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?