Fierce God reacted to HelenG for an entry, How I Started My Community - Part 3 Growth
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.
Fierce God reacted to Matt for an entry, The 3 things your community needs to succeed
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 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.
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.
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.
Fierce God reacted to Matt for an entry, Work smarter with 5 of our best time saving features
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fierce God reacted to Joel R for an entry, Boundaries & Identity: Building Membership in a Community
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.
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.
Invision Community Advocate and Certified Community Manager
Fierce God reacted to Matt for an entry, The benefits of owning your data
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.
Fierce God reacted to Joel R for an entry, Master your community's lifecycle to increase your growth
“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 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:
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 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 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.
Fierce God reacted to Matt for an entry, What lessons can you learn from a discount fashion retailer?
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?
Fierce God reacted to Matt for an entry, Why did Lush quit social media?
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.
Fierce God reacted to HelenG for an entry, How I Started My Community - Part 2 Building Engagement
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Fierce God reacted to Guest Writer for an entry, Case Study: Building Safe Spaces for The Trevor Project
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
Fierce God reacted to Rikki for an entry, 6 reasons why you shouldn't just settle for a Facebook group community
Whether you run an existing community or are taking tentative first steps into setting up an online community forum around your brand, an important choice you need to make is between social networks like Facebook or having a community you own and control.
Let's take a look at the benefits of an owned community versus a Facebook group - as well as how you can still use Facebook (and other social media platforms) to your advantage.
You own your data
The biggest point to consider when using Facebook groups is that you do not own your own data. Facebook owns it and does not even allow you direct access to it. If you decide later to move to a different platform, need to run reports to extract meaningful insights, or otherwise work with your community data: you are out of luck.
In contrast, with an Invision Community, your data is your data. You can use it in any way that makes sense for your goals; be it analyzing trends, sending promotions to users, or generating reports and statistics. We never hold your data hostage and there's no fee to get it.
Beyond owning the data, you also control how it's used and presented. Facebook is notorious for changing algorithms for when (or even if) people see your posts. When you run your own community the experience for your and your users is in your control.
This is a big one. An owned community gives you the tools you need to make your community a seamless part of your user's interaction with your business. This naturally includes your brand styles (your logo, colors, site navigation and so on) but also your community web address (URL). With an owned community, your URL will be easy to find - customers normally opt for something like forum.yourname.com or community.yourname.com.
Users will have more confidence that they're in the right place, and more closely associate your community and your message with your brand.
Emails sent out by your owned community can also carry your branding, consistently reinforcing that connection between your business and your community.
And, of course, when users share content from your community to Facebook and other social networks, they're sending users directly to your website where you have the opportunity to lead with your most important call to actions.
More control over user experience
All Facebook groups are, essentially, the same experience and yet your business needs almost certainly aren't the same as every other. One size doesn't necessarily fit all when it comes to community!
When you control your own community, you have the ability to control your user's experience. Need to show specific types of data in specific places? You can do that (and more) with Invision Community's easy to use Blocks feature. Need to create a custom community application to serve as a resource center for product support? You can do that too.
Another huge benefit of this control is that, unlike a Facebook Group, users won't be seeing ads and 'recommended content' from competing businesses and communities. With user attention being pulled in so many directions these days, the last thing your community needs is for users to leave because Facebook has suggested a competitor!
No barriers to monetization
Not all communities require a monetization strategy. In many cases, the community is part of a larger customer relationship strategy rather than a revenue-generating destination in its own right.
But for those communities that do plan to monetize, options with a Facebook group are at best difficult to act upon, and at worst practically non-existent.
In contrast, Invision Community gives you the opportunity to explore monetization strategies that work for you. These might include paid subscription plans (a particularly attractive option for fan club communities), traditional advertising through Google AdSense and other networks, or sponsorship deals with other businesses that might be relevant to your members. Invision Community has tools for each of these approaches built in, allowing you to start monetizing with minimum fuss.
Fine-grained permission controls
Facebook groups struggle to reflect the real-world roles that staff members play in your organization, limiting your choices to 'administrator' or 'moderator'. And the same is true of users, too - your options for recognizing different levels of user (such as VIPs, or brand ambassadors) are limited.
