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  1. Invision Community is used by some of the world's biggest game brands, proudly enabling gamers to connect with the creators of their favourite titles. These sites attract millions of visitors between them and thousands of posts are added daily because of their high profile. But what if you're just starting out, how do you convert casual visitors to members, and what's the best way to set up your community? I got talking to new customer Darrell, interestingly named Mr. Fierce God on our community. While you may expect that this portrays a fire and brimstone hothead, you'd be wrong as Darrell is one of the nicest people you'll meet. Darrell runs the Fierce Gaming Network and I was impressed by the way he's set up his site and wanted to share my thoughts on what he's done well. The first thing I noticed is that the forum index is not the home page for the site. For a gaming community that wants to focus on more than just user conversations, this is a good move. Let's break it down. A. The home page has multiple points of entry, and the sidebar menu unobtrusively offers short-cuts to various parts of the community. B. We have a large call to action to either login or register. This box also explains the benefits of registration clearly and enforces that registration is a very quick process. One optimisation that may be worth looking at here is to add the "Sign in with Facebook / Microsoft" buttons on the box to persuade even more to register right away. C. Fierce Gaming Network also makes great use of Clubs to segment their audience to specific software titles. Re-using instantly recognisable artwork as the club cover image will entice fans of those games to visit. Scrolling down a little shows the "Member of the month". As humans, we are drawn to faces instantly, and this humanises the site and "unmasks" some of the popular members, making the site less intimidating. Moving down a little more we see the "Our Picks" section which highlights the best content from the community. Our Picks is a great way to get visitors to engage with your content. Good use of cover images draws attention and makes it clear the kind of content you're going to read. Darrell makes great use of several lnvision Community apps to build the site, and has set it up well. New users get to the site see handpicked content, fellow members and the benefits of joining all in one place. It's a great start and I look forward to seeing Darrell's site succeed. Are you using Invision Community to build custom homepages for your community? Share them in the comments below. View the full article
  2. I noticed something new in the chiller cabinet at the petrol station after filling yesterday. Bottles of Grape Fanta sitting alongside the more mundane and pedestrian drinks such as Coke Zero and Pepsi Max. I grabbed two bottles. After draining one in record time, I googled around to see where I could get more of this delicious nectar, and it discovered that it's a new flavour being launched in the UK. The really interesting thing was that Coca Cola used data stored in the self service machines that offer different flavours (such as those at cinemas) to determine which new flavours to bring to the market. Grape was the second most popular flavour after regular orange, so the company knew they had a market ready for premixed bottles. In a world where we fear what Big Tech does with our data, it's easy to forget that data has a valid use in your business. It's why we make it clear that with Invision Community, you own your data. We just look after it for you. This gives you the freedom to discover new trends within your business and use them to drive sales. View the full article
  3. Two headlines caught my eye today as they appeared side by side in my newsfeed. On first glance, they seemed contradictory. The first was that the UK lost nearly 2,500 shops and stores last year and the second is that discount fashion retailer Primark has just invested £70m in a new store in Birmingham. This new store covers 161,000 sq ft over five floors and features a Disney-themed cafe, a beauty studio, a gents hairdresser and a Harry Potter themed section. If the UK is closed thousands of stores, and a recent department store has just fallen into administration why would a brand invest £70m in a new store? The answer is that they are not building a store, they are building an experience. It's clearly not enough to just stack products and open the doors anymore. You have to offer more to entice people in through the doors. This is why Toys R Us failed in the end. I maintain that if they had reduced shelf space and installed soft play, cafes and product demonstration areas, they would have had a chance at turning around their failing business. Primark has learned from other's mistakes. With themed "shops in shops" and child-friendly cafes, they are offering more than discount clothes. It is exactly the same as your community. Offering a space to facilitate conversation is often not enough unless you dominate your niche. Are you known for well thought out reviews? Perhaps you write valuable articles that get people to your site. Or you might be focusing on building an audience with a photo competition as Helen from The Dogly Mail has. What are you doing to encourage more people through your doors? View the full article
