Ok. So you’re sitting in your living room, innocently reading a book when all of a sudden your stomach makes this sound. You know the sound I’m talking about. The “hey bitch…put something in me or I’m gonna start raising hell down here” sound.
So you pop your Kindle on the table and pad off to the kitchen.
Nothing great in the fridge, so you open the pantry and you hear the gospel strike up chorus and golden light streams from the second shelf to your right.
Aww yeah! That’s right. I’m-a gonna have me some Nutella…on a spoon…oh wait… I mean on toast. ON TOAST. I would never hide in the pantry and spoonfeed myself Nutella. Never.
Ok, I’m lying. I WOULD do that, have done it and if I had a jar of Nutella in my house right now it wouldn’t last longer than a day. I love it. I have to have it…and it’s pretty much crack.
Ok…now that I’ve fully embarrassed myself, I’d like to show you how you can have your students feel exactly the same way about your community.
Yup. That’s right. We’ll have them hiding in the pantry checking their updates and cheering on their fellow members in no time.
Before we get started though…there are a couple things I want to touch on.
What is the “late to the wedding” (LTTW) syndrome?
Alrighty folks. LTTW syndrome is a real thing. I experienced it myself and survived to share this beefy guide with you.
I remember it like it was yesterday.
I joined Accelerator (yes…the program I now manage the community for) and I was pretty much scared shitless. Here is what I posted though…and pointed a finger at LTTW.
Just incase you still aren’t clear…
LTTW is when you join a community and you feel like an outsider but you want to become an insider. You are on the sidelines trying to figure out a way to get involved without making a fool of yourself (cause we all want to be cool).
So here’s the thing. Almost 99% of your members will feel some form of LTTW when they join your program and it is YOUR job to vaccinate them.
How do you do that?
By triggering the emotions that they need and want to feel at every chance they get (as I mentioned in the last chapter).
I touched on the importance of onboarding earlier and I’m going to dive a bit deeper now as it’s really the foundation to kicking LTTW’s ass, without chaining you to your desk and spending all your time in your community.
What is onboarding and how does it help engage your members?
Just incase you think that onboarding is a sport where you sit on a board, let me clarify. Onboarding is the process of integrating and familiarizing a new student into your course and community.
In other words, it’s the process of taking someone who looks like bambi in headlights to one chilled out mofo who works through your course material with ease and mingles with other students in your community like a badass.
Onboarding is vital to the success of your students and your task of engaging them, for many reasons. If a student feels comfortable and like they fully understand how to get the most from your program and community they will…[wait for it…wait for it]...USE IT!
That’s right. They will actually stand a chance of FINISHING your program, while sharing their experience, asking questions and supporting others students along the way in your community.
But how does this help you?
Well my friend, look at it this way. Instead of you sitting at your community PMing with your students every 10 minutes answering the EXACT SAME QUESTIONS, you’ll take all those doubts and A the shit out of them when you onboard those students.
You’re not only going to make them feel like a member of the wedding party, you’re going to save time and your sanity in the process.
What needs to be addressed during onboarding?
Now, in terms of format, onboarding can happen in several ways and here are the most common that I highly recommend you bust out for your students.
Clear group/channel descriptions.
Community guidelines (this could be a post or even an ultimate guide/FAQ)
An automated onboarding email sequence that welcomes them, directs them to helpful resources and gives them call to actions to help them kickstart the course and community..
Welcome thread/post in the your community.
Private messaging with each member.
If you master these 5 keys to onboarding, you’ll dramatically reduce the amount of “policing” your community requires and boost the likelihood that your students will work through and complete the course.
Isn’t it funny when you launch a new course and you sit there waiting for everyone to “engage”. That awful feeling in the pit of your stomach.
Will they follow the guidelines?
Are people going to connect with each other?
What should I do if no one does anything?
It’s the “calm” before the storm, even though you don’t feel very calm. You might want to jump in and start doing random tactics to get people chatting but that would be a mistake, so whoa nelly and listen up.
The real reason that they aren’t engaging is because they don’t feel _________.
That’s right feeling ________ is the reason why they are, or aren’t participating, asking questions or sharing in your community.
Don’t you feel better?
Oh wait…you want to know what ________ is?
Well, that’s your job to find out dude. All I can tell you is that it is an emotion.
Now before you run off to ask your members, “What emotion would make you engage in the community?” Do me a favour and slap yourself?
Haha…just kidding…sort of.
No one in their right mind is going to give you the REAL answer to that question. You might hear something like:
“I just want to feel happy”.
Oh god. Pass me some water cause I might throw up. What the fuck does ‘HAPPY” even mean dude?
This is where you need to dig deeper, but before we dig into digging deeper, you might want to know WHY emotions are so bloody important.
Why emotions are actually the foundation of any community strategy.
According to FeverBee founder Richard Millington, “A community strategy is essentially the emotion you wish to amplify to change human behavior.”
So if you want to turn up the volume on a specific emotion, you kind of need to know which emotion to amp up. If you crank the knob for “supported” when your members actually want to feel “elite” then your engagement could take a hit.
On the other hand, if your members want to feel “understood” and you go and crank the understood dial with tactics that trigger that exact emotion…boom baby. You’ll nail it.
Side note: Emotions are what you feel…not what your students do or what you want them to do. I’ve seen several people get this confused when creating their engagement strategy. A fantastic resource that can help you go deeper than “happy” when identifying emotions is Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions.
