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A Debate About Lurkers: Leave 'em, activate 'em, or kick 'em out

Posted Feb 23, 2023 | Views 108
# Engagement
# Culture
Bri Leever
Bri Leever
Bri Leever
Community Builder @ Ember

Bri Leever has been formally designing, leading, and growing communities in-person and virtually for over seven years, but she grew up in a bed and breakfast, so community and events have always been a part of her life. She got her start building a community for a social enterprise named Sseko she launched and grew a community of “Fellows” who drive millions of dollars in sales annually for the brand.

Now, she partners with purposeful brands to help them transition from being product-led to community-led by crafting a community framework to activate their top customers. She splits her time between Portland, OR and Hawaii Island and you’ll usually find her in the mountains or in the water in her free time.

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Bri Leever has been formally designing, leading, and growing communities in-person and virtually for over seven years, but she grew up in a bed and breakfast, so community and events have always been a part of her life. She got her start building a community for a social enterprise named Sseko she launched and grew a community of “Fellows” who drive millions of dollars in sales annually for the brand.

Now, she partners with purposeful brands to help them transition from being product-led to community-led by crafting a community framework to activate their top customers. She splits her time between Portland, OR and Hawaii Island and you’ll usually find her in the mountains or in the water in her free time.

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Laura Zug
Laura Zug
Laura Zug
Community Strategist @ Consultant
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Leslie Greenwood
Leslie Greenwood
Leslie Greenwood
Founder & CEO @ Chief Evangelist Consulting

I help companies build communities of evangelists that drive growth and brand awareness. I love the hustle of startups and combining this with building value-driven communities and I've found my home.

I have over 20 years of leadership experience in community, customer success, support, client services, and sales. My professional passion is bringing the power of connection, community, and evangelism into startups. You can expand and retain customers while inspiring them to become brand evangelists by providing an experience that surpasses expectations, creating genuine connections, and providing your members/customer a forum to help each other.

I'm also a fan of coffee, good chocolate, quiet dogs (not mine, unfortunately), and talking loudly about diversity in tech.

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I help companies build communities of evangelists that drive growth and brand awareness. I love the hustle of startups and combining this with building value-driven communities and I've found my home.

I have over 20 years of leadership experience in community, customer success, support, client services, and sales. My professional passion is bringing the power of connection, community, and evangelism into startups. You can expand and retain customers while inspiring them to become brand evangelists by providing an experience that surpasses expectations, creating genuine connections, and providing your members/customer a forum to help each other.

I'm also a fan of coffee, good chocolate, quiet dogs (not mine, unfortunately), and talking loudly about diversity in tech.

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Tim McDonald
Tim McDonald
Tim McDonald
Head of Community @

Head of Community at Over 15 years of experience including Director of Community at Huffington Post. Founder of My Community Manager and now co-host of

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Head of Community at Over 15 years of experience including Director of Community at Huffington Post. Founder of My Community Manager and now co-host of

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4 community leaders battle it out on the debate of how to handle lurkers in your community. They've taken their stance and will represent three approaches in a panel discussion. Leave them be: Laura Zug Try to get them active: Leslie Greenwood & Tim McDonald Kick them out: Bri Leever

Each talks about their approach and when their approach is the right one to take.

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The debate of the century on lurkers. What what do you do with you with them in your community? And we've got some awesome perspectives and community leaders to help us battle this out. The way this is going to work is we've asked them all to prepare a bit of a of a state opening statement, opening remarks for defense of their position, their line in the sand, why they feel that way.

And then I've got a bunch of questions that we brainstormed to pepper them. And I would love it if you all participating dropped some questions in the chat that we'll ask them with as we go. But I want to give a a rundown of who we have here. We have Laura Zook joining us from the beautiful mountains in North Carolina, global brand community builder turned consultant and community strategists.

We have Leslie Greenwood from balmy Dallas, Texas, over 20 years in leadership experience and community customer support, sales and client services. Tim McDonald is joining. He's in the chat community at home room and was following on 15 years of experience including how to community Huffington Post. And last but certainly not least, is Bree Lever has been formally designing and building communities for over seven years.

But I think, as she would put it, was born into the community world and space and now resides in beautiful, sunny Hawaii. So I think we've got some great perspectives. Thank you all four for joining us and being here, of course. Yes. All right. We have three stances about lurkers that are represented by our three panelists here. And for the purposes of getting started, I will I will define and put a fine point on lurkers.

Merriam-Webster No, I'm kidding. Merriam-Webster's does define it as a person who reads message on an internet discussion forum or social media platform but doesn't contribute. And I think our communities have lots of different shapes and forms. So we'll take the broad version of that definition. And we've got three, three stances represented. Laura is representing leave them be they can they can exist, you know, live and let be.

Leslie and Tim represent activate your objective is let's let's go. That is the number one. And then Bree representing kick them out. If they're not going to jump in we're going to we're going to boot them. I know. Spicy. Spicy. Take. But I buy one caveat here before I ask for your opening remarks, as you all are representing a position.