Invision Community is different. Since you are creating and configuring each member group, you can precisely control who can see what, and how they are recognized within the community. You can even sync these roles via Single Sign-On (SSO) making setup and assigning users to groups painless.
For staff groups, you can limit access to key community functions based on roles or responsibilities, ensuring access is granted on an as-needed basis only.
For users, you can get creative and find a group structure that works best for your specific needs. For example, support communities often find that recognizing the most knowledgeable and helpful members with a new member group (complete with elevated permissions) is a great way of engaging users.
And finally, with this control over access, it's very easy to create restricted areas of the community. Whether you want to create a private subforum that staff can use to coordinate tasks or a file repository that's only available to subscribers, Invision Community can achieve it.
You can still reap the Facebook benefits
Setting up your community within Facebook's walls might not be the best approach for you. That doesn't mean you should ignore Facebook, however. On the contrary, it's an influential platform and there's a very good chance your users are already using it.
Invision Community offers a number of tools that allow you to benefit from Facebook while avoiding the drawbacks we discussed. We'll go into more detail on utilizing social media in a future article, but to summarize:
Invision Community features social sign-in options, enabling users to register and log in using their existing social media accounts, substantially reducing onboarding friction. Content can promoted by staff back to your social network pages, automatically and on a schedule you decide. Invision Community supports automatic embedding of a wide number of social networks (and other services), allowing users to share their favorite Facebook and Twitter posts and spark a whole new conversation - but this time in your community.
When you are creating an online community for your business or hobby it is important to think about your goals and future growth by choosing a platform that is there to work for your needs.
When you establish your community on Facebook, you're helping to grow someone else's business (including, potentially, your competitors!) and hoping that some of those spoils fall to you. With an owned community, the rewards of your hard work belong to you and your business alone.
Invision Community has been enabling users and businesses to communicate online since 2002, and we're proud of our reputation as a platform that puts control in your hands. Contact us if you'd like to discuss how we can help you too.
Fierce God reacted to Charles for an entry, Invision Community 4.3 Coming Soon
Our recent release of Invision Community 4.2 was the most well-received version ever! The feedback we received on new features like Clubs, Reactions, and Promotes was better than we could have hoped and we really enjoyed seeing all the creative uses as people implemented them on their own communities.
We have been hard at work on version 4.3 with a goal of improving on all the great new features. It is well under way and we are happy to able to start announcing what's new over the next few weeks.
Invision Community 4.3 will not only contain new features but also have a core focus on refinement from 4.2's new features. You will see many improvements to Clubs, new integration options, large application improvements, new promotional features, and more changes large and small.
You can expect to see news posts about new features and changes very soon with a release date in early 2018. Follow our news section or subscribe to our newsletter to receive updates.
Fierce God reacted to Rikki for an entry, Highlighting staff posts to improve communication
Whatever the purpose of a community - be it customer support, fan engagement, interest-based groups and so on - there's usually a need for site staff to communicate important information to users.
Of course, in some cases this information is best suited to a site announcement, which by design has a lot of visibility and authority. But it's important that day to day staff posts stand out too. As we'll discuss in future articles, a key part of engagement is that users see your organization's team interacting with the community. In many cases, users will expect and appreciate acknowledgement from your community team, and by highlighting those responses you can add a visible stamp of authority.
Invision Community has a few different tools to help you highlight staff posts, so let's take a look at them in more detail.
With group badges you can upload a small image that is shown beside a user's posts. It's shown alongside the user's group name, so you don't need to repeat that text.
Each group can have a different badge, perfect for communities that structure their staff groups based on role type. It's common to color-code group badges for easier identification - support as green, product development as blue, and so on (and you may want to coordinate these colors with the prefix and suffix you use, which we cover later in this article).
It's not just staff groups that can have badges, either; your regular member groups can too. However, a word of caution! If every group has a badge, they may lose their distinctiveness. We recommend reserving group badges for those groups you specifically want to draw attention to.
Second is a feature more explicitly designed to highlight a post rather than simply draw attention to the author. Group settings in Invision Community enable you to choose to have posts by users in each group show with a distinctive background color and border. The color is defined by your theme and so is easily configurable, too.
As with group badges, it may be tempting to highlight every group's content, but we recommend not doing so as that reduces the overall impact of the feature. Keep it reserved for your key staff groups, and especially those that regularly interact with the community.