How do you learn what emotions encourage or discourage activity in your community?
This is where you might feel a bit uncomfortable because in order to know the emotions your students are feeling (or not feeling) you’re going to need to talk to them. *GASP*
I know, I know. Shocking right?
It’s quite simple really.
If you want to know what they are feeling, you need to ask them.
Now of course, this is going to take a bit of finesse. You’re going to need to
ensure that your student feels comfortable sharing and opening up to you,
respond to their answers with more probing questions (why is that? Tell me more. What specific emotion does that make you feel?) to get more specific
ask them for examples of situations that make them either
feel the positive emotion (that boosts engagement),
feel a negative emotion (the cock blocks engagement)
This is pretty standard customer research, which I’m not going to get into in this guide but one fantastic book that you can read is, “Talking to Humans” by Giff Constable.
What specific questions should you ask to identify those emotions?
Ok ok, I know I said I wasn’t going to dig into this but I can’t just leave you hanging here. Having some sort of a guide for your emotion expedition can be super useful.
…on a live call
If you are going to hop on a live call with your students first off, I would recommend doing so on Skype or Zoom. Zoom is actually probably the better option as it works on ALL platforms and is easy to use for your students (heck…you are probably already using it if you provide live coaching…of if it ain’t broke…).
Once you’re on the call you’ll need to help them relax and set the tone for the call. You’ll want to ask questions to get an idea of the positive and negative emotions they feel in relation to the community and also ask follow up questions to truly dig deeper.
Special note for badasses:
If you want to go deeper and would like my full step-by-step process for doing live customer research calls (including a template of questions, video explanations and real examples to see how I do these interviews myself), I’m putting together a premium video workshop to help you do customer research for your community. Click here to email me, and I’ll let you know if you’re interested.
…in a poll in your community.
Another great way to get an idea about the emotions at work in your community is to host a poll. A question as simple as, “How do you want to feel in this community?” can be incredibly insightful.
What I recommend doing is using the Plutchik’s Wheel of Emotions to provide some options for emotions if people are a bit limited (I’m happy or I’m sad).
This is especially useful if you already have a good feel for your community. If your community is brand new and you have no idea…add a link to the wheel so THEY can look at it and provide their answers without any prompts from you.
…via PM or Email.
I don’t even want to tell you how to do this. Sorry. If I give you a template or instructions on how to do this properly, I’m scared you just slap up a poll and stick to messanger or emails.
Sorry dude, you’re much better off speaking to people on live calls. So don’t even think about PM or email.
Where and how can you trigger theses emotions?
So you hopped on loads of calls with your students (at least 10), now what?
You might feel like you’re onto something here, but what do you actually do with all this information on how your students feel or want to feel?
It’s time to trigger those emotions my friend, over and over again throughout your community. We’ll start with the “quick wins” and graduate to the more hands on shiz-naz.
First up (in a Facebook group) is the group description. If I click over to your course community and DON’T see a description (like what’s happening below)
…you’ll be getting a glitter bomb in the mail next week.
WT(literal)F people? Are you so busy that you can’t even add a measly description to your course community? I don’t think so.
If you’re seriously lacking imagination (come come now…I know you have it in you), here is a basic template so you can at the very least avoid my glitter bomb.
Group Description Template
Here in [GROUP NAME] we bring together [TYPE OF PEOPLE] who are looking to work together to achieve [SPECIFIC GOAL]. This group is unique because [REASON] and it’s our mission to [MISSION STATEMENT]. If you’re a member but you don’t have access to the group yet please reach out to customer service at [EMAIL].
Ah yes…community guidelines. You might be shaking in your boots here just at the thought of community guidelines but I’ve got your back.
First of all, if you are guilty of NOT having community guidelines, I am going to wag my finger at you in shame…-just for a minute- and then help you out. Guidelines are so fucking important for a community.
If you don’t have guidelines, you are basically saying you don’t give a shit what people do in your digital living room and that “anything goes”. OMFG…NO. NO NO NO. Don’t be THAT person.
You DO give a shit, and it is important to lay the ground rules or your community. Here is what you MUST address in your guidelines.
Specific directions for posting. If you want everyone to post in a specific way or provide specific information, then you need to TELL THEM.
What is NOT allowed/welcome in the community. Yuupp…this is where you drop the hammer (or warn of future hammer dropping) if people post links to their articles, website, materials etc. You decide the level of hammer dropping and if you are going to indulge and allow some “look at my shit” action, be specific as to how much is Goldilocks for you.
Share your mission for the community. This can set the tone for the community.
Expectations. What they can expect from you and what you expect from them.
If you nail those 4 things, then you’ll be laughing, but how do you sprinkle in the emotions? Well, that’s where your copywriting skills will come into play.
If you know that your members want to feel proud of themselves but also hate being ridiculed, you’ll want to take that into consideration when positioning your guidelines. You might want to highlight how everyone is a top performer so the guidelines are simply there for decoration, or you could make them more comical.
The point being, you know they want to feel [EMOTION X] so go and make them feel that way when they read your guidelines.
In a Facebook-based community you have the option to create a “pinned post” which is basically taking a post and sticking (pinning) it to the top of the wall. The idea being this is that your members will see it when they go into the group. This is useful for you to know and use so you can make any announcements, add useful links or simply get their attention.
