Announcing CMX Summit Speaker, Richard Millington - The Psychology of Communities

David Spinks
May 7, 2014
May 3, 2024
richard millington

The list of community leaders taking the stage at CMX Summit NYC continues to grow.

Today we're very excited to announce one of the more influential voices in the space, Richard Millington who will be digging into the Psychology of Communities on June 12-13.

Richard is the Founder and Managing Director of FeverBee Limited, a community consultancy, and The Pillar Summit, an exclusive community management training course. His clients have included the United Nations, The Global Fund, Novartis, Oracle, OECD, BAE Systems, AMD and several youth & entertainment brands.

Not impressed yet? He also wrote one of the most thorough books on community for business I've ever read, called Buzzing Communities.

We did a quick interview with Rich so he could share more about his experience building communities and give you a preview of what he'll be discussing at CMX Summit. Enjoy!

1) Why did you choose a career in community building?

It wasn't an active choice. I became engrossed in video games from a young age and began building communities within that sector. It wasn't until several years later that I learnt that the same elements present in video gaming communities are also present in every type of online community. If you identify and isolate those elements, you can use them to build any number of communities you like. This is what we've been working on and trying to perfect over the last couple of years.

The joy for us is just seeing this thing that we helped create really take off. The social capital this builds, the connections it forms etc... all these things give us a huge amount of pleasure. You hear some amazing stories from these communities, we love to feel we played a part in making that happen.

2) What does community mean to you?

By definition, it means a group of people who have developed relationships around a strong common interest. That means people have that crossed some sort of boundary (skills, experience, attributes etc...). It means that have developed real relationships, they know and like the other people in the group. They feel that their group are like them, their peers, in some particular way. A strong common interest means that they have something which they spend a lot of time on, money on, or is representative of their identity in some way. This is an incredibly powerful thing.

3) How do you apply psychology to your work as a community builder?

The biggest mistake at the moment is we try to build these happy utopian places where everyone is desperate to share information and 'connect' with one another. We convince ourselves that these people exist. It's simply not the case. Psychology underpins every action you want members to take. People participate in communities for selfish reasons. This is a good thing. Selfish motivations are more reliable than utopian ones.

People participate in a community to increase their reputation, gain validation and acceptance from a group of peers, reduce fear of something bad happening, resolve problems in their lives. When you begin catering to these selfish motivations, it's far easier to build a successful community. The more you master psychology, the better you can develop tactics to appeal to the right sorts of motivations.

The other key element here is fostering the sense of community. Sense of community leads to every positive outcome we want from communities. Loyalty, retention, knowledge sharing etc. If we can really master the core elements in facilitating a strong sense of community, we'll be able to develop any number of communities we like. That's a powerful thing.

4) Where should other community professionals go to learn more about the psychology of communities?

Go past the basic pop psych and dig a little into the academic material. It's dry and tedious but once you get a handle on it, it's fascinating. Some books are obviously worth reading too. Influence by Robert Cialdini, BJ Fogg's work, Nir Eyal (although some of this is lacking in validation). Take a couple of basic psych courses on MIT's OpenWare, Academic Earth and the other sites out there. It doesn't take long to get a good grounding. Even Wikipedia articles are pretty well references these days in this subject. You can learn a lot from these.

5) What's the biggest challenge businesses face when implementing community strategy?

We have this unfortunate belief that strategy is a creative process. It really isn't. Anyone can make up a strategy for any company at any time. They would all be right too (how could you be wrong?).

Strategy is about following a process to get the results. It's a formula you go through. You research where you are now, this tells you where you need to go next. Then you select the appropriate tactics to get there. Then you put that into an action plan.

The problem is most strategies are based upon a combination of the most superficial research and extremely wishful thinking. Both are real killers. Most strategies don't analyze in depth where the community is now, they don't review the audience landscape in any real depth, they don't even interview members of the target audience or look at similar communities in that sector.

Strategy to us comprises of four elements:

1) Where are we now?- Internal Analysis (objectives, people, resources, processes)- External analysis (member profiling, competitive analysis)- Community analysis (health, progress, ROI, and platform)

2) Where do we need to go next- Resolve internal problems first- Align the community concept with long-term trends second- Resolve external problems- Resolve any community health problems- Advance to the next stage of the lifecycle

3) How do we get there- Growth- Content- Moderation- Events/activities- Influence- User experience- Business integration

4) Where do we get there- 3 Month action plan- 1 month, day by day agenda- 1 week hour by hour agenda (for example)

6) In 140, what's one piece of advice you'd give to someone trying to build a community?

Start small, build a core group of active members, and grow from there.Want to learn more? Join us on June 12-13 in NYC!

--Photo cred: Bibi Veth

David Spinks
Founder of CMX, VP of Community at Bevy
May 7, 2014
May 3, 2024

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