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  1. Bad communities promise great things to its members. Good communities offer great things to its members. Great communities fulfill the greatness of its members. A primary purpose of every community is to fulfill the needs of its members. A strong community will go beyond the immediate, basic needs and ensure that fulfillment is a positive experience. By doing so, it builds in positive rewards and reinforcement for an enjoyable sense of togetherness. One of the cornerstone ideas of behavioral sciences is reinforcement: delivering a positive experience to members through multiple dimensions. Why they come, why the stay, and how to fulfill those needs is our third element of Sense of Community: Rewards & Reinforcement. Discover all the ways to fulfill member needs for your Invision Community. Fulfillment of Functional Needs Your community must have a clear and unique purpose. Your community must offer something valuable. And your community must solve a problem. This is the prime reason why a user would visit you in the first place and how you fulfill his most basic needs. He searches for a question, and your community provides the answer. Many communities build up their expertise through two ways: Crowd-source community solutions - You can highlight community-driven solutions in Invision Community to curate attention to the best answers. Two of the most underutilized features are Content Messages and Recommended Replies, which allow moderators to showcase and explain great user content. Bring experts into the community – Authoritative content should be posted and marked separately from regular user content. You can accomplish this by giving experts a dedicated Blog, authorship in Pages, or enabling Post highlights. Fulfillment of Personal Needs Beyond the fulfillment of basics needs, users want other wishes and desires. It’s impossible to identify all personal needs, but here are three of the biggest ones why users come together more: Group Status – People like to be on the “winning team,” and community success brings group members closer together. Highlight community success in your monthly newsletter or topic announcements. Competence – People are attracted to others with skills or competence. Introduce superusers and subject matter experts (SMEs) through interviews, team talk, or AMA topics ("ask me anything"). Rewards – Behavioral research shows that users gravitate toward groups that offer more rewards. Use tools like the Leaderboard, Group rank, Badges, and Reputation for extrinsic motivation that excite users and make them feel special. Fulfillment of Shared Values Society and our upbringing instruct us in a set of shared values. We bring those values into our online communities because they provide a framework of how to address our emotional and personal needs and the priority in which we address them. When users with shared values come together, they’re more receptive to helping others with the same value system: A Values Statement: Make it a point to identify the shared values in your community, in Guidelines or on a separate page. Affirm those principles in your interactions and, in difficult situations, frame your decision by referencing your community values. Private communities with high engagement usually have the strongest statements of values. Process vs. Outcome: How you answer is just as important as the answer. If you run a community that is technical, offers customer support, or involves lots of questions-and-answers, the process by which you arrive at the solution can help other users troubleshoot similar but different problems. Reinforce the solving process, and you’ll discover users will feel better about sharing their knowledge even if they don’t know the exact answer. Fulfillment by Networking Groups will naturally coalesce into smaller groups, as people find other people that they enjoy and who fulfill their own needs. Strong communities find ways to fit people together. Multiply Relationships: The sooner you can build relationships among members, the stronger those members will feel towards your community. In my community, I’ve created an “Ambassador” task force that welcomes new members to build personal relationships as soon as possible. Be a Networker: One of the virtues of being a community manager is that you’re normally introduced to the greatest number of people. Use your personal network within the community to connect two users together, bring other users into a conversion, or tap the expertise of others to help answer user questions. CONCLUSION There’s an Arabian proverb that says, “A promise is a cloud, fulfillment is rain.” Make it rain. Find ways to fulfill the greatness of your members, unleash a tidal wave of rewards and reinforcement that touch upon all the functional, personal, communal, and social needs of your members in the ultimate approach to member fulfillment. Build not just a good community, but a great one. View the full article
  2. What do visitors see when they visit your online community? And when was the last time you logged out to browse like a visitor? Check out these 4x4 tips of four items in less than four minutes for the visitor experience: Check your Registration Process, especially any social sign-ins. You may want to increase or reduce security checks. You may need to fix social logins. And you may want to offer an easier onboarding like Quick Registration + Profile Completion. Read your Guest Sign-up Widget. This is the most important text in your entire community, since it's the first message visitors will read. Is your Guest Signup Widget giving visitors the first impression you'd like, with proper keywords and messaging? Audit your Visitor Permissions. In the ACP, go to Groups > Guests > Permissions. Do your guests have access to the right boards and categories? Test on other browsers and devices. Most of us don't have ten different computers and smartphones running different OS's and browsers, so it can be hard to check the UIX. Luckily, there are free cross-browser tools like BrowserShots.org or Device Mode on Chrome Devtools that can help. Hope you enjoy these tips, and if you have any questions feel free to ask in the comments below. View the full article
  3. A month ago, CrossFit, Inc. posted a scathing blog entry outlining why they made the decision to quit Facebook and Instagram. I first came across CrossFit back in early 2007 when I was looking for new ways to improve my fitness. Their fitness programming was a breath of fresh air. Most workouts were based around either long cardio workouts such as running or traditional gym workouts with weights and machines. CrossFit successfully combined the two into a short intense workout which gained popularity very quickly. I was a fan immediately and followed the WODs (workout of the day) as closely as possible and watched the early CrossFit stars emerge. CrossFit, Inc. is very strong-minded. Their press release cites several reasons for their abandonment of the Facebook platform. They also expand on this and believe that "Facebook collaborates with government security agencies on massive citizen surveillance programs such as PRISM", "Facebook, as a matter of business and principle, has weak intellectual property protections and is slow to close down IP theft accounts." and "Facebook has poor security protocols and has been subject to the largest security breaches of user data in history." It's certainly a bold move. CrossFit does have a legacy forum system which dates back from its early days which gets some use still. I think that investing in that community platform through modernisation along with a solid community building strategy could pay dividends in them taking back control of their conversation without fear of falling foul of any heavy-handed moderation beyond their control. Modern community platforms like ours have plenty of tools to automate basic moderation, encourage more engagement and work well on mobile devices. CrossFit, Inc join Lush Cosmetics as high profile brands that have taken themselves off Facebook completely. Do you think we'll see a resurgence of owned-communities? View the full article
  4. Mary Meeker delivered a rapid-fire review at the 2019 Code Conference of her latest Internet Trends Report, widely considered to be one of the most influential and comprehensive reports on Internet trends. The report covers 11 broad areas from ecommerce to education, data growth to usage, work to immigration, and China. The report's foreword includes the following statement: This is an especially appropriate message for Invision Community admins and managers, who must not only ingest the data firehose but turn it into actionable feedback. This report is presented to Invision Community clients as a way of understanding the broader trends that shape and influence the digital world around us, and to hopefully spur thoughtful conversation on how to thrive as an online community through 2019 and beyond. Here are highlights from the report, especially selected for clients of Invision Community. More International - Global internet penetration surpassed 51% in 2018, which means more than half of the world's population are Internet users. Certain regions have very different growth patterns. Asia Pacific already contains more Internet users than the rest of the world combined, yet less than half of its users are on the Internet. In contrast, North America is virtually saturated. Growth of new users is getting harder, except for China, India, and Indonesia which show the most promise of new users. More Ecommerce - Ecommerce is a rapidly rising a major portion of retail sales. Ecommerce growth is a strong 12% year over year. Physical retail growth is 2% year over year. More Online Advertising on Mobile - Internet advertising is continuing to increase overall at 22% year over year, with all of the new growth dedicated to mobile advertising spending. Spending on desktop advertising is flatlining. More Hours Online - Online media usage increased by 7% year over year in the USA, with all of the growth on mobile. Desktop usage flatlined in 2013 and even decreased in the past three years. Out of online time, Facebook, Youtube, WhatsApp, and WeChat dominate the global time spent online. Mobile use also surpassed time spent on TV for the first time in 2018. More Short-form Video - Short videos like Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, and WhatsApp Status are one of the newest trends to explosively grow in the past 3 years. More Opportunity for the Underserved - Square is a popular credit card processor and merchant services provider. The fastest area of growth comes from new users in the lowest-income metropolitans in the USA versus the highest-income metropolitan areas in the USA, with 58% of its businesses from females and 35% from minority-owned businesses. More Images - For two decades, users on the Internet have been dramatically ramping up image creation and image sharing. Image sharing has also evolved, with leading platforms like Instagram adding new features like video stories and collaborative story-telling. More Interactive Gaming - Interactive gaming continues to be a dominant Internet trend with 2.4 Billion users, an increase of 6% year over year. Interactive gaming is social in nearly all ways, with real-time play + talk, shared environments, collective goals, and in-game social networks. One of the leading gaming-related platforms is Discord. More Digital Payments - Digital payments continue to be more efficient, now driving 59% of all global payments. More Data Personalization - The amount of