The same concept applies for pinned posts, as it does for guidelines. You are going to use the pinned post as you normally would but you are going to ask yourself, “How does this post make my members FEEL?” If it is one of the positive emotions that they mentioned during your research…high fives badass.
If it’s a negative emotion that they mentioned holds them back from doing what you want, it’s time for a rethink and a rewrite.
Images, GIFs and Memes
Alright folks, now we’re talking my language. The subtle language of images, GIFs and memes. If you are a member of any community that I manage or am a member of, you’ll know what I mean.
A picture is worth a 1,000 words right? and if you want to up your emotional communication game…you need to hop on the image train.
When I reach out to members of a community I don’t just send a written message. That’s standard. That’s boring.
What I do is combine a thoughtful, fun, supportive (whatever will trigger the emotion they want) message and I add a meme or a GIF.
In Facebook you can simply click on the GIF icon at the bottom of Messenger and then do a search, click and presto GIF sent.
There’s nothing like a “You’re welcome bear” to say, You’re welcome!
For memes I use imgflip.com, it’s fast, easy and you can also customize your own photos (which I think is best). Oh…and FREE!
Posts that you create
Now we’re getting to some of the “meatier” content that you’ll be creating in the community. Whenever you write a post in your community you need to ask yourself a couple of questions.
What emotion do I want my members to feel when/after reading this post?
What do I want my members to DO after reading this post?
By getting clear on these two things, you can keep them top of mind as you write your post. I like to write my posts in a Google Doc first…so I can pour it out of me, edit and then rework it, but you can write it directly into your community platform as well…just as long as you’re able to answer those 2 questions.
Comments and replies to members
Beyond creating content, you’re also going to be reviewing the conversations in your community; you or a community ninja that you hired to do all this shit for you.
Well played sir. Well played.
Again, if you’re communicating with your members, you need to take a moment to ask yourself…how can I respond so that they feel [POSITIVE EMOTION] and don’t feel [NEGATIVE EMOTION]?
For example, how can I respond so that they feel supported and understood but don’t feel criticized?
This is something that is SO important and you might not even have them: onboarding emails. I’m going to assume that you do have some sort of autoresponder sequence setup so that when someone joins your course, you start popping up in their inbox.
That’s right. They’ll get one of your emails and soon want to binge on you…like chips.
This is a great way to help students understand your course better, drip out the content for each module AND…you guessed it…trigger EMOTIONS!
You want your emails to press their buttons like homer in the nuclear power plant. Clickity click click.
Ok, by now you PROBABLY have noticed a trend. What do you THINK I’m going to tell you here about private messaging your students? Hmmm. Come come now. I KNOW you know. Unless you’ve been skimming the guide and don’t actually know.
Yes I am judging you now. Wow…I can’t believe you started skimming. I’m shaking my head left to right…just enough so you can see my disappointment.
Ha…got your attention again didn’t I. Welcome back. 😉
So here’s the thing about private messages, these are probably the most important way to trigger emotions. Why you ask? Because they make your members feel special as FUCK!
Seriously, to have the host of a course personally message you? To take the time to do something that does not scale? That makes people sit up like a meerkat and notice.
So how can you get even more emotional bang for your private message buck?
Do the uppercut, right hook combo!.
Uppercut: your emotionally driven writing… followed by a swift
Right hook: a personalized meme or GIF.
I don’t know how many times I’ve nailed an emotion with a simple meme or GIF.
For example…in Accelerator I reach out personally to ALL our members on a 3 week basis. Yuuup, my “Message like a bot” system allows me to message 50 members a day (efficiently like a bot), but actually have conversations with them too…(personally like a human).
Oh…and that takes me less than an hour a day, 5 days a week.
Think about that for a moment. Put yourself in the shoes of that student.
“Wow, Diana just reached out to check in with me. Damn…that sad kitten really does nail how I feel. I’m going to reply and get some help. Diana’s so supportive. I love this program!”
What sad kitten? This one…
THAT is what you want your students to think about you and your program. You want them to feel special, taken care of, heard, supported and understood. You also want to sprinkle in any other specific emotions that they mentioned during your research…like feeling proud, elite, special etc.
Alright homie, what about videos?
If you like to get in front of the camera, and your members find them valuable…get your video groove on.
Now, before you go out and drop some Gs on a home studio setup, or fancy ass equipment. I’m gonna rein you in and lift an eyebrow at you.
Don’t do that dude. All you need is your webcam or the camera from your phone. I have an iPhone plus and it works a treat…though I mostly do video from my wee office nook in front of my iMac (yes I am an Apple geek!)
So here’s the deal. You need a camera, some natural light or a lamp, a nice-ish backdrop and some sort of recording software.
Want to know what I use to make quick, easy and “good enough” videos?
Normally I just use the “photobooth” app that came with my iMac, and then drag that video into Camtasia, but you can also record directly from Camtasia (old habits die hard).
I edit it in Camtasia and then download the file, upload directly to YouTube or more recently I download the file and then pop it into my Google Drive and then share it.
So once you get past the tech of video, all you need to do is ask yourself (just like you did when you were writing) is this video triggering the emotion I want to trigger?
Weekly themed post
Ok, I’m mentioning these here BUT, a BIG but…
Don’t use automated posts when you first start your group. Why?
Think about it. How does that make your students feel seeing the Buffer, MeetEdgar or Hootsuite tag just under the title?
