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  1. When I wrote my last entry, The Dogly Mail had just reached the 100 member milestone but since then things have grown impressively. The photo competition has proven very successful at encouraging new signups and we are now at around 1400 members picking up 15-20 new members a day. This is far better than I could have hoped for but there a few caveats… Not all traffic and content is equal In building website traffic I’ve realised that high member numbers are great and help to validate your ideas but member quality is far more important. I have been able to boost the member growth non-organically with a minimal Facebook ad spend in conjunction with the competition but we’re still trying to find those super contributors. The members we have are not yet invested in the site themselves and the sense of community that is required to be sustainable long term is still in its infancy. We have also found that with the opt-in mailing list, around 50% of the registered members are signing up for the newsletter during registration. This is encouraging to me based on the non-organic growth so hopefully, with more organic growth this will rise further. What are we doing to get higher quality contributions? We are collaborating with a vet on professional articles to give the site more credibility in the areas I am not an expert in and Andy is covering dog news where he has time. Hopefully, over the long term, this will help to improve the organic traffic to the website. With the articles, we now have high-end long-form content covered although I would like to get a more varied team of writers on board to broaden the appeal of the subject matter. We also have more fun commenting, likes and meme social interaction covered in the photo competition section. This leaves a gap in the middle for more serious user-contributed discussion and opinion and what ultimately will make or break the website. For this, we’re working on getting the blogs application ready for when we feel the traffic is sufficient to launch another area. When it’s ready we will slowly transition the ad spend towards the new blog section and forums to provide more balanced traffic coming to the site. We will also be able to promote the new sections via the newsletter. I am almost at the end of the school year so my time on the site should increase and I can get more involved with discussion topics to try and foster that sense of community. What else have I learned? Keeping people’s attention is not easy and once a member has left the site you need to work really hard to get them to revisit. It’s something I read a lot of on these forums so hopefully, Invision is working on this to help us keep people engaged. As you can see we’re still in the try lots of things to see what works stage but the learning experience is part of the fun. We were running AdSense ads and getting a little back from the spend we were doing ourselves but I feel at this stage it is counter-productive. We have decided to stop AdSense for the time being in order to concentrate on building traffic and the membership and will revisit the monetisation options once the site has grown. Not running the adverts has also given the site a substantial speed boost which will hopefully help us with organic rankings. If you’re running your community as a hobby you may not wish to spend anything on advertising to start and may prefer to slowly add to your website content. With so much competition for traffic online though this would be a very slow strategy for us for what I still hope to be a commercially viable micro business. On the current growth path, I hope to be profitable in 12-18 months and will keep you updated with the highs or lows along the way. View the full article
  2. A successful community only needs three core elements to flourish and begin producing results. Your community will require some care and effort to flourish, but with the right strategies in place, you'll ensure that the value your community produces continues to increase as time goes by. Let's take a look at the three elements that make for a successful community. Content Content is the life-blood of any community. Content is what is posted by your members, and by your team. In the early days, you'll need to seed discussions and respond to customers posts regularly. It's important to demonstrate that you're actively involved with the community and encouraging others to post and extend discussions. Over time, user-generated content will begin to propel your community forwards. A great way to bring in new users is to write valuable articles using Pages, or the Blog apps. Writing about issues relevant to your community can help position you as an expert and will be shared widely by your community. You don't have to be an expert writer to create articles. There are free apps such as Grammarly to help polish your prose. A great way to quickly generate new content is to quote other news sources and offer your own commentary. For example, if your community is based around TV shows, right now you could easily create a new article for your site based on Game of Thrones by quoting a small part of two or three existing articles denouncing how the quality of writing on Game of Thrones has slipped and offer your contrasting thoughts. Just remember to link back to the original article and check the source site to make sure they are happy for this to happen. HubSpot has a great article on how to quote without stealing. Traffic To really start building your community, you need a steady flow of visitors from outside sources. The content you create will drive traffic into your community, but it sometimes needs a helping hand. Content from inside established communities can drive millions of impressions a month from search engines. It's worth making sure you're making good use of the built-in SEO tools. We recently performed a thorough review of how Invision Community optimises for SEO including adding features such as lazy loading. It is also a good idea to put your community link in your email signature, and share it widely via social media. A good number of our successful community owners have created a Facebook page, and a Twitter account for their community and share their best content over those social channels. Email is still a very powerful tool for creating an audience. We send out a monthly newsletter here at Invision Community, and articles we share with it are viewed at least four times as much as other articles. Engagement Once you have a steady stream of visitors consuming content on your site, you need to engage them to convert them from a casual visitor to a registered member, and then beyond. The first step is to get your visitor to register. While we recommend you make many forums open for guest viewing, we do recommend that you ask for guests to register before posting. We recently added a new feature called 'Post Before Registering' that allows guests to reply and sign-up in one simple activation flow. Most members initially join for selfish reasons. Perhaps they have a broken iPhone and want to ask for help. Or perhaps they came to ask how to fix a code problem. Generally speaking, they do not join out of altruism and a strong desire to help others. To convert a one-time poster to a regular contributor can take some work. Ensuring the default notifications include email when a new post is made will help encourage the poster to return. You can also tag the member in other discussions you feel may be interesting to them. We recently added a few new engagement features that also showcases other interesting content in notification based emails. Taking the time to welcome the member, and showing them how to access the best from your community can go a long way to making your site stand out. Taking the time to focus on these three core elements will help your community grow and prosper. You may not see overnight results, but over time you will start to see a huge difference in visitors, registrations and returning members. That wraps it up for this article. We'd love to know your thoughts on our suggestions and any strategies that you've used in the past that have worked well. View the full article
  3. Have you ever found yourself muttering "there has to be an easier way" when managing your community? If you have, it's likely that you are not the first person to think that. Invision Community has been refined over nearly two decades, and in that time we've received a lot of feedback from clients running very large and busy sites. We love a short cut, especially when it makes our clients lives easier. There's plenty of time-saving features throughout Invision Community, and here are five of the best. Saved Actions If you routinely perform the same actions to a topic, such as replying before closing it or moving the topic to a different forum, then saved actions will save you a lot of time. Let's look at a practical example. You have a forum where your members can suggest new features for your product. You might choose to move some of these suggestions to another forum to shortlist them for inclusion in a future version, or to discuss further. You also may like to reply thanking the member for their idea, but it's not feasible at this time. Here you would set up two saved actions, one that replies and moves the topic to a specific forum, and one that replies to the topic and closes it for further commenting. Your saved actions are accessible via the moderation menu You and your moderating team can select these saved actions quickly when reading a topic to perform multiple moderation steps in one go. RSS Feeds If your community regularly discusses topics that feature in the latest news, then you can quickly seed these discussions using the RSS feed import tool. Not only can you import almost any public RSS feed into your community, but you also have control over how these topics are displayed, to whom they are attributed to and how the link back to the source article looks. RSS feed import is an often overlooked but handy tool at starting productive discussions without the need to source and post them manually. iCal Feeds The iCal feed can be considered as the sister feature to the RSS Feed Import tool. It works in a very similar way in that it can accept almost any public iCal feed and import events into your community's calendar. This is especially useful if you maintain an event stream outside of the community, but wish to share those events with