Richard Millington is the founder and mastermind behind the globally successful online community consultancy, FeverBee. He helps clients understand the best practices for creating thriving online communities and build invaluable communities of their own. The FeverBee blog is ranked in the top 10 UK marketing blogs and is well-known for its influence in helping organizations around the world improve their community efforts. Richard is also the author of Online Community Manifesto, aimed at creating a change in our approach to building communities. He has also worked closely with Seth Godin on various community projects.
You have been involved in online community consulting for massive organisations such as The United Nations. Does the strategy differ in comparison to consulting for smaller scale companies? If so, how?
Yes and no. Externally the process is still the same. Communities, whether launches by small organizations or large communities, still go through the same process. They begin small and grow big over time. Too many organizations try to rush this. They try to get too many people to join too quickly and then wonder why it doesn’t work out. The truth is it doesn’t work because communities take time to develop. It takes time for visiting a platform to become a habit. It takes time to build relationships with other people. The best thing organizations of any size can do is start really small and micro. Identify 50 to 150 people to reach out to. Build relationships with them, initiate discussions, invite these people to participate. Once activity is in place, then gradually grow from there.
The difference between small and large organization is the internal process. It’s usually difficult for larger organizations to have the time, enthusiasm, knowledge and resources they need to make a community successful. Smaller organizations should be able to do this much easier. It should take less time to build the internal community to make the external community a success.
In your experience, which would you say tends to be easier – creating a community around a good cause, such as UN or Greenpeace; or around a famous commercial brand like Lego?
It does depend on the commercial brand. Lego stands for a cause too, for example. However, in 99% of cases, it’s easier to build a community around a cause/purpose than around a brand. Most organizations seem determined to build a community of interest. But a community of interest is just one type of community, it’s also the most competitive. There are very few things we’re so interested in that we wish to spend our spare time talking about them with others. It’s actually far easier to build a community of place or a community of action.
In your book, “Online Community Manifesto”, you speak about planning for people, not machines. What would you suggest being the best way to find out where your communities are and how they use technology, before hastily jumping into the online space?
The book is 4 years old now, and a few things have changed. The best way to find out where your communities are is by reaching out to people individually. Ask them where and how they participate online. Do they talk to others about a shared interest? What is that interest? If you reach out to ten people and do in depth interviews in this manner, you will know far more about who you’re trying to reach. You want to know their demographics which is who they are; their habits which is what they do; and their psychographics which is what they think and feel about things.
Explain the message and goal for your initiative, The Pillar Summit. What is it about?
The way most community managers do their role is wrong. They guess what they should be doing with little proven theory or data to support their actions. We’re trying to change that with The Pillar Summit. The Pillar Summit is an advanced course in professional community management. We provide participants with skills, knowledge, and resources to be world class community managers. We teach them what to do in each situation, how to get a community started and how to sustain high levels of engagement, with reference to proven material from the realm of social sciences.
For example, most community managers completely ignore the huge wealth of information on conflict resolution techniques that would help them resolve disputes. They completely ignore the psychological and social-psychology reasons for community participation and engagement. We aim to change that. The course begins on February 20th, we’re accepting registrations now.
Lastly, we know you have worked on community projects with Seth Godin. In your unbiased opinion, would would you say is better looking between you two?
Seth’s face seems to be on far more bestselling books than mine, so that should tell you something. Seth’s a genius. He inspires me a terrific amount and it was an honour to have had the opportunity to work with him. My biggest regret is not seizing the opportunity as much as I should have done.
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