Create Your Member and Contribution Plan
How do we get them talking to each other, how do we get them posting, how do we get them commenting? I know this is one of the big fears and concerns this is why you signed up for this class how do we get people to actually talk? Right? Okay. So we're gonna talk about member contribution as opposed to member engagement and this is, again, something that I totally stole from Gina and Audra Lindsey at Mighty Networks, I love this idea. That our goal is not to get people to engage because engagement to me implies that talking back to me that I'm talking and you're engaging back with me. Like you guys, you're asking questions, you're commenting, we're giggling, you're engaging with me. You are not contributing right now. That's not true, you're actually contributing, I use you guys for contributions all the time, but, you know, in a meta sense, you're not contributing. What I want from members in my community is for them to contribute. I want them to contribute their stories, their experie...
nces, their point of view, their expertise themselves. And so that's why we're gonna talk about member contribution as opposed to member engagement and engagement strategy so these are contribution strategies. We've talked a lot about content and content libraries. Content, to me, shuts down member contribution. When there is a resource, a go-to, it's sort of like advice, right? It's static advice in fact. Now that's not to say that I don't want anyone to have content in their communities. I don't want the content to be the focus of your community. That's something different and it's not that content's bad. Content isn't bad, content's great, I love content. Love creating content. This is content. But content isn't community. So keep those things separate in your brain. Your goal is not to create a library of content. Your goal is to create things that spark conversation and spark contribution. So I want you to think about, as I said, inspiring contribution and not to creating content. And this goes back to this idea that community can actually help you with the demands on your time in terms of content-making, content creation. One of the biggest fears a new community leader has, a new community builder has, is how do I keep up with all of the content I need to create? And the answer is, don't. Don't put that burden on yourself. Put that burden on the community. Make them create the content. Get them to share their questions get them to have the conversations that's where the real value is. So to get your brains kind of juiced on this idea I want you to start thinking about what you want your members to be sharing. What can members share that really benefits them? And one thing I think members can share that really benefit them are actual lessons that they've learned, personal lessons. Doesn't matter what your topic is doesn't matter what your interest, identity, passion-based network is, there are going to be personal lessons that come from it. I learned how to do this, I tried this, and I learned this big life lesson. I learned this neat hack. Any of those kind of personal lessons. Sharing those things really benefits the member, right? Because they get to kind of reflect on that but the good news is it also helps other people too. What are some other things that you want members to be sharing that either benefit them or benefit others or benefit both? Ideas? Denise?
Success stories, absolutely.
Vulnerable moments, yeah.
Frustrations or concerns.
Frustrations or concerns, absolutely, how can we help if we don't know how to help? Nadia.
Yeah, their content. Absolutely, that goes... And kind of going back to that self promotional policy that we have I absolutely want our members to share their content I just want a little more behind the scenes I want to know a little bit, you know, if something else was going on, why did you think to create this? Or, I just want them to create content for us, that works too. (laughs) Jen? Oh.
Okay, so things they've learned along the way that they wish they knew. Because I think the giving back is something that people value.