Hmmm…does that make them feel like you are there for them and supporting them?
OR does it make them feel like you’ve simply locked and loaded some “engagement” posts to appease them so you can fuck off and catch some rays in your hammock with a coconut umbrella drink hanging from your mouth?
Don’t get me wrong.
Automated posts that come on a certain day (motivator Monday, Tips Tuesdays, Check in Friday etc) can be useful, and can be a good addition to your community BUT I would recommend doing things manually initially. That way you can see what your members would most benefit from.
Also, instead of creating daily posts for EVERY day of the week and flooding your community with these posts, choose 1-3 days where you’ll create a thread that triggers a specific emotion.
Accountability and feeling supported.
Celebrating their wins to feel proud and connected.
Straight up PRIDE.
As you can see, triggering the emotions of your students doesn’t stop once you write a post. It happens throughout your entire community and really makes your job much more diversified and easier.
So many entrepreneurs have a complex when it comes to community, and it boils down to size.
Picture it. You launch a program for the first time and you get fewer buyers than you anticipated. What does that mean for your community? Is it even worth having a community for so few people?
What about 3 people?
That’s what happened for Primoz Bozic when he launch his program, “Insider’s Club”. He wanted to teach entrepreneurs how to connect and build relationships with influencers and so he created a course with a group coaching aspect.
When his cart closed he had 3 students join…including myself. Here’s how he felt
“I did feel disappointed because I wanted to have more people in the course. I wanted to make sure I got amazing success stories, case studies and testimonials and also to help a lot of people. In that way it was disappointing, but in the end it turned out to be really awesome because we could really build relationships, connect and get awesome results. Not to mention that people actually showed up to calls.”
So what about you? What would you do if only 3 people bought? That’s what we’re going to roll our sleeves up and dig into right now.
First and foremost, size does NOT matter…if you’re worried someone is going to see your teeny group, point and laugh; don’t. If anything, small groups are an asset. That’s right buttercup.
When you have a small group of students it’s much easier to see who is active and progressing through your course, and who might be stuck.
With a simple spreadsheet you can check in with your students on a consistent basis, weekly or even daily if you want to go really above and beyond.
I created a system that allows me to reach out to 50 students a day (over 500 students every month). You can grab your free community member check-in spreadsheet here.
BONUS MATERIAL: Grab your copy of the community member check-in spreadsheet
I’ll also send you BOTH my ultimate guides (and bonus offer spreadsheets and systems) to help you engage the members in your online community.
Small groups can also be the perfect place to test the first version of your course. I mean…that’s why they invented beta courses right?
Keeping things smaller allows you to deliver much more hands on support for each member and at the same time, allows you to gain much more knowledge about why your course is or is not helping your students.
How to manage a smaller community of under 50 members?
I already alluded to this above, but having a system in place so you can consistently support your students and track your interactions with them is a HUGE win for all.
Want to know what I do? Of course you do. 😉
Most of the communities I run are on Facebook, and I get all my data and numbers quickly and easily from Grytics.
There is this AWESOME feature where you can create different “members” lists. These include active members, past members, lurkers and current members. The last one is what I use on a regular basis, as it shows me who is in the group.
Why don’t I just create a spreadsheet myself?
I could…but what Grytics does as well is automatically adds a direct link to the person’s FB profile in the sheet and additional information about their interactions in the group. This is awesome as I can simply click the link, and open up messenger to connect and check in with each student.
So in terms of “managing” a smaller community, I would recommend using this spreadsheet system to check in on your students on a regular basis which you decide on. It could be daily, weekly or even twice a day; it all depends on you.
If you community isn’t on Facebook or you don’t have Grytics, I made that free spreadsheet template that you can snap up and use yourself.
In terms of engaging a smaller community you might think it will be less engaged due to the size, but size really doesn’t matter. As long as you are providing a community…a safe space for your students to come together and get what they want (support, answers, connection with other peeps just like them) and avoid what they don’t want (noise, self-promotional A-holes etc) then your group will be bumpin’.
We’ll get to the specific tactics for HOW to engage your group (of any size) in chapter 14.
Does anything change with groups from 50-500?
You might think that a bigger group requires a different approach but be it 3, 15, 50, 100 or 500 the action you take will be very similar.
You see…the size of your community should not dictate the amount of time you spend in it.
Let me say that again,
The size of your community should NOT dictate the amount of time and energy you spend in it, working on it, managing it etc.
Wait Diana…what about those free groups that have 30,000 members and the hosts had to hire moderators and invest boat loads of time and money into “managing” them?
Oh right. Those groups. Those free groups that we aren’t covering in this guide and that I don’t recommend you create in the first place? Haha
I know what you’re saying, but if you set up your community correctly…your members will respect your clear guidelines, your minions will help you engage your group without even being asked to, and you’ll continue to focus on what is important…providing top notch support for your students.
One thing to mention though. How you deliver a white-glove experience for your members will change between a group of 10 and a group of 500, but not in the way that you might think.
When using my outreach system the only thing that will change is the frequency of you checking in. With 10 students you’ll easily be able to check in weekly (if not daily) while with 500 students you’ll be able to do so on a 3 week basis (this is what I do for Ramit Sethi’s Accelerator program currently).
If the thought of doing that much outreach and support still makes you want to mash your face against your keyboard, you’re probably better off hiring a community manager.
