If you’re looking to build your community and increase the amount of quality content and dialog among users, you definitely want to have methods in place to cultivate a strong base of influencers. Similar to community managers, influencers are your “power users” – those who contribute frequently, and with content that is particularly compelling and that catalyzes interesting and active conversations.
Community managers can go a long way, but when your community reaches a tipping point it becomes difficult to effectively stay involved in all of the conversations to make sure they’re remaining relevant and progressive. It’s easy for controversial discussions to devolve into shallow mud-slinging, which in turn can leave your more timid users feeling voiceless and disinterested in contributing.
Here are some tips to attract and incentivize influencers:
Find the leading thinkers that are relevant to your community, and contact them to invite them to join in the discussions. Tell them their input would be greatly valued, and offer them ways that you can return the favor – it will be worth it.
Offer an easy way that users can rank other user’s posts or comments. A simple point-rating system or “like”/”dislike” feature would do, but getting creative would definitely be best. Once users acquire a certain amount of recognition, they should be automatically promoted to a higher tier where their status as a preferred user is visually communicated – this will signal to the community who the influencers are, and give your best users something to pique their interest and boost their ego.
Offer Offline Appreciation
If possible, treat your influencers to exclusive opportunities that can take place offline. Maybe it’s a weekend get-away where you demo a new version of the website, and include networking events over cocktails and music. Maybe it’s as simple as a complimentary movie night, where you buy your influencers tickets to the opening night of a new film. Whatever it is, find creative ways to reward the people who are the engines of content and discussion on your community.
I was prompted to write this post after attending an awesome event called Lunch for Good last week, which was hosted by Lunch.com (see clip of what I shared below). A diverse group of folks gathered over lunch, who were in some way active in web 2.0/social media, to discuss ways to increase critical thinking among various online social communities (i.e. blog commenting, social sharing communities, forums, Twitter, Facebook, etc.). Lots of great ideas were generated and discussed, and I’d love to hear your feedback on my opinions here – do you agree, disagree, or have anything to add? Thanks!
Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/viggum/