Yes, that's a great one, that's a great one. Anybody else? Those are all great ideas for what members can be sharing. Make a list of as many of those things as possible. And I'd highly recommend creating posting guidelines that explicitly call out those kinds of posts. We have a post like that at CoCommercial that says, these are our posting guidelines. Makes it sound like its rules, people actually like rules a lot. But what it really is, is these are the things you should be posting. Post about this, post about that, post about the other thing and that's one of the ways that we encourage people to post and what they should be posting. So take that list of things you wish people were posting in your community and turn it into posting guidelines or a posting policy that you want people to follow in a positive way this time. Of course it's there to protect you too and you can put constraints in it as well but really it's a document about getting... Showing people that it's okay and in fact a good thing to post all the kinds of stuff you guys were just talking about. So this is straight out of our internal policy at CoCommercial. This is something that I remind our member experience specialists about all the time. Our goal isn't to give members what they need when we create content or host events it's to trigger them to ask for what they need and help themselves. So my goal isn't to answer a question with an event it's actually to create a question. Like lets have a conversation about something maybe you haven't thought about before or let's have a conversation from a different perspective on a problem that you have to give you an opportunity to think about something different, ask a new question, and really help yourself. We start conversations, share ideas, and bring in new perspective so that our members can ask new questions, share old challenges, and invest in creating solutions. So when we create content when we think about the kinds of events that we're hosting with the kinds of posts, our newsletter that we send out every week that I'm about to talk about that's what we're thinking about. How do I start a new conversation? Not with my content but because of my content. I am way more interested in the conversations that happened not in the comments of something that I post but in a new post like a continuation of that. When a member really owns that lesson and says, oh, I learned something from this, but I have a question that deserves its own post, those are my favorite. So that's our philosophy on this I would really encourage you to develop your own philosophy or of course you can steal ours as well. My ideas are always up for stealing. And then once you know what you want your members to be sharing you want to think about what can you do to encourage these types of contributions? That's the content that you're gonna create. You don't create a tutorial, you don't create the how-to, you don't create the end all be all resource on this, that, or the other thing, you create content that encourages the types of contributions that you want. Again I'm not saying don't create the tutorial don't create the end all be all resource there's absolutely a place for content. But that's not the same thing as building community. When you're talking about building community we're talking about creating content or creating posts creating a movement toward encouraging member contributions not host or leader contributions. So let's plan out some of the different ways that you can do that, get a little more nitty gritty on this. These are some of the ways that we do it. Some of the ways that Mighty Networks facilitates really well but also these are things that you can do on whatever platform that you're on. So first off we plan our editorial in terms of monthly themes. Now editorial's kind of a strong word, I think, for what we do. When we're talking about editorial we're largely talking about live events we have a huge live event component to CoCommercial. But we're also talking about what kind of links do we want to be sharing? What kind of personal stories do we want to be sharing? What's gonna shape the newsletters that I write every week? And so we have monthly themes. They're loose, they're loosely-interpreted, they don't start on the first and end on the thirtieth every month. We started our word of mouth marketing month on like January 7th because everyone, the first week, was talking about goals, and I was like, I'm not gonna interrupt that, we'll start a little later. And then we moved into community month and so that's what we're in right now. March is technology month we're doing a virtual conference called inspector gadgets, very excited about that, that was Shannon's idea. Full credit to Shannon Paris on that one. And so we have these monthly themes that just kind of guide our content creation. Our inspiration for triggering conversations. Of course all sorts of other things are happening at the same time and it's not like we're only talking about community this month or we're only talking about technology next month but we do have just a gentle guide as the months go on. And that just gives us a way to plan things out a little bit better. We also have some weekly rituals. I mentioned that book, The Art of Community, yesterday, and one of the things that Charles Vogl talks about in that book is the importance of ritual to a community. And you may not think that your community has a time and place for ritual or maybe you have a community and you're like, oh gosh, we don't have any rituals. But I want to challenge you 'cause you probably do. Like, do you have a win Wednesday? Do you have a Monday accountability check-in? Do you have a Facebook Live that you go live with every Thursday? Those things that people can expect on a weekly basis have an element of ritual to them. And you can actually elevate it to being a ritual with your community very, very simply, by giving people an even better idea of what to expect and how they're going to participate in that ritual. So it's not just a ritual if it's something you're doing every week it's a ritual if something people are participating in the same way in every week. And I'm gonna give you an example of how we do that in just a minute. Polls and questions, that's a really easy way to create or to engage with content and to create contribution. So that can be as simple as asking people what their favorite flavor of ice cream is or what their worst moment as a parent was. Or, like, you know, when was the last time a diaper change went really poorly? (laughs) You know, very, very simple. You can poll people, like, what kind of business are you in? What's your favorite social media platform? Again Facebook makes this easy I'm sure there's some sort of integration on Slack that would make it easy, Mighty Networks makes this easy so polls and questions are a great way