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What does your community have in common with Alfred Hitchcock?

Written by Heather McNair on May 11, 2016 at 9:30 AM


Alfred Hitchcock employed a unique technique when writing movie screenplays. He famously had two scripts – a blue script and a green script.

The blue script had all the things you’d normally see in a script: each actor’s lines, cues, and stage directions. The green script contained information about how he wanted the viewer to feel – what emotions he was trying to elicit – at every single moment of the movie.  

 Was he a control freak? Perhaps. Is he regarded as one of the best thriller writers in Hollywood history? Without a doubt.

The blue script

Launching a new community has a lot of similarities to writing a screenplay and producing a movie. Some of the parallels:

  1. Logistics: Data integration, populating profiles and communities
  2. Writing the script: Gathering seed questions and writing welcome emails
  3. Casting: Hiring a community manager, and finding staff members and volunteers to assist with the community
  4. Set design: Customizing the site to reflect your branding, look and feel
  5. Rehearsals and filming: Alpha and beta testing
  6. Opening night: Launch day
  7. The Editing Room: Over time, looking at what works and what doesn’t work, and changing the community accordingly

These are all the equivalent of Hitchcock’s blue script, and you couldn’t have a movie -- um, community -- without them. Many people launching a site stop here; it’s common to create a movie with just one script.

The green script

But your green script can play just as vital a role, and can be the differentiator between a surviving community and a thriving community. It goes beyond the mechanics of community and dives deeper into what drives members on a human level.

Nish Nadaraja, the former Marketing and Brand Director at Yelp, perfectly captures the concepts you should be thinking of when producing your green script:

“People join something because it speaks to them. They want to feel a part of something, to identify with others like them geographically or with similar interests, but they also want to feel special. If you create a great brand around those ideals, people will want to support it.”

So how do you create this second script? Define the elements that will help create the right community feel and will sway member’s thoughts and experiences regarding the community:

  1. Determine the community’s purpose: What needs will the community meet, both for your members and for your organization? This is a critical part of the infrastructure of your community. Finding the sweet spot where these needs overlap will also help ensure the success of your community because it will be easier to garner buy-in from your members and internal stakeholders.
  2. Create personas: Knowing your audience is critical. And it’s important not to assume you know your audience without doing any research. Poll your members, get to know them, and create personas you can refer back to.
  3. Find your differentiator: There are tons of information sources out there these days. This is great for your members, but bad for you. What is your community site’s unique selling proposition? Why will members come to you instead of another site?
  4. Invoke personality: What is the community’s personality? Fun? Friendly? Collegial? Formal? Here’s one way Rocket Media and Big Ideas suggests to help you decide. Ask yourself, if your brand was a person, what kind of personality would it have? And what would its relationship to the consumer be? (i.e. coach, friend, teacher, parent, etc.)
  5. Plan for conflict: How will you handle conflict? It’s important to have a plan in place before anything arises.
  6. Apply intrinsic motivators: How will you help members create social capital within the community? Feeling valued and important in a community is a powerful motivator for engagement. Create opportunities for members to feel as if their input matters and contributes to the greater good of the community.
  7. Consider gamification: Decide how your community will use gamification to motivate members. Ribbons, badges, leaderboards and friendly competitions can help fuel engagement and create an environment where users feel special.

Can you have a successful community site without a green script? Perhaps. But, since communities are about connecting people with each other, running a successful one involves more than just mechanics. To create a truly great community, you need to take into account the emotions each action elicits – as Alfred Hitchcock did with his movies.

Topics: Online Community Management, Online Community

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