So in the comments and as we go through this discussion, we discussing the position, not the person you just happened to be messengers and representative of those who will be civil in our in our debate. But no brief said she was bringing her boxing gloves. You got to watch out. Civil violence, I guess. Yeah. You know, you know, community people were all just so terrible.

Like so aggressive was really a nasty bit of gingery. Really just rough, rough and tumble. Crowd. All right, Laura, I'm going to ask you to start. You are representing leave them that for lurkers. We should we should let them let them lie. What are what are your opening thoughts on on that position. Okay. Yeah. So I don't necessarily love just at the outset saying leave them.

I would first want to seek to understand them and try to do whatever I could or whatever Whomever the community manager is, is to see if you can reach out and serve them, identify them, figure out, make sure that they are getting what they need out of the community. So that's a little bit more sad than just leaving them be because that kind of feels like ignoring them.

But I wouldn't necessarily seek to change them or change their behavior. And Leslie looks confused. The three I kind of have three main reasons for that. The first one is that in setting up a community of value that I really want to bring is psychological safety. And I feel like that is such a fragile concept and I would not want to rock the boat by having any fear that you're going to get kicked out or any kind of expectation or create even just the slightest feeling of guilt of like, Oh, I need to engage.

And so that psychological safety is really important to me, as is inclusivity. I was the community manager in a community of parents of children who are twice exceptional, which we will not get into that. But and there are a lot of parents and members who disclosed in one on one conversations to me that they were either on the autism spectrum or had dyslexia or just introverted or suffered from social anxiety and didn't feel that same comfort or ease to engage that many neurotypical people take for granted, or even just extroverted people.

So being sensitive to their preferences and their needs feels really important to me. So just be this welcoming, inclusive space. And then the last reason I would say is that it often depends on the member journey. Sometimes you can like there's tend to be like a sweet spot of when like you are ideally matched for the community that you may have joined, like it's serving exactly what you need at that time.

And there can be other times where you might benefit from learning something. You might enjoy listening to a conversation, but it so you don't necessarily want to leave, but it may just not be something that is serving you that season of life or you could have a time where life is just really busy. I've joined communities when the open cart window has opened, that was the only chance to get in.

I knew that like for me personally, it was a really busy season, but I just jumped in anyway. So I guess if we could refine, leave to understand and respect them and that I think that summarizes my position quickly. I like it though. That was a very, very succinct, eloquently put lots more to unpack and get into that I got I have follow up questions, but we're going to we're going to go down the line here.

Leslie and Tim, by proxy, your stance is activate them to put a fine point on it. So talk to us about that. Yeah. And as you all know, Tim is in the chat, so if he's going to disagree with me, he's going to put it in the chat and we can hashed out later. But you know, in general, when people talk about lurkers, you're really talking about 90 plus percent of your community by statistics.

So, you know, obviously, I think Laura and I probably agree a lot more than the leave them alone. You know, you have to do something. The things that I think about with lurkers is personas. So I worked and manage a community of 10,000, go to market leaders, cross CMO's, VP's of sales, you name it. It doesn't take much, I mean, to get them to like come out of their shells, they're more extroverted, etc. But then when I think of the persona of like an earlier entry person, a BTR or junior CSM, there is, you know, imposter syndrome.

Do they have something to, you know, too valuable to add there? It was a global community. My AIPAC members, you know, had different kind of rules of engagement and how they wanted to talk. So many people need either a direct invitation or personal communication introduction to a leader within the community. And very similar to Laura and understand of what they're there for and what they're the value is they're looking to get.

The reason I feel so strongly about lurkers is that if I may, I know for me and we're probably all in a lot of communities, if I give you 10 minutes of my time twice a week, I am so much more valuable than you think because I'm consuming your your information and data. And if we were to leave them alone, I think we're leaving a huge amount of of benefits to both the community and the member on the table.

All right. I think the point that we'll unpack in that one is activate them may look different depending on the community. So it may not be just the performative activation that we we all may may associate with that, but we will we will come back to that. Thank you. Leslie Brie, kick them out. What is your what are your thoughts on this?

Get out of here. So okay, so I want to start with a couple additional definitions, and I'm really glad that you read the lurker definition. So also just looked up the broad definition of community, broad definition of audience, because I think this is my point kind of hinges on this. So community is a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests and goals.

Another definition that I found included that there is participation. What's interesting about this is the sharing of common attitudes, interesting goals. We don't know that that's happening unless you are participating. I can't think of a great way of knowing that there is a shared interest or goal or attitude simply from consuming content. Now, Audience, on the other hand, is defined as the assembled spectators or listeners at a public event such as a play movie, concert or meeting.

And so I want to differentiate here because my whole argument is really just that lurkers belong in your audience, not in your community. And I the community that I kind of cut my teeth with in the community world was an ambassador community. So we had we didn't have kind of the the luxury of people being able to just kind of hang out.