Someone who lives and breathes community, that enjoys connecting with people and who knows your course inside and out so they can become a second pair of hands for you…your golden minion.
What should I keep in mind when engaging a group of over 1,000?
If your course community is pushing past 1k or even dangerously close to 10k, the main thing to maintain your sanity is to enforce your guidelines…always.
You might think that “letting things go” isn’t a big deal, but it can have a domino effect that transforms you from happy host to pissed off policer. That’s right.
You’ll be policing your community left, right and center.
More “noise” posts that add little or NO value to the community.
Shitty questions that provide no context
Don’t go down this slippery slope. Create your guidelines from the get-go, NEVER waver from them and you’ll enjoy a community that polices itself and adds value to your students.
Now of course, not everyone knows all of this when they set up a community so perhaps you have an existing community that is kind of a shit-show.
What should you do? To put it simply…you need to take action and be the authority figure that your community needs.
It’s like parenting. Your kid does NOT need or want another friend. They need someone to set boundaries and enforce them. It makes them feel safe and also helps them behave properly. So go MOM the shit out of your community. It might get a bit worse before it get’s better but it will be worth it. So do it!
What is it about community that gives entrepreneurs the heebie-jeebies?
I mean seriously. The minute someone realizes they need to create a community, they slump over in their swivel chairs, rest their faces in their hands and sob uncontrollably. Or you know…something similar.
There are many reasons for this reaction though, but the good news is…the pain is self inflicted. Let me explain.
The biggest issue is the myth that running an online community takes far too much time and energy, and once you “break the community seal”, you’ll be chained to your desk and iPhone deleting self-promotional bullshit from your members, breaking up digital fisty-cuffs or trying to bleed engagement from your members like blood from a stone.
All of these concerns are valid…if you don’t set the foundation correctly or set boundaries, but again, this is something you take care of when you set up the community (before anyone has even touched foot on the digital carpet).
Top 3 worries that entrepreneurs have about engaging their course communities and how to flip those worry scripts.
What are entrepreneurs getting their knickers in a twist about?
It’s funny because there are 3 common “what ifs” that people worry about (two of which are complete opposites…so you’re pretty much fucked either way…or so your mind would like to have you think).
#1 “I’ll be stuck in my community 24/7”.
Here’s the headliner, the idea that a community will be all you think about and work on, all day long.
Sort of like a bladder infection, you know how that feels right?
You can’t get your mind off of it and when you do manage to eek out a bit of the old pee-pee (accomplish something in your community) the relief is fleeting and soon returns to “fuck I have to pee!” aka fuck I need to engage them more, or delete more self-promotional BS.
Now, in some cases this worry is valid. When you slap up a group for your course and don’t plan it out and think about what both your students and YOU want to get out of the community, it can turn into a shit-show pretty quick.
That’s why I always recommend taking a step back before you cut the red ribbon on your community and ask yourself how much time you actually want to be in your community, and also learn how your members want and need to feel when engaging in it.
There you’ll discover how to take this “what if” and lay the smack down on it. I promise…YOU are in control of your community. It doesn’t (or shouldn’t) control you. If you do feel at the mercy of your community…something ain’t right and it’s up to you to sniff it out and fix it.
#2 “I have so many things to do already, I don’t have time for a community”.
I get it. Being an entrepreneur feels like a one-man show, especially when you’re just getting started and you haven’t got cash flow to hire some badass experts to take care of the shit that leaves you looking like Bambi at 6am.
But this right here is a mindset issue.
First off, stop telling yourself this shitty-ass story. Just stop.
It’s like choosing to tell your 5 year old a scary story night after night and then later being annoyed that they wake up at 2am bawling their face off because they think the boogie-man is hiding under their bed.
If you tell yourself a shitty story, you’re going to act as if it’s real…dude.
So the buck stops here.
Saying, “I don’t have enough time for community,” is basically saying, “providing my students with a safe space to get support, help and create a connection with other students isn’t important enough for me”.
That very well might be true…but when we go a little deeper what you REALLY are saying is,
“I’m ok with my students not completing my course and I don’t really care about their success. Why would I want to go above and beyond for them? I already got their money.”
You see…here’s the rub. Community is a mutual back scratch my friend. It’s a win-win!
Your students get the support, insights and care that they need to face their roadblocks and take action on your teachings.
You get success stories, testimonials, fans for life and free publicity when your students can’t help but talk about you while slurping up Starbucks.
So again…stop the shitty “I don’t have time story” and replace it with, “This is a win-win for my students and my business”.
Still not convinced?
I work over 30 hours a week for my clients, wake up before my entire family and get in around 10 hours a week for my biz (like writing this guide), I finish working by 5pm almost every day, regularly read for 30 minutes before lights out at 10pm…oh and I have a 5 year old that puts the Energizer Bunny to shame, a husband that likes to spend time with me…and friends. Yes, I have friends too.
If I have time, then you’ve got time, or you can find it.
One last thing…it’s never about time. It’s about priorities.
Free online communities…waste of time. I’ll give you that. Course communities and memberships? Worth it. Period.
#3 “What happens if no one uses the community”.
Remember how I said that there were two “what ifs” that were the opposite of one another?
Well here she be. One minute you’re thinking you don’t have time to manage or engage a bustling community (too much engagement), and the next are biting your nails off because NOTHING might happen.
