As a community manager, you’re always looking for ways to improve the user experience, upgrade the platform and implement enhancements when and where it makes sense. No problem. Being the great project manager that you are, everything is organized and documented. But I have to ask, after all that hard work to ensure a seamless member experience, when was the last time you looked at your maintenance page? After all, your online community maintenance page is what members will see when your site is brought is down to deploy those changes.
It’s a small detail, but a necessary detail to provide continuous uninterrupted service to your members.
If you’re standing up a branded community, your maintenance page should reflect the same theme and associated logos. This is a very important point if your company has gone though a rebrand or launched a new product.
Even more important, the contact info displayed on the maintenance page should be current for obvious reasons.
So, when was the last time your maintenance page was updated?
Showing off your loyalty towards a brand takes quite a bit of dedication. With the [not-so] recent introductions of location-based services (LBS) apps like foursquare, Gowalla, SCVNGR, Facebook and Yelp, we’re all guilty of “checking-in” to our favorite venues and broadcasting that action to our community of followers.
The drive at first was purely the novelty of the service. Nothing like it existed. But to keep members interested, the services needed to evolve and evolve quickly. Introducing gaming elements like Leaderboards, Mayorships, Dukes, Duchesses, badges and points systems was a no-brainer. The competitiveness, rewards and deals drove growth of the services. But I find myself less and less compelled to continue checking-in and maintain the status levels I’ve achieved at each frequented location. I have to admit, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve capitalized on a reward or deal. Which makes me ask the question; has the market been saturated with heavy-handed check-in members to the point where status levels are no longer obtainable? I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ve held the same 10 Mayorships on foursquare for as long as I can remember and that number rarely ever changes +/-1.
Will I continue to check-in? Sure. But it’s definitely not for the reasons when I first set out using the services. It’s now about what’s next. When I was younger, I worked at a local grocery store. At the beginning of my shift, I would have to punch my time card using this monstrous industrial looking clock. And that’s what LBS feels like to me at this point in time. I’m punching a clock out of necessity and not for the fun-ness factor. It’s kind of like watching HBO’s original series Entourage. The stories and acting get harder to watch season after season, but you stick in there because you have to see how Vince’s career ends.
What do LBS shops have up their sleeves? What’s the next evolution of the service? Which LBS apps do you use? Where do you see the industry going?
As your online community matures, trying to find new an inventive ways to keep members engaged with fresh content is an ongoing challenge for community managers. Here are 5 content strategies to keep things fresh and active:
- Choose Your Own Adventure – You may remember this concept from your childhood. It was very popular during the 80’s and into the ‘90’s. It also goes by “Pick Your Own Ending.” It’s quick to consume and has a high visual impact. In essence, you take your members on a comic book -style journey starring a hero who shares the same characteristics as your community members. At the end of each segment, your members determine the path the hero should take by a voting mechanism. In some instances, the hero may need some sort of ingenious device to escape a tight spot. The community could propose designs and the winning proposal could be featured in the next installment.
- Seasonal content asks – Seed discussions based on the time of year. Ask for pictures of the local foliage or winter activities. Every calendar month is littered with holidays. Find out how they spend St. Patrick’s Day or what their favorite Super Bowl dish may be. As a community manager, you can warm up to your members in a casual and personal way.
- “On the street” reporting – Grab your camera and turn yourself into a content generating machine. Pop in to a product manager’s office for an impromptu interview. Capture some shots of your customer conference or industry events. Get some of your members on camera to give a little testimonial or endorsement. Some words of advice; keep each video segment between 1-2 minutes. It’s not long where you lose your audience, and it’s not too short where you would lose value.
- Scavenger Hunt – This is essentially a game where the organizer (the community manager) prepares a list of items for participants to seek out and gather. The first participant to return with all items on the list wins. Read my full write up, How to Run a Successful Online Community Scavenger Hunt for complete details.
- eNewsletters and Corporate blogs – Ok, this could’ve been two separate strategies, but decided to lump them together since they’re both corporate communications. But hey, if someone in your organization is already cranking out his content, why not use community as their home? It’s fresh. It’s relevant.
What content strategies are you employing? Leave a note; I’d like to hear from you.
A great practice every community manager should follow is to highlight members that demonstrate the kind of role model behavior that makes for a strong, thriving community.
Do a short write up of the member and place it in a highly visible area of your community. Call it “Hero of the Month” or “Member Spotlight.” Include some member profile info like their job title, place of employment, professional experience and what they enjoy doing in their free time. Add some images to spice it up. The most important pieces to include in the write-up are their community contributions. The reason this member was nominated in the first place was due to the positive contributions and behavior, correct? Make it known. Put the most attention and care into this section. Other members will take notice and begin to follow suit.
If you have the resources to recognize members weekly (see Yelp’s weekly “Top Yelpers”), go for it. A monthly schedule may be more manageable. Promote this honor internally through Slack, Yammer and email distribution lists and externally via Twitter, Facebook and corporate e-newsletters.
You’ll begin to notice these members are so honored from being nominated, they contribute even more. They’ll even take on some of your (the community manager) responsibilities like welcoming new members, moderating content, and help out with general community questions.
Are you highlighting your community members? What do you call your spotlight program?
A fun and easy activity to host on your community are online scavenger hunts. Why would you ever do this? Well, simply put, because of the huge benefits.
Online community scavenger hunts:
- drives participation levels
- spur fresh content
- encourages newbies to post
- converts lurkers into contributors
Scavenger Hunt Defined
For those of you that are unfamiliar with the concept, a scavenger hunt is essentially a game where an organizer (the community manager) prepares a list of items for participants to seek out and gather. The first participant to return with all items on the list wins.
The Prep Work
How do we apply this concept to online communities? What should you have your members hunt down? Run a quick assessment. First, identify the most active areas and content types of your community. Second, do the same for the least active areas and content types. This will help build the framework of the list of items.
Based on your prep work, it’s now time to create the list. Create a centralized document that opens up with a short introduction, how to win, and most importantly, what they’ll win. You must build in an incentive. I can’t stress that part enough. Have members reply to the document with their list of found items.
Start with a couple softball-type items (You identified these as the most active areas and content types) to ease members into it. These items are highly visible or easily found via keyword search. The items should get progressively more involved (You identified these as the least active areas and content types). Put items on the list that does not exist yet. This will encourage members to create them.
Voila. You just drove members to areas of your community they normally would not visit otherwise. You had them create fresh content in areas where content was lacking. You got member to participate who weren’t confident enough to do so prior to the scavenger hunt.
Have you run a scavenger hunt on your community? Was it well received by your members? What would you do different?