It was like, no, we're all like doing stuff here. And we're like and so for for us, like and Laura, I'm so glad you touched on psychological safety because I felt like a huge part of my responsibility was to honor the work and collaboration that was happening in the community. And one of the ways that I did that was by saying like, Hey, if you're not pulling your weight here, if you're not willing to step into the arena and you're more comfortable in the in the in the seating on the side, that's totally fine.

Like, there's no shame in that. There's no there is different problems to be solved. But but stop putting yourself in the arena, but not actually getting in here and doing it with us. It feels like lurkers to me, kind of feel like the group project where there's like, you know, a kind of core group that's like, yes, let's do this.

And you keep saying like, Hey, y'all aren't participating, but like, would you want to do this? Or like, would you want to do that? And they're like, Nah, I'd rather just like, sit back. It kind of feels like they're just judging you. But if I'm being honest, like, I think too many lurkers starts to feel like, less safe because you're like, Well, I'm putting myself out here consistently and I'm like, collaborating and participating, sharing my opinions, and I want to do that in a way that's open.

But when there's too many lurkers, it starts to feel less safe to do that. So I think that requires a lot of clarity around what is the problem that you're solving for your audience members, What's the problem that you're solving through community members and what are and outlining really clear expectations for that activity. But you can do that in a way that doesn't require people to, like, become someone that they're not.

And honestly, at the point that you are requiring them to become someone that they're not, it's probably not a good community fit for them. They probably need to find a different community. But rather than continuing to broaden our definition of what it means to exist in that community and get value out of it, I would rather get more specific about who's going to benefit from this space and be okay with saying not everyone is going to benefit from this.

And if you're lurking, that's only a great but this is not valuable to you. So let's just like let you opt out without any shame, no guilt. You belong in the audience. That's awesome. ROCKETT In the audience. But don't water down the community experience for me. And that's where I get all fired up and sweaty. Okay. Hey, Tim.

Hey. And like we met at the perfect time because of Kyle and Leslie yesterday. Bree, I was going to jump on this opportunity because I didn't hear the beginning, and I've apologize for being late, but go for it. I would say that if you kick them out, you probably didn't have the right structure and welcome set up for them coming in and give them time to become familiar and comfortable enough to share and engage with the community.

Yeah, I like that. I like that point. It's a good me. I'm going to jump around and start to connect some dots here. I think. All thank you all for the willing to to draw your line in the sand and for the vulnerability engaging this discussion. Bree, you made the point around the differentiation between community and audience without a semantic debate on the definition of community.

Laura I'm interested. You have a definition of lurker that I liked or a difference in approach to lurker of listener. I guess how would you rectify or reconcile having listeners as a persona within a community? Do you think that there's a place for them? Well, you know, I think we need to think about the size, scale and purpose of the community.

Clearly, there are times where if you have a community, a small community of people with the purpose of accomplishing a goal together, then that is I mean, I can 100% understand Brie's perspective that you want to feel like everyone's sharing the weight and pulling, you know, contributing. But if you're talking about, let's just say a community of a thousand or 10,000 people and maybe they're there to learn a very niche topic or support support that they're themselves on a learning journey.

For example, there might be things behind a paywall that someone who's just in an audience can't really benefit from versus like someone who's a paying member of the community. So I think maybe more rather than defining our word, lurker or listener, we need to think about the side and the type of community we're talking about. And I really love this article that Michelle Goodall shared and she had some other words for lurker and I brought them to read to you.

Yeah. Advocates, explorers, followers, learners, listeners, members, readers, skimmers and the Silent Majority. And I thought those were great words. And she also says that lurk and this is so colorful that we have to hear it. We have to say it lurk. Sounds like someone is hanging around a group of people in a grubby raincoat, standing outside looking in and watching and listening with evil designs or intentions.

And I agree. I think this term lurker just feels a little pejorative. I am a lurker. I'm just not the creepy lurker term community manager in one community.

Leslie, I think you correct me if I'm wrong. I think you started to go down the point of that. Maybe there's a mismatch in in fit. If, if we find ourselves being primaried, maybe I'm misremembering if we primarily primarily find ourselves being listeners in communities, is that the community space that that's right for us? Or maybe that that probably wasn't me.

That wasn't me. I mean, because I think that there's there's a place for okay, everybody in there, like I'm in probably ten communities some I'm fully a lurker. I am just there to listen, watch and learn. I'm in one with a venture firm and all I want to do is hear what how they evaluate deals, why they're looking at them.

I don't participate anything in there. So I def I'm not your person. Sorry. That's no, that's okay. I think it was breathe in that said it. My apologies as well. So actually one example came to mind while you were talking. Leslie was and I thought this was a phenomenal business and this is a newsletter that I subscribe to called Morning Brew.

And they actually sent an email and said, Hey, we noticed that you haven't clicked on any of our links in several months. If you don't if if you're not finding this valuable, just so you know, you're going to be removed from our email list. If you want to stick around, click on something interesting to you in the next ten days.