data being collected has exploded in the past decade. Successful companies now deploy data as a core part of their workflow to improve customer satisfaction. Retail customers like sharing data if it gives them a better experience. More Negativity and Polarization - With more people than ever coming online, there continues to be usage concern over problematic content and activity. We will continue to see a world that gets more polarized and divisive due to less filtering, more amplification of extreme content, more vivid live images and videos. More Internet Censorship - The early days of a free Internet are over. We are living in a 'splinternet,' where your online experiences are increasingly determined by local regulation. Truly free Internet decreased with governments increasing surveillance and censorship. More Trust in an Open Internet - On the other hand, an open Internet and online consumer reviews boost multi-sided accountability that ensure safety of products and services, make companies accountable to consumers, and make consumers feel confident on their purchases. On AirBNB, a popular online booking platform for short-term rentals, 70% of guests leave a review. The reviews are fundamental to building trust on AirBNB. More China Internet - China continues to be the world's success story, with global growth that underscore its superpower status. It is a rapidly rising country with room to grow for most macroeconomic and technical trends including urbanization, disposable income per capita, share of world exports, mobile internet users, and cellular internet growth. Some of the notable Chinese apps include WeChat, Meituan, and Alipay. CONCLUSION Online communities have been a part of the online experience from the beginning through email listservs, chat rooms, bulletin boards, Usenet groups, multiplayer dungeons, and more. We will always be a part of humanity's need to connect, to share, and to relate with similar people but our methods and technology will evolve. The world is more mobile, more pictures and videos, more international, more polarized and open to abuse, and also more connected than ever before. As more people come online, as more methods to communicate flourish, as the technology and infrastructure around the Internet continue to mature, I hope you find inspiration in the 2019 Internet Trends Report to grasp upon these macro trends and find new opportunities to connect and serve your communities better. Download the full deck here: https://www.vox.com/recode/2019/6/11/18651010/mary-meeker-internet-trends-report-slides-2019 View the full article
  5. Communities are bound by a code of conduct that govern user behavior. Sometimes these rules are explicitly written, such as terms, guidelines, or my personal favorite: “Must Read Before Posting Or Banned!!!” topics. (That’s a joke. Please don’t ever write a topic like that!) Sometimes the rules are unwritten, based on evolving behaviors and user-to-user interaction. No matter the method of conduct or scale of communication, all communities contain these community guideposts that govern user behavior. Being able to influence, and being influenced by, these rules of conduct is our second element of Sense of Community. Community Managers. The original influencers. The privilege to persuade is a powerful feeling. It fills users with a sense of control, knowing that they can impact others. It gives purpose to users, who will tap into their inner helpfulness by assisting others. And it imparts a sense of satisfaction, which is one of the highest transcendent values a user can feel. It also leads to a better community. Over time, the mutual interaction between members builds trust, forming a community of authenticity where users can expect repeatable and expected behaviors. It also leads to good governance, where members embrace the codes of conduct by the group, inculcate the code into their own behaviors, and repeat the code to newer members – reinforcing the very codes they learned themselves. Members conform to community rules and standards, sacrificing a little bit of their own individuality but gaining acceptance by the community. Clearly, influence and persuasion is a powerful element. Let’s take a look at some ways in which you can build a better community by unlocking the power of influence. 1. Show New Members How to Influence If your community is anything like mine, you have a welcome topic or message: Do this, read, that, follow this. It’s usually filled with stuff to influence the member. But have you thought about giving the new member an opportunity to influence? And not just in a superficial manner like posting an Introduction topic, but one that’s filled with meaning and purpose. In addition to linking to the best guides and expert content in your community, ask your users to help other members, answer challenging topics, or identify any skills that can help others. 2. Influence through explanations Have you seen communities where the moderators take heavy-handed actions and do things without prior notice? Or they assume you know everything? It feels rude, unwelcoming, and very cliquish. On the other hand, I’ve also seen communities where the moderators and community managers take the time to explain every response. When you take the time to explain the response, you share your reasoning with others. That’s influence. Over time, users will turn around to repeat the reasoning to others, which builds good governance. (It also means less work for you!). Communities are built on transparency and trust, and the more you can openly establish your community norms, the more clearly other users can repeat and reinforce your governance. 3. Be influenced by asking for help One of the most powerful and uplifting things you can do is to ask your members for genuine help. Be candid. Be vulnerable. Explain the challenge. And ask for help. You will find members who will rise to the occasion. Humans are naturally compassionate. We will always help others if we can and communities are one of the best platforms to ask and receive help. If you ever make a mistake, take on a big project, or if you’re ever in over your head, don’t be afraid to ask for help and allow others to influence you. 4. Influence as a privilege One of the stellar reasons for choosing Invision Community are the multiple ways to publish content. You can offer user albums, polls, blogs, articles, discussions, files, clubs, the list goes on. This allows you to offer increasing channels of influence for your superusers. Unfortunately, most communities throw all the choices at a new user, hoping one will stick. That’s like asking a new member who steps into a room of strangers if he wants a microphone, a loudspeaker, and a spotlight! That can be scary. Influence is something to be gained over time, in small bits of comfort and trust. 5. Appreciate the influence. One of the most inspiring actions you can do as a community manager is to acknowledge and appreciate the influence of others. When you do, you affirm the influence of others. It's one of the simplest things you can do too. Pick three random post by members on your site and reply: “I appreciate this contribution because …”. You’ll be surprised by how well members respond to your note of appreciation. CONCLUSION The best influencers are the members who care about the needs and wants of other members. The power to influence is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your members. By allowing them to influence other members, the codes of conduct, and even the direction of your community, they feel a deeper sense of community because they can make an impact on others. The most influential members in a community are surprisingly not the ones who post the most or who act the most dominant. The best influencers are the members who care about the needs and wants of other members. Share in the comments below one of your success stories on how you influenced – or were influenced by – another member. As always, I appreciate your contribution to join me in helping Invision Communities of all sizes build more rewarding and successful communities. View the full article
  6. It was a poster of Slash holding his Gibson Les Paul slung low on his waist playing live that got me into guitars. The crunching power chords of Appetite For Destruction were a long way from the three chords I could manage on a beaten up acoustic with a hole in the side, but I kept on trying until I could play those riffs. I still hold a special love for the Les Paul (as well as the Explorer made famous by Hetfield palm muting his way through multiple albums with Metallica). So, I'm especially thrilled to see the official Gibson forums relaunched with Invision Community 4. Check it out: https://forum.gibson.com It's great timing as I've recently freed my guitars from the loft and have started to play again. Anyone else here play guitar, and should we start our own band? View the full article
  7. Facebook Ads: are they the modern day ‘hilly billy’ California Gold Rush? Rumors circulate about Facebook Ads being the MOST profitable way to advertise your business and everyone jumps on it to make a quick buck. Hence it’s quickly become the 21st century gold rush. And just like the gold rush, the people really profiting are the ones selling the tools to the prospectors… AKA Facebook But they’re still gold out there if you know where to look and what your doing. The purpose of this post is to give you a short introduction, so you know roughly how to make profitable ads. It’s not going to turn you into an expert, but it might stop you digging in the wrong spot and spending BIG on things you should avoid. I’m not going to go into too much technical detail… Otherwise we’ll find ourselves like Alice down deep the rabbit hole. What Type Of Marketing Is Facebook Ads? It’s important to define Facebook Ads as interrupt marketing. Someone is not actively looking for your product at the time of seeing your ad. So your ads need to be distracting and bold to literally GRAB attention. If people are more likely to be searching your products then should you choose Facebook Ads as a primary marketing channel? Why Does That Matter For Building Communities? When you’re using Facebook Ads to build communities (especially off the platform e.g. not a Facebook Group). Your ads need to be eye catching and demand attention, with a clear benefit of the community AND call to action (what to do next). If you’re community is big then use the size as social proof, people follow the herd and using this herd mentality when talking about the number of members etc will help you grow. Does Facebook Work For Every Business? As a primary marketing channel? Absolutely not. If you have a business that people proactively search for that’s very transactional - like an ecommerce store then you’d be better using google adwords. Yet any business SHOULD 100% be retargeting website visitors with ads. It’s a great way to build rapport and make the most of your site visits. If your business is a business that’s heavily reliant upon growing a relationship then Facebook Ads is perfect. Big purchases, information products, service based businesses all do VERY well with Facebook Ads. It’s a great place to grow and build relationships with your audience. In my opinion this is the MOST powerful way to use Facebook Ads. Do Facebook Ads Help Build Communities Absolutely yes… Facebook Ads can help you build and grow your community. Be clear on your message and the benefits of the community. Having a good understanding of the audience will help too. If it’s a male audience of people who like Star Wars for