Where do I go from here?- Core Members

(Lacey Horta) #1

Hello Everyone!

Looking to learn from the experience of others.

In January 2017 after months of building relationships I was able to recruit 14 core members. I have created a private group for core members to connect with each other and myself. I have suggested roles where they can get involved and have left things fairly open. Initially members were doing a great job welcoming new members and insuring every post got a response. They have also been great about providing feedback about the site and participating in discussions.

The last three weeks or so things have tapered off. The core group appears to be less engaged. I feel like they need more structured-set roles. How do I assign these roles without scaring them away with a time commitment.

For those of you who have core members can you help me with the following:

Do you assign specific roles right away?
Do your members commit to spending a specific amount of time on the site?
Do you have a private place for Core Members to connect? If so is it utilized?
How do you recruit new members?
Do your members have admin privileges? Are they able to move/delete posts?
how do you recognize the core group for their contributions?
Are the other members aware of who the Core Members are?

If you were me, what would your next step be…

(FYI-I moderate a community for cancer patients and their families)

Any help is much appreciated!

(Sarah Hawk) #2

Hey @lacey_ccs – superusers! My current favourite topic.

Warning: super long post!

Converting your founding members into superusers makes sense if you want to formalise what they do and motivate them with recognition, but I’d also ask them why their engagement has dropped off. There might be something else that you need to address.

Regardless, here are some answers to your questions.

Do you assign specific roles right away?
At this early stage, just go for one role. As the community grows, you can branch out. Your current founding members already have a role and have been doing it. You can formalise it with structure, but with a group of 14 it doesn’t need to be complicated.

Tell them that you’re launching to the wider audience and you want to recognise the important work that they do by formalising it into a program that demonstrates how much you value them.

Do your members commit to spending a specific amount of time on the site?
This one is a bit tricky because although you want to make sure that they all carry their weight to avoid some burning out, you’re getting into tricky legal ground if you enforce a time commitment for volunteers. Lots of programs do, but don’t reward people according to the time they spend, or kick them off the program if they don’t meet the commitment.

The safest approach is to motivate people to spend more time online by allowing them to re/qualify for the program when they do.

Do you have a private place for Core Members to connect? If so is it utilized?
Giving program members a private place to connect is very important. It is also the place that you will use to communicate with them. Successful programs encourage members to build really strong relationships with each other. That helps to spread the workload (they don’t want their friends to burn out) and keep them intrinsically motivated.

Start small with a private forum/category on your existing platform if that’s possible. Depending on the nature of your community, this might also be a place where they can connect with members of your organisation (make them feel important with an inside line) and find relevant program documentation, support and training material.

How do you recruit new members?
There are two common approaches taken here:

  • Data driven (based on previous activity) – using information pulled from your platform to identify people that have been the most effective in carrying out the job previously. In the early stages this might be anecdotal (you’ll know who is performing the behaviour that you need).

  • Nomination or application (based on expected future activity) – allowing people to apply or nominate others according to how well they fit a set of predefined criteria.

Since you’re starting small, I’d shoulder-tap people that you think fit the mould in your community. Persuade them with flattery. Make sure you put a timeframe on it (e.g. they have to re-qualify each year) so that you both have an easy out if it’s not working.

Do your members have admin privileges? Are they able to move/delete posts?
Depends on how easy it is to assign partial mod rights on your platform, and whether you trust them enough. I’d start small (let them move posts) and build on it if you think it’ll work.

Don’t jump in at the deep end and put pressure on people to make stressful decisions. That said, it can be used as a incentive/motivator (allow the most active/effective superusers to have mod rights).

How do you recognize the core group for their contributions?
This is where you need to be super careful. If you give them gifts you walk a fine legal line, and you’re also extrinsically motivating them. I’d go for things like mod rights, badges, member spotlights, access to your team/organisation etc.