  4. “Every success story is a tale of constant adaption, revision and change.” – Richard Branson, billionaire and founder of Virgin Group. We all seek success with our Invision Communities. For too many of our communities, however, we yearn for success but we don’t plot the correct navigation to get there. We haphazardly pursue our strategies, trying new ideas and hoping one will stick. It’s time to take a step back and assess your goals in context to your growth. It’s important to understand the stages of the community lifecycle, and to strategically match your goals with your growth sequence. Alicia Iriberri and Gondy Leroy of Claremont Graduate University surveyed over 1000 publications across multiple disciplines including computer science, information systems, sociology, and management in their seminal 2009 research paper “A Life-Cycle Perspective on Online Community Success.” Their research forms the foundation for most modern community management, and in their paper they write, “The impact each design component has on the success of the online community shifts depending on which life-cycle stage the online community is experiencing.” The right strategy at the right time will maximize the impact. Every community goes through a community lifecycle of four stages: Inception, Growth, Maturity, and Mitosis. Setting the wrong objective can not only fail, it can even backfire and destroy goodwill. Here are classic examples of good strategies that go wrong because of poor sequencing: A new community with no activity that builds dozens of new boards A growth community not fostering a unique sense of community A mature community not establishing strong codes of conduct Architecting a community is very different for the first ten users versus the next thousand users. New priorities come into play, community concerns will shift and strategies need tochange. As a community manager, ensure the strategy is appropriate and reflects your community lifecycle to ensure maximum impact. Let’s take a look at proper goal settings for each stage of the community lifecycle. Inception Inception is the start of your community. You’re bursting with energy, enthusiasm, and big ideas. While your Invision Community is full of potential, your goal is to turn your vision into reality: Members: Focus on nurturing a core team of members. Your goal is to get 10 – 12 superusers to consistently engage and support the community vision. Promotion: Your community won’t contain enough content to attract visitors through search engines, so you’ll have to rely on personal referrals, word-of-mouth, and direct acquaintances. Content: Focus on building expertise on core content areas that will make you stand out. You want to be the best in one subject. You’ll need to generate much of the content programming yourself, which should focus on functional value. Organization: Establish organizational parameters for the community, define the vision with stakeholders, write your Terms of Use, and validate the community concept. Community: The community is heavily centered around the community founder at this stage, so set the right tone and lead through example. Growth Growth is where the magic of community happens, balanced against the development of more explicit and formal conduct. Members: Shift your focus from nurturing individual users to creating a workflow that can systematically welcome new members. Promotion: You should be proactive with your self-promotional activities to build community awareness such as email marketing, social media, or mailing lists. Content: Content will now be a mix between self-generated and co-created. You want to highlight community content by others to encourage community expertise. When you create content yourself, you want to start including emotionally-driven questions that connect users. Organization: Measure specific metrics for organization goals, highlight community health and successes, secure funding for ongoing budget and team. Community: A unique sense of community is cultivated at this time with shared experiences and language between members. Members feel excited to be a part of your community’s growth. Maturity Maturity is when your Invision Community becomes critically acclaimed and well-known in the field. Even though your community looks to be run smoothly, there are still areas to address so your community doesn’t stagnate: Members: There should be a clearly defined process and welcome guide for onboarding new members, an established pipeline that constantly brings on new superusers, and a rewards program that recognizes members for different types of member journeys. Promotion: Your site is well-known, so the search engine traffic and content within your community is enough to bring in new users. You can optimize your SEO at this point. Content: Almost all content is user-created at this point, which means your focus needs to shift to content recognition, organization, and moderation. Highlight the best community content; categorize and properly tag new content so the community stays organized; and scale your moderation to handle the size of your community. Organization: The