Go the extra mile for members of your community

by Martin Reed on 12 January 2009 in Articles

effort to develop online communities

I have written before about the importance of under-promising and over-delivering as a way of satisfying delighting your online community’s members. On a similar theme, today I want to talk about the importance of always going the extra mile for your members. Just a little bit of extra effort can yield huge rewards.

Why bother?

Your community will stand out from the crowd. Most don’t go the extra mile, hence the word ‘extra’ – don’t make the same mistake yourself. Every time you put in that bit of extra effort, it is noticed by your members. They may not openly confirm their feelings, but it’s a fact. Not only that, but going the extra mile helps develop and strengthen your online community. It shows you care about your members. It shows you want to help your members. It shows you value your members.

A member who doesn’t feel valued won’t stick around for long in your community. If for some odd reason they do stay, they won’t add as much value to the community as they would if they felt valued and appreciated themselves.

10 ways to go the ‘extra mile’

1. If someone asks for help, don’t send them a link to the help section. Help them out personally. Email? OK. Instant Messenger? Better. Telephone? Wow! Awesome!

2. A day or two later, follow up any help enquiries to ensure the issue has been resolved.

3. If this is a common issue that keeps cropping up, fix the problem. Make the community easier to use, or create a ‘dummies’ guide – video is always better than text. Offer both, just to be safe.

4. If someone asks a question in your community and nobody answers, answer the question yourself. It may take some research, but that member won’t forget your effort.

5. If a member suggests a site feature and you like the idea, involve them in the development process. If a member makes a suggestion you don’t like, don’t just say no – tell them why you won’t be acting on it.

6. If someone introduces themselves as a new member, send them some links to discussions you feel will be of interest to them.

7. When new members join, contact existing members with similar interests and suggest they talk.

8. If someone sends a small quantity of spam to your members, delete that member and then personally apologise to each member that received the spam. If it’s a large quantity, make a public apology in your community and tell them what you have done to prevent it from happening again.

9. Once a week, find members of your online community that haven’t been active for a while. Reach out to them and try to bring them back. Maybe they are confused? Maybe something happened that you weren’t aware of. Either way, you need to know why they are no longer active… and then act on that knowledge.

10. Keep the dialogue going – in public and in private. Some community managers seem to feel communication done in private doesn’t add value or strengthen a community. This is nonsense. Just because the interaction isn’t publicly visible, it doesn’t mean it isn’t adding value. If members want to chat with you in private, see it as a positive – not a negative. Why not initiate some private conversations yourself? Some members may be shy to start chatting in public right away.


Every time you interact with your members, before hitting the ‘Send’ or ‘Post’ button, ask yourself if there is anything extra you could do or say to make your member’s experience with you and your community truly amazing. I bet there is. Sure, it may mean a bit of extra work but it will be worth it. I promise.

How do you go the extra mile for your online community’s members?

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Smiley January 13, 2009 at 3:46 am

I’m currently revamping the whole site. Not re-designing, but for 09 I’m really getting my behind into gear and improving, improving, improving. There’s always room for improvement.

To go that extra mile I’ve personally PM’d my most loyal regulars and asked them what they’d like to see. I’ve asked them what they don’t like. I’ve even setup an “FC Council”, users elect their own user to be an FC representative in management! They get a say in the running of the forum completely.

FCF Council
Here, the elected FC representative & his/her two chosen advisors can group discuss in privacy with official forum staff. Please feel free to discuss site policy, people’s behaviour, your suggestions, criticism, the general feeling of the FCF populace on certain matters, push for the over-turning of a banning that you feel was harsh and anything else. Friendly Chat is truly your forum. A democratic forum.

That’s the hidden forum where the democratically elected FC council operates and its description, says it all really!

There’s room for huge improvement and I’ve been working non-stop for weeks tweaking and changing. I’ve got a huge to do list, and I’m determined to go down it one step at a time, and ensure the users get a say in it all.

5. If a member suggests a site feature and you like the idea, involve them in the development process.

A newer member to the forum had the surprising courage to PM me, and told me he was used to a different forum. (vBulletin). He explained that on vBulletin, instead of having to keep going back to the index page or portal page then clicking on “view newest posts” there was a link on every page where you could do it right away.

5 minutes later I PM’d him back and told him to check both the viewforum page and the viewtopic pages. He was delighted and showed so much respect for such a small gesture as adding a simple link.

I’m currently in the process of re-writing the faqs page. The generics faqs page is pretty but obsolete. I’m currently creating an easier, straight forward one that includes screenshots instructions.

Once I’ve done my forum to do list.. I have another to do list for the chat. That’s why I haven’t been around much, if I’m not buried in forum code, I’m buried in my user’s e-mails or chatting with them.

The chat client is never empty now, what a wonderful feeling that is to start ’09 off with, oh you’ll remember the feeling, it felt amazing when I was up at 6 AM one morning to see 26 people still in the room chatting.. sounds like silly numbers but for such a young site and at 6 am? This time last year we were lucky to get 6 in at peak time, nevermind 26 at 6 AM. At peak time we’re hitting the 50-60 user number, averaging 28 visitors per hour.

So I spend a lot of my time in the welcome lobby meeting, greeting and chatting with them!