your members in a native way, or perhaps you already have a calendar product used by your organisation. Using the iCal feed tool to populate your community calendar with key dates relevant to your community can be achieved very quickly. Auto-moderation Moderating a busy community can be a time-consuming task. Trying to review new posts and topics to ensure they meet your community standards as they come in can be daunting. Fortunately, Invision Community has an ace up its sleeve. Auto-moderation allows you to use the power of your community to identify and remove content that does not meet your community standards. The administrator sets up a threshold so that when a specific number of reports for that content item is crossed, the content is hidden. Auto-moderation has a lot of options to configure which we covered in this blog article recently. Group promotion Ensuring your members feel valued and rewarded for their contributions is key to member retention and keeping engagement high. A simple way to reward long term regular contributors is to elevate their permissions. This can mean that they have access to otherwise hidden areas, or they get more allowances in terms of upload space and fewer restrictions. To do this manually would take a significant amount of time. Thankfully, Invision Community has a feature called Group Promotion. This tool allows the administrator to set up specific thresholds such as post count, or time since joining which then move the member into a new group when triggered. This all happens automatically. Just set it up and let it run! We spoke about Group Promotion recently, take a look here to learn more about this feature. How many of you are already using these features, and which ones did we miss off our list? I'd love to know. View the full article
  4. Cultivating a strong Sense of Community is a clear goal for community builders. Develop a strong sense of community, and you’ve built a community experience that sparks a more meaningful and connected community that your members will love. A strong sense of community means: An integrated community where members feel personally related An impactful community where a member can influence and be influenced by the group. A fulfilling community where members meet the needs of others and can feel rewarded. A shared community, where users undergo common history, time together, and social experiences. Do you believe you’ve developed a strong sense of community? Follow long as we critically examine the first element in the Sense of Community: Membership. Membership Boundaries of communities have always existed, whether it be neighborhoods, social groups, or online communities. By definition, there are people who belong and people who do not. It’s okay to decline membership to users, thereby providing a more comfortable space for members who are accepted. Here are some time-tested tips from my years of community management that touch upon various attributes of membership: Don’t try to be everything to everyone. It’s far better to be an exclusive community to a smaller, impassioned group of users than to dilute your community for a wide audience. Not everybody deserves to belong, and by intentionally removing irrelevant members, it makes it a more purposeful community for those who can join. Define who should belong, and outline the requirements on your Registration screen and Guest Sign-up widget. Boundaries are walls, but safe walls. Although there’s the pain of rejection and isolation of private communities, it’s offset with the positive benefits of joining. It creates a space where members can feel safe to open up, to feel related to one another, and to feel protected. Reinforce the benefits of joining the community to new members in a welcome message. A new sense of identification. Not only do members join the group, they should develop an extended sense of belonging and identity with the group. The more strongly you can define the sense of belongingness, the more deeply the member will feel connected. There should be a feeling of acceptance, an expectation that one fits in, and a willingness to sacrifice for the group. Create a welcome team that immediately reaches out both publicly and privately, ask how the new member can contribute, and constantly highlight how the community has gone above-and-beyond in members helping members. The higher the boundary, the greater the reward. Personal investment is an important contributor to a member’s feeling of group membership. By working for a membership, a member will feel like he’s earned a place – and that the membership will be more meaningful and valuable. You can ask guests for their accreditations, background, or how they can contribute to the community. The power of symbols. Social groups throughout history have long used symbols, icons, ceremonies, and group language to cultivate a unique sense of identity. These conventions are powerful representations of a group. You can cultivate and write a common language in your Invision Community in large ways and small by uploading unique reactions, changing the language string, and celebrating community-specific holidays and events. As you re-evaluate your community framework with me, take the time to outline what it means to be a member of your community. Defining your membership goes hand-in-hand with defining your purpose. It should touch upon these five attributes of membership: boundaries, emotional safety, sense of belonging, personal investment, and common symbolism. Establish clear distinctions for your community’s membership qualifications, and you’ll be able to develop a deep Sense of Community from the very start of a member’s registration. Share with me and others how you've defined your community's membership in the comments below. I love to hear about other Invision Communities. Joel, Invision Community Advocate and Certified Community Manager View the full article
  5. Invision Community is used by some of the world's biggest game brands, proudly enabling gamers to connect with the creators of their favourite titles. These sites attract millions of visitors between them and thousands of posts are added daily because of their high profile. But what if you're just starting out, how do you convert casual visitors to members, and what's the best way to set up your community? I got talking to new customer Darrell, interestingly named Mr. Fierce God on our community. While you may expect that this portrays a fire and brimstone hothead, you'd be wrong as Darrell is one of the nicest people you'll meet. Darrell runs the Fierce Gaming Network and I was impressed by the way he's set up his site and wanted to share my thoughts on what he's done well. The first thing I noticed is that the forum index is not the home page for the site. For a gaming community that wants to focus on more than just user conversations, this is a good move. Let's break it down. A. The home page has multiple points of entry, and the sidebar menu unobtrusively offers short-cuts to various parts of the community. B. We have a large call to action to either login or register. This box also explains the benefits of registration clearly and enforces that registration is a very quick process. One optimisation that may be worth looking at here is to add the "Sign in with Facebook / Microsoft" buttons on the box to persuade even more to register right away. C. Fierce Gaming Network also makes great use of Clubs to segment their audience to specific software titles. Re-using instantly recognisable artwork as the club cover image will entice fans of those games to visit. Scrolling down a little shows the "Member of the month". As humans, we are drawn to faces instantly, and this humanises the site and "unmasks" some of the popular members, making the site less intimidating. Moving down a little more we see the "Our Picks" section which highlights the best content from the community. Our Picks is a great way to get visitors to engage with your content. Good use of cover images draws attention and makes it clear the kind of content you're going to read. Darrell makes great use of several lnvision Community apps to build the site, and has set it up well. New users get to the site see handpicked content, fellow members and the benefits of joining all in one place. It's a great start and I look forward to seeing Darrell's site succeed. Are you using Invision Community to build custom homepages for your community? Share them in the comments below. View the full article
  6. I noticed something new in the chiller cabinet at the petrol station after filling yesterday. Bottles of Grape Fanta sitting alongside the more mundane and pedestrian drinks such as Coke Zero and Pepsi Max. I grabbed two bottles. After draining one in record time, I googled around to see where I could get more of this delicious nectar, and it discovered that it's a new flavour being launched in the UK. The really interesting thing was that Coca Cola used data stored in the self service machines that offer different flavours (such as those at cinemas) to determine which new flavours to bring to the market. Grape was the second most popular flavour after regular orange, so the company knew they had a market ready for premixed bottles. In a world where we fear what Big Tech does with our data, it's easy to forget that data has a valid use in your business. It's why we make it clear that with Invision Community, you own your data. We just look after it for you. This gives you the freedom to discover new trends within your business and use them to drive sales. View the full article
  7. I noticed something new in the chiller cabinet at the petrol station after filling yesterday. Bottles of Grape Fanta sitting alongside the more mundane and pedestrian drinks such as Coke Zero and Pepsi Max. I grabbed two bottles. After draining one in record time, I googled around to see where I could get more of this delicious nectar, and it discovered that it's a new flavour being launched in the UK. The really interesting thing was that Coca Cola used data stored in the self service machines that offer different flavours (such as those at cinemas) to determine which new flavours to bring to the market. Grape was the second most popular flavour after regular orange, so the company knew they had a market ready for premixed bottles. In a world where we fear what Big Tech does with our data, it's easy to forget that data has a valid use in your business. It's why we make it clear that with Invision Community, you own your data. We just look after it for you. This gives you the freedom to discover new trends within your business and use them to drive sales. View the full article
