Re-engaging a new community


(Nigel Amyes) #1

Hello from Sydney Australia!

I’m so happy I’ve found this community, I have recently been given the title of ‘Community Manager’ for a new government online community and have NO IDEA how I’m going to turn this little project around, or even where to start! It’s literally like a tangled fishing line has been handed to me (complete with 4,252 un-engaged and certainly not active members) to sort out and get on the straight and narrow.

My directors have little to no knowledge of how online communities work… except that they need someone to run it all, oh and that they want it to start generating revenue ASAP. You can imagine my joy when I discovered that there is a whole community of community managers that know what they are talking about!

It’s gonna be a learning curve to say the least but a challenge I’m up for! Hopefully I can contribute something here along the way… even though I’m an absolute beginner, yes there will likely be a TON of questions from me!

Looking forward to learning and growing with you all.


First time here? Welcome!
Questions to ask a fledgling community
(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hello! I’m just over the ditch in Auckland, and @phil has recently landed on your shores. Nice to have someone in my timezone for a change!

Love it. Glad you found us. What is the biggest stress right now? Do you know what the primary goal of the community is? How are they hoping you’ll generate revenue?

(Nigel Amyes) #3

Thanks for the welcome @HAWK nice to know you’re more or less local! I’m originally from Dunedin :slight_smile:

To answer your questions, hopefully, the community is actually part of an events company so the revenue generation will be through selling tickets to the events and training we offer as well as the obvious dollars that can be made by offering sponsors access to a captive government audience.

My biggest stress right now is coming to terms with my new role, the membership and actually giving them something to engage with. Currently the 4,252 members have signed up to be apart of a community that shares and discusses all things government but until now it’s been a case that people who attend our events have been asked to sign up (so they have) but there is nothing there to keep them there or even get them chatting. Most have not completed their profiles and the discussion boards remain unused.

There is a ton of work to do around user experience too! Right now it seems like there are not enough hours in the day hahaha

Would you suggest a good place to start might be to ask the members what it is they want from the community? or why they initially joined OR try to get the discussion boards up and running by seeding discussions and engaging champions for different areas??

(Sarah Hawk) #4

First up, I’m going to split this into a new topic so it doesn’t get lost in the noise. :slight_smile:

Usually we’d recommend that the best place to start is to build a community around an existing need. Before launching you interview prospective members to find out what challenge they need solved and at that point you start to conceptualise.

If no one is using the community now, you’re essentially in that position anyway, but you’ll need to reverse engineer a bit.

So yes – talk to your members but don’t ask them what they want from the community because they won’t know (or they’ll tell you what they think it’s supposed to be for but won’t ever use it). Ask them what their current challenges are. You need to find a compelling reason for them to need to use the community. It needs to solve something for them that they can’t solve elsewhere. Here is a list of questions that we ask when interviewing potential members. You could adapt it a bit to suit.

Your next step is to engage champions, yes. In the early stages we call them founding members. You need to find a core group of people that will engage heavily at the start, form relationships with each other, and act as a ‘micro community’ from which you can grow. You can use the interviews above to get a feel for who might be interested in being part of that group, and start to build relationships.

This article will be helpful to you also.

Does that give you some direction?

(Nigel Amyes) #5

Thanks for this @hawk it’s EXACTLY what I need to get started! It looks like it’s going to be a long road to begin with to straighten this mess out but I’m confident I can do it. Seems like there are SO MANY things to consider and do at once. Our platform is wordpress based and that alone is proving to have restrictions when it comes to discussion boards… what is the platform you use for this community called? I love the look and functionality of it all.

(Sarah Hawk) #6

You’re welcome.

This is Discourse. We have it integrated with WordPress to provide the blogging functionality.

What are you finding restrictive about your current platform?

(Nigel Amyes) #7

Aha! I guess it’s not wordpress itself I’m having issues with it’s the actual plugin the developers have used for the discussion boards, I think it’s BuddyPress?

I went to start seeding the boards we have with some initial posts yesterday that contained images (infographics) that we had created from our last event, unfortunately, I found that you can’t post images as a topic… or so my developer tells me. I noticed that Discourse not only looks nice but seems easier to use from a user stand point, could be something that makes my wish list for the future :slight_smile:

(Sarah Hawk) #8

BuddyPress and BBPress are both forum board options for WP. They’re pretty basic but both can be fairly heavily customised. TBH I’m surprised that you can’t add an image. Check out our (work in progress) member platform directory for other WP users that might be able to give you some advice or pointers.

I can also dig up some examples of other communities on BB/BP if that’s helpful.

Are you able to link to your community or would you rather keep it private?

(Nigel Amyes) #9

The community is an exclusive government only kind of affair that is closed door… having said that I would be happy to approve a ‘membership’ if you wanted to have a look and suggest ways forward.

The other examples would be a great help too, I can then use them as ammo to pass onto my developers

(Sarah Hawk) #10

Here you go:

(Nigel Amyes) #11

Brilliant! Thanks for this… and these are all forums using buddypress or bbpress? Looking through them there are definitely ideas we could implement to make our community better. I can’t seem to find any posts that have images within the actual content of the post though… is this a restriction of the plugin or is it possible to develop it so images like infographics can be posted? I guess at very least we could post the infographic somewhere else and link to it.

(Sarah Hawk) #12

Almost certainly BBPress. BuddyPress is designed for social network building, rather than forums. You’ll be able tell by viewing the source code of the homepage and searching for both terms.

It looks like you have both installed on your site.

And it looks like your dev is right – you can’t post images directly into posts using BuddyPress. That is pretty restrictive!

(Todd Nilson) #13

Hello @nigel_a, I know that BuddyPress can be something of a bear. There are plugin alternatives. You might look into PeepSo as a social platform exclusive to WordPress as well. It’s more up-to-date and has great flexibility to add other elements of community. Discourse is quite good at living in WordPress instances as well as @HAWK points out.

If it would be helpful to you, I’d be happy to hop on a Skype call with you to talk through your technology options. Private message me to let me know and I can send you my details.

(Nigel Amyes) #14

Hey @Todd_Nilson thanks for the suggestion, I’m currently putting together a case to our developer to drop BuddyPress and move towards something more like Discourse. I’ll check out PeepSo as well, thankfully, at this stage no one is using the discussion boards we have set up, so I’m hoping the move will be an easy one AND inspire our members to start using them! Will let you know if I have any questions.

(hellekin wolf) #15

Hi @nigel_a,

as the new community manager, you could try sending a short message to all members introducing your role and asking them to tip you about the community. Something along those lines:

Good morning [community name] members,

I’m Nigel, your new community manager. Stepping in front of 4252 people feels a bit like entering a bar and everybody stops talking and looks at you, well, me.

If I had one thing to do right now to make you happy with this community, what would that be?


In order to get you started with online community management, I’d recommend reading my list over there at Meta:

(Sarah Hawk) #16

Heh, I love the tone of that note. Approachable.

(Nigel Amyes) #17

@how Thanks for this… Brilliant message! Love it in it’s simplicity and I’m sure it will get the same smile from the recipient of the email as it got from me.

(hellekin wolf) #18

Keep us updated :slight_smile: