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Archive for July, 2009

Today Sunir Shah, founder of Meatballwiki, tweeted that “Realizing a truth makes us *want* to act even if we don’t. Users are most prone to discovery just before they take action.”

If users are most prone to discovery just before they take action, they take action right after discovery. (Um, sure, Mike. Duh. So what?) It follows, then, that if community builders want to convert their site’s reader/consumers into contributors, their best shot is to do it at the very moment when the user sees the value of the site. So how can community builders know when that moment is occurring in the user’s mind?

Thousands of people register on FamilySearch Wiki without ever contributing content. There’s no good reason for this — registration doesn’t open doors to greater functionality — but there it is. It seems an easy thing to assume that registered users should be more easily converted to contribute content than, say, unregistered users.

There’s a mantra in marketing that it takes less energy to retain a current customer than to win a new one. And Web 2.0 mavens like Ben McConnell of Creating Customer Evangelists say that going the extra mile to dazzle customers is what converts them to evangelize a product.

Sunir mentioned that one way to know when the customer understands the value of the site is when he “starts taking actions that fit the mental model.” The only such action our customers do that our system reports to us is registration.

….So why don’t we dazzle them at the moment they register?

I don’t mean we should try to dazzle them with some automated message from the system. The idea an automated message would dazzle anyone is laughable. But human interaction? That’s different. I can’t think of a Website that has ever tried to engage me with human interaction at the moment I registered. That would knock my socks off. Is there any better way to show users they’re valuable? Is there any better moment to get their first impressions of a site, see which parts of the value proposition they are catching, and discover and walk them through the barriers that would otherwise prevent them from contributing? Using this method a high percentage of newly-registered users could be converted to contributors in a matter of minutes.

Obviously, this method of conversion is labor intensive. It doesn’t scale. However, given the reports that the lion’s share of Wikipedia edits are made by a core of a few hundred authors, a method of converting consumers to contributors doesn’t necessarily have to scale very much. In our case, it would amount to less than ten thousand chats or phone calls a year. To an organization like ours that has a sizeable call center, that’s not such a big deal. And there’s no reason we’d have to contact every new registrant — consistency in user experience is wildly important when you’re giving something to customers, but when you’re trying to help them give to you, there’s less need for consistency.

What would the call or chat sound like?

  1. Thank the customer for registering.
  2. Ask the customer whether she registered in order to contribute information.
  3. If the customer would like to contribute or isn’t sure if she has enough expertise to do so, help her contribute something simple.
  4. Ask the customer about the projects she’s working on that relate to the purpose of the site. Guide her to information on the site that will help her do a project.
  5. If the site fails to produce the content the customer wants, guide the customer in creating a request (wiki stub or forum query) for that content.
  6. Thank the customer and terminate the call.
  7. Monitor the forum thread or wiki stub. If the requested content doesn’t appear within 24 hours, gather it, post it, and notify the customer that it’s there.

You just created a customer evangelist.

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