  8. Two headlines caught my eye today as they appeared side by side in my newsfeed. On first glance, they seemed contradictory. The first was that the UK lost nearly 2,500 shops and stores last year and the second is that discount fashion retailer Primark has just invested £70m in a new store in Birmingham. This new store covers 161,000 sq ft over five floors and features a Disney-themed cafe, a beauty studio, a gents hairdresser and a Harry Potter themed section. If the UK is closing thousands of stores, and a recent department store has just fallen into administration why would a brand invest £70m in a new store? The answer is that they are not building a store, they are building an experience. It's clearly not enough to just stack products and open the doors anymore. You have to offer more to entice people in through the doors. This is why Toys R Us failed in the end. I maintain that if they had reduced shelf space and installed soft play, cafes and product demonstration areas, they would have had a chance at turning around their failing business. Primark has learned from other's mistakes. With themed "shops in shops" and child-friendly cafes, they are offering more than discount clothes. It is exactly the same as your community. Offering a space to facilitate conversation is often not enough unless you dominate your niche. Are you known for well thought out reviews? Perhaps you write valuable articles that get people to your site. Or you might be focusing on building an audience with a photo competition as Helen from The Dogly Mail has. What are you doing to encourage more people through your doors? View the full article
  9. “Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” – Richard Branson, billionaire and founder of Virgin Group. We all seek success with our Invision Communities. For too many of our communities, however, we yearn for success but we don’t plot the correct navigation to get there. We haphazardly pursue our strategies, trying new ideas and hoping one will stick. It’s time to take a step back and assess your goals in context to your growth. It’s important to understand the stages of the community lifecycle, and to strategically match your goals with your growth sequence. Alicia Iriberri and Gondy Leroy of Claremont Graduate University surveyed over 1000 publications across multiple disciplines including computer science, information systems, sociology, and management in their seminal 2009 research paper “A Life-Cycle Perspective on Online Community Success.” Their research forms the foundation for most modern community management, and in their paper they write, “The impact each design component has on the success of the online community shifts depending on which life-cycle stage the online community is experiencing.” The right strategy at the right time will maximize the impact. Every community goes through a community lifecycle of four stages: Inception, Growth, Maturity, and Mitosis. Setting the wrong objective can not only fail, it can even backfire and destroy goodwill. Here are classic examples of good strategies that go wrong because of poor sequencing: A new community with no activity that builds dozens of new boards A growth community not fostering a unique sense of community A mature community not establishing strong codes of conduct Architecting a community is very different for the first ten users versus the next thousand users. New priorities come into play, community concerns will shift and strategies need tochange. As a community manager, ensure the strategy is appropriate and reflects your community lifecycle to ensure maximum impact. Let’s take a look at proper goal settings for each stage of the community lifecycle. Inception Inception is the start of your community. You’re bursting with energy, enthusiasm, and big ideas. While your Invision Community is full of potential, your goal is to turn your vision into reality: Members: Focus on nurturing a core team of members. Your goal is to get 10 – 12 superusers to consistently engage and support the community vision. Promotion: Your community won’t contain enough content to attract visitors through search engines, so you’ll have to rely on personal referrals, word-of-mouth, and direct acquaintances. Content: Focus on building expertise on core content areas that will make you stand out. You want to be the best in one subject. You’ll need to generate much of the content programming yourself, which should focus on functional value. Organization: Establish organizational parameters for the community, define the vision with stakeholders, write your Terms of Use, and validate the community concept. Community: The community is heavily centered around the community founder at this stage, so set the right tone and lead through example. Growth Growth is where the magic of community happens, balanced against the development of more explicit and formal conduct. Members: Shift your focus from nurturing individual users to creating a workflow that can systematically welcome new members. Promotion: You should be proactive with your self-promotional activities to build community awareness such as email marketing, social media, or mailing lists. Content: Content will now be a mix between self-generated and co-created. You want to highlight community content by others to encourage community expertise. When you create content yourself, you want to start including emotionally-driven questions that connect users. Organization: Measure specific metrics for organization goals, highlight community health and successes, secure funding for ongoing budget and team. Community: A unique sense of community is cultivated at this time with shared experiences and language between members. Members feel excited to be a part of your community’s growth. Maturity Maturity is when your Invision Community becomes critically acclaimed and well-known in the field. Even though your community looks to be run smoothly, there are still areas to address so your community doesn’t stagnate: Members: There should be a clearly defined process and welcome guide for onboarding new members, an established pipeline that constantly brings on new superusers, and a rewards program that recognizes members for different types of member journeys. Promotion: Your site is well-known, so the search engine traffic and content within your community is enough to bring in new users. You can optimize your SEO at this point. Content: Almost all content is user-created at this point, which means your focus needs to shift to content recognition, organization, and moderation. Highlight the best community content; categorize and properly tag new content so the community stays organized; and scale your moderation to handle the size of your community. Organization: The community is a key part of your organization’s larger success and supports multiple areas of the business. Be a strong internal advocate for the community and align your community with your organization’s new profit areas. Community: Superusers not only have the privilege of creating their own content for the community, but they’ve stepped up as mentors and moderators. Your community has a strong culture that’s reinforced by members. Mitosis Mitosis is the stage when your Invision Community grows beyond its original mission, potentially splitting off into new subgroups. Many communities stagnate at this point with falling engagement and plateauing registration, but you’re catching onto the next big trend in your industry to grow into. Members: New member registrations flatlines because you’re tracking with the industry. Your goal is to continue to delight members with new forms of omnichannel engagement like regional meetups, video conferencing, and headline conferences. Promotion: Your community self-generates organic traffic. Your promotion should shift from trying to advertise for yourself to exerting influence with industry partners as a trusted leader in the field. Content: Members can find the most comprehensive set of resource documents and discussion on your community. Your goal is to distill the knowledge into the best tips and guides for newcomers to obtain the most accurate information as quickly as possible. You should also archive areas that no longer receive activity while finding growth topics in your field. Organization: The community is a critical part of all business operations and integrates into all relevant workflows. You should build custom metrics to measure results, help determine new investment decisions, and streamline business efficiencies at the organizational level that benefit the community. Community: Your community becomes an incubator of new sections in a controlled manner for potential spin-off. Superusers control and moderate their own areas of the site like Clubs or Blogs. Online communities evolve through distinct stages of the community lifecycle. At each stage, the needs and activities of members require different tools, features, and community management. Certain strategies are more impactful when they coincide with the right sequence. Invision Community makes it easy to get started with a technology platform packed with features that every community manager can start using right away. But how you get to the first ten users, to the first thousand posts, or even to one billion likes will be a journey that’s truly your own. Share your success story of Invision Community in the comments below. Did you make any rookie mistakes that you wish you knew beforehand? What are some strategies that you’re pursuing right now, and why do you think it’s an impactful decision for this stage of your community’s lifecycle? We’d love to hear your journey along the community lifecycle. View the full article
