How Do You Manage the "We Need 10,000 Members" Requests?

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Alternate title: Musings on "Bulk Upload" vs User Opt-In to Communities

 

One of the sad but inescapable truths I've found in online communities is that most people prefer to join a place that's already thriving. They want to see active, live discussions. And they don't necessarily want to be the first toe in the water.

 

I'll use our Yammer External Network as my main example, but this can be applied to any type of community, all the way down to adding people to a specific group for a specific project.

 

Our offline methodology is extremely person-centered. We've got a two-ring maximum when you call us. We have no problem with customers faxing in their training rosters instead of using our online tools. We also advocate individual, customized solutions to fit the person being served, not a one-size-fits-all approach.

 

So I carried that over into my External Network: I knew my customers were busy. I also knew that only 5% of them actually "do" CPI training as their full-time job. The rest have to fit it in among everything else they do.

 

I wanted our customers to choose for themselves to be on this online community because they wanted to be, and because they were willing to make time for it.

 

I can therefore say that everyone in it right now is there because they actively chose to click those buttons.

 

But in the beginning, it was slooowww. Our own staff members spent time responding to questions just so it would seem that there was activity. We had behind-the-scenes discussions with members that encouraged them to post their thoughts.

 

That was two years ago. Now I've got figures such as 30% engagement, over 2 threads per customer, over 8 responses per thread, and a 58% Responded To A Post Even Though You Weren't Tagged figure. I don't have to do any encouraging, and staff doesn't have to anxiously jump in. And I can point to conversations of high quality that clearly help others.

 

So it's working. (I am, as you can imagine, extremely tickled pink about all this.)

 

And yet! When you look at other cold, hard numbers, we're still on the small side. We have over 26,000 customers in real life, and I've got just over 3,900 of them in the network as I type this.

 

I try to fight against it, but even I feel the pull of quantity, the executive-pleasing goal of, "Wouldn't it be nice if we had 10,000 members by the end of this year?", the desire to see even more conversations and items of value. Which I know is no guarantee just because you fill a space to bursting.

 

I could get everyone's emails from our CRM and upload them in bulk. We probably would get a fair number accepting it. Every so often, it's tempting.

 

My fear is that this will annoy some, confuse others, and devalue what we have as a whole.

 

But will it? Is there a way to handle bulk upload without alienating your audience? And what part does quantity play in what you or your bosses consider "success"?

 

6 Replies
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Top of mind musings...

 

I guess you could communicate with them prior to the bulk upload and perhaps make something of the event. Perhaps using one of the Yammer cases which is to drive people from their overloaded mailboxes and break down the barriers - the customers are not alone etc. But it would still annoy some... (and you probably get that right ;) )

 

I know it is more work to have multiple communication channels and touch points but you should not strive for one ring to rule them all. You could pull more people into Yammer say by making material available there first and snail mail 2-months later.

 

I get the we need "10,000 request" but I like to approach it differently. "Across our communicaion channels we need a total of 10,000 engaged people". Granted duplication of people across channels skews the maths in one sense but if the numbers are good that also proves that the channel is working.

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Love that "across our communication channels" approach. So much!
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I guess the other aspect is what is a fair number? 1, 10, 1000? 1%, 2%, 50% of total audience? Bosses love quantity, communities love quality.

Positive trends coupled with qualitative feedback have to be your measure.
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@Simon Denton wrote:
Positive trends coupled with qualitative feedback have to be your measure.

This is a very quotable quote!

 

I will continue with quality, but have good reasons for the quantity we currently have. 

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Some info and thoughts.

 

We haven't yet faced the "We need this many members" request or requirement.

Worth noting is that when saying that I speak of the Communities I lead, not the entire Yammer network.

 

Our Communities strategy has a community related success measure that Communities develop into mature networks. The main focus of the measures relate to the platform and stragetic outcomes for our part of the business.

This is both good and right, and is borne out by our own experience to date.

 

We are pretty much at the beginning, and boy is it slow.

Numerous of my posts go unanswered.

Most get at least 1 'Like', phew!!

Fortunately we are close to being able to share qualitative information with our communities.

Go time. Robot Happy

 

Bulk upload vs User opt-in could be labelled as Tick a box vs Seeing real value.

The pressure for bulk upload can be great, but if instead the offer is good, they will come, in time, hopefully.

 

With so much of our lives being digital we are constantly petitoned to do this survey, subscribe to this and so on.

Not annoying our colleagues, stakeholders, customers seems to be a no brainer, but can we also please our bosses?

 

I am glad to see that @Simon Denton reassured with the quality is best position, and I expect to refer back to this and other aligned threads for comfort often in the days to come.

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I think that bulk uploading members will cloud any analytics you try and use in the future and also infers that #members = thriving active conversations. While our preferred measure of "engagement" is two-way connections...a reasonable proxy is the number of interactions (excludes posts with no responses)/per ACTIVE user. We also suggest #Threads/active user as a simple measure of breadth of discussions. Including non-active members would confound these important measures. I agree that people want to join communities with active and diverse conversations happening, so we need to measure this and not member counts, because they aren't necessarily related.