I thought that was a phenomenal example of how to navigate with a lurker community and say, Hey, like this is like an audience. Like I'm not engaging with anyone. But they were like, Hey, just so you know, like we we're only going to send this to you if it's valuable. And we actually are not going to do the whole lurking thing.

You have to click on something. So we're going to stop sending you our content unless you're like willing to even just click get into it. And I really think it really gets down to the semantics of like by lurker, do we mean like they just read it without liking it or without commenting on it? Like what exactly? Like, where do we get where do we draw the line in the online space?

But I for for a newsletter, which is clearly pointing to an audience, I've never seen that before. And I thought that if they can do that for an audience space, how much more important is it to require some sign of life community in order to show that there is actually value being exchanged here? Yeah, we're just going to say something about the newsletter, so that may actually be more of a marketing technique because it has to do with your open rates and the deliverability of your emails to your list.

And if you have a bunch of emails that are not getting clicked, then you can start to get marked as spam and your email deliverability goes down. And I'm wondering if that was more the rationale behind the newsletter. But they did clean up their email list and software, sometimes charges by subscriber and you can want to purge or.

Right. I know I was going to I was going to say, but I think that's the point. Yeah, I think that's the same thing. But you know, there's so many and this is where I think where we get confused is because if we start comparing what we see from audiences to community, we just get messed up. I'm not saying there isn't some overlap there, but I do think that, you know, community has to have some exclusivity to it, right?

Or an audience. You can just get the content anywhere. And if you don't have the ground rules set up for your community properly, you know, then you have you know, you can expect certain behavior. You can just let people be. I mean, I'm in the place where I think that everybody can be for a while, but there's got to be engagement opportunities to it to try and get them engaged without being pushy.

But it's completely different. And I think the metrics that like Laura talked about for email and the reasons why are completely different from community. Now, that being said, people can game communities by kicking members out to make it look like you have a more engaged community. Right? But is more engagement leading to your business goals in your community?

Probably not. So therefore, why should we be taking those same tactics and applying them to community from an audience when we're truly in a community space? I would say in the same breath you can pack your community with a ton of inactive people to make it look like you've got this thriving, huge community that doesn't have any that's not providing value for people, number one.

But I also think that that same concept stands, whether it's for their email marketing, like strategy or because like I'm that guides my philosophy. Here is the 8020 rule. And Leslie, you mentioned the like 90%. One of the things of your community is the silent majority, the Prieto principle. I frozen in my head. We can hear you. You're freezing a little bit over.

Oh, can you hear me? Yeah, Yeah. Okay. Okay. Sorry I was there. The Prieto principle is 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. And so, you know, timber is really popular in his book. And he talked about like focus on the 20% that is creating 80% of the causes. So 24% of your committee is generating 80% of the activity.

And my my problem with like just leaving lurkers in there to activate whenever they want to is their lack of prompt. A lack of like prompting them to like take that action, that kicking someone out to put it really crassly forces them to evaluate is this actually a good fit for me? Do I want to do what it takes to be active in this community, to be a participating member, even if that's as minimal as like comments on a post?

Or is this not a good fit for me any more? And when you're able to take the time to actually kind of force people to self evaluate it, that helps you focus in on who are the people who really are benefiting from this space and are willing to participate. And you hone in on that 20%. That's always going to be contributing to the 80%.

I spend a lot of my time trying to fight the Prieto principle. So saying like, if I just get more people to get into that 20%, if I just activate more people and we get it to be like 5050, well we'll have a better community. But that did not work for me for several years. But let me can I challenge you with this?

And this is going to depend on the type of community that it is. Right. But I'm a lurker in a community I don't like. I don't comment, but I consume and learn from it. That has value for me as a member. If you kick me out, I'm losing that value. So what would you say to that? Bree? What would you tell me now that you just put you out?

What are you telling me now? I don't say I'm going to have that right, Tim. I guess what? The question. Yeah, sorry. Go ahead. Oh, yeah, go ahead, Kyle. I was going to say, Tim, what value are in that response or in that role as the the I use one of the terms the loss of just a listener.

What value are you providing to the rest of the community? Well, did we ever say that every member of a community needs to provide value right? Nobody said that. I don't think I wasn't. I obviously don't know nobody nobody don't think anybody ever said that. And I'm so the whole sense I mean, I did I did hear somebody, Angela myers and I used to run community manager on conferences and Angela myers came in and said something that made me stop and think that every member of a community needs to contribute fully to a community.

Now, I think if you look at communities in the oldest sense of the world, like tribes, right, like old tribes and villages that lived, I heard this from people that work with these villages. It is 100% true that if not ever, every member of the community contributes to the overall wellness of the community. The community will perish. But I think in the space that we're talking about, I don't think that applies to the vast majority.

99% of the communities that are in existence today. And I think the real opportunity is and I don't know where I jumped in on all this, I like the real opportunity and why I feel so strongly in the engage them is they can lurk like me forever. But if there's a time and a place where I have the opportunity to get that person connected with another community member to answer another community members, you know.

