Reflecting on The Low Road

Fred Wilson has a great post about community. It captures the sentiment of DemoCamp, Founders & Funders, and StartupNorth, which shouldn’t be a surprise given the related nature of these vehicles to the communities that read Fred’s blogs. But more importantly you can see the sentiment in my posts:

It’s about building the connections between the people. The greater the number of connections between different nodes allows more opportunities for the exchange of value. Whether this is because the group is large, or because the opportunities are more valuable. DemoCamps are events. But they bring people together. They give them the opportunity to connect. To take the stage. To learn. But it’s supposed to be about the connections with others, it’s about the beers in the bar afterwards. It is a social event. Founders & Funders is a social event. There is no stage. There is no pretension. It’s about the realization that their is an opportunity to connect socially with the people that start high potential companies and the people that fund them.

Read the poem in Fred’s post.

A couple days ago my son “graduated” from 8th grade and in the moving up ceremony his teacher read this section of a poem called The Low Road by Marge Piercy. As she was reading the poem, it made me think of this community and what it means to me. So this is for all of you.

 —————-

Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organisation. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

The Adoption Funnel & Evangelism Marketing

Cross posted on CommunityNorth.ca

Evangelism is…

It was used more in the evangelistic sense of preaching, pounding on the pavement, getting the job done, taking the battle to the customer – all that stuff. And that’s the sense. It was kind of a good way of saying that this is a real intellectual sales and marketing kind of hype job (laughs). – Guy Kawasaki

Evangelism is a sales and marketing kind of hype job. It really says it all. It’s all very simple, it’s about instilling a strong sense of loyalty amongst employees and/or customers such that they want to talk about your products. You get people to believe and they in turn get more people to believe. The difference is between sales and evangelism is between who is doing the preaching.

Sales is rooted in what’s good for me. Evangelism is rooted in what’s good for you. – Guy Kawasaki

Ulimately, evangelism is about “bringing good news” based on the Billy Graham Evangelistic Associations Ambassadors program. Fortunately, this has been digested and broken down into a marketing program. Jackie Huba and Ben McConnell have a great blog and 2 great books:

Creating Customer Evangelists: How Loyal Customers Become a Volunteer Sales Force
by Ben McConnell, Jackie Huba

Read more about this book…

Citizen Marketers: When People Are the Message
by Ben McConnell, Jackie Huba

Read more about this book…

Jackie and Ben present a framework where “the ultimate goal is to create communities of influencers who drive sales or membership for your company or organization”.

  1. Customer plus-delta: Continuously gather customer feedback.
  2. Napsterize knowledge: Make it a point to share knowledge freely.
  3. Build the buzz: Expertly build word-of-mouth networks.
  4. Create community: Encourage communities of customers to meet and share.
  5. Make bite-size chunks: Devise specialized, smaller offerings to get customers to bite.
  6. Create a cause: Focus on making the world, or your industry, better.

We’re talking about using evangelism techniques to build community and drive revenue. This is very different than the altruistic ideals behind my involvement with BarCamp, DemoCamp and other.

Is there a difference between evangelism marketing and community evangelism?

Community lifecycle

Gordon makes reference to the customer lifecycle to as a method for thinking about the participants in community activities. Bruce Clay and Janet Ryan elaborate on the buying continuum:buying-model

  • Reach – Claim someone’s attention
  • Acquisition – Bring that person into your sphere of influence 
  • Conversion – Turn that person into a paying customer
  • Retention – Keep that person as a customer
  • Loyalty – Turn that person into an advocate

This model is tied very tightly to customer purchasing behaviour and presents a model for marketing to customers. It applies to community, but a lot of metrics are different. Most of the metrics are tied to purchasing behaviour. 

Reach

Early in the launch of TorCamp and DemoCamp, reach was a primary goal. By identifying key people who I wanted to participate, i.e., in social marketing speak the influencers, you just create vanity links to them. The other big challenge early in starting DemoCamp was fairly nerd-oriented using only RSS and a wiki for the initial planning and organizing of events and activities. This probably reduced the understanding of what the community was about and the ability for non-techies to join in the conversation.

Tactics

  • Advertising
  • Blogging in particular vanity linking for key influencers
  • Commenting on other blogs
  • Participation on other sites
    • Twitter
    • Facebook
    • Flickr
    • Slideshare
  • Common Tagging
  • Podcasting

Acquisition

This is making the content accessible and understandable to a large audience.

The efforts here

Tactics and Tools

  • Low cost and low effort event registration
    • Free for new attendees, pay what you can
  • Open participation format

Conversion

In the TorCamp and DemoCamp world, conversion is less about creating paying customers but about getting people to an event. This has included a very simple mantra of “build it an they will come”. By drawing a line in the sand, i.e., finding a venue and hosting an event the idea was this was an actionable item that people could begin their participation.

