Many great pearls of wisdom here! I rather like your "who's who" in the community bit to help guide new arrivals to understand the level of support, who does what, etc - sets expectations In the community I managed, new customers occassionally mistook the volunteer community moderators (one of our super user roles) as employees - your idea would likely have helped.
I agree with you on the super user guidelines. We had this as part of their advocacy package, explaining the kind of conduct we expected, and the moderation team had their own KB section and ongoing best practices discussions to cover how best to deal with spammers, trolls, etc. I think you have codified this particularly well.
Great job on the video!
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Great video and excellent points that the language (and perhaps especially so for languages that are dominant in one country or a relatively tight geographic region) creates a nuanced culture for the community that requires you to adjust approach.
Do you think that some languages (and related cultures) may be more naturally active in social and community than others? For example, I perceived the Germans to be purpose driven - down to business. Any tips that you would share for how you adjusted what you did to encourage participation there?
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What is the default number of posts to display per page in your community? (when viewing a thread)
Is it possible that some people are changing this in their preferences to a multiple like 20 or 30? If so, with each page load in viewing longer threads, they will show more messages read in the stats as they page through the thread.
You might also consider whether you have lots of short threads (<10 posts) or a mix with more long threads, especially popular / active long threads for the time period you are considering. If you have mostly short threads, a page load might only bring up a few messages.
Just a theory...
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Lot of great feedback from other very experienced community managers here...
I know Lithium has a whitepaper on top questions to ask a community vendor - it is written fairly objectively and may give you some additional items to consider.
I think fellsteruk's advice is spot on. I used a matrix when I led a commitee to select a community platform back in 2007.
Here are some things I would consider:
1) Platform features and scalability - can it grow and evolve with your needs? Is it modular? Can you easily modify structures, access them via APIs, deliver a mobile optimized experience, manage user permissions manually and with automated rules? Is it easy to use?
2) Supported languages, and flexibility in how they are deployed ?
3) Vendor Revenue model - as your community grows, how will your costs change? Implementation vs steady state costs
4) Availability of professional services - to deploy and help you maintain the platform, to consult on best practices, to provide skilled resources (if desired) to help you manage it, consulting & access to an index of peer communities to help you understand your results
5) Performance & Security - uptime, scalability, intrusion detection, crisis management, disaster recovery - how long? Communication channels available to you? How will you be proactively notified?
6) Data migration and ownership - do you get your data back if you exit the contract?
7) Depth of the organization - you are going to have a relationship with the vendors team as well as the technology (this actually wound up being a signficant factor in my decision, and also I have observed this has led people to move from one vendor to another. The relationship may become more important over the life of your community as your needs change. You aren't buying a toaster - you are getting into a partnership. Are you only getting to talk to sales people, or do you have easy access to subject matter experts ?
😎 Wisdom of the crowd. Look at your peers and see what community technology they are running and for how long ? Ask your perspective vendor to show you other clients that may be comparable to your business. When I went through this excercise, I saw a very clear trend for technology companies running peer support communities tending to be on a particular platform, whereas more media and entertainment might have been on another. Where is the momentum in the industry and why?
9) Vendor vision and roadmap - where have they been, and where do they see themselves going a year from now, three years from now? Is that where you think you want to be? What do they see as the biggest challenges to be addressed and what are they doing to meet it? This was another significant factor for me.
10) How is the vendor using community to run their business? Do they have a community? How well organized and run is their company's community? Can you interact with other customers? What do they have to say?
Lot of thoughts on things to think about in strategically selecting your community provider. Perhaps a bit harder to suggest how best to organize for an internal audience without knowing the makeup of the audience?
I find myself talking about different facets of community with different kinds of people internally. Business stakeholders may care more about the results that are going to be delivered and the content, and perhaps how the features and functions of the communtiy are going to support that. Outwardly how it may look and feel. Some may be interested in what kind of data you can get out of it - what kinds of reports, what you can tell them about the customers, how the content can be analyzed for inclusion in the business.
IT folks may care more about the technology and security, while finance stakeholders may care more about the business terms and projected costs and total cost of adoption. Others might care about governance and risk - how will you know if something goes wrong, how much approval / control is their over the content and how does the platform features and technology help mitigate various risks.
Hope some of this helps?
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One of the best things working with the family of Lithium communities is the sharing of experiences amongst community managers and being able to understand where you are in the journey.
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