
Grassroot Solution (2011) The Engagement Pyramid Building Meaningful Relationships From The Ground Up! http://www.minnesotanonprofits.org/events-training/annual-conference-handouts/Engagement_Pyramid.pdf
Hagel, J and Armstrong, A. (1997) Net Gain. Boston Havard Business School Press
Hagel, J. (2010) Washington post John Haggel 3 : Cultivating open innovation: Seeding, feeding and weeding
Jenna McWillians (2009) five tips for seeding and feeding your educational community http://remediatingassessment.blogspot.co.uk/2009/07/five-tips-for-seeding-and-feeding-your.html
Mark Sylvester (2013) 20 Tips To Make Your Online Community More Engaging http://intronetworks.com/20-tips-to-make-your-online-community-more-engaging/
Member revolution (2014) The Member engagement Pyramid: How to grow your online community https://www.memberevolution.com/member-engagement-pyramid-how-grow-your-online-community
Michael Wilson (2009) Best Practices for Building Successful Online Communities
Michael Silvermen (2012) capturing community: how to build, manage and market your online community
Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, (2011) business insider, http://www.businessinsider.com/network-effects-2011-5?IR=T
Sean Moffitt (2014) wikibrands