In the past ten years or so, I’ve participated in or led the management and moderation of more than a dozen online communities. Sometimes there were targets to be met and metrics to provide. Universally, there was a desire to increase the participation and traffic to those communities. Here are six guaranteed ways to get the action going on your community. Just don’t tell your boss.
Make a small grammatical error
It’s late. A glass of wine may have been taken. It could be the middle of the day and you just didn’t proof your comment in the forum properly. You were just in a rush. It doesn’t matter: there are no excuses in the eyes of your members. Be it a typo or a slapdash grammatical error, nothing gets them going more than a mistake. A mistake they can leap on and attack you for. In any case, it will cause a fuss and that’s great for traffic.
Someone will say: “This is typical of the contempt the moderators hold us in.”
Most likely historical comparison: This is how Rome fell. First grammar and then the empire. It’s a slippery slope!
Every community needs a refresh or a tweak now and then. It could be the colour scheme or the position of a button or two. Or it could be a total overhaul undertaken with the collaboration and consultation of the community itself. It doesn’t really matter: if you change something (anything), people will erupt in outrage. The stats will look great!
Someone will say: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
Most likely historical comparison: The rearrangment of the deckchairs on the Titanic.
It happens. It might be a routine update or a site wide upgrade. It doesn’t really matter. Sometimes something will go wrong and there will be an uprising. Every reassurance and platitude that all is well will be met with suspicion. Everyone will wonder what the conspiracy is.
Someone will say: “They’re up to something. They’re meddling. Mark my words. Something is going on. They’re lying.”
Most likely historical comparison: Watergate.
Justifiably ban a popular member
Sometimes it’s totally essential. A much loved, popular and valuable member just crosses the line. Maybe it’s the last straw or it could be a one-off but serious infraction. Everyone will have a view. Fans, friends and even foes will emerge from the woodwork to protest: you can bank on it. The debate will be lively and the metrics very healthy.
Someone will say: “I disagree with what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it.”
Most likely historical comparison: Nazi Germany.
Initiate a discussion about the moderation rules/code of conduct
It’s time for a refresh and review of the forum rules and obviously you want to consult the community. It’s a can of worms and you just opened it. Expect the airing of ancient grievances, the citing of unfair and incorrect moderation decisions dating back years and a huge suspicion that you’re only interested in stifling debate and silencing criticism. This is a discussion that’s just going to run and run.
Someone will say: “Whatever happened to free speech? We’re being censored!”
Most likely historical comparison: Nazi Germany/Stalinist Russia.
Announce you’re closing the forum
Nothing gets your usage numbers going through the roof more than announcing you’re going to close the forum. For months, your community might have been like a deserted wild, western town with tumbleweed blowing across the high street… but mention that you’re taking it away and… WHOOSH… every member you haven’t seen for years is back expressing their concern and mentioning the First Amendment.
Someone will say: “You want to silence us! We shall not be moved.”
Most likely historical comparison: Nazi Germany/Stalinist Russia/Communist China.
Image Credit: National Library NZ on The Commons.