Invision Community allows you to define a custom prefix and suffix for each group. This is used in key locations, including to highlight usernames in the Active User block and to style member group names alongside content.
An important part of this feature is that it accepts HTML tags, which gives you a lot of scope for customizing the display by adding an opening and closing HTML tag to the prefix and suffix settings, respectively. For example, let's say we want to add a shield icon before the name, and make the text purple.
Prefix: <span style='color: #9013FE'><i class='fa fa-shield'></i>
Simple! Now our staff members will display in the Active User block and elsewhere like this:
Bonus feature: Staff activity streams
I wanted to also mention a feature that achieves a slightly different goal to those we covered above, but nonetheless is an important way to bring additional visibility to staff content: activity streams.
As well as an overall “All Activity” stream that shows everything happening in the community, Invision Community allows you to define pre-made streams that are available to all users. You can use this to build streams of content with particular tags, certain types of content - or, as in this case, content by users in specific groups.
Simply create a new activity stream in the Admin Control Panel, set the configuration so that it only pulls content from members in your staff groups, and you're done. Users will now be able to visit the stream page to get a handy overview of everything staff members are doing in your community.
I recommend checking out the other filter options available for streams while you're setting this up - there's a huge amount of power available!
I hope this quick overview of content highlighting features has been useful. When users visit your community, they're usually looking for authoritative information and that often comes right from your own team. By utilizing the features we've discussed here, you can make that information stand out more against the other content in your community.
Fierce God reacted to Matt for an entry, QOTW: What is your favorite TV show?
Welcome to the first of a new regular series we're calling "Question of the week". Each week, we'll ask our team a question and share the replies.
To kick things off, we posed a very simple question:
What is your favorite TV show right now?
We may have over-estimated how much TV the average geek watches. Here's what our team said.
Brandon (Senior tech support and development)
How do I answer this without writing an essay?! I really don't watch too many TV shows personally, and I definitely don't have any that I watch religiously. I'd say my favorite is probably Fixer Upper as I tend to like to have those sorts of home repair shows on in the background, and Chip and Joanna Gaines are just too hard not to love.
Mark H (Tech support)
Nova, on our PBS station, because it is not filled with speculation, half-truths, and fake news.
Marc S (Tech Support)
Have been watching misfits. It just seems to be its the more likely scenario around someone getting superpowers. Lets be honest, superman/spiderman etc just isn't what you would realistically do?
Rhett (Cloud Support)
"The Blacklist" James Spader is excellent in this series! I've been hooked since it started in 2013.
Matt (Senior Developer)
I’m in Game of Thrones hibernation along with most of the world at the moment. I’ve just finished season two of Preacher which I really enjoyed. I found Eugene’s journey through Hell to be a highlight and enjoyed how a small character in season one was fleshed out some more. Also, who cannot love watching Hitler order plum cakes?
Mark W (Senior Developer)
RuPaul's Drag Race. Because I'm what? Sickening.
Ryan (Senior Developer)
I don't really watch a lot of TV - there isn't anything that really catches my eye nowadays, so I mostly just stick to watching my local sports teams with friends (Cincinnati Reds [baseball] and Cincinnati Bengals [football]). That being said, though, I saw a commercial for the Big Bang Theory spin-off "Sheldon" the other day, and I might get hooked into that. It looked pretty good.
Andy (Senior tech support and development)
I'm looking forward to the next series of Stranger Things on Netflix
I'm personally in between shows at the moment. I just finished The Walking Dead Season 7 and I'm watching some Anime with the family. I'm the sort of person that bounces around binge watching TV shows and movies. I can say that I am really looking forward to the next season of Santa Clarita Diet though because a zombie housewife is just funny to watch the misadventures of.
Daniel (Senior tech support and development)
I've started watching Dexter.
Stuart (Senior tech support and development)
Star Trek TNG, Just because of Jean-Luc Picard!
Drop us a line and let us know what your favorite show is. If you have any questions for the team that you'd like to be featured, let us know and we'll queue them up!
Fierce God reacted to Charles for an entry, Update on Invision Community 4.2
We are working hard to get Invision Community 4.2 ready to go! If you have not been following this upcoming version, check out the details:
Over the last month we have released several beta versions and feedback from those that have chosen to jump in on the beta has been great. We really could not be happier. Feedback has included amazement over how stable the beta is to reactions from community members enjoying all the new features.