community is a key part of your organization’s larger success and supports multiple areas of the business. Be a strong internal advocate for the community and align your community with your organization’s new profit areas. Community: Superusers not only have the privilege of creating their own content for the community, but they’ve stepped up as mentors and moderators. Your community has a strong culture that’s reinforced by members. Mitosis Mitosis is the stage when your Invision Community grows beyond its original mission, potentially splitting off into new subgroups. Many communities stagnate at this point with falling engagement and plateauing registration, but you’re catching onto the next big trend in your industry to grow into. Members: New member registrations flatlines because you’re tracking with the industry. Your goal is to continue to delight members with new forms of omnichannel engagement like regional meetups, video conferencing, and headline conferences. Promotion: Your community self-generates organic traffic. Your promotion should shift from trying to advertise for yourself to exerting influence with industry partners as a trusted leader in the field. Content: Members can find the most comprehensive set of resource documents and discussion on your community. Your goal is to distill the knowledge into the best tips and guides for newcomers to obtain the most accurate information as quickly as possible. You should also archive areas that no longer receive activity while finding growth topics in your field. Organization: The community is a critical part of all business operations and integrates into all relevant workflows. You should build custom metrics to measure results, help determine new investment decisions, and streamline business efficiencies at the organizational level that benefit the community. Community: Your community becomes an incubator of new sections in a controlled manner for potential spin-off. Superusers control and moderate their own areas of the site like Clubs or Blogs. Online communities evolve through distinct stages of the community lifecycle. At each stage, the needs and activities of members require different tools, features, and community management. Certain strategies are more impactful when they coincide with the right sequence. Invision Community makes it easy to get started with a technology platform packed with features that every community manager can start using right away. But how you get to the first ten users, to the first thousand posts, or even to one billion likes will be a journey that’s truly your own. Share your success story of Invision Community in the comments below. Did you make any rookie mistakes that you wish you knew beforehand? What are some strategies that you’re pursuing right now, and why do you think it’s an impactful decision for this stage of your community’s lifecycle? We’d love to hear your journey along the community lifecycle. View the full article
  5. In a move that surprised many, British cosmetics firm Lush has chosen to quit social media. With a combined following across Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, Lush has a combined audience of over 1.2 million followers. Lush are being a little cryptic about its reasons but cite having to pay for visibility and getting tired of trying to produce content so just that algorithms will rank it highly. "Increasingly, social media is making it harder and harder for us to talk to each other directly. We are tired of fighting with algorithms, and we do not want to pay to appear in your newsfeed. So we’ve decided it’s time to bid farewell to some of our social channels and open up the conversation between you and us instead." It feels like sacrilege for a brand to come off social media, but I'm not surprised. Social media is about broadcasting more than it is about meaningful conversation. And now, even with a huge following, broadcasting doesn't get the same reach it did a few years ago with platforms pushing paid options more and more. Lush also targets a very young demographic that simply aren't using social media anymore. The firm said it was "cutting out the middleman between ourselves and the Lush community". It remains unclear which direction Lush is going to take to facilitate conversations, but using an independent community platform like Invision Community should be considered. It cuts out any algorithm biased, money hungry platform. It opens up the conversation between the brand and its customers in a meaningful way, and the brand is completely in control of their data and what their customers see. At Invision Community, we're seeing more and more brands looking for a solution outside of social media. Perhaps this will accelerate the trend. View the full article
