Looking for ideas about Member Advisory Boards


(Todd Nilson) #1

One of my current customers is in the process of migrating their large, long-established, open community (begun in 2007!) from a tottering legacy platform to a shiny new online community experience. The majority of users in this community are women in the 40+ age demographic category. It is a highly invested membership, many of whom return to the the site daily to post blogs, comments, and private messages related to changing a health-related behavior.

Keeping the community members highly engaged during this change process is extremely important, so the team is looking at identifying a group of members who can be kept informed of the planned migration to the new platform and used as a sounding board to help us manage changes to functionality.

I’m looking for input from the FeverBee community members to see if you’ve assembled similar sorts of advisory groups. Here are a few questions that have come up in the course of my discussions with the internal team:

  • What are your criteria for inviting members to join such a group?
  • Was participation on the board paid or unpaid?
  • Did you specify duties associated with being a member?
  • Did you specify a term of membership (e.g. 1 year) in such a group?
  • Should membership be limited to longtime members or is there value in inviting newer members to a group such as this?
  • What other considerations are there for starting and maintaining such a group over the long haul?
  • What do you see as the pitfalls of having a member advisory group? What should we watch out for?
  • What benefits have you realized because you had such a group?

Thanks in advance for sharing your collective wisdom here!


(Alena Rybik) #2

Hi Todd!

We have a similar internal advisory group in our community through which we run almost every major
decision.

Here are the answers to your questions:

  1. We usually invite members who have been active for a long time, have shown good behaviour record, sane
    approach to our product and community. But all in all, it’s more of a gut feeling.

  2. We “pay” them with our internal currency - they can basically use the product for free as long as they are members of the board.

  3. Yes, we set certain guidelines, so they know what volume and quality of output we expect from them.

  4. Not sure I understand this question 100%, but I’ll try to reply anyway. They sign a special agreement
    with us, including a non-disclosure clause.

  5. We’ve had a very good experience with inviting newer members to this group, I’d say it’s based on
    their activity rather than how long they’ve been a member. I would definitely be open to newer players, just be clear about your reasons.

  6. In the long run it’s becoming a community within a community. It’s usually a tighter group and they
    enjoy hanging out with each other, rather than going “out there”. So, in a way, you can lose some of your previously active members.

  7. From our experience - the sense of ownership. A lot of our members felt entitled to more than we intitally thought and it led to some frustrations, when we didn’t implement their feedback or we asked for their input on a specific issue and they would give a whole ton of feedback on the general decision. So, make sure to be very clear right away about what kind of feedback you expect from them and set the boundaries of your communication and collaboration. And, of course, communicate a lot.

  8. At least for us this group is invaluable. They represent our customer base and know the community better than we do, so their input always brings a fresh angle. We of course save a lot of time and money on research and development, as well as testing (our members act as product testers of unreleased features as well). Sometimes, when we simply can not come up with the solution for some issue, we just ask them - and it’s been working amazingly well.

Hope this helps and feel free to ask any furtehr questions.


(Todd Nilson) #3

@alenarybik thank you so much! This is very helpful. What I meant by “term” is did you say it was a 1 year appointment or limit how long someone could actually serve on the board?

We’ve actually been considering a broader secondary group with lesser involvement but who’d still like to be kept up to date about what’s going on with the migration project. We are envisioning that the larger, low commitment group, will serve as a place to recruit new members over time, too.

Your insights are great! Really appreciate your thoughts.


(Alena Rybik) #4

Glad I could help Todd! I like the idea of a secondary group serving as a candidate pool for the main board! As long as you have enough good members :wink:

Ah ok, I see what you mean by “term”. No, we don’t have a set one, some people have been members of our board since the inception phase (>7 years). We do however run quarterly evaluations and remove people who have not been active or living up to the group expectations, so the turnover is pretty high.


(Nick Donoghue) #5

Hi Todd

Our business-2-business communities have Advisory Boards to help steer decision making & focus of resource/activity.

What are your criteria for inviting members to join such a group? - depends, we try to take a sample from different member groups to ensure the board are a representative voice of the community. However, sometimes its a good opportunity to get the biggest influencers or the most critical from our clients perspective around the table together.

Was participation on the board paid or unpaid? Unpaid, they benefit from being part of the decision making process & the networking that goes with it.

Did you specify duties associated with being a member? Yes - we have a simple charter they agree to.

Did you specify a term of membership (e.g. 1 year) in such a group? Membership is rotated, but often terms are open ended assuming all parties are happy with involvement

Should membership be limited to longtime members or is there value in inviting newer members to a group such as this? - Definitely a value in getting a broad perspective, if you just have more experienced members it can start to become a closed shop.

What do you see as the pitfalls of having a member advisory group? What should we watch out for? They bond tightly together, and then exert too much influence on the overall direction of the community. This can be managed, but worth being aware of in the longer run.

What benefits have you realized because you had such a group? A voice of the community at the decision making table. New ideas and offers of help/support that would otherwise not have come up.

I’d strongly encourage you to try and meet your board in-person (and them meet each other). Virtual boards never get quite the same bonding/traction.

Hope that helps
Nick


(Todd Nilson) #6

These are great thoughts, @Nick_Donoghue. Thanks for sharing the advice, especially about trying to meet the board in person and the heads up about the amount of influence they will exert.