example, there’s no point advertising to women or people who like football. There is merit in testing adverts to the same interests groups e.g. men who like Star Trek. How To Get The Most From Your Facebook Ads Being successful with Facebook Ads is much more about relationship building than it is billboard advertising. One of the biggest mistakes I see is people using Facebook Ads as the internet’s ‘yellow pages’ I.E. The only adverts they ever place are “hey come buy my stuff” If you only use FB Ads for sales messages it’s going to be crazily expensive and ultimately ineffective. Still people ONLY want to pay for an ad when they have something specific. Instead, think of the platform as an extension of networking, with the same relationship interactions. Only your paying Facebook to have these ‘interactions’ and not having to do it manually. The BEST Way To Do This Is Retargeting Retargeting in the oldest & simplest sense of the word was when someone visited your site or product you identify them and give them adverts that are “come back and buy” This makes things MUCH more effective. But here’s how you get a system that works… You want to layer your retargeting… That means have multiple different offers that are layered one on top of the other. If you’ve heard the expression sales funnel (the process of ‘funnelling’ potential customers through your marketing into customers) then that’s essentially what you’re creating on Facebook all via your retargeting. Sounds complicated… It’s not… For example I could record a video about facebook ads and retarget people who have watched 25% of the video (because I know they’re interested). Then I might give them the option of downloading a PDF to add them to my list… Those that take the PDF could then be offered a webinar. At the end of the webinar is the option to become a customer. The layering of funnels takes time and is more work, hence most people choose the less effective ‘yellow pages’ method. I could go on and on about the nuances involved in advertising on Facebook. But here’s some dos and don’ts to keep you in check Do Treat the platform more like networking than the ‘Yellow Pages’ Focus on building relationships and meaningful interactions. Make sure you’re using retargeting, whatever business you’re running. When writing adverts focus on the customer and their wants, needs, desires Give value before you ask for something in return. Understand your maths and make sure it’s profitable. Layer your retargeting Read the terms and conditions and make sure you’re compliant (otherwise you will get banned) Don’t Expect to become an overnight millionaire. Put big budgets in you can’t afford to lose until you know it works. Copy everyone else ads. Use boring stock photography. Try and cheat the system. Get too hung up with the technical It’s A Powerful Tool, Not A Panacea There’s an epidemic out there (mainly from Facebook Ad Consultants) who push it as the panacea to all business problems. It’s not true… Facebook Ads is a super powerful tool that you could use to grow your community. Especially if you’re struggling to attract new members. It’s not a miracle cure. If there’s a problem with your community messaging or attractiveness then Facebook Ads won’t fix it. Instead Facebook Ads is more of a magnifying glass. It will highlight any problems. Which is very helpful if you don’t know where the gaps are in your community. Not so good if you’re expecting a miracle. Final Thought If you’re thinking about using Facebook Ads for your community then you 100% SHOULD! Depending on your budget will decide if you get someone paid who knows what they’re doing (like me) or you run the ads yourself. If you do find someone make sure they’re realistic with the platform and what it can achieve. If you’re doing it yourself, then have a go… Try a traffic campaign to get you started. The WORST that can happen is you’ll spend a bit of money without getting anything in return. It’s only beginner tax… Or making a donation to the ‘Zuck Fund’ as it’s known in the industry. I’ve seen total beginners make 5 figures with their first ad… It’s pretty rare, but I’ve seen it happen. The ONLY thing you can do is have a play and see what happens. It doesn’t bite. Martin Jolley-Jarvis is the owner of Full Spectrum Agency. View the full article
  8. When I wrote my last entry, The Dogly Mail had just reached the 100 member milestone but since then things have grown impressively. The photo competition has proven very successful at encouraging new signups and we are now at around 1400 members picking up 15-20 new members a day. This is far better than I could have hoped for but there a few caveats… Not all traffic and content is equal In building website traffic I’ve realised that high member numbers are great and help to validate your ideas but member quality is far more important. I have been able to boost the member growth non-organically with a minimal Facebook ad spend in conjunction with the competition but we’re still trying to find those super contributors. The members we have are not yet invested in the site themselves and the sense of community that is required to be sustainable long term is still in its infancy. We have also found that with the opt-in mailing list, around 50% of the registered members are signing up for the newsletter during registration. This is encouraging to me based on the non-organic growth so hopefully, with more organic growth this will rise further. What are we doing to get higher quality contributions? We are collaborating with a vet on professional articles to give the site more credibility in the areas I am not an expert in and Andy is covering dog news where he has time. Hopefully, over the long term, this will help to improve the organic traffic to the website. With the articles, we now have high-end long-form content covered although I would like to get a more varied team of writers on board to broaden the appeal of the subject matter. We also have more fun commenting, likes and meme social interaction covered in the photo competition section. This leaves a gap in the middle for more serious user-contributed discussion and opinion and what ultimately will make or break the website. For this, we’re working on getting the blogs application ready for when we feel the traffic is sufficient to launch another area. When it’s ready we will slowly transition the ad spend towards the new blog section and forums to provide more balanced traffic coming to the site. We will also be able to promote the new sections via the newsletter. I am almost at the end of the school year so my time on the site should increase and I can get more involved with discussion topics to try and foster that sense of community. What else have I learned? Keeping people’s attention is not easy and once a member has left the site you need to work really hard to get them to revisit. It’s something I read a lot of on these forums so hopefully, Invision is working on this to help us keep people engaged. As you can see we’re still in the try lots of things to see what works stage but the learning experience is part of the fun. We were running AdSense ads and getting a little back from the spend we were doing ourselves but I feel at this stage it is counter-productive. We have decided to stop AdSense for the time being in order to concentrate on building traffic and the membership and will revisit the monetisation options once the site has grown. Not running the adverts has also given the site a substantial speed boost which will hopefully help us with organic rankings. If you’re running your community as a hobby you may not wish to spend anything on advertising to start and may prefer to slowly add to your website content. With so much competition for traffic online though this would be a very slow strategy for us for what I still hope to be a commercially viable micro business. On the current growth path, I hope to be profitable in 12-18 months and will keep you updated with the highs or lows along the way. View the full article
  9. A successful community only needs three core elements to flourish and begin producing results. Your community will require some care and effort to flourish, but with the right strategies in place, you'll ensure that the value your community produces continues to increase as time goes by. Let's take a look at the three elements that make for a successful community. Content Content is the life-blood of any community. Content is what is posted by your members, and by your team. In the early days, you'll need to seed discussions and respond to customers posts regularly. It's important to demonstrate that you're actively involved with the community and encouraging others to post and extend discussions. Over time, user-generated content will begin to propel your community forwards. A great way to bring in new users is to write valuable articles using Pages, or the Blog apps. Writing about issues relevant to your community can help position you as an expert and will be shared widely by your community. You don't have to be an expert writer to create articles. There are free apps such as Grammarly to help polish your prose. A great way to quickly generate new content is to quote other news sources and offer your own commentary. For example, if your community is based around TV shows, right now you could easily create a new article for your site based on Game of Thrones by quoting a small part of two or three existing articles denouncing how the quality of writing on Game of Thrones has slipped and offer your contrasting thoughts. Just remember to link back to the original article and check the source site to make sure they are happy for this to happen. HubSpot has a great article on how to quote without stealing. Traffic To really start building your community, you need a steady flow of visitors from outside sources. The content you create will drive traffic into your community, but it sometimes needs a helping hand. Content from inside established communities can drive millions of impressions a month from search engines. It's worth making sure you're making good use of the built-in SEO tools. We recently performed a thorough review of how Invision Community optimises for SEO including adding features such as lazy loading. It is also a good idea to put your community link in your email signature, and share it widely via social media. A good number of our successful community owners have created a Facebook page, and a Twitter account for their community and share their best content over those social channels. Email is still a very powerful tool for creating an audience. We send out a monthly newsletter here at Invision Community, and articles we share with it are viewed at least four times as much as other articles. Engagement Once you have a steady stream of visitors consuming content on your site, you need to engage them to convert them from a casual visitor to a registered member, and then beyond. The first step is to get your visitor to register. While we recommend you make many forums open for guest viewing, we do recommend that you ask for guests to register before posting. We recently added a new feature called 'Post Before Registering' that allows guests to reply and sign-up in one simple activation flow. Most members initially join for selfish reasons. Perhaps they have a broken iPhone and want to ask for help. Or perhaps they came to ask how to fix a code problem. Generally speaking, they do not join out of altruism and a strong desire to help others. To convert a one-time poster to a regular contributor can take some work. Ensuring the default notifications include email when a new post is made will help encourage the poster to return. You can also tag the member in other discussions you feel may be interesting to them. We recently added a few new engagement features that also showcases other interesting content in notification based emails. Taking the time to welcome the member, and showing them how to access the best from your community can go a long way to making your site stand out. Taking the time to focus on these three core elements will help your community grow and prosper. You may not see overnight results, but over time you will start to see a huge difference in visitors, registrations and returning members. That wraps it up for this article. We'd love to know your thoughts on our suggestions and any strategies that you've used in the past that have worked well. View the full article