  6. Since the last blog entry in this series I have been very busy. I’m still working full time so haven’t been able to spend as much time as I would have liked on The Dogly Mail but I’m really enjoying the time I can. Early growth has been promising and I have been experimenting with different ideas that have come from founder members to see what might work long term. We recently broke the 100 member milestone and that all came from word of mouth. We’re not talking huge numbers but I’m very encouraged for the future. My focus is now on building interactions with four main areas of the site. Forums I had imagined the forums being the most active area after seeing other Invision Communities but I don’t think there are enough regularly active members yet for this area to be truly useful so it is (for now) not the main priority. I am however using some forums functionality effectively. I’ve added a special offers forum that is viewable by non members but to get to the actual topic contents you need to register. This seems to be enticing a few people to sign up and I want to approach more retailers to build on this. Polls are also proving popular and new members who may not want to commit to introducing themselves or posting a full topic are at least interacting. I’ll be looking for more ways of adding easy interactions such as this. If anybody has any ideas for encouraging early discussion please let me know in the comments. Articles In the articles section new items are slowly being added and I find this a good opportunity to show some personality and indicate to users what they can expect from the rest of the site. I am trying all kinds of articles such as news, reviews, recipes and dog training guides to find out what I should focus on. I would also like to attract some guest writers for different viewpoints and to free up some of my time. Being able to see article view counts in Invision Community and the direct commenting functionality gives me good feedback. Events The launch of the events section coincided with a large dog related event in London and through it I was able to collaborate with the event organisers and do some succesful networking. This has led to some future opportunities for product reviews and reinforces my point from the last blog article where not all of your time should be spent behind the keyboard. Most of the events are being added by myself but hopefully as this section builds others will find it useful for promoting their own events. Photos One of the early members was quick to suggest we incorporate image sharing into the website as after all how can anybody resist cute photos of puppies? For this I originally looked at the Invision Gallery but felt that this section needed to have a voting element and Gallery was perhaps too feature rich. I wanted it to be a simple first interation with the website. I wanted people to be able to vote and more importantly encourage their friends to sign up and vote too. We started out with a simple topic and for the first month with not many people this worked great. One post was an entry and people could “Like” their favourites. It quickly became quite popular and it was clear that we would need something dedicated to the task so I commissioned some custom work. This was real investment but is already showing promising signs after launching April 1st. New members can now enter the photo competition and register at the same time so most new registrations are now coming from this route. I’ve recently discovered the profile completion feature so will enable that this month to try and increase engagement a bit further. I want to keep to our non intrusive privacy policy so this will all be optional and limited to member photo and some simple dog breed and numer of dogs fields. With what I have learned so far I have a better idea of what is going to work to attract registrations and there is also a credible amount of content. This month I will be starting to look into some paid promotion with the hope of hitting my next milestone of 250 members. I will share my findings and hopefully some helpful marketing tips next month. View the full article
  7. Every day, LGBTQ young people from all walks of life log into TrevorSpace, the world’s largest moderated safe space for LGBTQ youth online. Here, young people can support each other, share their stories, and find refuge from what might be a less than accepting environment offline. Launched in 2008, TrevorSpace is housed under The Trevor Project, the foremost suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth in the world. Having an affirming digital community has been an indispensable resource for the youth The Trevor Project aims to protect, but guiding it to the success it enjoys today has had its challenges. Shortly after its launch, TrevorSpace rapidly grew to serve tens of thousands of users in just a few years. While the platform initially started on commercial community software, some unique requirements led the organization to go custom, building a community platform from the ground up. Faced with increasing hosting and development costs and declining user activity, senior leadership faced a tough decision: either dramatically transform the program, or discontinue it altogether. That’s when Invision Community stepped in. “We were already planning a digital transformation, replacing everything from our physical computers to our crisis services software infrastructure, the platforms that young people use to reach out to us, like TrevorLifeline, TrevorChat, and TrevorText,” John Callery, director of technology at The Trevor Project said of the challenges facing the organization at the time. “We had to be very careful with our resources and where we allocated our