How to use social science to increase activity in a community – Richard Millington #TSC13

One of the presentations that really surprised me at The Social Conference was that of Richard Millington from Feverbee.

The title should have triggered me upfront, but it didn’t. However, the presentation on building successful communities touches your business and mine.
Richard Millington TSC13 Bibi Veth Amsterdam

As a business owner we want to build a community of potential clients and clients around our business. Keeping our clients connected and active with what we do. Persuading potential clients to buy something from us so they become clients.

With his business, Richard (@RichMillington) is focussing on successful communities. Feverbee helps companies to build or revive a community in a way that people become connected, involved and active.

What we need to feel in a Community

What members need to feel to become a successful community:

  1. Membership – action points: raise the boundary to become a member target audience, encourage more personal investments, Rituals/traditions, common symbols thoughout the community.
  2. Influence – Action points: Provide opportunities for members to have influence, Amplify the influence members do have
  3. Fulfilment of Needs – we want some reward (deep psychological reward) for particiapation
  4. Emotional Connection – right type of discussion, give people the opportunity to meet and connect. Action points: Initiate and highlight the most ‘hardcore’ discussions, Encourage self-disclosure discussions, Allow non-essential/off-topic discussions. Share the things that are very difficult to talk about and highlight these discussions. Show off what you have done.

Make the community small. For example: Not for doctors. Not for doctors that just graduated. For doctors that just graduated in the UK, people have more in common (

Motivation for a community

Motivation – Maslov 70 year old content does no longer fit today’s online communities.

People join a community for one reason, but they participate for another. People join a community to satisfy their information need. People participate in a community for social needs.

Our social Needs:

  • Ego
  • Validation
  • Efficacy
  • Self-Esteem
  • Making Friends.

For example, look at the following sites:

  • HR Business Network – designed to get information.
  • is designed to get people attracted to the community, to get them involved.

Social Identity Theory – People participate more in groups that appear successful.

If your community isn’t successful , try to make it look successful. Close things that are not active, make peope shine. Make sure that is doesn’t look like it is struggling, aim at small mile stones. Break it up in really small steps.

People tend to spend more money when they participate in the community. great example of a community. Other examples:  “Giffgaff the company run by you”, is a great example of a company that created a community of their customers. Another great example is airbnb that has a community of hosts and guests.

Rate the best comments instead of most comments – make members of the community think about their contributions instead of doing a lot.

Benchmark your Community

First thing you do when you start as a community manager, you need to benchmark where you are now.

  • Levels of growth (Number of active members in the previous 30 days)
  • Levels of activity (Number of discussions)
  • Sense of community (Survey)
  • Return of investment

Social Network Sites for your community?

Facebook Page is a great platform to build audience not a community. Followers of a Facebook page do not interact with each other. Personally (EH) I feel that you can build a community in Facebook groups.

Social media is great for people to remember about the community not building a community on social media/Facebook.

How do you start a community?

At the end of the presentation Richard gave a few tips that you can use when you want to start a community.

  1. Find 50-150 people that are the core target audience (look in the social media channels and make a list of the people that might be interested in your topic)
  2. Interview and contact them directly – find out what they are most interested in, biggest challenges, their aspiration
  3. Build a community around that concept – create not another community but a specific community
  4. Invite them to become the founding member of the community
  5. Give them more control, let them create content, give sub topics of the community to these members
  6. Let them invite a friend as a member – if each invites 1 then you have a growth of 100%
  7. Looking for critical mass – more than 50% of the community is generated by the community
  8. Build a slow and steady growth

Video of the presentation

Like most of the presentations I try to record it. It is done with a small camera, the sound is OK, but you will have to turn up the volume a bit. Sometimes the image shakes a bit, that is me writing the blog post while Richard speaks. Watch the presentation in this video

Slides of the presentation

Find below the slides of the presentation How to use social science to increase activity – Richard Millington

Find more of Richard and communities

His book Buzzing Communities: How to Build Bigger, Better, and More Active Online Communities (aff)

The Proven Path  – The most successful and reliable approach in the history of building online communities. (pdf)

Online Community Manifesto

Note: This was a presentation during The Social Conference on February 14, 2013 at Pakhuis de Zwijger in Amsterdam. Krem and Emerce were kind enough to give me a ticket as a blogger, so I could write posts about the best presentations for you.

Credit photo: Bibi Veth Visual Storytelling

Your community

Do you have a community of clients? Do you have a space where your target audience, your niche meet each other? Please share in the comments below.

By Erno Hannink

Sparring and accountability partner for entrepreneurs who create sustainable positive impact. Explores decision-making. Shares his insights on this in, articles, books (Dutch), podcast, newsletters, and tools. Has a life mission to reduce social and ecological inequality. Father of two children, husband of M., runs, referee for the national soccer league, and uses stoicism for calm. Lives in the Netherlands. Speaks Dutch, English, and German.

1 comment

  1. This surely was a highlight of the day. Especially because of the lack of social media in the talk and in building communities in general…

    The eye opener of the day… (and a great questions at the end 🙂

    Thanks for the video and the post…

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