Every Fall our skies are filled with the honking sounds of thousands of migrating Geese traveling away from the frigid Canadian winter on their epic journey to the warm Southern United States. As soon as they take off they form the iconic flying ‘V’ formation and one goose begins to lead the flock on a strategic mission to their final destination. Studied extensively by scientists and equally referenced by motivational speakers, geese have a number of lessons that can also help us lead our online communities.
We say, “What’s good for the goose, is also good for the Community Manager,” and here’s 5 of those important principles that stand out.
1. Each flock of geese has a unique and intentional final destination. To us each flock may look the same, but they each have a special “goal” they are working towards.
Lesson: Highly engaged communities have a unique and clear purpose and value proposition for their members. Each member who participates should be able to easily identify what that is and what they will get out of participating. It’s also important to recognize that every online community is unique and good community managers understand this and know their members.
2. Geese fly together - Studies have shown that by flying in a ‘V’ formation it reduces resistance and that the geese in front create an uplift for those behind them. This enables the flock to fly up to 71% farther with the same amount of energy than flying alone.
Lesson: The power of community is strong when mobilized and lead in a harmonious way. The actions you take as a community manager should create an uplift your whole community; starting with your community ambassadors and champions (the members and stakeholders of your community who have influence and express leadership) ultimately benefiting every member. In this case, your proverbial ‘V’ formation for your community are the programs, use cases and activities you orchestrate to create that uplift. This is why it’s important to make sure your strategy is well thought out, organized and appropriate for your type of community. The most important stage is the onboarding stage, where making sure the “V formation” meets the needs of the community, and that the ‘lift’ strategy is well thought out well before launch.
3. Geese honk, loudly! Undoubtedly you hear the honking before you see that flock, and that’s because geese are excellent communicators.
Lesson: The voice and the mission of your community needs to be communicated clearly, loudly and continuously. As the community manager you need to use all of the communication channels at your disposal to ensure your ‘gaggle’ stays engaged! It also means you must apply good listening skills and pay attention to the feedback you are getting from your community members. A good online platform will have numerous tools that help with this “honking”. Breezio uses custom notification systems, a recommendation engine that suggest new content or members for users, one-to-one messaging tools, built-in video conferencing, and social media integration to help ensure clear communication to keep members engaged.
4. Rotate leadership and responsibility. Geese share the leadership role during their migration, so as one leader gets tired it will fall to the back of the ‘V’ and another goose will take its place.
Lesson: In good, well run communities there are multiple leaders that share responsibility for the success of the mission. Leverage the diversity and strengths that others have to add greater value to your community, and give your leaders the support and rest they need to go the distance. This also helps to instill more confidence and trust among members as the more trusted “experts” they see, the more validated your community becomes. Breezio uses permission settings so that you can appoint these champions to be administrators or authors in your various communities of practice to help you achieve this.
5. Geese help each other. If a goose gets sick, injured or too weak to fly and falls out of formation, two other geese will fall back with it and stay with it until it is able to fly again or dies.
Lesson: This speaks to the heart of why online communities can be so powerful. After all, many of the people who are most active in the community do so because they genuinely care about others and want to help. As a community manager, you can encourage this type of culture and use your back channel communications to connect members and support them as they help one another. Breezio was built with the core principle that seeking and sharing knowledge is the ultimate driver of engagement, so it is easy for any member to be both a student and a teacher.
Getting and keeping an online community engaged can be difficult. One can easily get caught up in the many daily tasks, to the point of losing focus of the end goal of the online community. So next time that happens, remember to think like a goose and follow these five community concepts and your community will soar. Or, contact Breezio and they can take the lead at the front of the ‘V’ for a while and give you a break.