Community building is all about building relationships. As a community manager, you need to build a relationship with your members and encourage them to build relationships with each other. You can’t do this unless you get personal.
We are all unique
We all used to accept receiving letters that referred to us as ‘Sir’ or ‘Madam’, however if we receive a letter nowadays, we expect the sender to address us by name. We are used to companies addressing us by name, even if we have no prior relationship with them. Technology makes it easier to be more personal. Being personal works. It helps build relationships and it encourages people to listen.
Automation is tempting
I won’t lie. Sending automated messages and templates is easy. Sometimes, you have to use them. You can’t really be expected to hand craft an activation email for every new member of your online community (unless you have a very focussed niche with limited appeal). This isn’t a problem, though as most of us expect certain messages to be automated. We expect a standard activation email. We expect a standard confirmation email. We expect automation. This is where the opportunity lies.
Do something unexpected
Something unusual is remembered. 8 inches of snow in London today? The country grinds to a halt. People will remember this because it’s unusual. What if you went away on holiday and a couple of days after you got back, a representative of the community you’re a member of dropped you a message asking how your trip went? What if they even addressed you by your real name rather than your pseudonym? I bet you’d remember that.
If previously active members of my online community for women haven’t logged in for a while, I’ll send them a message to see if they’re OK. I’ll catch up on some of their posts first, though. I’ll see if they had anything planned that explains their absence. I’ll find something about them that I can bring up in the email. I’ll talk to them as though I know them – as though they are a friend. I care about every single member of my online communities, and I want this to shine through every time I communicate with them.
Seth Godin’s post on how to send a person email applies equally when sending private messages to members of your online community. Be personal, be sensible, be genuine.
Every time you fail to be personal, you miss an opportunity – regardless of the time or effort you put into crafting the message.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a ‘thank you’ card in the mail from my bank with my name and address hand written on the envelope. What a great way of grabbing my interest. It didn’t last though, because:
- I had opened the account about three months ago
- My wife and I opened a joint account, but the card was only addressed to me
- The card was hand-signed, but with the address of the branch
- A name wasn’t even included on the enclosed business card
It obviously took some effort for someone to write and send this card, yet instead of it impressing me, it ended up as an impersonal note that ended up pretty meaningless. They might as well have sent a machine printed card. What a waste of time, effort and opportunity.
Don’t make the same mistake when you communicate with members of your online community. Be personal if you want to build a relationship.
Relationship building and community building are the same thing. The only difference is, with a community you are developing relationships in an location of your choosing.