Even a perfect community can get a little stale.
Does this sound familiar? Say everything is going well -- your launch was smooth, automation rules are up and running, you’re following all the top best practices and have aligned the community with your organization’s strategic goals. Everything is working! Yet something still feels flat.
How do you create a spark and kindle your company’s culture? A simple solution: make it fun! Bryant Burnheimer, an Implementation Project Manager at Higher Logic, and Marth Jack, the Director of eConverse Social Media, presented their top community spark ideas during the Super Forum 2015 breakout session, Extreme Community Management.
This doesn’t mean throw professionalism and etiquette out the window -- just make the community a fun place for people to go beyond professional information.
Here are a few fun, creative ideas to mix things up on your community:
What’s one of the best parts of the internet? Memes. They always put a smile on your face and spread like wildfire across the internet. Your members probably love them and share them already -- why not put a few on your website to perk up someone’s day and entice people to log into the community? Add a button somewhere on the home page that says “Smile” and links to a meme or funny video. It won’t clutter your site, and only people who want to be momentarily distracted will click it, brightening up their day.
It’s usually a good idea to have a cache of seed questions to dip into in case there’s a lull in conversation. Professional or industry related seed questions are always important, but try a few out-of-the-box fun questions as well. Start a GIF thread, ask people about a favorite movie or encourage posting pet pictures. Fun threads can really take off, connect people on a different level and are a good distraction at lunch. If people come to check out a fun thread during a break, they may find and contribute to more (serious) discussions as well.
It’s easy to type a query into my Google Chrome search bar and never visit Google.com again. But why do I check its homepage daily? Because I don’t want to miss a Google Doodle. You don’t have to rival a Google Doodle, but it is fun to change your community’s colors around certain holidays or times of the year. Do something simple like make everything green for Saint Patrick’s Day, orange for Halloween or red for Valentine’s Day. Or maybe your organization has a big event coming up and you can dress your community for that, building up hype amongst members.
There’s flexibility here. You could have a tip of the month regarding how to leverage the community, or you could have a tip related to the industry/profession. To gain credibility, for the monthly tip pick an industry leader to highlight each time. This ensures they know about the community (hopefully they’ll help promote it) and creates interest around each month’s tip -- members will look forward to seeing who it’s going to be and will trust the advice they’re given.
An Ask Me Anything (AMA) thread is common in places like Reddit, when an expert agrees to be online for a certain amount of time (say an hour or two). During that time, members can post any question they have for the expert to answer. Do a promotional campaign to build interest around the AMA so people prepare and look forward to asking a question.
In the Super Forum presentation, Martha referenced a community she works with that has a thread called “Politics.” No, they don’t discuss organizational politics -- they stick with national politics (it really ramps up around presidential election season). Sure, it has nothing to do with the organization members belong to, but it does bring them into the community and increase the community’s value for them. People are going to find those discussions somewhere, so if it starts on your site, keep it. On the Higher Logic Users Group (HUG), one of our most popular communities is called Coffee Talk. It doesn’t have anything to do with our software -- people love to start casual discussions, take a break from work and compare cute pet pictures.
People love swag. But don’t give out just any swag -- free stuff is usually a hit, but if it’s not useful, the novelty quickly wears off and it ends up in the trash. That’s why relevance is important. Bryant referenced a magnetic chip clip he still has from college. What makes it a perfect swag item? It’s useful -- it’s handy for chip bags and has a magnet to conveniently stick to the fridge. When deciding on swag, really put thought into what items you want -- how does it relate to the community and how is it helpful in members’ lives?
When you launch your community, celebration is key -- it confirms how big this new benefit is, how hard you’ve worked and creates more excitement within your organization. Throw a party in your office when the community launches to engage colleagues -- but don’t forget about your virtual partiers. Post pictures online of the event and send (relevant) swag to members so they feel included on the festivities.
Virtual communities are powerful because it’s always at your fingertips. But don’t forget about the power of real, in-person connections. Your online community can facilitate these offline connections, deepening its value for members. Host in-person events, like happy hours and networking nights, to bring people together. If your members are scattered geographically, help facilitate meetups in various cities. If members are planning on attending the same event, like a conference, create a meetup there. When people know each other offline, they’re also more likely to respond to posts virtually and trust online conversations.
True, not all of these ideas may work for your community’s culture, but try modifying a few to fit. Not only does adding a little fun incentivize people to regularly log in, but it humanizes your organization -- members see beyond the computer screen and glimpse the people and personalities behind the organization.
What are some ideas you’ve used to spark fun in your community? Any favorite swag items that were a big hit?