Tactics and Tools

  • Low cost and low effort event registration
    • Free for new attendees, pay what you can
  • Open participation architecture
  • Mailing list signup
  • RSS subscription
  • Shared event calendar
    • Make it easy to find out when events are happening

Retention

In the case of DemoCamp is pretty simple, get people to return to a future event.

Tactics and Tools

  • High quality content and invited presenters
  • Personal connections to existing community members
    • Community ambassadors
  • Shared event calendar
    • Make it easy to find out when events are happening

Loyalty

Loyalty is a challenging activity. As part of the DemoCamp activities this has been embraced by 2 primary activities, “tell someone that you think should attend the next DemoCamp” and it’s “the derivatives that matter most”. We focused on the early DemoCampToronto events by making sure people were encouraged to invite others. Also embracing events and groups that are separate from the original vision including CaseCamp, MoMoCamp, FacebookCamp, DrupalCampToronto and others.

Loyalty is what drives reach.

Tactics and Tools

  • Create advocates and evangelists that invite others to the event
  • Blogging, photos, podcasts, etc. using common tagging by attendees
  • Create new events using similar format and DNA

Measuring community success

How do you know if a community is succeeding? Is the Toronto community a success?

My Toronto community wrangling efforts have not had a corporate master. It has allowed the community to evolve without the tooling or reporting that is often present in corporate activities. The meme used to seed the community has evolved but has always been about the altruistic value of having a strong community. It was built on the premise of participation, i.e., participation equates to citizenship.

The premise is that everyone attending must present something. This is great, it ensures participation.   2005/9/30 – BarCampToronto

It’s funny, because we then immediately broke with participation for DemoCampToronto2.

Do I have to have a demo?

Nope! You are welcome to come along and give feedback to the people who do (or just watch and absorb if you don’t feel like talking).

But we had a very clear mission:

we want to continue to develop an active startup community in Toronto.

The idea being that for startups in Toronto we need a common meeting place. DemoCamp is about bringing together a community. “The community is the framework” is the underlying mantra. By brining people together who have shared interests new things can develop. New relationships. New companies. New ideas. New employees. It has been about meeting people, making connections, learning, sharing, finding inspiration and generally getting excited about all of the cool things going on in Toronto.

In the process the number of people attending the events has grown. From 26 attendees at DemoCampToronto1, to over 400 at DemoCampToronto17. We’ve had corporate sponsors. We have pitches. We’ve had a lot of really cool demos, presentations and discussions. DemoCamp has happened in spite of a corporate mission. The costs were low enough that it could fly under the radar, there weren’t metrics associated with the $400 sponsorships. As the event grew, we just grew the number of sponsors. It was pretty straight forward. As the event has grown the costs have changed. The venues have changed. The presentation format has changed. But because it’s been about having an event where people in the Toronto community can show what they’ve been working on; meet others doing interesting things; and knowing the event was for the community.

Measuring Success

For everyone that thought this was going to be about the future of DemoCamp, sorry to disappoint you, but I’ve started to think about DemoCamp as a microcosm for community and why companies get involved.

It’s best when the events are directly aligned with the marketing efforts of the organizations involved. FacebookCampToronto is hosted by Refresh Partners and Trapeze Media and sponsored by Facebook. Refresh Partners is a social media marketing firm. Hosting events like FacebookCamp Toronto enable them to demonstrate their expertise and influence in the market place. It helps establish thought leadership and market expertise. And hopefully it should be pretty obvious why Facebook, would sponsor events like FacebookCamp or Facebook Developers Garage. The idea is the value of Facebook as a platform increases as the number of developers, the number of applications and the number of users increase – similar to Metcalfe’s Law describing the value of the a telecommunications network. One of the reasons for focusing on growing the number of attendees at DemoCamp and embracing outside groups (“it’s the derivatives that matter most”), has been Reed’s Law, being technology agnositic has allowed the group to grow and while it enables the formation of smaller subgroups, the overall utility of being a DemoCamp or TorCamp participant increases with the number of people.

Measuring success for the events and the tools is pretty straight forward.

  • Unique Attendees or Visitors
  • Registrations or New Memberships
  • Presentation/Demo Submissions
  • Attendee Loyalty (aka Turnover)

These are very similar metrics to the ROI dimensions reported in OCRN’s Online Community ROI [PDF – 1.28Mb] report and Online Community Metrics [PDF – 455kb].

OCRN Online Community Metrics – Question 12: Which community metrics do you track?