time.” Continuing the TrevorSpace program would mean The Trevor Project needed to move to a solution that could be implemented and managed with very limited resources while still providing the quality of care that the community had come to expect. It also meant meeting the specific needs of the organization’s mission, particularly around safety. After looking into the Invision Community platform per the suggestion of a team member, it became clear that they had all of the fundamentals TrevorSpace was looking for, like messages boards, social networking, and private messaging. Here was a chance to save the platform. Customers rarely have the opportunity to meet the people behind the technology they use. This wasn’t the case for The Trevor Project and the Invision Community team, who made it clear they believed in our mission to support LGBTQ youth in crisis and were willing to partner with us to realize our specific needs and figure out new solutions. Through utilizing the Invision Community team’s applications and plugins, we were able to meet all of our community’s custom needs, adding functionality unique to TrevorSpace to protect our users, many of whom are especially vulnerable when it comes to their privacy. None of this would have been possible without the incredible support of the Invision Community team. For just one example of how crucial TrevorSpace is to young LGBTQ people around the world, listen to Mani Cavalieri, the community’s product manager: “When the most prevalent forms of social media are so enmeshed with our in-person relationships, LGBTQ youth often lose a safe place to explore their identities. TrevorSpace is one of those special communities that balances anonymity (often a necessity for safety) with real, personal connections.” Since joining the team, Mani has already seen multiple instances of users finding lifelong friends - and even partners - over the years on TrevorSpace - and on the Invision Community platform, it is able to reach more users than ever before. In January 2018, TrevorSpace received double the number of registrations than any other month in the program’s 10-year history. We continue to see more than a thousand new registered members each week. As we begin international promotion of the program, we expect to break many more records in the coming year. As we continue to grow TrevorSpace, we also continue to rely on Invision Community’s extensibility. Our mission is to improve support networks and mental resilience for our users. This requires us to understand our users’ behavior and needs from a different perspective than other online communities, and it will continue to require more custom solutions. The marketplace of plugins, as well as the enthusiastic support of the Invision Community team, enable us to be bold in our ambitions, to build out a community that is truly unique in its class, and to improve the lives of those that need a supportive community the most. As one user puts in, in their welcome message to each newcomer: “That's our little secret - there's some one here, going through what you're going through. Whether that be mental health, body issues, parents, friends, and whatever else life as someone who's LGBTQ+ can throw at you. Reach out, and someone will be there for you.” - This entry was written by The Trevor Project team https://www.trevorspace.org https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ View the full article
  8. We do love a parlour game at Invision Community HQ and we were playing "6 degrees of separation" recently. You've probably heard of the "6 degrees of Kevin Bacon". This is where you try and connect any actor with Kevin Bacon in 6 steps or less. So let's try "6 degrees of Invision Community". This is where we try and connect a person with an Invision Community. David Goggins and Invision Community Last week, I finished the excellent David Goggins book "Can't Hurt Me". David Goggins, a retired Navy SEAL, spent a month with Jesse Itzler. This which was documented in Itzler's book "Living with a SEAL", which I've also read. Jesse Itzler owns the Atlanta Hawks Basketball Team. The Atlanta Hawks has a dedicated area inside the Atlanta Falcons Football team's official community. The Atlanta Falcons official community is powered by Invision Community. Here's another one. Groot and Invision Community Groot featured in the Guardians of the Galaxy movie series. Chris Pratt starred alongside Groot in the same movie series. Chris Pratt voices Emmet in the LEGO® movies. LEGO® uses Invision Community. Over to you. Do you have any "6 degrees of Invision Community?". We'd love to read them! View the full article
