OCU Notes: Increasing User Particpation in Online Communities


  • Influencer relationships such as the MVP program
    • Connect them to your product teams so they get insider information
    • Software coupons and give-aways. New reward every year.
    • Need rigorous process to qualify the MVPs
    • Visual, Branded, recognition is important.
    • Meet in person at the Microsoft Summit.
    • Help your customers be successful by helping them develop new business opportunities.
  • Cisco site does rewards via the visibility... if you've reached a certain point level you are a Pro.. Then you can do interviews with them where they get to show off their chops.
  • Give people more functionality and access to private clubs that are outside of the main community. Make them feel special
  • Make it very easy to do what you want them to do.  Model the behavior for them. Seed the behavior.   Give people real time results and feedback on what they've done so they don't waste their time.
  • Earning rewards doesn't work.  But you can create a network of people that are willing to help you.  Be a facilitator to content.
  • Identify people that are active in the community to empower them. 
  • It's really important to help newcomers because lurkers will look to see how new questions are handled before deciding to post themselves.
  • Giving people a chance to start smaller groups can help get people engaged.
    • Others have tried many times, but they don't have critical mass and the small groups don't take off.
    • Does this hijack traffic from the main lists that people use?
  • Idea: Ask questions back to the people that show up looking for answers. get them locked into participating beyond just asking questions.  You could make it a requirement to answer some silly questions when they get an answer.
  • Idea: People don't land on your welcome pages. How do you use elements of the welcome page to the thread pages that people do land on.
  • Idea: Audio prompt or animation that shows newcomers how they can get engaged.  Make it more accessible for people to make that first interaction.
  • Make sure your site is optimized for search engines.
  • Idea: Put a certain amount of content that people can see in front of private communities. Maybe an area for non-logged in people.

Designing for your goals

  • Idea: Give people "their page" to start from rather than a default home page.
  • Generate points and reputation that match the creation of content you are trying to incent.
  • Idea: Need to overlay social networks to create localized knowledge networks where people become more comfortable.

Internal versus External participation

  • Getting people in the company to participate...
  • Cisco gives people monitory rewards to get employees to participate in thier communities.
  • Others have tried goals for employees, but it's hard to get people to participate.
  • Really need to let employees talk to customers about what they are working on.
    • Create private groups with influential customers if you are afraid of leaks, but you have to be willing to accept some risk.

Users needing permission

Fear of public speaking online

  • Setting the Stage for Participation
    • Important to meet and greet newcomers to establish culture and trust. Flickr did this when they started. You have to give people their start.
    • You set the scene for people in your community that gives people social que.
    • Show people what good behavior, appropriate topics, looks like
    • People can be more creative when you give them some boundaries.
    • Idea: You need to create hooks that frame the discussions.  "I don't have time for 'boards'", but pull quotes from the community draw people in as they are browsing sites.
      • Great book called "Company Command" - On the "Front Porch" you visit with colleges and peers.  Need a dynamic "here's the draw" pull into the communities.
    • Meeting people in person early and often welcomes people to online venues, but how do you get more of this online? Make sure to gather community members at conferences.
    • Instant engagement means you need "instant feedback" that guides the discussion
  • Concept: Communities are less about content and more about connection people to people. Give them people they are comfortable to speak in front of.
    • Idea: Send people compliments, let users be transparent with each other to help reputations develop.
    • Move from "here's the content" to "here's the content & the people" - Welcome pages need to show more user centric information.
  • Meme: Oldtimers get clickish and insular and don't like newcomers.  You have to always designate areas for newcomers.  New helpers need to start by rotating through he newbie area first before they can get to the advanced niche groups.  
    • Feature your contributions from your ideal contributors to get more of that type of user that generates that type of content.
  • Having a location for anonymous participation can help shy people get engaged.
  • Blog comments have a low bar and forums the bar is higher to start discussions.


- Trust plays a role in registration and participation

  • Idea: Get real pictures for people to post photos of themselves. Create discussions around the photos.