Question Because I know that they've made you told me privately that in the community space that they learned this from this other community member in the past. Those are prime examples of why I think it's so valuable not just to kick people out, to stand and the way that you can engage them and the way that they these lurkers don't show up in community is because our metrics aren't catching that right.

They're not taking the actions where they're being caught. But if you're a good community manager and your community management department is integrated within your entire organization, now you can start working with your support team, you can start working with your product dev team, you can start working with your sales team, you can start working with your email marketing team, right?

And you start seeing in your social media team and you start seeing these people are having an impact in your community, outside of your community that you're not even seeing because you're not measuring. But if you can take those anecdotal evidence that you're finding outside your community, bring that directly to the community member and try and get them reengaged in the community and sharing their you just take gold or you are going to jump in.

Yeah, I just totally love that. I was going to say the same thing that we we don't necessarily know all of the actions of our community members and how is that community lead added again in a parenting community and we would run the data of who consumed the most video content. So we interviewed like top psychologists and educational leaders and had like 300 videos in this library and time and time again, month after month, when we would run the report, they were names we did not know these were not people who were commenting it in in the public forum.

They were not showing up at live events ever. And but we gifted them with like a one on one with the founder of that community each quarter, just a handful of them. And in these interviews it was so interesting because they were getting tremendous value from the community and incredible ambassadors and advocates for the community. We just were not seeing any of it in the virtual forum.

And I think it's really important for us to remember that we don't necessarily have all the data to understand how how our members are interacting with each other or even how they are interacting in the real world by sharing about our community, telling others about our community community, inviting people in. So yeah, yeah. So jump in there. LESLIE Yeah, I'm just I'm going to agree with you on that point.

That was one of my points in our kind of planning document is our definition of as community strategist, builders, etc. over what a lurker is, is usually defined by the platform we're working on. Because, you know, as I've been searching desperately call out to all developers, please build me my perfect platform. I've laid it all out on LinkedIn.

You can read that, you can read it and just call me. But you know, some only count you as a lurker. If you emoji something, many don't count you as lurker. If you're just logging, you know, just logging in. And then as as Laura said, there's a community I work with and candidates for immigrant entrepreneurs on their way to Canada, and they're many of them are from the Middle East.

They're Internet is is different. And whereas I'll have three people show up in the community, I have 85 people show up on a Zoom event. And so, you know, it's just so very different. And, you know, right now there's not a a real holistic way to look at what, you know, an active member looks like, what a lurker member looks like.

And then just adding something back, I think we all must we should have maybe said what kind of communities we all work in. So like in I'm working with brand communities, paid communities, you know, I want them all to get valued. If you're logging in and you're paying me and you're continuing to log in, you're you're getting some kind of value.

And I don't necessarily need to quantify that, although I will try to, as Tim recommended, and brand communities if you continue to log in and have exposure to my brand, there's still business outcomes I'm getting from that. And then a lot of that is also I think Laura mentioned this, you know, referral. So the community I mentioned earlier that I never talk in because I don't know anything, I'm just learning.

But if I hear someone saying, Hey, I'd love to learn more about the VC world, I'm like, Oh, you should join XYZ. They never see me. But if they're not monitoring or measuring referrals, they don't know my value. So I think that just goes back to this whole incomplete, very complex picture of what, you know, value lurkers, you know, look like.

Yeah, I got all I know. I think that's a relevant point. And I think Bree was going to jump in in defense of that position. If you're in a community where engagement necessitates performance, right? The ambassador of like, hey, I need you to be out there, you know, engaging in that way, then I think it's appropriate that it's like, all right, we're going to relegate you to an audience because not relegate you.

This is a better seat for you on the very large bus of our community. Bree, I don't want to take the words from you, but or put words in your mouth and. Yeah, no, I think one of the things that was really helpful for our community is we had three identified roles for, for like our larger ecosystem of interactions.

We had our ambassadors, we call them fellows, we had hosts and then customers, and it was and everyone wanted to support the it was a social enterprise. Everyone wanted to support mission, loved the product. But depending on what they what problem they were trying to solve, they would be categorized differently. And so I think I just see a lot of communities that I would be three pillars of community events, conversation and content.

And when I know the line with content between community and audience is blurry because we use content as a way, as a magnet and into the funnel of community. But I think there's just a lot of people who would benefit from being considered an audience member and certainly should be invited and prompted to become community members more frequently.

But I think just as frequently they should be prompted to if they're going to be able to operate as a community member on that level. And I'm always I'm more upping the ante of expectation and giving people every opportunity to opt out of that when it's not a good season or not a good fit for them. And the shame of it is really to the like because community is so it's one so new to so segmented three has like very little collaborate with the rest of like a marketing team.

Like in a dream world you would have a very robust it's like Ethan personas and like each of your member inns audience members users customers and they would move. In my ideal world, they would move fluidly between those roles and it would be a much more next year. But I know that for a lot of us it's like if it's they're either in the community and you have insight for them or they're not in the community and you're completely flying blind.