  9. I've had this similar conversation dozens of times in the recent past when someone has taken an interest in what I do. Person: So what does Invision Community do? Me: We develop and sell an independent community platform. Person: Oh. Neat. I used to say the F word. But this used to cause some confusion. 'We develop and sell a forum system'. This used to elicit a response similar to this: "Forums? They're still going?" This line of thinking is quite prevalent among those who frequent Facebook, or use Facebook Groups to manage their micro communities. Even though they probably use forums regularly, or end up on forum topics when searching for things like "Why is my iPhone not charging", they don't realise this. I recently guested on a podcast, where we spoke about "Facebook or Forums?", and I received this comment. It appears, then, that the word "forums" has a lot of legacy connotations attached to it. It conjures up images of the past when Netscape Navigator was the world's favourite browser, and AOL was still mailing out CDs. That is all ancient history now, and we've moved with the times. The product we have now has roots in the product from the early 2000s but it is wildly different and much more capable. When you explain that you can segment discussions into separate areas (aka forums), and even set up independent micro-communities (clubs), you can see lightbulbs going off. "That's amazing! I had no idea! So you mean I don't have to have my community in a single stream struggling for attention among adverts?" Nope, there is another way. Why not try an independent community platform? I'd love to hear your thoughts. Do you avoid the F word too? View the full article
  10. I was fortunate enough to be invited to speak on the Expert Focus podcast, hosted by experienced community manager and public speaker, Claire Dowdall. Claire has significant experience in managing and developing strategies for increasing Facebook Group engagement for high profile speakers and entrepreneurs, while my background is with independent communities. This set us up nicely for a lively conversation to really pull apart what makes for a successful community, and what platforms to consider when starting out. From Expert Focus: I really enjoyed speaking with Claire, and I hope you find a little time to tune in. Listen now: On Apple devices On Spotify On all other devices View the full article
  11. Are you a vBulletin admin looking to stay on the leading edge of online communities? As an IPS client who frequents the Invision Community support forums on a daily basis, I often run across existing or former vBulletin admins looking to migrate to IPS. In fact, based on my not-so-scientific survey, vBulletin is one of the most popular platforms from where admins migrate. Many of the vBulletin users are professional administrators looking for a stable company, rapid development, and a trusted platform to power their communities into the future. I interviewed 6 former vBulletin admins who are now Invision Community clients. Most of these vBulletin admins have 10+ years of experience running successful forums, so their input was especially insightful. “I love the design of the admin and moderation back-end, a real treat after living with the antiquated and confusing vBulletin back-end.” -- @cfish “I like the well-thought concept, the details, and abundance of features and functions.” [email protected] I’ve compiled the top 10 questions and answers from their interviews and the forums specifically for vBulletin admins for an insider’s perspective on how to convert from vBulletin to Invision Community. You can also read their full interviews in my Community Guide attached at the bottom. 10. What is the typical lifecycle of Invision Community and what new features come out? Invision Community is currently on 4.4. It’s a great time to be migrating as both the software and converter are very mature. You’ll be able to take advantage of all the new features from Invision Community 4.x such as Social Clubs, Subscriptions, SEO updates, and GDPR updates. In general, IPS publishes one major update like 4.4 once a year, with several bug fixes, security updates, and enhancements throughout the year. The best place to read about Product Updates is the official IPS Blog in Product Updates. 9. What are the pricing options and how do they compare to vBulletin? IPS is comparable in pricing when compared to vBulletin depending on your choice of apps. The self-hosted option is cheaper when considering support and upgrades. The pricing for an active license is simple, easy, and comprehensive. A new license includes professional ticket support, forum support, access to new upgrades, and managed spam service for 6 months. Renew again in six months to continue those benefits. If you choose not to renew, your software will continue to work. 8. Is the software mobile ready like vBulletin? Yes, the software is responsive by design. This means the community naturally fits and beautifully displays in any device size, giving you a consistent look-and-feel across all devices. Try it now by resizing your window! It also means you don’t need to pay for any extra “mobile bundles.” This approach to mobile design was one of the reasons why @cfish chose IPS: “I didn’t like vBulletin’s approach to mobile. The IPS approach to responsive web design was inline with my own thinking.” 