Everyone here at IPS is very excited to get the full release out so everyone can enjoy it. Not everyone is comfortable using beta releases .
Back in March when we first announced 4.2 was coming soon we said that it would be out in mid-2017 and we are still on track for that. Be sure to keep an eye on announcements for the full release expected in the next 3 - 4 weeks.
We really hope everyone is as excited as we are about 4.2's full release. Based on the feedback from those already using 4.2 beta on their live sites we really think this will be a huge hit with your community.
Fierce God reacted to Charles for an entry, Invision Community 4.2
Here is the roundup of what's new in Invision Community 4.2!
There's a lot of new feature in 4.2 but here are a few of the highlights:
Promoting Content - A new way to promote content in your Community internally, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
Clubs - Clubs are a brand new way of supporting sub-communities within your site. Many people have requested social group functionality in the past and Clubs are our implementation of this concept.
Reactions - Offer more fine-grained sentiments towards content than a simple up/down or 'like'. They are now in common usage on social networks, and so users expect to be able to be more nuanced in their response to something they see.
Complete Your Profile - Encourage or require members to fill out the details on their profile. Also now allows for quick registration to encourage joining.
And a whole lot more..
It goes on... here is the full list!
Leaderboard Enhancements Richer Embeds Group Promotion Improvement Fluid Forum View Member History Editor Uploading Improvements Authy Integration Commerce Improvements New REST API Endpoints Gallery Improvements Statistic Reporting Copy Topic to Database Downloads Index Page Blog Sidebar Promoting Content Clubs Reactions Calendar Venues Social Sign In Streamlining Calendar Add Similar Event Gallery Lightbox Navigation Letter Profile Photos SEO Improvements Device Management Delayed Deletes Calendar Event Reminders Content Messages Recommended Replies Complete Your Profile Be sure to visit each entry above for more information and screenshots. We hope you enjoy Invision Community 4.2!
Fierce God reacted to Rikki for an entry, New: Richer Embeds
This is an entry about our IPS Community Suite 4.2 release.
You are probably already familiar with our content embedding feature in IPS Community Suite. When a link to content in the community is pasted into the editor (e.g. a topic, or a post, or a gallery image, etc.) it is automatically expanded into a preview of the content, usually with an accompanying image, allowing users to click through to that content if they are interested.
An embedded Gallery image in IPS Community Suite 4.1
While it has proved a useful feature to members, each embed used essentially the same structure - a small thumbnail on the left, a title, and a few lines of text. This works fine for topics, but isn't ideal for other kinds of rich content that might be posted.
In IPS Community Suite 4.2, we greatly improved upon our embedding handling, giving every type of content within every application its own customized embed style, allowing that content to be displayed however works best. This means larger high-res previews of Gallery images, a button to download a file right from the embed for Downloads files, showing a map for Calendar events, and so on. We worked to keep a consistent overall style between apps, but allow each to display its own relevant information.
For users, things will work exactly as they do now - they simply paste a link to content, and it will continue to expand automatically. The changes are also backwards compatible. Any existing embeds in your community will automatically show the new styling you see below - no rebuilding necessary.
So with that in mind, let's take a look what the new embeds look like! I won't show every single embed here because there's a huge number, but I'll try and give you a feel for how we approached the embed styles for each app.
Comment on a Gallery Image
Review on a Downloads File
Comment on a Calendar Event
Record from a Pages database
I hope that gives you a good overview of what to expect when your users try out the new embeds for themselves. As always, please share your feedback in the comments below!
Fierce God reacted to Mark for an entry, New: Leaderboard Enhancements
This entry is about our IPS Community Suite 4.2 release
For 4.2 we made some improvements to the Top Members section of the Leaderboard. A new overview page tab shows a selection of the top members across different criteria.
Top Members Overview Page showing members with Most Reputation and Most Content
The filter menu allows you to view more members in any chosen category, and a new AdminCP setting controls which categories should be available.
Top Members Categories
In the AdminCP you can configure which categories are shown on the overview page, the filter menu, and how many results show for each.
Top Members AdminCP Settings
Popular Contributors Widget
Another small change is the Popular Contributors widget now contains a link to the appropriate section of the Leaderboard.
Popular Contributors Widget