So I get that that the tech limitations. But anyways, out of that I can't remember all the Oh that's trying to really have good lawyers. You shared previously I think when you were prepping for some of this around the seasons of being a community member and I want to I would love for you to talk about that a little bit.

And I know Leslie and Tim, you both have good insight into what does that activation look like. So I'm going to try and draw some you know, I think there's a lot more overlap around here. Like, okay, well, you're all saying maybe there's a time and a place for them to follow the activation path. So I guess Laura talked a little bit about seasons and then Leslie and Tim would love to hear from you on some of your experiences around how you seek to activate, and I think you're muted.

Laura Unfortunately, very polite, very politely muted. August 20, 2020 2023. I didn't hear yet. You know, I've joined communities in different season seasons where I had a lot more time. And so I think they're just seasons of life where things get busy and they're maybe not where you have more or less time. And I also think their seasons as their journey, if I'm more of a beginner or like to Tim's point earlier about being in a community where I'm feeling very much like a novice or a beginner, like I'm learning, I'm probably going to observe more than I'm going to feel compelled to dive into the conversation.

And the same is true for me. On on the other end of the spectrum, I mean, Doctor Beck is good inside. I don't know if any of you know that, community, but it's parenting community. But my kids are basically aged out of the community. But I love having access to all of those resources. So I say I stay a member of the community.

I don't really do a whole lot, but I know if I'm looking for parenting resources, I know right where to go. Kourtney Kourtney loves Dr. Becky and her. They have a great head of community, Rayna Pomeroy. But anyway, I, I go to community often for curation of knowledge because I do not want to be combing YouTube. I don't need to be trying to find resources.

I want a place to just know that I can dive in here and dip in and it's going to be trusted and curated and organized. So that's what I mean by seasons. Like, it really depends on where the member is in their season of life, in their season of the year maybe, and the season of their their member journey.

So that what you make. Yeah, that is what, that is what I meant. That's great context. So I think that there to to connect some dots that there could be a scenario where if I'm in a observer season of my community engagement to take that word and I'm booted or asked to activate, that may be the wrong move for me at that time.

With the caveat of I guess it depends on the community and what the stated objectives are, because then it may not be maybe kicking me out is the right move because that's not what the spaces. But Tim and Leslie talked. Talk a little bit about the your experience is around activation because I think it dovetails into the seasons piece that it can be it is a a focused and very specific exercise, not a, you know, all over the place all the time.

Yeah. I mean, I think, you know, the example I gave was one when we were launching HuffPost Live and at our post and, you know, our community was really people that we knew were there. They signed in, they commented and possibly like got on air. Right. And there was I just happened to be tasked because we were a startup within a big company of handling the support to.

Right. And which wasn't a heavy lift. I mean, you know, we maybe got like ten emails a week on support, but I would get them in. Usually what I do is I try and, you know, might the advice I got was, okay, we know this isn't your job, so just find the three major buckets that the support tickets come in on and create templates for each one of those things and just personalize it with their name and send it back out.

Let them know we're looking into it. So I did that for a couple of weeks and got zero engagement, zero responses, zero follow back. So I just said, You know what? I'm doing ten of these a week. I'm going to write a personal email to everybody that comes in. And there was one person, her name was Tash Jeffrey's up in Toronto, and she said I've been watching your show for months.

One of the things that I would love to do is know when your segments are going to come up so that when I see something that interest me, I have an idea when they're coming up. Our whole concept at the time was not to plan how long these segments were going to be because it wasn't news. It was conversations about the news.

And you you can't find those, right? And so but we did have it on our roadmap that we were going to come up with that approximate time. You know, we had an idea that these were going to come up. So I let her know this. I thanked her so much. I told her we'd love to see her in the comments.

I'm on there all the time. You know, we'd love to see her get engaged. And if she ever wanted to be a guest or she knew other guest, you know, we'd love to have them. Well, I got about five emails from Tash after that, introducing me to what I jokingly say half of Toronto for potential guests coming in and which really helped at the time our producers get on air.

Guest But more importantly, what Tash did was she became an on air guest. She became active in the comments for the segments that she wanted. And in addition to that, she became what we refer to as a social share, which a lot of our comments commenters weren't, which means she was going outside of our platform and sharing this on Twitter specifically at the time to get more people aware of what was going on on our platform community wise.

And so this was a perfect engagement opportunity that didn't come from within our community platform, but came because I was handling support at the time and was able to activate her in a very personal way, addressing her particular concern and giving her a response that felt like was not only I mean, I view this as a community builder.

If I make a community member feel like they're part of what we're building, I have their I have their the relationship with them for life. And so that's what I wanted to do with these emails that I was sending out. And that's exactly what happened. But I mean, I use this example because it was just beyond any expectation I could have gotten.

It would have been just nice for her to say, Yeah, I'll try and jump in the comments when I want. Thank you for your response. But to get the response that I got from her is why I tell this story all the time in my talks is because this is a great engagement opportunity to take somebody that was a lurker before and make them a full fledged bowl contributing bowl engagement community member just by one simple email like that's a great story.

