106 Communications

6th Sense

Size doesn’t matter: successful communities are built on participation, not numbers.

November 2014 | Collaboration, Culture, Employee Engagement

Take a guess at the number of registered Twitter accounts in existence. 500 million? 750 million? A billion? In fact, the real answer is impossible to know – because Twitter won’t tell us.

What they will say, in their ‘Third Quarter 2014 Operational Highlights’, is that they have 284 million active monthly users. Most industry experts reckon total Twitter accounts number ‘about a billion’. By any reckoning, 284 million active users is quite a fall from that figure.

Is 25% participation a useful measure of engagement? Is there an ‘industry standard’? No there isn’t – and that’s because people have different interpretations of what constitutes ‘success’ in the social space.

To me, the only measure of success is participation. There’s no point attracting 1000 people into your shop if only one of them buys something. So it is with a social community. It’s not about the number of members within that community; it’s about what those members are doing to help the community thrive.

At the moment, we’re working with a global business to create an online community. We want the community to be a useful source of meaningful information to all its members. So for us, it’s not about the size of the community; instead, our measure of success will be how active the community is. We’re looking for questions asked and answered, events organised, connections made and developed, articles posted and discussed. We’re also watching views; because even the act of becoming a community member requires a degree of commitment not needed to be a ‘follower’.

We’ll probably get some pushback: “But we’re global!  We’re huge! A community of ours should have more than 200 members!” But to our minds, as long as each of those 200 people are contributing and participating, then it’s working. Twitter has nowhere near a 100% participation rate! Size doesn’t matter; it’s about quality, not quantity.

So are there magic ingredients to encourage active engagement? We’re always learning… but there do seem to be a few consistent ideas which can help:

  • Seed the site with content initially; and use a content plan to keep momentum going as the community gets off the ground. Base your content around ideas integral to your community’s purpose.
  • Trust your community managers to develop the community in a way that works for them. We provided initial training and briefing workshops, and then stepped back.
  • Don’t be disheartened if the community is slow to build. Communities of any kind need time to develop. Blast people with content and they’ll stop listening; remember your community’s purpose and create initiatives around that.
  • Use a platform with the technology to suit you. We like Google+ for its Hangouts and Events capabilities.

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