Are the other members aware of who the Core Members are?
They need to be, yes. You need to communicate the value of those members in order to (a) motivate others to perform the behaviour so that you have a pool to recruit from and (b) make the existing superusers feel like they are valued if you want them to continue to perform.

If you were me, what would your next step be…
Plan your superuser program as you would a micro-community. What is the goal? What do members need to do? Why would they want to do it? How will you reward them? You need to be very clear about those aspects of it. If you go into this without structure, your members won’t feel like you’re taking it seriously and they’ll walk.

Happy to help you flesh this out further.

Calling @MHCommMgr into this topic because she has recently designed a superuser program in a health community. Can you talk us through your process Kendra?

(Lacey Horta) #3

Hey @HAWK!

Thank you so much for your detailed response! Such helpful tips and information!

I think one of the reasons why activity has dropped off is because it is not structured enough, and I have not formally recognized them in the community. I am definitely going to focus on providing them with a bit more training, and recognize them in the group. We are also working on implementing a badge system so they will be recognized that way! Another key part would be finding ways for them to connect with each other more.

You have given me so much to think about… THANK YOU


(Wouter Schrijvershof) #4

Interesting topic!

I think it is important to distinguish between superusers and moderators. One does not have to be the other.

A superuser is someone who can bring impact to the community. Be it by knowledge, interaction, knowing a lot of people (inside and outside the community) or providing unique content.

The online radio station I do volunteer work for has a great amount of DJ’s who all provide wonderful content. Some draw in more listeners than others and some promote their own show (and thus the station) more than others. Some are involved with labels, managing artists or setup their own parties.
The superusers here are the ones that bring in a lot of (new) listeners, know a lot of fellow DJ’s and generate content that is above and beyond, all in the service of the station and without pay.
We also have a crew to moderate the chat, the forums and a crew section were we do the behind the scenes stuff. The majority of the crewmembers do DJ but some of them do not. They are not the superusers the ‘superstar’ DJ’s are, but yet they are crucial as well.

To make it short and simple. Every moderator can be a superuser, not every superuser can be a moderator. Keep that in mind.

(Richard Millington) #5

Agree with almost everything above.

Only thing I’d add is that you’re probably going to need more than 14 members to really get this thing going. Especially if it’s on a platform that isn’t part of existing habits.

Can you ramp this up to something closer to 50? I feel like you’re going to need a little more mass here (unless this group really knows each other well.

(Lacey Horta) #6

" Every moderator can be a superuser, not every superuser can be a moderator. Keep that in mind." This is very true I would say my Core Members are more so under the category of Super User with the exception of two users who I could see giving privileges to because they moderate other sites.

@richard_millington- I agree I definitely need more! Does it makes sense to look at the average daily activity level and decide on how many core members I need from there? Or is it the more the better kind of deal? The struggle working in a health community for me is that I find the most available and willing core members are cancer survivors or people who are at least finished treatment. It seems like they feel more confident providing support once they have gotten through initial treatment- which I get. I do have a few users still in treatment and they have done a great job connecting with others in active treatment. @colleenyoung do you have any suggestions regarding the number of core members I should have on cancerconnection? Do you find that in health communities it’s survivors or people whose disease is under control that are best for Core Members?

From viewing other discussions on the forum I am now looking at doing a short training webex with my core members to demonstrate that this is a serious gig.I’m also considering having a one on one phone conversations to talk about their interests. @HAWK I’m interested in yours and others thoughts on this.

In terms of recognition we would like them to have a badge in the community. But do to lack of funds we likely will not be able to add this anytime soon. So we are looking at another workaround. I noticed on another thread the community had core members sign an agreement? Have others done this?

Thanks in advance for your help,

(Sarah Hawk) #7

I think that’s a really good idea. The programs that succeed are the ones that make members feel valued and listened to. Not everyone is into phone calls so I’d make sure you’re not making people do something uncomfortable, but getting to the bottom of their motivations for belonging is going to be key.