  10. In a move that surprised many, British cosmetics firm Lush has chosen to quit social media. With a combined following across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, Lush has a combined audience of over 1.2 million followers. Lush are being a little cryptic about its reasons but cite having to pay for visibility and getting tired of trying to produce content so just that algorithms will rank it highly. "Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed. So we’ve decided it’s time to bid farewell to some of our social channels and open up the conversation between you and us instead." It feels like sacrilege for a brand to come off social media, but I'm not surprised. Social media is about broadcasting more than it is about meaningful conversation. And now, even with a huge following, broadcasting doesn't get the same reach it did a few years ago with platforms pushing paid options more and more. Lush also targets a very young demographic that simply aren't using social media anymore. The firm said it was "cutting out the middleman between ourselves and the Lush community". It remains unclear which direction Lush is going to take to facilitate conversations, but using an independent community platform like Invision Community should be considered. It cuts out any algorithm biased, money hungry platform. It opens up the conversation between the brand and its customers in a meaningful way, and the brand is completely in control of their data and what their customers see. At Invision Community, we're seeing more and more brands looking for a solution outside of social media. Perhaps this will accelerate the trend. View the full article
  11. Since the last blog entry in this series I have been very busy. I’m still working full time so haven’t been able to spend as much time as I would have liked on The Dogly Mail but I’m really enjoying the time I can. Early growth has been promising and I have been experimenting with different ideas that have come from founder members to see what might work long term. We recently broke the 100 member milestone and that all came from word of mouth. We’re not talking huge numbers but I’m very encouraged for the future. My focus is now on building interactions with four main areas of the site. Forums I had imagined the forums being the most active area after seeing other Invision Communities but I don’t think there are enough regularly active members yet for this area to be truly useful so it is (for now) not the main priority. I am however using some forums functionality effectively. I’ve added a special offers forum that is viewable by non members but to get to the actual topic contents you need to register. This seems to be enticing a few people to sign up and I want to approach more retailers to build on this. I also installed Simple Topic from the marketplace to simplify the posting process down to the absolute minimum steps required. Polls are also proving popular and new members who may not want to commit to introducing themselves or posting a full topic are at least interacting. I’ll be looking for more ways of adding easy interactions such as this. If anybody has any ideas for encouraging early discussion please let me know in the comments. Articles In the articles section new items are slowly being added and I find this a good opportunity to show some personality and indicate to users what they can expect from the rest of the site. I am trying all kinds of articles such as news, reviews, recipes and dog training guides to find out what I should focus on. I would also like to attract some guest writers for different viewpoints and to free up some of my time. Being able to see article view counts in Invision Community and the direct commenting functionality gives me good feedback. Events The launch of the events section coincided with a large dog related event in London and through it I was able to collaborate with the event organisers and do some succesful networking. This has led to some future opportunities for product reviews and reinforces my point from the last blog article where not all of your time should be spent behind the keyboard. Most of the events are being added by myself but hopefully as this section builds others will find it useful for promoting their own events. Photos One of the early members was quick to suggest we incorporate image sharing into the website as after all how can anybody resist cute photos of puppies? For this I originally looked at the Invision Gallery but felt that this section needed to have a voting element and Gallery was perhaps too feature rich. I wanted it to be a simple first interation with the website. I wanted people to be able to vote and more importantly encourage their friends to sign up and vote too. We started out with a simple topic and for the first month with not many people this worked great. One post was an entry and people could “Like” their favourites. It quickly became quite popular and it was clear that we would need something dedicated to the task so I commissioned some custom work. This was real investment but is already showing promising signs after launching April 1st. New members can now enter the photo competition and register at the same time so most new registrations are now coming from this route. I’ve recently discovered the profile completion feature so will enable that this month to try and increase engagement a bit further. I want to keep to our non intrusive privacy policy so this will all be optional and limited to member photo and some simple dog breed and numer of dogs fields. The Auto Welcome plugin from the marketplace will also be used when I figure out the best way to deploy it. With what I have learned so far I have a better idea of what is going to work to attract registrations and there is also a credible amount of content. This month I will be starting to look into some paid promotion with the hope of hitting my next milestone of 250 members. I will share my findings and hopefully some helpful marketing tips next month. View the full article
  12. Every day, LGBTQ young people from all walks of life log into TrevorSpace, the world’s largest moderated safe space for LGBTQ youth online. Here, young people can support each other, share their stories, and find refuge from what might be a less than accepting environment offline. Launched in 2008, TrevorSpace is housed under The Trevor Project, the foremost suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth in the world. Having an affirming digital community has been an indispensable resource for the youth The Trevor Project aims to protect, but guiding it to the success it enjoys today has had its challenges. Shortly after its launch, TrevorSpace rapidly grew to serve tens of thousands of users in just a few years. While the platform initially started on commercial community software, some unique requirements led the organization to go custom, building a community platform from the ground up. Faced with increasing hosting and development costs and declining user activity, senior leadership faced a tough decision: either dramatically transform the program, or discontinue it altogether. That’s when Invision Community stepped in. “We were already planning a digital transformation, replacing everything from our physical computers to our crisis services software infrastructure, the platforms that young people use to reach out to us, like TrevorLifeline, TrevorChat, and TrevorText,” John Callery, director of technology at The Trevor Project said of the challenges facing the organization at the time. “We had to be very careful with our resources and where we allocated our time.” Continuing the TrevorSpace program would mean The Trevor Project needed to move to a solution that could be implemented and managed with very limited resources while still providing the quality of care that the community had come to expect. It also meant meeting the specific needs of the organization’s mission, particularly around safety. After looking into the Invision Community platform per the suggestion of a team member, it became clear that they had all of the fundamentals TrevorSpace was looking for, like messages boards, social networking, and private messaging. Here was a chance to save the platform. Customers rarely have the opportunity to meet the people behind the technology they use. This wasn’t the case for The Trevor Project and the Invision Community team, who made it clear they believed in our mission to support LGBTQ youth in crisis and were willing to partner with us to realize our specific needs and figure out new solutions. Through utilizing the Invision Community team’s applications and plugins, we were able to meet all of our community’s custom needs, adding functionality unique to TrevorSpace to protect our users, many of whom are especially vulnerable when it comes to their privacy. None of this would have been possible without the incredible support of the Invision Community team. For just one example of how crucial TrevorSpace is to young LGBTQ people around the world, listen to Mani Cavalieri, the community’s product manager: “When the most prevalent forms of social media are so enmeshed with our in-person relationships, LGBTQ youth often lose a safe place to explore their identities. TrevorSpace is one of those special communities that balances anonymity (often a necessity for safety) with real, personal connections.” Since joining the team, Mani has already seen multiple instances of users finding lifelong friends - and even partners - over the years on TrevorSpace - and on the Invision Community platform, it is able to reach more users than ever before. In January 2018, TrevorSpace received double the number of registrations than any other month in the program’s 10-year history. We continue to see more than a thousand new registered members each week. As we begin international promotion of the program, we expect to break many more records in the coming year. As we continue to grow TrevorSpace, we also continue to rely on Invision Community’s extensibility. Our mission is to improve support networks and mental resilience for our users. This requires us to understand our users’ behavior and needs from a different perspective than other online communities, and it will continue to require more custom solutions. The marketplace of plugins, as well as the enthusiastic support of the Invision Community team, enable us to be bold in our ambitions, to build out a community that is truly unique in its class, and to improve the lives of those that need a supportive community the most. As one user puts in, in their welcome message to each newcomer: “That's our little secret - there's some one here, going through what you're going through. Whether that be mental health, body issues, parents, friends, and whatever else life as someone who's LGBTQ+ can throw at you. Reach out, and someone will be there for you.” - This entry was written by The Trevor Project team https://www.trevorspace.org https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ View the full article