You know what I’m talking about.
You pop into the community and the flat line buzzes in your imagination. Beeeeeeeeeep! Nada…zip…zero. No one is doing ANYTHING.
It’s like having a dinner party and everyone is sitting around looking over the rims of their wine glasses, but not saying a fucking word to each other.
I’m here to tell you that this can happen, but it’s easy enough to solve. Because your community revolves around a course. You know that everyone has that one thing in common. This is when you’d identify (if you hadn’t already) the emotion (or top 3) that your members want to feel and then trigger it until the cows come home.
Imagine your members want to feel supported and understood.
So you create a post that shares a story (your own or from one of your students) highlighting how they have struggled with a certain part of the course. You can get vulnerable and really be honest here.
If the share is from a student, you (as the host) could offer your own advice BUT an even better idea would be to call on the group to rally together and share THEIR experiences and advice. You could even tag in 2-3 of your minions (I’ll explain the “find your minions” technique in chapter 14) so they can get the ball rolling.
Rather than simply giving your own advice, you bring the community together to support one another (which is another emotion that many communities thrive on…feeling helpful/useful). Once the community comes together, you can drop your advice in the comments as well.
How to sleep better at night and not dread the “wild west” of your community.
I was getting to know a potential client recently, and something stuck out for me. A member of their team told me that they hated Facebook communities (especially during launch time) and that it felt like the wild west, and not Will Smith’s version btw.
The community was always on her mind and it was the last thing she checked at night and the first thing she checked in the morning.
This is a classic case of a community controlling us, when it should be us controlling and facilitating the community.
To be honest, it’s like being a parent.
The community is your child and in order to not hate said child, you need to teach them how to be a cool human. You teach them what is right and what is wrong and how to behave in different situations.
When you establish those rules, then you can give your child a bit of freedom to explore and grow.
It’s the same with a community. It should not be something you dread, but something you look forward to checking in on. By the time you’ve finished reading this guide, you’ll see your wild west in a whole new light.
How I clock out on Friday and clock in on Monday; and you can too.
If you’re still sceptical I want to give you an example from my own life. I’m the Community Manager (CM) for Ramit Sethi’s Accelerator program. Myself and 2 other amazing business coaches (Marc Aarons and Felicia Sphar) provide an exclusive group of GrowthLab students personalized business coaching (live calls every week) and a special community.
In the past, when I first started managing the community…I’ll be honest. I was in it ALL THE TIME. I couldn’t help myself. You see…I LOVE being in communities. Wait…that’s wrong.
I love being in exceptional communities with exceptional people…and Accelerator is exactly that.
I joined Accelerator as a student and after a couple months of not being able to help myself from making the community better, I was brought on as the CM and a business coach.
So how did I go from being in the community 24/7 to clocking out at 5pm daily and not touching it on the weekends?
To put it simply…I created the boundaries for myself and stuck to them.
The only reason I am able to do this is because we have guidelines (that have been enforced so consistently that our members know the drill). I don’t spend hours a day deleting self-promotional posts, or shitty questions, because we’ve trained our members to provide context, information and ask great questions to get great answers.
So my pet…you CAN clock out at 5pm everyday and leave your community to it’s own devices over the weekend without losing any sleep. All you need to do is establish your guidelines, enforce the shit out of them consistently and voila! You’ll learn how to do that all in this guide.
1. Not being yourself and not letting your personality shine through.
Why the fuck do people think that they suddenly need to be a totally different person when they launch a community?
Your students joined your program for a couple of reasons, one of them being that they trust and like YOU just the way you are. So why would you throw on a disguise and muzzle your colourful vocabulary just to “be professional” or be what you “think” you should be.
Just stop it. What did your Mom say to you when you were nervous about your first day of school?
Little you: “Mummy, I’m scared no one will like me.”
Yo mama:“Well Jane, you’re a fucking weirdo and it would probably be best for you to keep your mouth shut, smile and not do anything too weird cause people probably won’t like you the way you are. Have a great day honey!”
If that is what she said…um…well…damn. I’m sorry. BUT most likely she said something more along the lines of.
“Well Jane. Fuck them. If someone doesn’t like you, that’s ok. Just be yourself. You’re a funny kid and you’ll make friends. Kids can be cruel sometimes but that’s no reason to pretend to be something you’re not”.
So, when you run your community, it should be dripping with your own special ‘YOUR NAME” sauce. Any community that I launch or manage gets a taste of my personality which can be pretty much summed up with memes and GIFs.
I admit it. I’m a total MEME and GIF addict. And I’m not talking just run of the mill MEMEs and GIFs…I’m talking about personalized ones with me or my students as the protagonists. You’ll get a taste of over 40 GIFs in this guide alone!
There’s just something far more personal and funny about a meme than a simple written message.
Also note that your students will feel it when you try to be something you’re not. They’ll smell the BS a mile a way. They aren’t stupid.
Be yourself and your students will return the favour. There is nothing better for engagement than the feeling that we can ALL just be ourselves. You set the tone.
2. Not ASKING members what they want and need right off the bat.
That’s right boys and girls, instead of trying to crystal ball what your students want and need from the community…just ask them. This simple and easy step kills two engagement birds with one action stone.