Tim. Thank you. Leslie Your experiences with activating and then I'm going to jump to brief because I think there are communities that have to we have to move people out. And I think that one of the things we have talk about is how do you do that elegantly and in a way that respects the participation and can can can do that.

So just heads up, coming to you, coming to you next on that one. But Leslie, go for it. Yeah. And I love Tim's example. What I love about that is that there was a point of view on how the company was going to treat their customers members at the time. And then Tim changed the point of view. And so I think that's one thing that communities can work on is having their point of starting with their point of view of how they're going to treat the customers from the very beginning, how you get to know them, how you take them along the journey so that you have a better idea of when to activate them,

how to activate them. But I have a very similar story as Tim. You know, we as a community of 10,000, did NPS. And you know, again, you'll get NPS responses. Another data point that I love to see when working with customers on building their community, community like that, they've never they've never talked to you. They've never seen. We would respond at that point to every single person, just someone would attempt template emails, but if there were negative, we would call them to speak with them directly, co-create with them, help them understand how they could get more value, etc..

And, you know, I remember I probably I could name 5 to 10 right now that I had maybe somewhat tense conversations with. But, you know, I still get referrals from Bob Moore who sends them to me. He lives in Nashville. I no longer work at Pavilion, but I he still sends me his referrals. And so it's just like that.

You know, the way the point of view that we decided to take on the community itself then, you know, allowed that kind of, you know, re-engagement, etc.. And so that's, you know, I think that was one of our strategies in doing that. Now, I fully understand not everybody can do that. If you have a, you know, 6 million people in your community.

But that's where like segmenting comes in, tagging comes in, things like that, and then deciding maybe how you your point of view on taking care of portion of your community, maybe going a little bit back to Bree's preto principle, although I still want to go encroach into that 80%. So definitely happening. Yeah, Well, I mean, that's, that's what we all want that, right?

That's Breitbart. I think it is naive for us to assume that all of the communities can operate where someone can just be an observer all the time that sometimes we do have to. There is reason and important value in saying, hey, these are the expectations and we're not meeting those expectations. Can you speak a little bit about I don't know, some practical tips on two sides of the coin?

How do we recognize, incentivize, support the people that are in that 20%, but then also have the grace for conversation? Think Kourtney's comment speaks to this as well, is that it doesn't have to be aggressive. It can come from a place of empathy, but you are also also muted. Everyone's very polite with the the muting. I love it.

I did want to acknowledge Kourtney's comment. I thought it was really, really thoughtful and approaching with empathy is key. You know, like it's I like to kind of put on the percent of like just kick them out like don't have a heart. It really at the end of the day, like if there's someone in your community who's like, Oh my God, like, I love this space.

I am in this crazy season of life. Like, I know I haven't been holding pulling my weight, but can I, can I stay like, yes, of course you can. But it's not the the it's not the spirit of kicking someone out, but the spirit for me of of kicking someone out is honoring the activity and the motivation, the desires of the community that's there.

So if you have that motivation and that desire, I think there is 100% space to have that conversation backing up. I do think that this starts in the onboarding process. I I'll assert that like my belief is that the the best possible time for someone to activate straight to a leader in your community is within their first 30 days in your community.

I have found that after that it's pretty hard to to get some it can it can happen. There are exceptions, but I would say like no one's going to be more excited about your community than the day when they join because they're they're coming. They're like they're filled with excitement of like, I have this problem. I found this space that's going to help connect me to people who are all wrestling with the same thing.

So right off of that, right out the gate, I think that's the in the onboarding experience is the place where you define what activity is required in the community. Make that super clear and super transparent and take the shame out of leaving the community right out the gate. I'm a huge fan of giving everyone every opportunity to leave and saying like, These are our values.

This is what we're about. If not like if this isn't a good for, you know, big deal. Like, here's, here's the way that you connect with the community. There's no shame here. Other ways that you can engage with this. So starting in the onboarding process to continue that, like once we get to the point where it's like, hey, you're giving us all the signs that this is not providing value for you, you're not contributing in a way that we feel like it's going to elevate the everyone around you.

Here's the three things If we're wrong, if this is a bad assumption that we're making, like, please, like, we would love to invite you in. We're calling you in, we're inviting you into more activity. Here's what you can do. If not, we're just going to assume that this isn't a good season or this wasn't a great fit for you.

And you can kindly leave yourself or in a month, if nothing's changed, we will just like very gently remove you from the community. That tends to be the communication. So a couple of messages before they leave. I'm just reading the comments here. Check out anytime you like. I mean, yeah, like we can never leave How to communicate. Yeah.

Every part in the journey. That's great. For 30 days, I do believe we often mess with people who may get busy or the last point in the season that we have the perfect opportunity to engage them later after the 30 days. I think having having prompts to reengage them is, is is not a problem. I think for me it's a I have to protect my energy of where am I committing my energy to and am I going to spend it like trying to like just pull this person along like one tiny step further, like the heart of the the silent majority?