  10. Have you ever found yourself muttering "there has to be an easier way" when managing your community? If you have, it's likely that you are not the first person to think that. Invision Community has been refined over nearly two decades, and in that time we've received a lot of feedback from clients running very large and busy sites. We love a short cut, especially when it makes our clients lives easier. There's plenty of time-saving features throughout Invision Community, and here are five of the best. Saved Actions If you routinely perform the same actions to a topic, such as replying before closing it or moving the topic to a different forum, then saved actions will save you a lot of time. Let's look at a practical example. You have a forum where your members can suggest new features for your product. You might choose to move some of these suggestions to another forum to shortlist them for inclusion in a future version, or to discuss further. You also may like to reply thanking the member for their idea, but it's not feasible at this time. Here you would set up two saved actions, one that replies and moves the topic to a specific forum, and one that replies to the topic and closes it for further commenting. Your saved actions are accessible via the moderation menu You and your moderating team can select these saved actions quickly when reading a topic to perform multiple moderation steps in one go. RSS Feeds If your community regularly discusses topics that feature in the latest news, then you can quickly seed these discussions using the RSS feed import tool. Not only can you import almost any public RSS feed into your community, but you also have control over how these topics are displayed, to whom they are attributed to and how the link back to the source article looks. RSS feed import is an often overlooked but handy tool at starting productive discussions without the need to source and post them manually. iCal Feeds The iCal feed can be considered as the sister feature to the RSS Feed Import tool. It works in a very similar way in that it can accept almost any public iCal feed and import events into your community's calendar. This is especially useful if you maintain an event stream outside of the community, but wish to share those events with your members in a native way, or perhaps you already have a calendar product used by your organisation. Using the iCal feed tool to populate your community calendar with key dates relevant to your community can be achieved very quickly. Auto-moderation Moderating a busy community can be a time-consuming task. Trying to review new posts and topics to ensure they meet your community standards as they come in can be daunting. Fortunately, Invision Community has an ace up its sleeve. Auto-moderation allows you to use the power of your community to identify and remove content that does not meet your community standards. The administrator sets up a threshold so that when a specific number of reports for that content item is crossed, the content is hidden. Auto-moderation has a lot of options to configure which we covered in this blog article recently. Group promotion Ensuring your members feel valued and rewarded for their contributions is key to member retention and keeping engagement high. A simple way to reward long term regular contributors is to elevate their permissions. This can mean that they have access to otherwise hidden areas, or they get more allowances in terms of upload space and fewer restrictions. To do this manually would take a significant amount of time. Thankfully, Invision Community has a feature called Group Promotion. This tool allows the administrator to set up specific thresholds such as post count, or time since joining which then move the member into a new group when triggered. This all happens automatically. Just set it up and let it run! We spoke about Group Promotion recently, take a look here to learn more about this feature. How many of you are already using these features, and which ones did we miss off our list? I'd love to know. View the full article
  11. Cultivating a strong Sense of Community is a clear goal for community builders. Develop a strong sense of community, and you’ve built a community experience that sparks a more meaningful and connected community that your members will love. A strong sense of community means: An integrated community where members feel personally related An impactful community where a member can influence and be influenced by the group. A fulfilling community where members meet the needs of others and can feel rewarded. A shared community, where users undergo common history, time together, and social experiences. Do you believe you’ve developed a strong sense of community? Follow long as we critically examine the first element in the Sense of Community: Membership. Membership Boundaries of communities have always existed, whether it be neighborhoods, social groups, or online communities. By definition, there are people who belong and people who do not. It’s okay to decline membership to users, thereby providing a more comfortable space for members who are accepted. Here are some time-tested tips from my years of community management that touch upon various attributes of membership: Don’t try to be everything to everyone. It’s far better to be an exclusive community to a smaller, impassioned group of users than to dilute your community for a wide audience. Not everybody deserves to belong, and by intentionally removing irrelevant members, it makes it a more purposeful community for those who can join. Define who should belong, and outline the requirements on your Registration screen and Guest Sign-up widget. Boundaries are walls, but safe walls. Although there’s the pain of rejection and isolation of private communities, it’s offset with the positive benefits of joining. It creates a space where members can feel safe to open up, to feel related to one another, and to feel protected. Reinforce the benefits of joining the community to new members in a welcome message. A new sense of identification. Not only do members join the group, they should develop an extended sense of belonging and identity with the group. The more strongly you can define the sense of belongingness, the more deeply the member will feel connected. There should be a feeling of acceptance, an expectation that one fits in, and a willingness to sacrifice for the group. Create a welcome team that immediately reaches out both publicly and privately, ask how the new member can contribute, and constantly highlight how the community has gone above-and-beyond in members helping members. The higher the boundary, the greater the reward. Personal investment is an important contributor to a member’s feeling of group membership. By working for a membership, a member will feel like he’s earned a place – and that the membership will be more meaningful and valuable. You can ask guests for their accreditations, background, or how they can contribute to the community. The power of symbols. Social groups throughout history have long used symbols, icons, ceremonies, and group language to cultivate a unique sense of identity. These conventions are powerful representations of a group. You can cultivate and write a common language in your Invision Community in large ways and small by uploading unique reactions, changing the language string, and celebrating community-specific holidays and events. As you re-evaluate your community framework with me, take the time to outline what it means to be a member of your community. Defining your membership goes hand-in-hand with defining your purpose. It should touch upon these five attributes of membership: boundaries, emotional safety, sense of belonging, personal investment, and common symbolism. Establish clear distinctions for your community’s membership qualifications, and you’ll be able to develop a deep Sense of Community from the very start of a member’s registration. Share with me and others how you've defined your community's membership in the comments below. I love to hear about other Invision Communities. Joel, Invision Community Advocate and Certified Community Manager View the full article
  12. Invision Community is used by some of the world's biggest game brands, proudly enabling gamers to connect with the creators of their favourite titles. These sites attract millions of visitors between them and thousands of posts are added daily because of their high profile. But what if you're just starting out, how do you convert casual visitors to members, and what's the best way to set up your community? I got talking to new customer Darrell, interestingly named Mr. Fierce God on our community. While you may expect that this portrays a fire and brimstone hothead, you'd be wrong as Darrell is one of the nicest people you'll meet. Darrell runs the Fierce Gaming Network and I was impressed by the way he's set up his site and wanted to share my thoughts on what he's done well. The first thing I noticed is that the forum index is not the home page for the site. For a gaming community that wants to focus on more than just user conversations, this is a good move. Let's break it down. A. The home page has multiple points of entry, and the sidebar menu unobtrusively offers short-cuts to various parts of the community. B. We have a large call to action to either login or register. This box also explains the benefits of registration clearly and enforces that registration is a very quick process. One optimisation that may be worth looking at here is to add the "Sign in with Facebook / Microsoft" buttons on the box to persuade even more to register right away. C. Fierce Gaming Network also makes great use of Clubs to segment their audience to specific software titles. Re-using instantly recognisable artwork as the club cover image will entice fans of those games to visit. Scrolling down a little shows the "Member of the month". As humans, we are drawn to faces instantly, and this humanises the site and "unmasks" some of the popular members, making the site less intimidating. Moving down a little more we see the "Our Picks" section which highlights the best content from the community. Our Picks is a great way to get visitors to engage with your content. Good use of cover images draws attention and makes it clear the kind of content you're going to read. Darrell makes great use of several lnvision Community apps to build the site, and has set it up well. New users get to the site see handpicked content, fellow members and the benefits of joining all in one place. It's a great start and I look forward to seeing Darrell's site succeed. Are you using Invision Community to build custom homepages for your community? Share them in the comments below. View the full article