You see, when you ask your students what they want,
You get a better understanding of what they want. I say a “better” understanding because doing this kind of research isn’t 100% accurate. CORRECT! Your students might not even know what they want or really need so they’ll just say something that sounds useful (when it isn’t actually what they truly want). So take their answers with a pebble of salt. This is why it’s so important to track certain data on your community and students. So you can compare the data with what they say. We’ll get to that though.
You make them feel like you give a shit about what they think. This is huge! Even if you didn’t give a shit, or use the information at all…simply asking them what they want sets the tone. Now of course, I wouldn’t recommend setting up a survey or interviewing students to make them feel like you care, and then simply doing fuck all with that information. That would be pretty shitty of you -poo poo on you.
3. Focusing on random tactics and challenges without knowing the emotional needs of your members.
Say whaaat? I need to know the emotional needs of my members? I’m not a therapist Diana!
Sorry sweetheart, but the emotions of your members ARE your biz-naz and you need to know about them. Sadly, so many people (probably yourself included…no judgement) slap up a community for their course and simply cherry pick tactics and “engagement strategies” from other courses.
“That cool welcome thread works in XYZ community, I’m going to do the same.”
Let me be real with you.
You could do this and end up with an ok community, but is that what you want? Students talking about your course to other people saying, “I’m taking [YOUR NAME]’s new course [CATCHY COURSE NAME] and the community is ok pretty good.”
FML. NO…that is NOT what you want happening. You want people to say something a little more along the lines of.
“I’m taking [YOUR NAME]’s new course [CATCHY COURSE NAME] and the community is fucking amazing. I’d pay double the price of the course simply to get access to that tribe of mo’tha-fuc-ahhs!”
Students come for the courses, but they stay for the communities. You owe it to your students to make your community sticky as fuck! The BEST place on earth for your particular niche…and by the end of this guide you’ll know exactly how to do that.
4. You being TOO active in your group. Yes my friend. Back off you eager beaver!
This is probably my favorite mistake…being TOO active. Picture it. You set up your community and launch your course. Your students start to trickle in and your eyes start to widen.
Shit…why isn’t anyone introducing themselves?
Is FB (Slack…insert platform name here) broken?
Did my how-to videos confuse or overwhelm everyone?
Maybe people are scared to break the ice.
What the fuck should I do?I know!!I’ll just get the ball rolling and introduce myself. Maybe I’ll post a comment on the how-to thread as well. I’ll “engage” the community initially to get things rolling and then back off later.
STOP. Just stop it! For the love of the big guy upstairs.
What are you doing? Back away from your keyboard, sit on your hands and just let people do their thing!
You see…if you dive in and start “engaging” you’re actually telling your members how you’re going to be running the group. You’re showing them how involved you’ll be AND you’re also saying,
“hey guys, I’m going to be super involved here and you can simply speak to me…don’t bother connecting with one another…this community is all about direct access to moi!”
So when you’re kicking things off…or if you’re running an existing community…be mindful of what you’re showing your members. If you are providing coaching via the community, like Primoz Bozic does in Ultimate Guide System, then it makes sense to be super active and accessible.
If you’re looking to create a community where students support each other and can help each other out based on your course material, like Ramit Sethi and his Zero to Launch course community then you’d be best to choose a level of involvement and stick to it. Set it and forget it!
You want to provide the best community experience for your paying customers, right?
Maybe you’ve set up a new community (on Facebook or Slack), created your FAQ videos, channels and pinned post. You’re feeling confident and excited to get your members in there.
You send out the email with the links to join and wait excitedly to welcome your members in.
Ok ok…it’s only been 10 minutes. We’re ok. Just give it some time.
Now it’s been 24 hours and only a handful of members are engaging. WTF!
Or maybe your community isn’t new. Perhaps your community is already established, but you’ve noticed a dip in engagement.
If you look anything like that meme version of me above, I get it.
It makes my heart race just thinking about digital tumbleweeds rolling through your community BUT it doesn’t need to be this way. There are specific things you can do to evict the tumbleweeds and get your members engaging – WITHOUT taking shit loads of your time and energy!
Now, I love working 1-on-1 with entrepreneurs to pinpoint exactly what’s working, and what needs a bit of TLC, but I also understand that not everyone can hire a Community Strategist; not to mention there is a ceiling on my time as well.
SO, to help as many entrepreneurs as possible, I birthed this this beefy guide. I downloaded my brain just for you; all my Community Management and Strategy savvy brain cells have been sucked out of my coconut and splattered onto digital paper. — Dude…that sounds like a crime scene!
If you’d like to know exactly what we’ll be covering, check out the table of contents below and if you don’t have time to read the whole thing right now (the TOC alone is 3 pages long) then download the PDF version so you can curl up on the sofa later and dig in.
BONUS MATERIAL: Get the FREE PDF.
I’ll also send you BOTH my ultimate guides (and bonus offer spreadsheets and systems) to help you engage the members in your online community.
I promise, you won’t regret it.
Why? Not only will you solve your community engagement woes, you’ll laugh your ass off while you’re at it.
Isn’t if funny how we want something – in this case an engaged community- but we can’t decisively say what that looks like or is?
We certainly know when a community is engaged – and sadly when it isn’t *cue the lack of sleep* – but what the heck is engagement?
If you’re looking for ONE definition, you might end up wasting a lot of time on the interwebs; though mother Google serves up this definition from Wikipedia;
“Community engagement refers to the process by which community benefits organizations and individuals build ongoing, permanent relationships for the purpose of applying a collective vision for the benefit of a community.”