  Very Important Moderately Important Not Important No Collected
Unique Visitors 62% 26% 12% 10%
New Member Registrations 62% 21% 17% 12%
Page Views 57% 26% 17% 12%
Retention / Attrition 50% 22% 5% 22%
Member Loyalty 46% 12% 0% 41%
Member Satisfaction 44% 12% 2% 41%
Most Active Members 43% 40% 5% 14%
Top Searches 40% 30% 2% 30%
Message Posts 38% 48% 14% 12%
Conversion 38% 18% 5% 40%
Advertising Performance 32% 20% 0% 49%
Influencer/Evangelist Identification 32% 29% 2% 37%
Member Lifecycle 28% 22% 2% 50%
First Time Contributors 24% 27% 10% 39%
Content Rating 22% 22% 2% 52%
Ratio: Unregistered to Registered Visitors 17% 34% 12% 37%
Ratio: Page Views Per Post 15% 39% 12% 34%
Reputation Changes 13% 28% 5% 54%
Ratio: Posts Per Thread 12% 28% 22% 38%
Content Tagging 12% 24% 2% 62%
Comments per Blog Post 11% 26% 13% 50%
Ratio: Searches Per Post 10% 12% 20% 58%
Podcasts & Video (linked to Uploaded) 8% 33% 0% 59%
Member Blog Posts 5% 31% 8% 56%
Size of Networks/Buddy lists 2% 22% 5% 70%
         

These metrics apply to online communities, but can be modified and interpreted for real world communities. Bill Johnston provides an update with data of 150 survey respondents from February 2008.

Top ranking metrics

  • Traffic patterns & statistics
  • Community member engagement
  • Unique number of visitors
  • New Member registrations
  • Member Satisfaction
  • Product feedback and/or ideation for R&D

We haven’t collected these statistics. However, since we started using EventBrite to collect registrations it should be a lot easier to begin to apply them to the community. We could look at message traffic in the Google Group and on the Skype Chat. Alvin Chin has reported that the sense of membership and emotional connection with a community is strongly correlated to the number of acquaintances. Perhaps it’s the number of member replies on Twitter. Or the number of shared friends on Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Plaxo, MSN or other.

Tara and I talked about the health of communities and community metrics at FooCamp. Tara has done a great job setting up a wiki to track Community Metrics. Here are the metrics Tara has used in the past to measure community health:

  • the rate of attrition, especially with new members (I think it is really telling when you drive traffic that doesn’t stick around – you will have to really examine whether you are offering something of need)
  • the average length of time it takes for a newbie to become a regular contributor
  • number of referrals (strength of positive word of mouth)
  • multiple community crossover – if your members are part of many communities, how do they interact with your site? Flickr photos? Twittering? Etc.?
  • the number giving as well as the receiving actions – eg. readers receive, posters are giving (advice, knowledge, etc.). PopSugar has a neat reward system built in for this with their gifting for contributions in the community
  • community participation in gardening, policing and keeping the community a nicer place (eg. people who click on the ‘report this as spam’, people who edit the wiki for better layout, etc.)
  • number of apps built off of your API (if you have one) – a good ‘number’ measure as the number of apps usually correlate with your social capital

What would be the metric you’d like to see DemoCamp success measured against?

Community Platforms

Apparently I’m not alone in thinking about community platforms. Chris Prillo is talking about the tools available for community owners, operators, moderators and members. Adam Kalsey talks about the work on IMified, SacStarts and ActivityStream. Both are building on top of Drupal, which has generated support from Boris Mann of Raincity Studios. I haven’t done a lot of work on Drupal in recent years, I last evaluated it for a project in 2005. But the superb work of the Raincity Studios and Lullabot continues to blow me away.

But I started to wonder what other software platforms were available for building communities. Here is the list that I was able to come up with:

There are other tools like the Community Platform that powers http://expression.microsoft.com/ and TechNet and MSDN, that are not commercially available.

I’m starting to think about the tools that we’re missing to enable the Toronto community. The discussion has focused around the technical details of the platform:

  • OpenSocial
  • OpenID
  • OAuth

But it’s when Chris talks about the functionality and participation and discovery that I start to think about the potential and needs.

I don’t want a social network, I want a socially *RELEVANT* network (both on-site and beyond). I don’t want a community platform, I want a participation platform where members are rewarded and ranked appropriately. I don’t want a place where people can just blog, because I’m going well beyond the blog. It’s not just about hosting videos, audio files, or any piece of random media – it’s the discovery mechanisms between them that make them more relevant.

It’s discovery – no matter the community, no matter the type of content. Imagine coming to a site and not just reading about what other people are interested in, but what interests they SHARE with you! Imagine coming to a site and seeing how someone ranks in answers pertaining to your own questions! Oh, I’m confident you may have seen these features elsewhere – but what about for your own site, what about for your own community, what about for your own ideas?

It’s about the connections, the participation, and the discovery of relevant details. Time to think about this a little more.