  13. I noticed something new in the chiller cabinet at the petrol station after filling yesterday. Bottles of Grape Fanta sitting alongside the more mundane and pedestrian drinks such as Coke Zero and Pepsi Max. I grabbed two bottles. After draining one in record time, I googled around to see where I could get more of this delicious nectar, and it discovered that it's a new flavour being launched in the UK. The really interesting thing was that Coca Cola used data stored in the self service machines that offer different flavours (such as those at cinemas) to determine which new flavours to bring to the market. Grape was the second most popular flavour after regular orange, so the company knew they had a market ready for premixed bottles. In a world where we fear what Big Tech does with our data, it's easy to forget that data has a valid use in your business. It's why we make it clear that with Invision Community, you own your data. We just look after it for you. This gives you the freedom to discover new trends within your business and use them to drive sales. View the full article
  14. Two headlines caught my eye today as they appeared side by side in my newsfeed. On first glance, they seemed contradictory. The first was that the UK lost nearly 2,500 shops and stores last year and the second is that discount fashion retailer Primark has just invested £70m in a new store in Birmingham. This new store covers 161,000 sq ft over five floors and features a Disney-themed cafe, a beauty studio, a gents hairdresser and a Harry Potter themed section. If the UK is closed thousands of stores, and a recent department store has just fallen into administration why would a brand invest £70m in a new store? The answer is that they are not building a store, they are building an experience. It's clearly not enough to just stack products and open the doors anymore. You have to offer more to entice people in through the doors. This is why Toys R Us failed in the end. I maintain that if they had reduced shelf space and installed soft play, cafes and product demonstration areas, they would have had a chance at turning around their failing business. Primark has learned from other's mistakes. With themed "shops in shops" and child-friendly cafes, they are offering more than discount clothes. It is exactly the same as your community. Offering a space to facilitate conversation is often not enough unless you dominate your niche. Are you known for well thought out reviews? Perhaps you write valuable articles that get people to your site. Or you might be focusing on building an audience with a photo competition as Helen from The Dogly Mail has. What are you doing to encourage more people through your doors? View the full article
  15. “Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” – Richard Branson, billionaire and founder of Virgin Group. We all seek success with our Invision Communities. For too many of our communities, however, we yearn for success but we don’t plot the correct navigation to get there. We haphazardly pursue our strategies, trying new ideas and hoping one will stick. It’s time to take a step back and assess your goals in context to your growth. It’s important to understand the stages of the community lifecycle, and to strategically match your goals with your growth sequence. Alicia Iriberri and Gondy Leroy of Claremont Graduate University surveyed over 1000 publications across multiple disciplines including computer science, information systems, sociology, and management in their seminal 2009 research paper “A Life-Cycle Perspective on Online Community Success.” Their research forms the foundation for most modern community management, and in their paper they write, “The impact each design component has on the success of the online community shifts depending on which life-cycle stage the online community is experiencing.” The right strategy at the right time will maximize the impact. Every community goes through a community lifecycle of four stages: Inception, Growth, Maturity, and Mitosis. Setting the wrong objective can not only fail, it can even backfire and destroy goodwill. Here are classic examples of good strategies that go wrong because of poor sequencing: A new community with no activity that builds dozens of new boards A growth community not fostering a unique sense of community A mature community not establishing strong codes of conduct Architecting a community is very different for the first ten users versus the next thousand users. New priorities come into play, community concerns will shift and strategies need tochange. As a community manager, ensure the strategy is appropriate and reflects your community lifecycle to ensure maximum impact. Let’s take a look at proper goal settings for each stage of the community lifecycle. Inception Inception is the start of your community. You’re bursting with energy, enthusiasm, and big ideas. While your Invision Community is full of potential, your goal is to turn your vision into reality: Members: Focus on nurturing a core team of members. Your goal is to get 10 – 12 superusers to consistently engage and support the community vision. Promotion: Your community won’t contain enough content to attract visitors through search engines, so you’ll have to rely on personal referrals, word-of-mouth, and direct acquaintances. Content: Focus on building expertise on core content areas that will make you stand out. You want to be the best in one subject. You’ll need to generate much of the content programming yourself, which should focus on functional value. Organization: Establish organizational parameters for the community, define the vision with stakeholders, write your Terms of Use, and validate the community concept. Community: The community is heavily centered around the community founder at this stage, so set the right tone and lead through example. Growth Growth is where the magic of community happens, balanced against the development of more explicit and formal conduct. Members: Shift your focus from nurturing individual users to creating a workflow that can systematically welcome new members. Promotion: You should be proactive with your self-promotional activities to build community awareness such as email marketing, social media, or mailing lists. Content: Content will now be a mix between self-generated and co-created. You want to highlight community content by others to encourage community expertise. When you create content yourself, you want to start including emotionally-driven questions that connect users. Organization: Measure specific metrics for organization goals, highlight community health and successes, secure funding for ongoing budget and team. Community: A unique sense of community is cultivated at this time with shared experiences and language between members. Members feel excited to be a part of your community’s growth. Maturity Maturity is when your Invision Community becomes critically acclaimed and well-known in the field. Even though your community looks to be run smoothly, there are still areas to address so your community doesn’t stagnate: Members: There should be a clearly defined process and welcome guide for onboarding new members, an established pipeline that constantly brings on new superusers, and a rewards program that recognizes members for different types of member journeys. Promotion: Your site is well-known, so the search engine traffic and content within your community is enough to bring in new users. You can optimize your SEO at this point. Content: Almost all content is user-created at this point, which means your focus needs to shift to content recognition, organization, and moderation. Highlight the best community content; categorize and properly tag new content so the community stays organized; and scale your moderation to handle the size of your community. Organization: The community is a key part of your organization’s larger success and supports multiple areas of the business. Be a strong internal advocate for the community and align your community with your organization’s new profit areas. Community: Superusers not only have the privilege of creating their own content for the community, but they’ve stepped up as mentors and moderators. Your community has a strong culture that’s reinforced by members. Mitosis Mitosis is the stage when your Invision Community grows beyond its original mission, potentially splitting off into new subgroups. Many communities stagnate at this point with falling engagement and plateauing registration, but you’re catching onto the next big trend in your industry to grow into. Members: New member registrations flatlines because you’re tracking with the industry. Your goal is to continue to delight members with new forms of omnichannel engagement like regional meetups, video conferencing, and headline conferences. Promotion: Your community self-generates organic traffic. Your promotion should shift from trying to advertise for yourself to exerting influence with industry partners as a trusted leader in the field. Content: Members can find the most comprehensive set of resource documents and discussion on your community. Your goal is to distill the knowledge into the best tips and guides for newcomers to obtain the most accurate information as quickly as possible. You should also archive areas that no longer receive activity while finding growth topics in your field. Organization: The community is a critical part of all business operations and integrates into all relevant workflows. You should build custom metrics to measure results, help determine new investment decisions, and streamline business efficiencies at the organizational level that benefit the community. Community: Your community becomes an incubator of new sections in a controlled manner for potential spin-off. Superusers control and moderate their own areas of the site like Clubs or Blogs. Online communities evolve through distinct stages of the community lifecycle. At each stage, the needs and activities of members require different tools, features, and community management. Certain strategies are more impactful when they coincide with the right sequence. Invision Community makes it easy to get started with a technology platform packed with features that every community manager can start using right away. But how you get to the first ten users, to the first thousand posts, or even to one billion likes will be a journey that’s truly your own. Share your success story of Invision Community in the comments below. Did you make any rookie mistakes that you wish you knew beforehand? What are some strategies that you’re pursuing right now, and why do you think it’s an impactful decision for this stage of your community’s lifecycle? We’d love to hear your journey along the community lifecycle. View the full article