Am I going to spend like most of my time like trying to get them one step further in the user journey? Or am I going to say like, here's a couple prompts, but like, do your thing and just trust the system and take care of itself and focus my time on the people who really are contributing and participating a lot in the community.

That's just generally my posture. That segues well into the final few minutes that we have here. I would love to hear from each of you some some closing thoughts. What what were salient takeaways from maybe someone else that have you had any of your viewpoints changed in this debate? Things that people should take away. I will. Whomever wants to jump in first.

No, No particular order to this. Well, if you don't mind, I'll just jump in because you go forward to go into what Bree was just talking about. And even though I do draw a line in the sand with engaging them, I do believe that in all three of these things, there's a time and a place for all of them.

So I will say that, Yeah, well, we could address that. Wouldn't have been very exciting if we started with. Right, Right. But I will say that, you know, I think too many times we look at a customer journey as a linear path and a community member as a linear path. I remember at Internet Week in New York, we had somebody from a project manager from Idaho talk about how they planned new projects and how he shifted it because he was a Dungeon and Dragons Dungeon Master.

And what they did was they got everybody that was from all the different departments or stakeholders in the room. This process used to take six months. He got it down to a three day weekend. But what you did, you mapped out where the entry points were, where the decision points were, what options somebody had at that decision point.

And I think that's not what we do enough. We look at it as they enter here. They can go here, here, depending on which way they go. Then we branch them off this way. I think it's much more complex than that. We need to start looking at when we can level them up, when we maybe level an out or have them exit, or maybe when we just let them continue on their path.

They're not hitting one of those points where they need to make a decision. And I think if we start looking at it from that way more of a holistic way instead of just what's the journey that want them to take, what are the possible journeys that everybody in the community can make? Those are the places where you have the opportunities to reengage them just like that.

Leslie Laura, I was just going to put a note in the chat that we kind of all came back around to. It depends. So I was actually thinking of Jay Clausewitz's community, the lab where he caps membership at 200 members. And to Brees point, if I am, you know, member 201 waiting outside the doors to get in, I'm I'm ready for him to kick someone out so that there's a space for me.

So I think he has 188 now so 12 of you can go join that. I, I, I think there's so much nuance to this. I guess my position is just to respect the member and where they are and where their comfort level is. I send an email out to my email list asking or kind of telling about today and saying, Hey, I'm, I'm if you're comfortable writing me back, I'm going to speak and defend your position to be quiet in the community and I don't normally get email tons of email responses.

I got quite a few and know one person in particular said how much she just appreciates that feeling of belonging and that she doesn't have that often in her life. And that it's hard for her to to, to belong to something really matters to her. So I would just want us all to be very mindful of these are people at the end of the day and, and we need to just be compassionate and kind with whatever decision, whether we're escorting them out or and and then another member's, another person said to me is often the silent fan who remains loyal forever.

And a day. And I think that's true, too. So I'll just hang my hat on that. I like that one. I like that one. Leslie Brie, final, final thoughts. I'll let you go last. But yeah, I think I agree with Laura a lot on that is like, you know, we talk about community and then we talk about metrics and engagement and business outcomes, but like, like human, let's put the word human in all of that conversation and understanding very similar that it's a scatterplot of what people find as value and then just kind of reinforcing that, you know, it's not the member's job for me, it's not the member's job to figure out how to

get value. It's our job to deliver the value over and over again continuously. And, you know, it's really something for us to look at if we're not seeing, you know, we're not seeing them receiving the value that we think we're giving them. Yeah, I love this conversation. I feel challenged to honor more of the journeys and for meeting a little bit more of a black and white thinker, but like to try to hold space for the gray.

I think I, I really appreciate the the empathy that's brought to this conversation from you all. And 100% agree that it does depend at the end of the day and the community depends. I think yeah I think my the the spirit of it for me is honoring the work and participation that we're seeing in the communities by by protecting that in a way that feels really safe for those who are showing up in the community.

And so if at any point it feels like a working majority is a threatening force to the guy that's been created in the community, I think it's time to evaluate who belongs in that community and who might just not be a good fit for the community I like. And that's a fair, fair lens and appreciate that. Thank you all so much for the time in whatever season that you're in, whether it's, you know, Laura coming on vacation or jumping in this team, appointments all day, things like that.

Thank you all so much. I will single you out, Bri, as well for instigating this conversation. Thank you for for that. And it was a pleasure to have you all have you all here in and join us. And there's an excellent comment from Sherry in the chat interactive the stuff. Yeah, she agrees with everyone and is in some way, shape or form.

So. Yes, Thank you. Thank you, Sherry. And on that note, we're going to stick around. Feel free to hang out if you can. You can. You know, we're we're out of the formal portion of this, but we want to network chat, things like that. And also, if you have places to be, you know, busy schedules, by all means, do that as well.

But thank you all. Both are our debaters and panelists and and everyone who joined in. Thank you.

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