to go. I've talked a lot about how CoCommercial is a special events... We have a lot of special events. I think events are a phenomenal way to inspire contribution because it gives people something to follow up with. Ayala was talking about that a little bit too. So whether it's a Q&A, it's an ask me anything, it's just a live chat, it's just a Zoom Room that you open up once a week, those live conversations, those special events end up getting people to create content as a follow up and can really juice your community for weeks after a special event. So totally, totally worth it. Welcome posts. You can engage new members by simply tagging them and saying, "Hey, welcome, here is the next thing to do." So we talked about onboarding a lot and we talked about hand welcoming an automated onboarding but another thing you can do is just tag all your new members for the week or tag all your new members for the day depending on how fast your network is growing, and say, "Hey, we're so glad you're here, welcome, "here's the next thing you should do." And now they're getting hit three ways with welcome and a sense of belonging and a really good idea of what they should do next. New member orientation, I mentioned that we do a new member orientation about once every two weeks called the Community Compass. Again it's just a great way to get those new members together maybe old members come, too, 'cause they wanna learn something new about how the community works or they want to be there and be recognized as an ambassador. It's a great thing to do too. And then newsletters. And when I say newsletters this time I actually mean newsletters. The vast majority of the time when I've talked about email marketing here at Creative Live, I have said I do not mean newsletters. And a newsletter being a place where there is lots of content and its linked and you get people to go here, or there, or the other thing, and there's lots going on. When I'm talking about community and encouraging member contribution I'm talking about a literal newsletter and I'll show you what that looks like again in a minute. So let's look at actually how we do a few of these things at CoCommercial. Every Friday we do a weekly check-in you guys that are in CoCommercial know about this. Every Friday one of our member experience specialists creates a new post, it's got the same graphic on it every single week. The text of it is largely the same there might be a little announcement, we do a new member welcome in those posts. If there's a big event we might mention it but mostly we ask two questions, what's one victory, big or small, that you're celebrating this week? We want to celebrate with you, and two, what's one action you're gonna take next week to get you closer to your goal? If we fail to post that weekly check-in let me tell you about the messages that we get. That hasn't happened in a really long time, but whoa. (audience laughs) People will wait all week for the opportunity to post their weekly check-in, and I love, too, when people people post mid-week, and they're like, "I can't wait for weekly check-in, "I gotta tell you this happened right now." But this is one of our rituals. We have plenty of others as well but this is one of our core rituals. We've been doing this for years and years people love it and it's just so simple, you know? It's so simple. So that's one thing that you can do. This is just a post about our Community Compass member orientation event and we do these every so often it's the exact same every time. I mean, with some experiments, and stuff in it, but it's not like we're creating new content just doing the same thing over and over again. Answering new questions of course, talking to new members, but the content itself is the same. Megan just kind of walks people through, here's what you need to know about CoCommercial. We do, as I said a lot of events, so Shannon's recently started doing a weekly events digest as a special post, give you kind of an at a glance idea of some of the things that are going on. Got a co-working hour for the Leaders Circle. Jennie Nash who was recently here on Creative Live did an Ask a Book Coach Anything for Word of Mouth Marketing month. We have Flash Masterminds, the Community Compass is on there. James Longley, who's an Asana specialist, he hosted an event recently. Q&A Call, and then we did a webinar on How To Make A Plan You Can Actually Stick To. And so Shannon just goes through and makes sure only the events for the week are in one place. We figure you can't over communicate about events. People's lives are busy, they might see something and want to attend and forget to add it to their calendar, and if you remind them at the last minute, there's a really good chance they'll show up. Plus it's just a really good affirmation of all the things that we're doing to serve our members too. So even if people aren't coming to the events they're seeing these people are working hard for us and I want to participate in that. It gives the impression that this is a really engaged really active community because it is. Melissa?
How much do you communicate this via email, and how much do you communicate this in the Mighty Network?
Yes, so, communicating it by email, not enough. One of the things that I wanna work on for this year is emailing more often the day of events. Right now we email events on Mondays as part of the newsletter. And every so often we'll add in a reminder email. That's something that I wanna change. I figure, yes, we don't wanna overwhelm people with emails, but it's sort of like my word about notifications in the previous lesson. People don't mind emails if they're useful and they wanna get them, and it's about something that they are interested in and also people will absolutely forgive you, as in not care, if every so often they want to attend an event. They don't have to want to attend every single event to appreciate getting emails about every single event. I know that's counter-intuitive of what you probably think maybe what you've been told, maybe what you fear, but it's true, think about your own email behavior. The people you like getting emails from the products that you like using you don't open all their emails not all those emails pertain to you you still wanna get those emails and you miss them when they're not there. So the same thing with events. We also communicate a lot through the Mighty Network. So we have the ability to send out a membership wide or group wide message, shows up in your DMs, your private messages, and so we'll do that ahead of events and we do the events digest, and what else do we do there? Oh, you get a notification from the Mighty Network too if you've RSVP'd to an event. So Mighty Networks has as a cool events type post that has an RSVP, if you say I'm going, or maybe I'm going, you get an notification about an hour before that event goes live.