  16. In a move that surprised many, British cosmetics firm Lush has chosen to quit social media. With a combined following across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, Lush has a combined audience of over 1.2 million followers. Lush are being a little cryptic about its reasons but cite having to pay for visibility and getting tired of trying to produce content so just that algorithms will rank it highly. "Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed. So we’ve decided it’s time to bid farewell to some of our social channels and open up the conversation between you and us instead." It feels like sacrilege for a brand to come off social media, but I'm not surprised. Social media is about broadcasting more than it is about meaningful conversation. And now, even with a huge following, broadcasting doesn't get the same reach it did a few years ago with platforms pushing paid options more and more. Lush also targets a very young demographic that simply aren't using social media anymore. The firm said it was "cutting out the middleman between ourselves and the Lush community". It remains unclear which direction Lush is going to take to facilitate conversations, but using an independent community platform like Invision Community should be considered. It cuts out any algorithm biased, money hungry platform. It opens up the conversation between the brand and its customers in a meaningful way, and the brand is completely in control of their data and what their customers see. At Invision Community, we're seeing more and more brands looking for a solution outside of social media. Perhaps this will accelerate the trend. View the full article
  17. Since the last blog entry in this series I have been very busy. I’m still working full time so haven’t been able to spend as much time as I would have liked on The Dogly Mail but I’m really enjoying the time I can. Early growth has been promising and I have been experimenting with different ideas that have come from founder members to see what might work long term. We recently broke the 100 member milestone and that all came from word of mouth. We’re not talking huge numbers but I’m very encouraged for the future. My focus is now on building interactions with four main areas of the site. Forums I had imagined the forums being the most active area after seeing other Invision Communities but I don’t think there are enough regularly active members yet for this area to be truly useful so it is (for now) not the main priority. I am however using some forums functionality effectively. I’ve added a special offers forum that is viewable by non members but to get to the actual topic contents you need to register. This seems to be enticing a few people to sign up and I want to approach more retailers to build on this. Polls are also proving popular and new members who may not want to commit to introducing themselves or posting a full topic are at least interacting. I’ll be looking for more ways of adding easy interactions such as this. If anybody has any ideas for encouraging early discussion please let me know in the comments. Articles In the articles section new items are slowly being added and I find this a good opportunity to show some personality and indicate to users what they can expect from the rest of the site. I am trying all kinds of articles such as news, reviews, recipes and dog training guides to find out what I should focus on. I would also like to attract some guest writers for different viewpoints and to free up some of my time. Being able to see article view counts in Invision Community and the direct commenting functionality gives me good feedback. Events The launch of the events section coincided with a large dog related event in London and through it I was able to collaborate with the event organisers and do some succesful networking. This has led to some future opportunities for product reviews and reinforces my point from the last blog article where not all of your time should be spent behind the keyboard. Most of the events are being added by myself but hopefully as this section builds others will find it useful for promoting their own events. Photos One of the early members was quick to suggest we incorporate image sharing into the website as after all how can anybody resist cute photos of puppies? For this I originally looked at the Invision Gallery but felt that this section needed to have a voting element and Gallery was perhaps too feature rich. I wanted it to be a simple first interation with the website. I wanted people to be able to vote and more importantly encourage their friends to sign up and vote too. We started out with a simple topic and for the first month with not many people this worked great. One post was an entry and people could “Like” their favourites. It quickly became quite popular and it was clear that we would need something dedicated to the task so I commissioned some custom work. This was real investment but is already showing promising signs after launching April 1st. New members can now enter the photo competition and register at the same time so most new registrations are now coming from this route. I’ve recently discovered the profile completion feature so will enable that this month to try and increase engagement a bit further. I want to keep to our non intrusive privacy policy so this will all be optional and limited to member photo and some simple dog breed and numer of dogs fields. With what I have learned so far I have a better idea of what is going to work to attract registrations and there is also a credible amount of content. This month I will be starting to look into some paid promotion with the hope of hitting my next milestone of 250 members. I will share my findings and hopefully some helpful marketing tips next month. View the full article
  18. Every day, LGBTQ young people from all walks of life log into TrevorSpace, the world’s largest moderated safe space for LGBTQ youth online. Here, young people can support each other, share their stories, and find refuge from what might be a less than accepting environment offline. Launched in 2008, TrevorSpace is housed under The Trevor Project, the foremost suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth in the world. Having an affirming digital community has been an indispensable resource for the youth The Trevor Project aims to protect, but guiding it to the success it enjoys today has had its challenges. Shortly after its launch, TrevorSpace rapidly grew to serve tens of thousands of users in just a few years. While the platform initially started on commercial community software, some unique requirements led the organization to go custom, building a community platform from the ground up. Faced with increasing hosting and development costs and declining user activity, senior leadership faced a tough decision: either dramatically transform the program, or discontinue it altogether. That’s when Invision Community stepped in. “We were already planning a digital transformation, replacing everything from our physical computers to our crisis services software infrastructure, the platforms that young people use to reach out to us, like TrevorLifeline, TrevorChat, and TrevorText,” John Callery, director of technology at The Trevor Project said of the challenges facing the organization at the time. “We had to be very careful with our resources and where we allocated our time.” Continuing the TrevorSpace program would mean The Trevor Project needed to move to a solution that could be implemented and managed with very limited resources while still providing the quality of care that the community had come to expect. It also meant meeting the specific needs of the organization’s mission, particularly around safety. After looking into the Invision Community platform per the suggestion of a team member, it became clear that they had all of the fundamentals TrevorSpace was looking for, like messages boards, social networking, and private messaging. Here was a chance to save the platform. Customers rarely have the opportunity to meet the people behind the technology they use. This wasn’t the case for The Trevor Project and the Invision Community team, who made it clear they believed in our mission to support LGBTQ youth in crisis and were willing to partner with us to realize our specific needs and figure out new solutions. Through utilizing the Invision Community team’s applications and plugins, we were able to meet all of our community’s custom needs, adding functionality unique to TrevorSpace to protect our users, many of whom are especially vulnerable when it comes to their privacy. None of this would have been possible without the incredible support of the Invision Community team. For just one example of how crucial TrevorSpace is to young LGBTQ people around the world, listen to Mani Cavalieri, the community’s product manager: “When the most prevalent forms of social media are so enmeshed with our in-person relationships, LGBTQ youth often lose a safe place to explore their identities. TrevorSpace is one of those special communities that balances anonymity (often a necessity for safety) with real, personal connections.” Since joining the team, Mani has already seen multiple instances of users finding lifelong friends - and even partners - over the years on TrevorSpace - and on the Invision Community platform, it is able to reach more users than ever before. In January 2018, TrevorSpace received double the number of registrations than any other month in the program’s 10-year history. We continue to see more than a thousand new registered members each week. As we begin international promotion of the program, we expect to break many more records in the coming year. As we continue to grow TrevorSpace, we also continue to rely on Invision Community’s extensibility. Our mission is to improve support networks and mental resilience for our users. This requires us to understand our users’ behavior and needs from a different perspective than other online communities, and it will continue to require more custom solutions. The marketplace of plugins, as well as the enthusiastic support of the Invision Community team, enable us to be bold in our ambitions, to build out a community that is truly unique in its class, and to improve the lives of those that need a supportive community the most. As one user puts in, in their welcome message to each newcomer: “That's our little secret - there's some one here, going through what you're going through. Whether that be mental health, body issues, parents, friends, and whatever else life as someone who's LGBTQ+ can throw at you. Reach out, and someone will be there for you.” - This entry was written by The Trevor Project team https://www.trevorspace.org https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ View the full article
  19. We do love a parlour game at Invision Community HQ and we were playing "6 degrees of separation" recently. You've probably heard of the "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon". This is where you try and connect any actor with Kevin Bacon in 6 steps or less. So let's try "6 degrees of Invision Community". This is where we try and connect a person with an Invision Community. David Goggins and Invision Community Last week, I finished the excellent David Goggins book "Can't Hurt Me". David Goggins, a retired Navy SEAL, spent a month with Jesse Itzler. This which was documented in Itzler's book "Living with a SEAL", which I've also read. Jesse Itzler owns the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Team. The Atlanta Hawks has a dedicated area inside the Atlanta Falcons Football team's official community. The Atlanta Falcons official community is powered by Invision Community. Here's another one. Groot and Invision Community Groot featured in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie series. Chris Pratt starred alongside Groot in the same movie series. Chris Pratt voices Emmet in the LEGO® movies. LEGO® uses Invision Community. Over to you. Do you have any "6 degrees of Invision Community?". We'd love to read them! View the full article
