Stan Garfield Online Community Building

Stan Garfield is a prominent author and speaker with exceptional expertise in knowledge management and Communities of Practices (CoPs). Apart from these, he also specializes in enterprise social networks, knowledge sharing, social business, collaboration, intranets, wikis and more.

Recently, we got in touch with Stan to have a quick conversation about the trends in community building, common pitfalls, and the impact of branded communities on business growth. He also spoke about the tactics for influencing the behavior of members, tracking important metrics, and strategies for engagement and retention.

We enjoyed our conversation with Stan and are sure that our readers are going to love his valuable insights.

[Tribe] What are some of the most common yet high-risk mistakes one should avoid while building communities?

[Stan]

  1. Failing to actively monitor community activity to ensure that questions are answered, members are posting appropriately, and there is a regular activity. See How to Be a Great Community Manager for tips to follow.
  2. Rigidly enforcing rules without applying common sense to each situation. See What’s your community’s culture? for more on this.
  3. Dominating discussions, posting too frequently, or always being the first to reply, with the result that other members may be reluctant to post or reply.

[Tribe] What the top five critical metrics any online community should measure?

[Stan]

  1. Activity: at least one post to the community discussion per week, posts by more than two different people, no questions left unanswered after 24 hours
  2. Content: at least one new document, newsletter, etc. per month
  3. Membership: at least 100 members after the first three months, with growth in membership every quarter thereafter
  4. Events: at least one online chat, conference call, webinar, or face-to-face meeting every quarter, with at least 10 people participating in each event
  5. Proof of value: a steadily increasing supply of success stories, anecdotes, and survey data that prove that the community is worthwhile:
    1. Testimonials by community members on the value of participation
    2. Stories about the usefulness of the community
    3. Posts thanking other members for their help

[Tribe] How should a brand approach community building when they are just starting out?

[Stan]

Details on the following 10 tips

  1. Carefully choose the community topic
  2. Publicize
  3. Increase membership
  4. Post and reply
  5. Use newsletters
  6. Schedule and host events
  7. Provide useful content
  8. Tell members how they should participate
  9. Set goals and measure progress
  10. Solicit, find, and publicize success stories

[Tribe]
What are some of the most prominent trends you are witnessing when it comes to user behavior in modern online communities?

[Stan] 

These types of community members:

  1. Join-only: Don’t pay any attention to what is going on.
  2. Interested: Subscribe to notifications and pay attention, but don’t post or attend events.
  3. Active: Post and attend at least some of the time.
  4. Trolls: Try to start online arguments and get people riled up.
  5. SPACE Cowboys: Regularly do the following
    1. Subscribe: Read the discussions
    2. Post: Start a new thread or reply in a threaded discussion board
    3. Attend: Participate in community events
    4. Contribute: Submit content to the community
    5. Engage: Ask a question, make a comment, or give a presentation

[Tribe] What are your go-to strategies for user engagement and retention in online communities?

[Stan]

  1. Moderate with a light touch using proven practices.
  2. Require membership approval by the community manager, but admit applicants if they appear to. have a sincere interest in the community topic.
  3. Allow most types of posts, with a few common-sense limits.
  4. Focus on what is valuable to the members, e.g., job search, job openings, links to articles and posts relevant to the community topic, queries, and requests for help.
  5. Allow both quiet periods and spurts of activity.
  6. Ensure that queries and requests for help receive prompt, helpful replies from multiple members.
  7. Nurture a tone that is civil, friendly, and supportive.
  8. Make new members feel welcome.
  9. Ensure that members are able to post without negative consequences.
  10. Acknowledge, praise, and thank members for posting, replying, and contribution.

[Tribe] How can businesses practically use the crowdsourced or collective knowledge gathered in a community?

[Stan]

  1. Solicit suggestions for improvements.
  2. Solve problems for customers and get their help in business problem-solving.
  3. Create FAQs based on community questions and answers.
  4. Interact with Customer Advisory Boards.
  5. Solicit volunteers for beta tests and focus groups.

[Tribe] What steps should they take to guide the members in the right direction for knowledge sharing?

[Stan]

  1. Lead by example to show how to share knowledge.
  2. Recognize others who share knowledge.
  3. Contact members privately to encourage them to share. or to answer questions they should be able to answer.
  4. Contact members privately if their behavior is questionable, suggesting that they take a more congenial approach; if they persist, remove them.
  5. When they receive queries via email or other channels, redirect them to the community, and reply there.

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