It has motivated me to go that extra mile you’re talking about and get into gear, I’m re-writing the help pages and making them more professional, caring, more in-detail (again with screenshots), have instructional banners scroll on the client, welcome messages too, got someone currently making those for me, and a fully trained professional staff team, we have a policy of always being in the staff canteen room while being logged in as staff, so we’re always in constant contact with each other and always corresponding and bonding, the ‘good mood’ aura of 09 is really rubbing off on the staff, and then of course onto the users.

Anyway, sorry for not posting in a while. Think I just made up for it! Hope everything is well with thee! I’m off for some well deserved sleep.

Amish January 13, 2009 at 8:45 am

I can only answer from a member point of view. If all that you say can be done whenever possible, I will be highly motivated to get new members. Sadly, your advise is lost to most community sites.

B. Durant January 16, 2009 at 4:34 am

Involving readers with the ongoing process of community building is very rewarding. The only concern I ever have with it is sometimes people let them take over when it’s not really that kind of a community.

Atniz January 16, 2009 at 6:16 am

I must follow the rule of underpromise and overdeliver from now on. Some of my work have been delayed because of this and I earned some bad feedback for that. It hurts my PR badly. Something I should have learned much earlier.

Mark January 17, 2009 at 9:43 am

Martin, I’ve passed this article on to be featured on i Make A Website – I think its that good!

Jesse January 18, 2009 at 10:33 pm

“6. If someone introduces themselves as a new member, send them some links to discussions you feel will be of interest to them.”

I like this idea, however I feel as though its promoting spam. I hate receiving unsolicited emails form websites. I just don’t like the idea of sending a user an email right after they sign up. Still, thanks for the ideas – very well thought out article.

Nicole Price January 19, 2009 at 6:08 am

Great points there; especially the ones about a member asking for help and being pointed in the direction of the help pages; and about finding out why one or more have not been active in a while.

Nicole Price January 19, 2009 at 8:23 am

BTW, how come your top commentator’s list shrunk?

Mr Woc January 20, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Hi there

Some good points on here its, I think its important to point out that people are not alone on your community, as often people feel as though they are left on their own.

I always make sure someone is around to help with any problems that might occur, and as admin we stay in touch with our users, so they know we are around and keeping order.


Scott Drummond (Come Together) January 21, 2009 at 5:24 am

A while ago when I was put on the spot to describe what the community manager does, and after thinking about it I concluded that what they do is they give a sh1t! The community manager’s job is to care enormously for the members of the community, so I really appreciated this post – it perfectly expresses that strong feeling I have that I am being paid to care deeply and to always provide more value for the members and always try to astonish them :)

Thanks for this post

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 21, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Smiley – Sounds great! Big projects to bring your members closer, and small tweaks to show you care. The perfect balance.

Jesse – How is this spam? You are sending the member a completely personal message, specific and tailored to that individual. Sure, if they request that they don’t want to communicate with you, don’t contact them. Otherwise, I don’t see the problem.

Nicole – I shrank it for design reasons, although I may be expanding it a little soon.

Scott – That’s one way of putting it! I would say the job is to facilitate and encourage relationships. Part of doing that though, is to care about your members!

Stan January 22, 2009 at 10:03 am

These are good ideas. What happens if your forum becomes quite big. You aren’t able to have a personal chat with all thousands of them. Would you simply delegate to admins or what?

Martin Reed - Blog Author January 23, 2009 at 10:36 am

Stan – That’s when you bring in your strongest members to help you. Delegate – your community will be stronger, and your members will feel even more valued.

Smiley January 23, 2009 at 2:00 am

I have a system of a heirarchy, plus the user-elected council to keep management/user relations high, in the future when the forum is too big for me to control on my own I’ll have the forum categories split under different co-admins who will keep a personal touch with the regular posters of their sub-forums. As long as they feel some sort of personal connection to the person or persons running the site..

Shawn July 2, 2009 at 10:39 am

1. If someone asks for help, donít send them a link to the help section. Help them out personally. Email? OK. Instant Messenger? Better. Telephone? Wow! Awesome!


How many times I’ve been on forums where someone told somebody to “use the damn search!” or referred them to a generic but similar response I cannot tell you. A lot of people have different needs and abilities and a personalized response can go a LONG way in helping to deliver a fulfilling experience to them.

You’ve also just given me a great idea with 6 and 7. I’ve been reading and replying to this blog all morning, I think it’s time to sign up for the RSS feed (and maybe the e-mail).

Julia September 24, 2009 at 12:01 am

Constant communication.. that’s the key to building a good community. People need to know that there’s someone in charge listening to and caring for their opinions!

Paul November 11, 2009 at 12:33 pm

You have some good ideas to make your community happier.

Altough these are great ideas, they require you to be involved in your community everyday for a good amount of time which most people won’t do.

Sean March 1, 2010 at 3:45 pm

What about time consumption…. Phoning and IM to all members asking questions just seems crazy for anyone getting a couple thousand visitors a day. Content and community usually take precedents over anykind of help e-mail. Isn’t this what moderators are for?

Sharon March 2, 2010 at 3:05 pm

This is a great list – definitely some surprises and things that are new to me too.

I especially agree with #10, that private communication DOES add value. In fact, I think it adds a lot more value than community managers give it credit for, because the user immediately knows you’re not replying for the sake of looking pro-active. You actually care.

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