Yeah, totally. Alright, and then let's take a look at the newsletter. So we keep our newsletter still very simple. If you get emails from me you know they're just plain text emails. Our CoCommercial emails are not all that different they just have a logo at the top that is our visual differentiation. I will write about something. I generally write them on the Monday they're going out about two hours before they go out. This is not something that generally gets done ahead of time. If I'm unavailable to write a newsletter somebody else writes the newsletter. Because it is something that's kind of in the moment. There may be a day and age where we decide to work ahead but I really think of our community as being a just-in-time kind of learning environment. It's really important to me and so that means that whatever's on my mind on Monday is the right thing to go into the newsletter. That's how I approach it. That doesn't work for everybody, it works for me. So I write this little bit and then Shannon prepares the rest of the newsletter template. So she'll pull out some conversations from the the community that she thinks people should go back and read or participate in, things you might have missed. We always have a call to action of what you should be contributing right now to the network and it's the same every week and then we have upcoming events. And then we have our next Community Compass on there and then we have a reminder that if you need help we're here for you, here's where you should go to email, here are the people that you should check-in with. So that's what our newsletter looks like. It's ridiculously simple but it gives people the information that they need. The newsletter, itself, remember how I said one of the feelings that we wanna create for people at CoCommercial is a sense of relief? Well, our newsletter is another way that we do that because maybe you haven't been able to check in at CoCommercial all week. Maybe it's been weeks since you checked in at CoCommercial. The next newsletter we send can get you back on track with this community, 'cause we know, when you take time off, it's probably not because you're mad at us, it's because stuff happened, right? Or you went on vacation, and you miss your community. The newsletter helps us get people back on track really quickly. Angie?
This is sort of probably a silly question, but--
There are no such things as silly question, only people experiencing needs.
Okay, it just occurred to me as you were pulling that out for your newsletter, how much of this actually helps you develop external content ideas?
Everything helps me develop external content ideas. Yeah, and, I will, just as I would encourage all of you to, I cross post things all the time. So a newsletter... Something that I write really fast for the newsletter turns into a post inside the community which might turn into an in-depth article on Medium which might turn into a Facebook Live video later on or a Creative Live class, I mean, these things have all happened. So I'm constantly iterating on content. CoCommercial is one of the places where content sort of gets, like, the seed of it happens, and then I will expand it out from there because these fine people have helped me hone that idea or they've asked a question that I hadn't originally considered, that helps me create better content everywhere else and then people wanna be part of that of that development of those conversations, they wanna talk to other really smart people and so it's kind of a full-circle, full-cycle thing.
When you have a small business, you’re always on the lookout for your next customer. They might pop up at a networking event, they could subscribe to your email list, they might fill out the contact form on your website.
Too often, knowing where your next customer is going to come from seems unpredictable at best and, at worst, like a huge gamble.
Luckily, there’s a way to ensure you always know where your next customer is coming from—and that your existing customers purchase from you more often—and that’s by building a community.
All sorts of businesses can benefit from making community-building part of their growth strategy and many can benefit from making it part of their business model, too. Whether it’s an informal community (like an email list or Instagram hashtag), a brand-driven community (like a free Facebook group that brings together people in love with the same brand and values), or a dedicated community (like a local group, interest-based social network, or a support group, your business can cultivate deeper connections with existing and potential customers.
Of course, an engaged community doesn’t just happen. If you want to reap the benefits of community-building for your business, you need a plan.
In Build a Community & Grow Your Standout Business, Tara Gentile, the founder of the small business support & social network CoCommercial, will share the must-dos, nice-to-haves, and compelling extras you need to make the most of the community you build around your business. By the end of this class, you’ll have a plan for making community-building an integral part of your marketing strategy—and always knowing where your next customer will come from.
Tara will cover:
- Simple ways to generate community without a group or forum
- Why and how to level up into a dedicated space for your business’s community
- How to create a clear reason Why for joining or participating in your community
- The systems and procedures you’ll need to manage the workload
- How to avoid community management burnout
- How to plan to earn more through your community—whether that’s through charging for membership, selling add-on offers, or generating more word of mouth marketing
Stop waiting for your next customer to come to you and start building a community that brings new business your way every day.