Buzzing Communities: Book review

by Martin Reed on 11 December 2012 in Snippets

book review

Disclosure: My name was mentioned in this book and I received a free copy. However, this is an unsolicited and unsponsored book review that is completely of my own opinion.

This review, for Richard Millington’s Buzzing Communities is only the third book review I have shared on Community Spark after Patrick O’Keefe’s Managing Online Forums and Angela Connor’s 18 Rules of Community Engagement.

I prefer to review books that are aimed specifically at community building and are from authors I know and trust.

Rich writes the community management blog Feverbee and is the founder of The Pillar Summit, a community management training course.

His book, Buzzing Communities, focusses on how to collect data and how to use it to make your community better. Rich’s book will also help you prove that your services as a community manager are valuable.

This book will teach you how to measure your community’s return on investment and how to calculate your personal return on investment as community manager. Rich shares a list of ROI goals and how to measure them. In effect, this book will help boost your job security.

Buzzing Communities really shines with the data collection techniques it shares. Rich outlines specific tasks for you to follow for each phase of your community’s lifecycle. He tells you what data you should be collecting and the best way to use that data.

By reading the book you will learn how to improve member conversion rates, the key metrics you need to be measuring, how to begin benchmarking and much more.

This book isn’t all about data, though. It contains lots of specific field-tested advice. Rich’s style of community management is ‘quick decisions and quick actions’ – this may not be to everyone’s liking, but he does make some convincing arguments.

One of Rich’s core arguments is that community managers should be less reactive and more proactive. He argues that when all you do is react, you’re simply maintaining the community and not developing it.

According to Rich, community management consists of eight elements:

  • Strategy
  • Growth
  • Content
  • Moderation
  • Events & Activities
  • Relationship & Influence
  • Business Integration
  • User Experience

The book describes each of these elements in detail and explains how long you should be spending on each, according to the lifecycle stage of your online community. At the end of each section, Rich describes the key metrics you need to be collecting.

You will learn what should and should not be consuming your time when managing an online community. For example, Rich argues that most of your time and efforts should be spent on the ‘unseen’ – for example, instead of worrying about fights and arguments, Rich says that you should be spending more time worrying about the fact only one registered member out of 1,000 is still active six months after joining.

Rich shares examples of bonding/status discussions to help make your community stronger. He shares tips and ideas on how to reduce abuse in online communities and he explains how and why your community should have its very own constitution.

You will learn how to bring in other staff members and why it’s important that your community doesn’t really solely on one person (you) for its survival. Rich also shares the key elements of a successful community homepage.

One great section in particular explains how to organize and run events for your online community. This is something I’ve never seen discussed in such detail in a community management book before and is a fantastic addition.

If you purchase this book and follow the advice it contains, you will be a better community manager. Your job will be more secure. You’ll become more proactive and less reactive. You’ll be able to build and develop better online communities.

I highly recommend it.

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Tommy T December 13, 2012 at 3:10 am

Hmm may just grab a copy then. I’m going for Patrick’s book first. But I’ll put this on my list to grab.

I’ve only just finished implementing ideas and changes I took from your own community building pack.

My community’s come a long way since reading, re-reading and re-reading again some more of your pack. The ideas have really worked and I’ve seen vast improvements not only in visitor retention, lurker-to-member conversions and also the overall happiness of the community. Complaints are down; buzz, engagement & interaction is up.

Considering my community is only 4 months old now it’s doing very well. I don’t base this on numbers, posts etc I learnt to move away from numbers – but on feedback, engagement and activity of my members.

One of your ideas in particular, changing the front page from a static, default generic ‘welcome’ page that lists features into a dynamic content-sharing page that highlights what the community offers in terms of members, atmosphere etc has really turned the community around and pushed it forwards & upwards.

So I have truly been turned from a sceptic into buying these kind of books into a keen supporter of them.

Thanks for the review!

Tommy T December 15, 2012 at 6:19 pm

Just an update, I grabbed Richard’s offer of download half this book after watching his Webinar.

Martin’s review is 100% spot on – what a brilliant and fantastic read. Ordered it myself now.

Again, spent the last 2 days implementing changes based on what I’ve learned from Richard’s book.

Particularly regarding gathering data and using it to improve & grow your community.

After reading a segment of Richard’s book, I checked my platform’s login logger, jotted down the usernames of those who login the most regularly but don’t really contribute much, then went about sending each one a personal private message asking what their favourite topics of subject, interests are, what they really like to do and chat about.

I then spent all next day creating topics and starting discussions tailored to their answers, forum activity has increased dramatically and tonight had twice as many chatters in the chat rooms as usual as I researched, googled etc for ideas based on the topics the people in the room enjoyed. Kept the discussions flowing.

Amazing book! Love it.

Henry Hutton September 24, 2013 at 5:32 pm

Thanks for sharing. Just purchased the Kindle version. We’re currently revisiting our analytics strategy and are also looking to do a better job with community events in the next year. Perfect timing!