  13. We do love a parlour game at Invision Community HQ and we were playing "6 degrees of separation" recently. You've probably heard of the "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon". This is where you try and connect any actor with Kevin Bacon in 6 steps or less. So let's try "6 degrees of Invision Community". This is where we try and connect a person with an Invision Community. David Goggins and Invision Community Last week, I finished the excellent David Goggins book "Can't Hurt Me". David Goggins, a retired Navy SEAL, spent a month with Jesse Itzler. This which was documented in Itzler's book "Living with a SEAL", which I've also read. Jesse Itzler owns the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Team. The Atlanta Hawks has a dedicated area inside the Atlanta Falcons Football team's official community. The Atlanta Falcons official community is powered by Invision Community. Here's another one. Groot and Invision Community Groot featured in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie series. Chris Pratt starred alongside Groot in the same movie series. Chris Pratt voices Emmet in the LEGO® movies. LEGO® uses Invision Community. Over to you. Do you have any "6 degrees of Invision Community?". We'd love to read them! View the full article
  14. I've had this similar conversation dozens of times in the recent past when someone has taken an interest in what I do. Person: So what does Invision Community do? Me: We develop and sell an independent community platform. Person: Oh. Neat. I used to say the F word. But this used to cause some confusion. 'We develop and sell a forum system'. This used to elicit a response similar to this: "Forums? They're still going?" This line of thinking is quite prevalent among those who frequent Facebook, or use Facebook Groups to manage their micro communities. Even though they probably use forums regularly, or end up on forum topics when searching for things like "Why is my iPhone not charging", they don't realise this. I recently guested on a podcast, where we spoke about "Facebook or Forums?", and I received this comment. It appears, then, that the word "forums" has a lot of legacy connotations attached to it. It conjures up images of the past when Netscape Navigator was the world's favourite browser, and AOL was still mailing out CDs. That is all ancient history now, and we've moved with the times. The product we have now has roots in the product from the early 2000s but it is wildly different and much more capable. When you explain that you can segment discussions into separate areas (aka forums), and even set up independent micro-communities (clubs), you can see lightbulbs going off. "That's amazing! I had no idea! So you mean I don't have to have my community in a single stream struggling for attention among adverts?" Nope, there is another way. Why not try an independent community platform? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you avoid the F word too? View the full article
  15. I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak on the Expert Focus podcast, hosted by experienced community manager and public speaker, Claire Dowdall. Claire has significant experience in managing and developing strategies for increasing Facebook Group engagement for high profile speakers and entrepreneurs, while my background is with independent communities. This set us up nicely for a lively conversation to really pull apart what makes for a successful community, and what platforms to consider when starting out. From Expert Focus: I really enjoyed speaking with Claire, and I hope you find a little time to tune in. Listen now: On Apple devices On Spotify On all other devices View the full article
  16. I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak on the Expert Focus podcast, hosted by experienced community manager and public speaker, Claire Dowdall. Claire has significant experience in managing and developing strategies for increasing Facebook Group engagement for high profile speakers and entrepreneurs, while my background is with independent communities. This set us up nicely for a lively conversation to really pull apart what makes for a successful community, and what platforms to consider when starting out. From Expert Focus: I really enjoyed speaking with Claire, and I hope you find a little time to tune in. Listen now: On Apple devices On Spotify On all other devices View the full article
  17. I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak on the Expert Focus podcast, hosted by experienced community manager and public speaker, Claire Dowdall. Claire has significant experience in managing and developing strategies for increasing Facebook Group engagement for high profile speakers and entrepreneurs, while my background is with independent communities. This set us up nicely for a lively conversation to really pull apart what makes for a successful community, and what platforms to consider when starting out. From Expert Focus: I really enjoyed speaking with Claire, and I hope you find a little time to tune in. Listen now: On Apple devices On Spotify On all other devices View the full article
  18. I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak on the Expert Focus podcast, hosted by experienced community manager and public speaker, Claire Dowdall. Claire has significant experience in managing and developing strategies for increasing Facebook Group engagement for high profile speakers and entrepreneurs, while my background is with independent communities. This set us up nicely for a lively conversation to really pull apart what makes for a successful community, and what platforms to consider when starting out. From Expert Focus: I really enjoyed speaking with Claire, and I hope you find a little time to tune in. Listen now: iTunes link for Apple devices On Spotify On all other devices View the full article
  19. Are you a vBulletin admin looking to stay on the leading edge of online communities? As an IPS client who frequents the Invision Community support forums on a daily basis, I often run across existing or former vBulletin admins looking to migrate to IPS. In fact, based on my not-so-scientific survey, vBulletin is one of the most popular platforms from where admins migrate. Many of the vBulletin users are professional administrators looking for a stable company, rapid development, and a trusted platform to power their communities into the future. I interviewed 6 former vBulletin admins who are now Invision Community clients. Most of these vBulletin admins have 10+ years of experience running successful forums, so their input was especially insightful. “I love the design of the admin and moderation back-end, a real treat after living with the antiquated and confusing vBulletin back-end.” -- @cfish “I like the well-thought concept, the details, and abundance of features and functions.” --@Ramsesx I’ve compiled the top 10 questions and answers from their interviews and the forums specifically for vBulletin admins for an insider’s perspective on how to convert from vBulletin to Invision Community. You can also read their full interviews in my Community Guide attached at the bottom. 10. What is the typical lifecycle of Invision Community and what new features come out? Invision Community is currently on 4.4. It’s a great time to be migrating as both the software and converter are very mature. You’ll be able to take advantage of all the new features from Invision Community 4.x such as Social Clubs, Subscriptions, SEO updates, and GDPR updates. In general, IPS publishes one major update like 4.4 once a year, with several bug fixes, security updates, and enhancements throughout the year. The best place to read about Product Updates is the official IPS Blog in Product Updates. 9. What are the pricing options and how do they compare to vBulletin? IPS is comparable in pricing when compared to vBulletin depending on your choice of apps. The self-hosted option is cheaper when considering support and upgrades. The pricing for an active license is simple, easy, and comprehensive. A new license includes professional ticket support, forum support, access to new upgrades, and managed spam service for 6 months. Renew again in six months to continue those benefits. If you choose not to renew, your software will continue to work. 8. Is the software mobile ready like vBulletin? Yes, the software is responsive by design. This means the community naturally fits and beautifully displays in any device size, giving you a consistent look-and-feel across all devices. Try it now by resizing your window! It also means you don’t need to pay for any extra “mobile bundles.” This approach to mobile design was one of the reasons why @cfish chose IPS: “I didn’t like vBulletin’s approach to mobile. The IPS approach to responsive web design was inline with my own thinking.” 7. What are the official Invision Community apps and how do they compare to vBulletin? @Steve Bullman converted to IPS because “IPS seemed to offer a better all-round package for what I needed.” One of the biggest reasons for considering IPS is a broader approach to community. Whereas vBulletin focuses only on Forums and Blogs, IPS empowers you to build a suite of applications customized to your needs. Mix and match apps like Gallery, Blogs, Downloads, Pages, and Commerce to build a modern community with resource directories, databases, paid subscriptions, albums and more that go beyond forums. You can read more about the apps in Features. Calendar and Clubs are included for free! 6. What will be migrated from vBulletin? The free converter app will migrate all of your member and content items from vBulletin 3.8.x, 4.x, and 5.x. This includes members, private messages, member groups, ranks, forums, topics, posts, and attachments. You can view the full list on Migrate and choose your vBulletin version from the list of choices. Obviously, you will not be able to migrate any custom themes or custom modifications. @ChristForums adds, “I wish I had known that the converter was so easy to use and migrate from Vbulletin 5.” 