Be very careful about this. In essence that’s a contract, and will put you on dodgy legal ground in some countries. I’m unsure about Canadian law. It’s probably safer not to have any formal signed documentation if you can avoid it (and it sounds like you can).

(Lacey Horta) #8


Thanks for the feedback! Especially about the agreement good to know that it isn’t something that is necessary or commonly done.

(Colleen Young) #9

Hi @lacey_ccs,
I’m going to use the same question headers that @Hawk did to add my experience to date.

We call our core members Mentors on Connect, a patient online community. These are superusers who are regularly active and who have displayed mentor-type qualities. Read more here: https://connect.mayoclinic.org/about-our-moderators-and-mentors/#mentors

Do you assign specific roles right away?
Mentors are invited to this role. The invitation is based on demonstrated behaviour, therefore the role I wish them to perform has already been “chosen” by them and displayed in the community. The invitation starts with encouraging them to continue this valuable behaviour and giving it recognition. That’s where we start, then I coach on how they might expand that role, but I don’t assign it per se. It is their chosen role.

Do your members commit to spending a specific amount of time on the site?
Orientation is mandatory which involves a minimum 1 hour training, signing up for the private group where they get ongoing coaching. Because it is respectful to give people a sense of expected time commitment, I set the bar at 2-3 hours/ week, but most of my mentors do 3-5 hours daily. They are very motivated and I put a fair amount of effort into keeping them motivated because they are the reason we can scale.

Do you have a private place for Core Members to connect? If so is it utilized?
YES. This is our main communication vehicle. I assign tasks, give kudos, tips, updates and more through the private group. Giving them updates before the rest of the community gives them a sense of exclusivity. They test new things or provide input before we build.

Mostly, I use it to give thanks and praise. I often highlight something that a mentor has done well by way of example, which in turn encourages other mentors to adopt this behaviour. I use @hawk’s pre-pending model and pre-pend the discussion topics with [Kudos] [Task] [Tip] [Update] [Help Needed].

How do you recruit new members?
There are two common approaches taken here:
Right now we invite members to be mentors based on their activity, behaviour and quality of posts. Members can request to become a mentor, but we haven’t pushed that yet and no one has asked to be a mentor yet.

Do your members have admin privileges? Are they able to move/delete posts?
I haven’t given mentors any admin privileges. At this point there wouldn’t be an advantage to their having that privilege.

How do you recognize the core group for their contributions?
I say thank you often and many different ways: by private message, as kudos in the private group, acknowledgement within the public discussions when they post great messages. I’ve also invited our Director to post a message to them, as well as our Medical Director. Hearing from VIPs goes a long way.

I also make a point of feeding back stories and data to them about the success of the community. I share graphs of growth, but also of a-ha moments that staff and physicians have had when I present the patient community to them. I asked their permission to share their stories and avatars in my presentations. I gave a keynote in Australia and featured them. Then I took a picture of the audience waving to them and sent it to them right after the keynote. It was as if they came with me. I was surprised at how much they appreciated that simple gesture.

They have been featured in blog posts and articles, as well as in our onboarding email sequence. And the big thing I’m cooking up right now is a national meeting for all the mentors at Mayo Clinic headquarters in May so they can meet in person and get additional training.

Are the other members aware of who the Core Members are?
Yes, Volunteer Mentor is attached to their username and avatar.

Currently, we have 15 mentors. We have over 30 groups, so ideally I want to have at least one mentor per group.

(Colleen Young) #10

@lacey_ccs I do not have our mentors sign an agreement. I do however provide them with an orientation package, which includes guidelines on self-care.

(Lacey Horta) #11

@colleenyoung- Thank you for your detailed response. I really appreciate you taking the time. Do you remember the engagement plan you wrote up for us in 2013?? I have been working from that and I am now looking to keep the momentum going. I have already found it so helpful to have a core group on the community. We have seen huge growth over the last 5 months or so.

Connect is a wonderful support community, that I frequently visit!

Thanks again,