Sounds kind of dry. Not to mention how the hell are we supposed to make this applicable to our course communities and paid membership communities?
Kinda feels like trying to mash a star peg into a heart hole.
So I’m going to have to define it for us.
For the purposes of this guide, let’s agree that engagement refers to:
The process of triggering trackable signs (and the presence of those signs) that members of a community are making use of the community, getting value from it, and building relationships with other members. As a result they use (and often complete) the course associated with the community or renew their membership.
Are you with me? Smashing!
Why aren’t we focusing on “free online communities”? (even those this guide will help engage those peeps too)
That’s right my little chickens. We aren’t talking about free Facebook groups or free online communities in this here guide. We are focusing on course communities and paid membership communities.
To be completely honest, I wholeheartedly believe that hosting free Facebook groups is a huge waste of your precious time and energy and they shouldn’t be used to grow your business.
I know there are people out there that disagree with that view. Funny thing is that those peeps usually have some sort of financial gain to you believing free Facebook groups are good for your business.
I mean, some people base their entire business on helping you set up your free Facebook group, so OF COURSE they are going to disagree with me.
Now, if you want to go ahead and create a free group…go right ahead but know that you’re setting it up to fail if you look at it simply as a way to get subscribers and get more clients.
Think about how transactional and superficial that sounds.
“Hey self, I’m-a-gonna go set up this community so I can bring people together and then sell them my shit”.
As a community manager and strategist, I think differently.
Communities are a place for people to gather and connect in terms of a given subject. A community is NOT somewhere for you to jump on your high horse, point the spotlight on your pretty mug and bombard said group with reasons why you’re amazing at what you do, why they should sign up to “THIS will change your life” program you just happen to be offering, and to basically repeat that on a weekly basis.
As amazing as you are, (nice mug too), no one wants to be a part of something that is only about YOU. News flash amigo, it’s all about THEM. So when you use a community as a soapbox…you’ll lose your audience pronto.
So again, I’m not saying that a free Facebook group ISN’T a tool to grow your list, but I am saying that there are better approaches. Free communities take a hell of a lot of time and resources to make them work AND it kind of goes against the community building code.
Repeat after me: I shall not use my community as a platform to simply promote myself.
The time and energy you invest in a free Facebook group would be much better spent writing an ultimate guide (like this beefy beast here), writing epic guest posts on other blogs, – like I’m doing for GrowthLab (Why so many big guns are killing their free Facebook Groups and what that means for your business).- or anything where you go above and beyond.
You might say that you could go above and beyond with a free community, and I’m sure you could, but the time and resources required to do that wouldn’t leave you 10 minutes to drop the kids off at the pool (plopplop).
So many people have this idea that setting up and running a free community isn’t a big deal, that it’s a great way to grow your list. Now…that may be true…it probably can help you grow your list…but at what cost?
Do you honestly know how much time and energy it is going to take to get that group up and running? To engage it and police it from the sea of self-promoter, cray-crays, and assholes out there?
The only time where I recommend taking the plunge into the community waters is when there is green on the table folks. That’s right Jerry Maguire. SHOW ME THE MONEY!
Someone needs to put a wad of cash’ola in your hands and in exchange for that wad they get access to a course or coaching program which has a community as well. This applies to memberships as well.
How does an engaged course community help your business?
Just in case you’re not sure why an engaged course community is an asset for your business, think about what it is you want to have happen for your students.
You probably want them to:
Work through your course material with ease.
Have any and all of their questions and doubts answered quickly and easily (Which you can then use to improve your program for version 2.0).
You want them to interact with the course material on a regular consistent basis.
You want them to finish the course and get results.
All of this -and more- can be achieved by setting up and fostering an engaged community.
When members know that they are not alone –that their peers get stuck at module 2.5 too– and they can actually support and encourage other students…magic happens.
Your members will feel so many different emotions as a result of being a member of your community. Pride, acceptance, connected, elite, supported, understood, challenged, etc.
The list goes on and on, and these emotions are the strategy that will make or break your community. In this guide you’ll learn how to use those emotions to make your community amazeballs.
Who the heck am I and why did I write this guide?
I wrote this guide to answer the massive number of Qs that A-list entrepreneurs have about this mythical beast called community engagement. So many business owners know the power of community and yet they struggle to set them up, to maintain and grow them and especially to keep their members engaged.
It is my dream to write the be-all-end-all guide to community engagement, and serve it up on a fun to digest platter, just for you. Easy to read and implement, while inducing LOLs throughout.
As for myself, I’m Diana Tower and I’m an Online Community Strategist and community is my bag baby.
Also, when I join an online course, I can’t help myself from adding to the community and helping bring everyone together.
That’s how I landed my first (and biggest) client I, “I Will Teach You To Be Rich” (IWT). I joined Ramit Sethi’s Zero to Launch program to learn how to set up my own online business and as I worked through the material I realized I needed more support and so I joined Accelerator as well for personalized coaching.
I joined the exclusive community and starting doing what I do best…adding value to the community and the company noticed. Within a couple months I was brought on as the Accelerator Community Manager and also one of the Business Coaches.
I’ve also supported other A-list entrepreneurs like Selena Soo, Primoz Bozic, and Tiffany McLain with their course communities.
So if you’re looking to get useful insights with a sprinkle of humour, then this guide is for you.