5. What are the channels for support? Every active license comes with professional ticket support, which should always be your first source of contact. @Markus Jung highlights “fast support” as the item he appreciates the most about his license. You can also obtain help from the community forums, help guides, release notes, and other public resources. If you’re not an IPS client yet, you can post in Pre-Sales forum or email sales@invisionpower.com. 4. How do I prepare my community? The six admins that I interviewed offered several tips for new Invision Community owners. Prior to the conversion, you should read through the converter package to see what will convert and redirect. You should purchase other Invision Community apps in advance to fully convert vBulletin items as needed; not delete any old content since Invision Community includes an archive function; and not make drastic changes to allow members a chance to become accustomed to the new forum. 3. What will happen to my traffic and URL redirects? The free converter app will redirect your existing URLs. This includes forums, topics, posts, member profiles, print view pages, archived content, attachments, and tags. You need to leave your converter installed after migration to ensure the redirects will work. AlexWebsites wrote, “the converter came with built-in redirects and I was able to redirect most of my traffic. Traffic recovered within a few months.” 2. What are the server configuration and database requirements? If you choose cloud, then Invision Community will manage the hosting. If you choose on-premise, you can use the free ‘Get Ready’ compatibility file to check your server. The latest version of Invision Community 4.4 requires: PHP 7.1.0 or higher (7.3.x is supported) MySQL 5.5.3 or higher (5.6.2 recommended). 1. How stable is the company? Other companies lost their development talent. Other companies were bought and sold by multi-media conglomerates. Other companies have a history of lawsuits. Through it all, Charles, Lindy and Matt have been here since the beginning providing steady leadership to Invision Communities everywhere. If you’re looking for stability, it’s nice to know you can rely on the same people who started the company. For serious and professional vBulletin admins looking to transition, you know you’re not just buying into the software, but investing in the development team, staff, and platform for years to come. Ramsesx shared his personal story: “I always prefer the best for my community from where I earn my income. An important aspect was the longtime outlook. Invision Community gave me the feeling of being trustworthy, they are more than 17 years in the forum software market.” It’s no wonder that so many successful vBulletin admins feel the same after moving to Invision Community. You get stability, years of experience, a deep understanding of online communities, and a dedication to development that continues to innovate. It’s time to bring your vBulletin community over to Invision Community! Bookmark this page for future reference and download the Community Guide for experiences from real clients who converted from vBulletin. Much appreciation to @AlexWebsites @cfish @Christforums @Markus Jung @Ramsesx @Steve Bullman for participating in the interviews. - Joel R Community Guide vBulletin Migration to Invision Community.pdf View the full article
  20. Online communities shine with the brilliance of humanity. Every day, our communities inspire, evoke, inform, motivate and engage in a hundred different ways. Every member feels a uniquely individual sense of value from your community. For too many communities, the strategy revolves around two simple pillars: content and engagement. You inform. You engage. And you think your job is done. However, you’ve barely scratched the surface of offering value. You need to expand the ways in which you strategically match your community to member value. New studies are coming out that show humans feel up to 27 emotions from admiration to triumph, and the best communities unleash a rainbow spectrum of value – functional and emotional, business to social - for their organizations and for their members. This results in not just deeper and more extensive engagement, but greater financial payoff. Indeed, research from global management consulting firm Bain & Company shows brands like Apple, Samsung, and Amazon that demonstrate multiple elements of value have x3 greater customer loyalty and x4 faster revenue growth than others. The elements of value can be divided into two broad categories. Specialize in Functional Value Don’t deliver content. Deliver time savings, cost savings, risk savings, organization, connection, education, and variety. What is the utility benefit to your users? Functional values are the core reasons why members would visit your community. It forms the baseline rationale for your community’s existence, and you want to not just be good – you want to be the best in delivering functional value in your field. Improve your Q&A boards for feedback, inquiry, or ideation. Provide a template in a pinned topic where users fill out a consistent set of questions, so you can answer with the most appropriate and accurate options. Use moderator tools like Recommended Replies to summarize and spotlight key points in a topic. This saves time and focuses attention on expert information. Super-charge the training for your response team. Empower them to be subject experts by giving them private training, templates, and extra resources in a staff wiki so they can investigate the unique needs of user inquiries and provide the best responses. Build a set of content resources in the Pages application, which is the most powerful application in the suite. It can be used to create a set of content resources with unlimited custom fields, filters, and templates enabling you to offer variety, organization, and education that no other competitor can match. Spark Emotional Value Don’t deliver engagement. Deliver admiration, amusement, awe, empathy, joy, nostalgia, satisfaction, and triumph. How does your community make your members feel better? Here’s a little secret. Even though functional value is the foundation of your community’s value proposition, emotional elements are 50% more valuable. Fortunately, Invision Community comes loaded with ways to recognize, reward, and promote members. Take the time to explain the purpose of a new group promotion, rank, or title. Don’t let the reward be the goal in and of itself. You should connect the feature with its underlying emotion by explaining what steps are required to earn the rank, how many others earned it, and what it’ll take to earn the next one. Start with the Leaderboard. Invision Community ships with the Leaderboard, which provides an overview of the most popular users and content. Scan for up-and-coming members to investigate what triggers their emotional satisfaction; scan for popular content to discover what excites your membership. Create multiple member journeys. Most communities follow a pattern of new member to trusted member to moderator. But members can become superusers in many ways. Members who enjoy nostalgia can organize a Year-in-Review topic. Members who enjoy affiliation should serve as Ambassadors to greet and mentor new members. Members who seek reputation will appreciate new outlets for publishing. Define multiple pathways that strategically tap into the diverse desires of your members. As you implement your initiatives to build a Community of Excellence, take the time to relate the initiative to the Elements of Value (Attachment: IPS Elements of Value Attachment.pdf). You’ll find new and creative ways of offering value to strengthen the relationship between your community and your members. Look deep within your community to unearth the rainbow spectrum of value. You’ll discover a wellspring of extraordinary value waiting to help your members shine brightest. View the full article
  21. I'm only one month in to starting a new community and I've already learned a huge amount. I was a little apprehensive at first but I'm taking things one step at a time and I'm happy with how things are going so far. The points I'm going to raise are working for me but I'm a beginner and running a website of any description is new. Nothing here is guaranteed and I hope to receive comments from established community admins so I can continue to improve. The first thing I realised is that I wasn't actually starting a community but instead I'm going to be bringing new tools and ideas to an already existing one. My chosen subject is broad (Dogs) so there is already a well established real life community globally. My aim therefore is not to replicate already available content but to reach this community with unique content and encourage them to contribute their own. More on that later but before I could do that I needed something they could visit. The new community site Get Started You can spend days and weeks planning and writing business plans and these are all good things to do alongside everything else but they shouldn't stop you getting started. The only thing that really mattered to me was starting on the actual idea and to do that all I needed was a platform. You've probably already guessed but Invision Community was chosen for this as it offered multiple apps that would allow me to have both long form articles and forum content. There's also the monetisation options that appealed to me but I am not yet using. It's good to know they are there when I'm ready though. I also considered Wordpress but it lacked the community tools I was already sold on. Rope in friends and family and use their skill sets I'm not scared to admit where I need help and as I have hit problems or things I don't know I have called in favours. I don't have a large budget for stock photography subscriptions so a friend is providing photos in exchange for attribution. My fiance is more technically minded so he has helped with some of the set up and help with Invision Community features is only a support ticket away. There is plenty of general information a quick web search away too but some topics are complex and I thought that if I could free up at least some of my time I can keep focussed on the direction. Help can be as simple as nudging friends into posting new topics or comments to get some initial activity and momentum. It's also a good test to make sure you have everything set up with your registration process and identify some potential problems. These helpers are also now active members of the site of course so it's a two for one. I'm sure they'll be calling in return favours at some point but that's fine, they've earned it. Encourage all contributions even if you don't agree with them Coming from a primary school teaching background I see kids come up with lots of crazy and novel ideas all the time, they might sound silly but you never know, they may grow into something bigger. My aim is