More than 15 years of running a business membership group (first as a private forum, then as a Facebook Group) and participating as a member in others have taught me a powerful truth.
You will get benefits equal to the effort you put into being interactive with the group.
Membership groups come in all shapes and sizes. One group I joined recently is still quite small, fewer than 20 members. Just about everyone has shown themselves interested in the topic by joining in conversation. Another group I’m part of has thousands of members, yet online discussions are minimal.
It seems a shame to me when someone joins a membership group and never enters into the conversation.
Here are some specific ways to get active today:
Every group I’ve been part of have asked new members to come and post an introduction message in the discussion area. Do more than tell us your familial stats and website address. Try using these sub-headings as a guide to share enough info about yourself that your fellow members get a feel for who you are and what you do:
- Quick Personal Details:
- Quick Business History:
- A Business Achievement I’m Proud Of:
- A Project I’m Working On Now:
- Why I Joined This Group:
If you’re brand new to business, say so. Newcomers are welcome additions to just about every group.
If you joined a group years ago and it’s been awhile since you participated, come back and post a new introduction message. “I’ve been a member since XXXX but I’ve been away for X years, here’s what’s up with me now:”
Seek To Support Existing Conversations
Read threads posted by others and look for ways to add to them. Show the community you’re there to engage with them and care about the topics they’re discussing.
If you enjoy a thread, thank the conversation starter for kicking off the topic.
When you show support for others, you’re more likely to gain support for your own topics when you post.
Ask a Specific Question Regarding A Real Situation
Group leaders and members love to help us get answers to questions, so ask them – but ask questions with some meat to them whenever possible.
Don’t ask: “What do you think of Guest Blogging?”
Do ask: “I’ve launched a new blog, I’ve got my about page all set, there are six posts live, my mailing list isn’t set up yet though – do you think Guest Blogging is a good next step for me?”
The first question is too wide and most won’t volunteer an answer because they don’t know what you’re after as far as an answer. The second questions will draw a quick reply because it’s clear, provides details and asks for specific info.
If you like, follow this simple ‘Question Formula’:
- Here’s my issue:
- This is what I’ve done so far:
- Here’s my question:
Also, notice that I’m asking one question at a time. A post with a half dozen questions in it is hard to respond to for the best of us. Ask one, get an answer and ask another. If you need clarification, ask for it. That’s how great discussions are born.
Most membership groups frown on self promotion so you never want to post ‘Hey, come check out my new ___!’. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t come and share what you’re working on. It’s almost always appropriate to share plans for a new project and to come and invite feedback for it along the way. When it’s all finished, your TaDa! moment is welcome because you’ve involved the group in the development process.
Ask for Critique
Putting yourself or your project on the hot seat by inviting comment from the group can be intimidating, but it’s a great way to jump in with both feet and learn.
Don’t ask: ‘What do you think of my website?”
Do ask: “My website, __________, is ready for a first critique. It’s purpose is ________, my target market is ____________, I want first time visitors to ___________. Is the site doing what I say it’s supposed to? What advice do you have for me?”
Again, the first question is too wide. Your fellow members don’t know what exactly you want to know. The second question is specific and provide solid info about what you’re trying to accomplish.
If you want feedback on colors and graphics, say so. If you want feedback on your web copy, ask for it.
Also thank those who take the time to tell you what they think. You don’t have to respond to all feedback specifically and you don’t have to follow all advice given. Take it in, sort it through and use what you can.
Ask for Recommendations
We all love to make recommendations and the more specific your request is, the better your response will be.
“I’m looking for a good book on __________ to read on vacation next month. Have you read anything good you’d recommend?”
“I need an easy to use form plugin for my site. What are you using and did you think it was simple to learn?”
“I’m wondering if LinkedIn is worth spending time on. I’d love to hear from someone who feels that they’re getting good value from it.”
Use Good English & Neat Formatting
Full transparency: I don’t have perfect grammar. Still, I try to do the best I can. When you participate in discussions, please do the same. Use proper capitalization, do spell check and don’t slip into ‘texting’ style messages. Use complete sentences and keep paragraphs short. Do put spaces between your paragraphs, it’s hard to read text on a screen that runs together in a big blob.
Discussion posts that fail in this area get far fewer replies. Keep an eye out for it from now on and you’ll see it’s true.
Visit Member Sites & Comment
Follow profiles on members you enjoy interacting with. Visit their websites and engage in discussion on their blogs if it’s a decent fit for you. Don’t leave blah comments that say ‘Nice post!’. Add to the conversation, shoot for 50 words or more. Close your first comment by mentioning you found their site through the membership at ___.
Offer to Guest Post/Ask for Guest Posts
Chances are some people you’re networking with in a membership group are in the same or similar niche as you. Offering them a feature spot on your blog is a great way to develop a friendly relationship.
The best way to ask for guest blog posts is to provide some topic options and info about your blog.
“My blog, ____, is about _____ and my readers seem to enjoy content about ______. I’d love to publish guest blog posts that talk about ______ or ________.”
Give them some idea about the length your looking for and provide instructions on how to contact you.
“I usually publish posts around 600 words in length with a first person writing style. If you’re interested, please send me a private message with your email contact info.”
Offering to guest post is quite similar. Start by telling them what you love to write about and who you’d like to reach with your message.
“I’ve been writing a lot of blog posts about _____ lately and would love the chance to guest post on blogs that reach readers who _____. I’ll write something unique for your audience and will not duplicate the content elsewhere. Please shout out if you’d be interested.”
Not so scary, right?
Comment on Resources/Request Specific Topics
If the group you’re involved with is connected to an information resource you’re paying for – you are reserving time to actually consume the resources you’re paying for I hope? The next time you finish up a particular resource, head to the discussion area and share your thoughts about it.
[tbpquotable]An excellent rule: Compliment in public, criticize in private. via @kellymccausey[/tbpquotable]
If you loved the resource, say so for all to read. Be specific, share what you liked and how you plan to act on the info. If you wish the resource had more detail about something, ask the leader privately if they can point you to deeper learning. I for one love receiving member requests that give me a clue about what my members need.
Celebrate New Achievements
Did you just sell your first product, come crow about it. Even better, tell us what you did to get the sale. Did you win a competition, how’d you do it? Are you nominated for a reward? Tell us about it, especially why it’s so important to you.
You’re not bragging, you’re excited and these successes are super motivating to everyone.
Ask For Help Crushing Obstacles
Nobody likes a whiner so don’t come to a discussion area to moan about your problems. The ‘woe is me’ attitude is so unpleasant. That doesn’t mean you can’t share a problem you’re having. Tell the facts and explain what has you stumped. Ask for ideas on how you can overcome the issue.
Thank The Leader(s)
If you love the culture of your membership group, be sure to express appreciate to those who lead. Running an online membership requires effort and dedicated intention. Taking a moment to give them a heart felt thumbs up is golden.
The close relationships you make in a group will end up being worth more to you than any other business asset but it takes time and personal investment to cultivate them. Start making the time and put yourself out there today. If you’re not welcomed right away, if you don’t get the response you hoped for – keep going. Every group has a unique dynamic but ultimately they want to get to know you. Be persistent, be open and be yourself.