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Crack the Social Code: Turn Members Into Contributors

Written by Molly Talbert | on October 28, 2015 at 9:00 AM

Ever wonder how to get inside your members’ heads and motivate them to participate? Richard Millington can help, an expert with over 12 years of experience in community building. How does he do it? He uses basic, yet powerful, psychological forces -- tapping into what makes us human and what motivates us -- to excite and engage members in a deep, meaningful way. In his 2015 Super Forum keynote, he discussed these methods, touching on implicit bias, social attraction, self-disclosure and bonding theories.


Sound complicated and academic? Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a psychologist to catch on (it’s not actually that hard!).

Richard boiled it down to these six hacks for community managers to pick up and use right away:

1. Improve basic calls to action.

How many times have you told people, “You should join our awesome community!”? And how effective is it? Rather than constantly poking, prodding and reminding people to join, show them why they should join. Promote what’s in the community through newsletters, your website, social media, and make non-members realize how much they’re missing out if they don’t join.

2. Don't ask people just anything - ask them the right things.

Ask members what they are doing, thinking, feeling and fearing -- this is what really drives people on a human level and will spark conversation. Here is Richard’s frame work for those engagement provoking questions:

  • What are you working on? Have any upcoming events? What have you been spending time on?
  • What books have you read? What did you recently learn? Any future predictions for the industry?
  • What do you think about {topic}? What do you like/dislike about {topic}?
  • What are you worried about or struggling with? What are the biggest challenges you face?

3. Use communication tools effectively.

There are so many tools at your fingertips, but knowing how to use them is an art. Keep in mind the more people the tool reaches, the less frequently you should use it. This makes sense – if you send out email blasts every day to thousands of people, it’s likely they’ll ignore them. If you send mass emails sparingly, recipients know they contain valuable information and take stock. Here are the communication tools Richard thinks are critical to master:

  • Notifications: Use these often. They’re effective and specific.
  • Existing discussions: Look at the most popular content and insert calls to action.
  • Welcome emails and confirmation emails: These are critical, so pack the first welcome email with lots of information. Say, ‘We’d love your opinion on {Subject}, and link directly to it, so they engage right away. In your second email (the confirmation email), talk about the community’s culture; who it is and isn’t for. Make sure that each email you send offers huge value to the recipient – that way they’ll want to open them and follow through on your embedded calls to action.

4. Create explosive momentum.

Which would you rather join, a quiet or a bustling community? People are far more likely to join a community that has social momentum; they know it’ll be better tomorrow than it is today. How do you create this? Ask members what their biggest challenges are. Are there any obvious overlaps? Hone in on one or two at a time, and create specific, hard goals within the community to address those challenges.

5. Keep members active for life.

In reality, you’re probably not going to get a member for his or her entire life span. People change social groups and life positions around every 3-5 years. So focus on retaining members for about that length of time. To do so, make sure members feel autonomous (they can be themselves and are supported) and connected to other members. Create connections beyond just obtaining information. Have offline meet-ups, create rituals – anything that connects in a real way.

6. Become more influential as a community manager.

As a community manager, you need to tell people to do a lot of things, so the more influence you have, the more participation you can get. Groups with strong leaders are more active than groups lacking leadership participation. Keep in mind:

  • Being nice doesn’t lead to influence.
  • Don’t try to be a customer service rep. What happens when you answer the question? No one else will answer. That member doesn’t need to come back and the thread is dead.
  • Don’t be the angry god. Have a personality so people know what you’re really like.

Richard’s keynote made a strong case for how how important basic psychology is for a community manager to know about. Rather than being frustrated by your community and using tactics that continually fall flat, it’s important to think about what drives and motivates people on a human level.

About Richard Millington

Richard is the founder and managing director of FeverBee, a community consultancy, FeverBee Training, and author of Buzzing Communities: How To Build Bigger, Better, And More Active Online Communities. Over the past 12 years, Richard has helped to develop over 100+ successful communities, including those for Google, The World Bank, Oracle, Amazon, Autodesk, Lego, The United Nations, Novartis, and many more. Richard’s blog, hosted on FeverBee.com, is read by 10,000 community professionals every day, and is widely cited for establishing best practice in this field. Find Richard on Twitter @RichMillington.  

Topics: Online Community Management, Customer Engagement, Member Engagement

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