to foster a sense of community and belonging and people of all ages who have their ideas valued tend to stick around. If an idea doesn't work that's fine but you never know what will work so I'm trying lots of things and encouraging innovation. The forums are a great tool for this as everything doesn't need to be rigidly structured. Be passionate and confident about your subject matter Perhaps my top tip…If you don't value your own thoughts and actions then how can you expect others to? Show your enthusiasm and knock away negative thoughts and doubts. Use all of your tools Once you've encouraged your initial core group of members, you need to keep them coming back. So far I've had success using the bulk mail feature for a monthly newsletter to rekindle the interest of early members who may no longer be as active. I was warned about bad email pracices so I have our notification defaults set very loosely as I want to build trust by not spamming. Everything I send is opt-in and using the newsletter signup block I've been able to make this prominent but not obtrusive. I'm worried I might be missing out by not being aggressive enough with email but it's a risk I'm taking to hopefully get better long term members. Get involved with your member activities and conversations Join in with conversations on your community where it makes sense and be as active as possible. You're running a website but to do so you don't always need to be in front of a computer. Speak to your members face to face as well as through the keyboard. I've been going on local dog walks with clubs and other community groups which is a great chance to network and give your members and potential members the chance to see the people behind the website. If there are events or shows in your field get involved and spread the word verbally. I'm talking to dog owners face to face about behavioural issues and always in the back of my mind is the fact this could be discussed on the website to help others and build activity. Over time these "real world" relationships should also be represented on the website too. Don't get distracted I've got into the habit of using a reminders app to keep track of future things I want to do. It is tempting to start lots of things every time you have a new idea but that can take your mind off what is actually important right now. Don't forget about these ideas though, make a note and come back to them later. Approvals and applications for things can also take time. I found myself sometimes sitting around waiting for adsense accounts to be approved or Facebook apps to be verified for sign in. Don't let this downtime be unproductive. Keep writing new content What we have started as new community admins isn't easy, it's going to be a long haul so you need to be consistent and regular with updates. On that note I have a breed profile about Chow Chows to write. Thanks for listening to my ramblings and if you have any more tips please let me know in the comments. Helen is a year 3 international primary school teacher currently living in Slovakia. She loves dogs (of course), books, and reading whenever possible. She has travelled extensively for work, particularly in South East Asia and has experienced many amazing cultures. She is a qualified Zumba dance fitness instructor and is now building what she hopes to be an invaluable resource for dog owners. https://doglymail.com/ View the full article
  22. I'm only one month in to starting a new community and I've already learned a huge amount. I was a little apprehensive at first but I'm taking things one step at a time and I'm happy with how things are going so far. The points I'm going to raise are working for me but I'm a beginner and running a website of any description is new. Nothing here is guaranteed and I hope to receive comments from established community admins so I can continue to improve. The first thing I realised is that I wasn't actually starting a community but instead I'm going to be bringing new tools and ideas to an already existing one. My chosen subject is broad (Dogs) so there is already a well established real life community globally. My aim therefore is not to replicate already available content but to reach this community with unique content and encourage them to contribute their own. More on that later but before I could do that I needed something they could visit. The new community site Get Started You can spend days and weeks planning and writing business plans and these are all good things to do alongside everything else but they shouldn't stop you getting started. The only thing that really mattered to me was starting on the actual idea and to do that all I needed was a platform. You've probably already guessed but Invision Community was chosen for this as it offered multiple apps that would allow me to have both long form articles and forum content. There's also the monetisation options that appealed to me but I am not yet using. It's good to know they are there when I'm ready though. I also considered Wordpress but it lacked the community tools I was already sold on. Rope in friends and family and use their skill sets I'm not scared to admit where I need help and as I have hit problems or things I don't know I have called in favours. I don't have a large budget for stock photography subscriptions so a friend is providing photos in exchange for attribution. My fiance is more technically minded so he has helped with some of the set up and help with Invision Community features is only a support ticket away. There is plenty of general information a quick web search away too but some topics are complex and I thought that if I could free up at least some of my time I can keep focussed on the direction. Help can be as simple as nudging friends into posting new topics or comments to get some initial activity and momentum. It's also a good test to make sure you have everything set up with your registration process and identify some potential problems. These helpers are also now active members of the site of course so it's a two for one. I'm sure they'll be calling in return favours at some point but that's fine, they've earned it. Encourage all contributions even if you don't agree with them Coming from a primary school teaching background I see kids come up with lots of crazy and novel ideas all the time, they might sound silly but you never know, they may grow into something bigger. My aim is to foster a sense of community and belonging and people of all ages who have their ideas valued tend to stick around. If an idea doesn't work that's fine but you never know what will work so I'm trying lots of things and encouraging innovation. The forums are a great tool for this as everything doesn't need to be rigidly structured. Be passionate and confident about your subject matter Perhaps my top tip…If you don't value your own thoughts and actions then how can you expect others to? Show your enthusiasm and knock away negative thoughts and doubts. Use all of your tools Once you've encouraged your initial core group of members, you need to keep them coming back. So far I've had success using the bulk mail feature for a monthly newsletter to rekindle the interest of early members who may no longer be as active. I was warned about bad email practices so I have our notification defaults set very loosely as I want to build trust by not spamming. Everything I send is opt-in and using the newsletter signup block I've been able to make this prominent but not obtrusive. I'm worried I might be missing out by not being aggressive enough with email but it's a risk I'm taking to hopefully get better long term members. Get involved with your member activities and conversations Join in with conversations on your community where it makes sense and be as active as possible. You're running a website but to do so you don't always need to be in front of a computer. Speak to your members face to face as well as through the keyboard. I've been going on local dog walks with clubs and other community groups which is a great chance to network and give your members and potential members the chance to see the people behind the website. If there are events or shows in your field get involved and spread the word verbally. I'm talking to dog owners face to face about behavioural issues and always in the back of my mind is the fact this could be discussed on the website to help others and build activity. Over time these "real world" relationships should also be represented on the website too. Don't get distracted I've got into the habit of using a reminders app to keep track of future things I want to do. It is tempting to start lots of things every time you have a new idea but that can take your mind off what is actually important right now. Don't forget about these ideas though, make a note and come back to them later. Approvals and applications for things can also take time. I found myself sometimes sitting around waiting for adsense accounts to be approved or Facebook apps to be verified for sign in. Don't let this downtime be unproductive. Keep writing new content What we have started as new community admins isn't easy, it's going to be a long haul so you need to be consistent and regular with updates. On that note I have a breed profile about Chow Chows to write. Thanks for listening to my ramblings and if you have any more tips please let me know in the comments. Helen is a year 3 international primary school teacher currently living in Slovakia. She loves dogs (of course), books, and reading whenever possible. She has travelled extensively for work, particularly in South East Asia and has experienced many amazing cultures. She is a qualified Zumba dance fitness instructor and is now building what she hopes to be an invaluable resource for dog owners. https://doglymail.com/ View the full article