  20. I've had this similar conversation dozens of times in the recent past when someone has taken an interest in what I do. Person: So what does Invision Community do? Me: We develop and sell an independent community platform. Person: Oh. Neat. I used to say the F word. But this used to cause some confusion. 'We develop and sell a forum system'. This used to elicit a response similar to this: "Forums? They're still going?" This line of thinking is quite prevalent among those who frequent Facebook, or use Facebook Groups to manage their micro communities. Even though they probably use forums regularly, or end up on forum topics when searching for things like "Why is my iPhone not charging", they don't realise this. I recently guested on a podcast, where we spoke about "Facebook or Forums?", and I received this comment. It appears, then, that the word "forums" has a lot of legacy connotations attached to it. It conjures up images of the past when Netscape Navigator was the world's favourite browser, and AOL was still mailing out CDs. That is all ancient history now, and we've moved with the times. The product we have now has roots in the product from the early 2000s but it is wildly different and much more capable. When you explain that you can segment discussions into separate areas (aka forums), and even set up independent micro-communities (clubs), you can see lightbulbs going off. "That's amazing! I had no idea! So you mean I don't have to have my community in a single stream struggling for attention among adverts?" Nope, there is another way. Why not try an independent community platform? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you avoid the F word too? View the full article
  21. I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak on the Expert Focus podcast, hosted by experienced community manager and public speaker, Claire Dowdall. Claire has significant experience in managing and developing strategies for increasing Facebook Group engagement for high profile speakers and entrepreneurs, while my background is with independent communities. This set us up nicely for a lively conversation to really pull apart what makes for a successful community, and what platforms to consider when starting out. From Expert Focus: I really enjoyed speaking with Claire, and I hope you find a little time to tune in. Listen now: On Apple devices On Spotify On all other devices View the full article
  22. Are you a vBulletin admin looking to stay on the leading edge of online communities? As an IPS client who frequents the Invision Community support forums on a daily basis, I often run across existing or former vBulletin admins looking to migrate to IPS. In fact, based on my not-so-scientific survey, vBulletin is one of the most popular platforms from where admins migrate. Many of the vBulletin users are professional administrators looking for a stable company, rapid development, and a trusted platform to power their communities into the future. I interviewed 6 former vBulletin admins who are now Invision Community clients. Most of these vBulletin admins have 10+ years of experience running successful forums, so their input was especially insightful. “I love the design of the admin and moderation back-end, a real treat after living with the antiquated and confusing vBulletin back-end.” -- @cfish “I like the well-thought concept, the details, and abundance of features and functions.” [email protected] I’ve compiled the top 10 questions and answers from their interviews and the forums specifically for vBulletin admins for an insider’s perspective on how to convert from vBulletin to Invision Community. You can also read their full interviews in my Community Guide attached at the bottom. 10. What is the typical lifecycle of Invision Community and what new features come out? Invision Community is currently on 4.4. It’s a great time to be migrating as both the software and converter are very mature. You’ll be able to take advantage of all the new features from Invision Community 4.x such as Social Clubs, Subscriptions, SEO updates, and GDPR updates. In general, IPS publishes one major update like 4.4 once a year, with several bug fixes, security updates, and enhancements throughout the year. The best place to read about Product Updates is the official IPS Blog in Product Updates. 9. What are the pricing options and how do they compare to vBulletin? IPS is comparable in pricing when compared to vBulletin depending on your choice of apps. The self-hosted option is cheaper when considering support and upgrades. The pricing for an active license is simple, easy, and comprehensive. A new license includes professional ticket support, forum support, access to new upgrades, and managed spam service for 6 months. Renew again in six months to continue those benefits. If you choose not to renew, your software will continue to work. 8. Is the software mobile ready like vBulletin? Yes, the software is responsive by design. This means the community naturally fits and beautifully displays in any device size, giving you a consistent look-and-feel across all devices. Try it now by resizing your window! It also means you don’t need to pay for any extra “mobile bundles.” This approach to mobile design was one of the reasons why @cfish chose IPS: “I didn’t like vBulletin’s approach to mobile. The IPS approach to responsive web design was inline with my own thinking.” 7. What are the official Invision Community apps and how do they compare to vBulletin? @Steve Bullman converted to IPS because “IPS seemed to offer a better all-round package for what I needed.” One of the biggest reasons for considering IPS is a broader approach to community. Whereas vBulletin focuses only on Forums and Blogs, IPS empowers you to build a suite of applications customized to your needs. Mix and match apps like Gallery, Blogs, Downloads, Pages, and Commerce to build a modern community with resource directories, databases, paid subscriptions, albums and more that go beyond forums. You can read more about the apps in Features. Calendar and Clubs are included for free! 6. What will be migrated from vBulletin? The free converter app will migrate all of your member and content items from vBulletin 3.8.x, 4.x, and 5.x. This includes members, private messages, member groups, ranks, forums, topics, posts, and attachments. You can view the full list on Migrate and choose your vBulletin version from the list of choices. Obviously, you will not be able to migrate any custom themes or custom modifications. @ChristForums adds, “I wish I had known that the converter was so easy to use and migrate from Vbulletin 5.” 5. What are the channels for support? Every active license comes with professional ticket support, which should always be your first source of contact. @Markus Jung highlights “fast support” as the item he appreciates the most about his license. You can also obtain help from the community forums, help guides, release notes, and other public resources. If you’re not an IPS client yet, you can post in Pre-Sales forum or email [email protected] 4. How do I prepare my community? The six admins that I interviewed offered several tips for new Invision Community owners. Prior to the conversion, you should read through the converter package to see what will convert and redirect. You should purchase other Invision Community apps in advance to fully convert vBulletin items as needed; not delete any old content since Invision Community includes an archive function; and not make drastic changes to allow members a chance to become accustomed to the new forum. 3. What will happen to my traffic and URL redirects? The free converter app will redirect your existing URLs. This includes forums, topics, posts, member profiles, print view pages, archived content, attachments, and tags. You need to leave your converter installed after migration to ensure the redirects will work. AlexWebsites wrote, “the converter came with built-in redirects and I was able to redirect most of my traffic. Traffic recovered within a few months.” 2. What are the server configuration and database requirements? If you choose cloud, then Invision Community will manage the hosting. If you choose on-premise, you can use the free ‘Get Ready’ compatibility file to check your server. The latest version of Invision Community 4.4 requires: PHP 7.1.0 or higher (7.3.x is supported) MySQL 5.5.3 or higher (5.6.2 recommended). 1. How stable is the company? Other companies lost their development talent. Other companies were bought and sold by multi-media conglomerates. Other companies have a history of lawsuits. Through it all, Charle, Lindy and Matt have been here since the beginning providing steady leadership to Invision Communities everywhere. If you’re looking for stability, it’s nice to know you can rely on the same people who started the company. For serious and professional vBulletin admins looking to transition, you know you’re not just buying into the software, but investing in the development team, staff, and platform for years to come. Ramsesx shared his personal story: “I always prefer the best for my community from where I earn my income. An important aspect was the longtime outlook. Invision Community gave me the feeling of being trustworthy, they are more than 17 years in the forum software market.” It’s no wonder that so many successful vBulletin admins feel the same after moving to Invision Community. You get stability, years of experience, a deep understanding of online communities, and a dedication to development that continues to innovate. It’s time to bring your vBulletin community over to Invision Community! Bookmark this page for future reference and download the Community Guide for experiences from real clients who converted from vBulletin. Much appreciation to @AlexWebsites @cfish @Christforums @Markus Jung @Ramsesx @Steve Bullman for participating in the interviews. - Joel R Community Guide vBulletin Migration to Invision Community.pdf View the full article
  23. Online communities shine with the brilliance of humanity. Every day, our communities inspire, evoke, inform, motivate and engage in a hundred different ways. Every member feels a uniquely individual sense of value from your community. For too many communities, the strategy revolves around two simple pillars: content and engagement. You inform. You engage. And you think your job is done. However, you’ve barely scratched the surface of offering value. You need to expand the ways in which you strategically match your community to member value. New studies are coming out that show humans feel up to 27 emotions from admiration to triumph, and the best communities unleash a rainbow spectrum of value – functional and emotional, business to social - for their organizations and for their members. This results in not just deeper and more extensive engagement, but greater financial payoff. Indeed, research from global management consulting firm Bain & Company shows brands like Apple, Samsung, and Amazon that demonstrate multiple elements of value have x3 greater customer loyalty and x4 faster revenue growth than others. The elements of value can be divided into two broad categories. Specialize in Functional Value Don’t deliver content. Deliver time savings, cost savings, risk savings, organization, connection, education, and variety. What is the utility benefit to your users? Functional values are the core reasons why members would visit your community. It forms the baseline rationale for your community’s existence, and you want to not just be good – you want to be the best in delivering functional value in your field. Improve your Q&A boards for feedback, inquiry, or ideation. Provide a template in a pinned topic where users fill out a consistent set of questions, so you can answer with the most appropriate and accurate options. Use moderator tools like Recommended Replies to summarize and spotlight key points in a topic. This saves time and