  23. We want to ensure that converting from your existing community platform to ours is as seamless as possible. While we do have a migration service available where we take care of everything for you, we do also offer a DIY option. We took some time to overhaul the conversion process for those opting to convert using our free tools. Ready to convert? So you've just purchased your first copy of Invision Community, and you're ready to convert your existing site over from another software package. Great! We're glad you've made the decision to take your community to the next level! You've already checked out our Migrations page, confirmed the software you wish to convert from is supported, and you're confident in your ability to work through the process. You install the Converters package and you're ready to go. Lets get started! We have overhauled the converters to simplify the process. Beginning with 4.4, you will take the following steps to convert from another software package: Rather than choose the application you wish to convert first, you will now choose what software you are converting from, which is a much more logical start to a conversion. Next, you will supply the database details for your source database (the database you wish to convert into your new Invision Community). Then, you will see a list of all applications that can be converted for the software package you are converting from. If any applications cannot be converted (perhaps because you were not previously using the corresponding application in your source software), a message will be shown indicating there is nothing to convert. If any steps require additional configuration, you will be able to specify those details here. And finally, when you submit that form - that's it! You're done, and you can sit back and let the conversion process on its own. Each step for each application will be completed automatically, and the conversion will be finalized automatically at the end. A progress bar will be shown, along with a textual indicator that outlines exactly what is being converted. What does it look like? conversion.mp4 Here's a quick video to illustrate the new conversion process. The system even remembers where you were at and automatically picks back up where you left off. Closing your browser, losing internet connectivity, or some other unforeseen issue won't stop you dead in your tracks and force you to start all over again. We hope that these updates make it even easier to switch from another community platform. View the full article
  24. I'm sure that most reading this blog are running an up-to-date Invision Community and enjoying all the benefits of a modern community platform. Little things that get taken for granted now, like being able to view your community on a mobile phone without pinching and zooming just to read a few posts and having multiple automated tools to deal with community toxicity and spam. However, a little wander around the web soon uncovers some really old forum systems still somehow creaking along. Amazingly, most of these communities are still used daily, often with millions of posts in the archives. It might be tempting to ask why keep upgrading and investing in new versions of the software? After all, if the community is still running just fine and getting daily visitors, then it's ok to do nothing, right? But there is a hidden cost in doing nothing. Security This is the main one for me. Old platforms often have several published security vulnerabilities. Often these vulnerabilities are exploited by scripts that are shared around hacker communities. This means exploiting a website running an old version of a forum system is as simple as running a script and pointing it at your site. Older forums are also less sophisticated. They rely on unsafe hashing methods to store passwords and lack vital features like two-factor authentication. Also, consider that the server environment has to be maintained with out of date PHP and MySQL versions. It's a recipe for disaster. Could your community survive a major exploit where data is downloaded into the hands of a hacker? The cost could be fatal to your community. Declining engagement Even the most ardent of fans on your community will eventually tire of struggling to access your site on mobile devices. I think back to 2002 when we created the first version of our software. We only had to focus on how it looked on a computer, so naturally, that influenced the design of the forum. It's not so simple now. More and more of us are using mobile phones to access the internet. A recent statistic showed that mobile internet access outstrips desktop use 2 to 1; and for some countries, mobile internet access is almost the only way people get online. It's just a matter of time before new members stop registering and engagement tails off. Competition At the end of 2018, there were 1.8 billion websites (I Googled it). The competition for attention has never been as fierce. Your community may be the go-to place for your niche, but what if another community popped up running the latest version of a platform with all the features your members have been desperately asking for? It may not take long until there is a massive drain from your community. I'm sure there's a dozen reasons to make sure you're always re-investing in your community by upgrading to a modern platform. This blog merely scratches the surface. For those of you that do invest and upgrade? You reap the benefits daily by ensuring you are doing the very best for your community by keeping it secure and accessible for most. If you are on an older platform, now is the time to put some serious thought into making the move to something better. I put together a little downloadable guide that might help too. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. View the full article
  25. The Internet is a fierce battleground for users, clicks, attention, and audience. Competition surrounds your community from all angles and new threats constantly emerge. The Internet has leveled the playing field for local businesses, solopreneurs, and small organizations which means more people than ever are competing for users. Online communities are no different, and as companies realize the growing power of communities, you too may face more challenges. Online communities are growing faster than ever: IDC predicts worldwide online communities market to grow to $1.2 billion in 2019 According to research by Leader Networks, twenty-three percent of marketers who have online communities indicate that the size of their communities doubled in the past year. How is your community competing against your competitors? Is your community growing or stagnating relative to your competitors? In this blog post, we identify core concepts of competitive strategy that stretch from traditional theory to unique methods of winning for communities. Theory of Competition The broadly-accepted understanding of competition in the business world rests on the seminal work by Professor Michael Porter, when he mapped out the origins of competitive forces in his 1979 book “How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy.” Fundamentally, all strategies for Porter distill into two basic options: Build on what you already do, or do something no one else can do. You can compete by doing what everyone else is doing but be more efficient, such as offering higher quality content, a better user experience, or having a lower price of member acquisition. Or, you can expand the pie by forging a new position in the marketplace, such as staking out an untapped niche or developing a unique service. What’s your current competitive strategy: be better at what you’re already doing and your competitors, or to do something completely new? Emerging Theories A new strategy on competition is emerging that is just as potent as Porter’s competitive forces. It’s especially relevant for online communities in the digital age: reacting opportunistically to emerging possibilities. Discovery-driven planning is the field’s most recent thinking. It was introduced 20 years ago in works like Tim Luehrman’s “Strategy as a Portfolio of Real Options” that talked about flexibility as a strategy. The idea was also introduced in the more recent “Stop Making Plans: Start Making Decisions” by Michael Mankins and Richard Steel, which argued for continuous strategic planning cycles. Online communities are impacted by – and can seize advantage of – fluctuating factors: Technical advances and digital disruptions Disruptions in your industry The faster you react to market or technological change, the greater your advantage will become over time. What disruption recently impacted your industry or niche? How can you capitalize on the opportunity? Application to Online Communities Online communities are at an especially powerful intersection of customers, superusers, industry experts, and brand representatives. By assembling a broad mix of users, you gain a source of competitive knowledge and crowd wisdom unmatched by traditional businesses. Market intelligence – Harness the power of crowds by letting your members feed you real-time market intelligence on the industry, market trends, and competitors. Use technology to your advantage – Become an expert on utilizing your Invision platform as a technological advantage, whether you’re increasing visitor registrations with Post Before Registering, adding in store filters in Commerce, or enabling the application manifest settings for faster access on smartphones. Collaborative ideation – Collaborate with users early in the design process to create services or products that are highly-differentiated. Co-Creation – Channel your user’s expertise, enthusiasm, and product knowledge into co-created content such as tutorials, support answers, industry news, contests, and more. Brand Ambassadors – Turn your membership’s most passionate users into brand ambassadors to provide outreach and personalized connections. Conclusion Communities are challenged and tested every day by a multitude of competitors that compete for users. Competition is fierce, and as the web continues to proliferate and level the playing field, competition will only get stronger. It’s no longer enough to host a general discussion forum. Successful communities envision a clear competitive strategy. Although competition is fierce, there are winners on the Internet who consistently gain market share. The winners are those who understand the fundamental drivers of competition: to create sustainable advantages over their competitors, to offer unique services and experiences, and to react opportunistically. They also leverage all facets of their community for maximum value. Join me in 2019 in defining your competitive strategy and becoming a Community of Excellence. - Joel R Joel R is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma. When he's not running his own successful community, he's peppering Invision Community's private Slack channel with his feedback, community management experience and increasingly outrageous demands (everything is true except the last part). View the full article
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