focuses attention on expert information. Super-charge the training for your response team. Empower them to be subject experts by giving them private training, templates, and extra resources in a staff wiki so they can investigate the unique needs of user inquiries and provide the best responses. Build a set of content resources in the Pages application, which is the most powerful application in the suite. It can be used to create a set of content resources with unlimited custom fields, filters, and templates enabling you to offer variety, organization, and education that no other competitor can match. Spark Emotional Value Don’t deliver engagement. Deliver admiration, amusement, awe, empathy, joy, nostalgia, satisfaction, and triumph. How does your community make your members feel better? Here’s a little secret. Even though functional value is the foundation of your community’s value proposition, emotional elements are 50% more valuable. Fortunately, Invision Community comes loaded with ways to recognize, reward, and promote members. Take the time to explain the purpose of a new group promotion, rank, or title. Don’t let the reward be the goal in and of itself. You should connect the feature with its underlying emotion by explaining what steps are required to earn the rank, how many others earned it, and what it’ll take to earn the next one. Start with the Leaderboard. Invision Community ships with the Leaderboard, which provides an overview of the most popular users and content. Scan for up-and-coming members to investigate what triggers their emotional satisfaction; scan for popular content to discover what excites your membership. Create multiple member journeys. Most communities follow a pattern of new member to trusted member to moderator. But members can become superusers in many ways. Members who enjoy nostalgia can organize a Year-in-Review topic. Members who enjoy affiliation should serve as Ambassadors to greet and mentor new members. Members who seek reputation will appreciate new outlets for publishing. Define multiple pathways that strategically tap into the diverse desires of your members. As you implement your initiatives to build a Community of Excellence, take the time to relate the initiative to the Elements of Value (Attachment: IPS Elements of Value Attachment.pdf). You’ll find new and creative ways of offering value to strengthen the relationship between your community and your members. Look deep within your community to unearth the rainbow spectrum of value. You’ll discover a wellspring of extraordinary value waiting to help your members shine brightest. View the full article
  24. I'm only one month in to starting a new community and I've already learned a huge amount. I was a little apprehensive at first but I'm taking things one step at a time and I'm happy with how things are going so far. The points I'm going to raise are working for me but I'm a beginner and running a website of any description is new. Nothing here is guaranteed and I hope to receive comments from established community admins so I can continue to improve. The first thing I realised is that I wasn't actually starting a community but instead I'm going to be bringing new tools and ideas to an already existing one. My chosen subject is broad (Dogs) so there is already a well established real life community globally. My aim therefore is not to replicate already available content but to reach this community with unique content and encourage them to contribute their own. More on that later but before I could do that I needed something they could visit. The new community site Get Started You can spend days and weeks planning and writing business plans and these are all good things to do alongside everything else but they shouldn't stop you getting started. The only thing that really mattered to me was starting on the actual idea and to do that all I needed was a platform. You've probably already guessed but Invision Community was chosen for this as it offered multiple apps that would allow me to have both long form articles and forum content. There's also the monetisation options that appealed to me but I am not yet using. It's good to know they are there when I'm ready though. I also considered Wordpress but it lacked the community tools I was already sold on. Rope in friends and family and use their skill sets I'm not scared to admit where I need help and as I have hit problems or things I don't know I have called in favours. I don't have a large budget for stock photography subscriptions so a friend is providing photos in exchange for attribution. My fiance is more technically minded so he has helped with some of the set up and help with Invision Community features is only a support ticket away. There is plenty of general information a quick web search away too but some topics are complex and I thought that if I could free up at least some of my time I can keep focussed on the direction. Help can be as simple as nudging friends into posting new topics or comments to get some initial activity and momentum. It's also a good test to make sure you have everything set up with your registration process and identify some potential problems. These helpers are also now active members of the site of course so it's a two for one. I'm sure they'll be calling in return favours at some point but that's fine, they've earned it. Encourage all contributions even if you don't agree with them Coming from a primary school teaching background I see kids come up with lots of crazy and novel ideas all the time, they might sound silly but you never know, they may grow into something bigger. My aim is to foster a sense of community and belonging and people of all ages who have their ideas valued tend to stick around. If an idea doesn't work that's fine but you never know what will work so I'm trying lots of things and encouraging innovation. The forums are a great tool for this as everything doesn't need to be rigidly structured. Be passionate and confident about your subject matter Perhaps my top tip…If you don't value your own thoughts and actions then how can you expect others to? Show your enthusiasm and knock away negative thoughts and doubts. Use all of your tools Once you've encouraged your initial core group of members, you need to keep them coming back. So far I've had success using the bulk mail feature for a monthly newsletter to rekindle the interest of early members who may no longer be as active. I was warned about bad email pracices so I have our notification defaults set very loosely as I want to build trust by not spamming. Everything I send is opt-in and using the newsletter signup block I've been able to make this prominent but not obtrusive. I'm worried I might be missing out by not being aggressive enough with email but it's a risk I'm taking to hopefully get better long term members. Get involved with your member activities and conversations Join in with conversations on your community where it makes sense and be as active as possible. You're running a website but to do so you don't always need to be in front of a computer. Speak to your members face to face as well as through the keyboard. I've been going on local dog walks with clubs and other community groups which is a great chance to network and give your members and potential members the chance to see the people behind the website. If there are events or shows in your field get involved and spread the word verbally. I'm talking to dog owners face to face about behavioural issues and always in the back of my mind is the fact this could be discussed on the website to help others and build activity. Over time these "real world" relationships should also be represented on the website too. Don't get distracted I've got into the habit of using a reminders app to keep track of future things I want to do. It is tempting to start lots of things every time you have a new idea but that can take your mind off what is actually important right now. Don't forget about these ideas though, make a note and come back to them later. Approvals and applications for things can also take time. I found myself sometimes sitting around waiting for adsense accounts to be approved or Facebook apps to be verified for sign in. Don't let this downtime be unproductive. Keep writing new content What we have started as new community admins isn't easy, it's going to be a long haul so you need to be consistent and regular with updates. On that note I have a breed profile about Chow Chows to write. Thanks for listening to my ramblings and if you have any more tips please let me know in the comments. Helen is a year 3 international primary school teacher currently living in Slovakia. She loves dogs (of course), books, and reading whenever possible. She has travelled extensively for work, particularly in South East Asia and has experienced many amazing cultures. She is a qualified Zumba dance fitness instructor and is now building what she hopes to be an invaluable resource for dog owners. https://doglymail.com/ View the full article
  25. We want to ensure that converting from your existing community platform to ours is as seamless as possible. While we do have a migration service available where we take care of everything for you, we do also offer a DIY option. We took some time to overhaul the conversion process for those opting to convert using our free tools. Ready to convert? So you've just purchased your first copy of Invision Community, and you're ready to convert your existing site over from another software package. Great! We're glad you've made the decision to take your community to the next level! You've already checked out our Migrations page, confirmed the software you wish to convert from is supported, and you're confident in your ability to work through the process. You install the Converters package and you're ready to go. Lets get started! We have overhauled the converters to simplify the process. Beginning with 4.4, you will take the following steps to convert from another software package: Rather than choose the application you wish to convert first, you will now choose what software you are converting from, which is a much more logical start to a conversion. Next, you will supply the database details for your source database (the database you wish to convert into your new Invision Community). Then, you will see a list of all applications that can be converted for the software package you are converting from. If any applications cannot be converted (perhaps because you were not previously using the corresponding application in your source software), a message will be shown indicating there is nothing to convert. If any steps require additional configuration, you will be able to specify those details here. And finally, when you submit that form - that's it! You're done, and you can sit back and let the conversion process on its own. Each step for each application will be completed automatically, and the conversion will be finalized automatically at the end. A progress bar will be shown, along with a textual indicator that outlines exactly what is being converted. What does it look like? conversion.mp4 Here's a quick video to illustrate the new conversion process. The system even remembers where you were at and automatically picks back up where you left off. Closing your browser, losing internet connectivity, or some other unforeseen issue won't stop you dead in your tracks and force you to start all over again. We hope that these updates make it even easier to switch from another community platform. View the full article

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