7. What are the official Invision Community apps and how do they compare to vBulletin? @Steve Bullman converted to IPS because “IPS seemed to offer a better all-round package for what I needed.” One of the biggest reasons for considering IPS is a broader approach to community. Whereas vBulletin focuses only on Forums and Blogs, IPS empowers you to build a suite of applications customized to your needs. Mix and match apps like Gallery, Blogs, Downloads, Pages, and Commerce to build a modern community with resource directories, databases, paid subscriptions, albums and more that go beyond forums. You can read more about the apps in Features. Calendar and Clubs are included for free! 6. What will be migrated from vBulletin? The free converter app will migrate all of your member and content items from vBulletin 3.8.x, 4.x, and 5.x. This includes members, private messages, member groups, ranks, forums, topics, posts, and attachments. You can view the full list on Migrate and choose your vBulletin version from the list of choices. Obviously, you will not be able to migrate any custom themes or custom modifications. @ChristForums adds, “I wish I had known that the converter was so easy to use and migrate from Vbulletin 5.” 5. What are the channels for support? Every active license comes with professional ticket support, which should always be your first source of contact. @Markus Jung highlights “fast support” as the item he appreciates the most about his license. You can also obtain help from the community forums, help guides, release notes, and other public resources. If you’re not an IPS client yet, you can post in Pre-Sales forum or email [email protected] 4. How do I prepare my community? The six admins that I interviewed offered several tips for new Invision Community owners. Prior to the conversion, you should read through the converter package to see what will convert and redirect. You should purchase other Invision Community apps in advance to fully convert vBulletin items as needed; not delete any old content since Invision Community includes an archive function; and not make drastic changes to allow members a chance to become accustomed to the new forum. 3. What will happen to my traffic and URL redirects? The free converter app will redirect your existing URLs. This includes forums, topics, posts, member profiles, print view pages, archived content, attachments, and tags. You need to leave your converter installed after migration to ensure the redirects will work. AlexWebsites wrote, “the converter came with built-in redirects and I was able to redirect most of my traffic. Traffic recovered within a few months.” 2. What are the server configuration and database requirements? If you choose cloud, then Invision Community will manage the hosting. If you choose on-premise, you can use the free ‘Get Ready’ compatibility file to check your server. The latest version of Invision Community 4.4 requires: PHP 7.1.0 or higher (7.3.x is supported) MySQL 5.5.3 or higher (5.6.2 recommended). 1. How stable is the company? Other companies lost their development talent. Other companies were bought and sold by multi-media conglomerates. Other companies have a history of lawsuits. Through it all, Charle, Lindy and Matt have been here since the beginning providing steady leadership to Invision Communities everywhere. If you’re looking for stability, it’s nice to know you can rely on the same people who started the company. For serious and professional vBulletin admins looking to transition, you know you’re not just buying into the software, but investing in the development team, staff, and platform for years to come. Ramsesx shared his personal story: “I always prefer the best for my community from where I earn my income. An important aspect was the longtime outlook. Invision Community gave me the feeling of being trustworthy, they are more than 17 years in the forum software market.” It’s no wonder that so many successful vBulletin admins feel the same after moving to Invision Community. You get stability, years of experience, a deep understanding of online communities, and a dedication to development that continues to innovate. It’s time to bring your vBulletin community over to Invision Community! Bookmark this page for future reference and download the Community Guide for experiences from real clients who converted from vBulletin. Much appreciation to @AlexWebsites @cfish @Christforums @Markus Jung @Ramsesx @Steve Bullman for participating in the interviews. - Joel R Community Guide vBulletin Migration to Invision Community.pdf View the full article
  12. Online communities shine with the brilliance of humanity. Every day, our communities inspire, evoke, inform, motivate and engage in a hundred different ways. Every member feels a uniquely individual sense of value from your community. For too many communities, the strategy revolves around two simple pillars: content and engagement. You inform. You engage. And you think your job is done. However, you’ve barely scratched the surface of offering value. You need to expand the ways in which you strategically match your community to member value. New studies are coming out that show humans feel up to 27 emotions from admiration to triumph, and the best communities unleash a rainbow spectrum of value – functional and emotional, business to social - for their organizations and for their members. This results in not just deeper and more extensive engagement, but greater financial payoff. Indeed, research from global management consulting firm Bain & Company shows brands like Apple, Samsung, and Amazon that demonstrate multiple elements of value have x3 greater customer loyalty and x4 faster revenue growth than others. The elements of value can be divided into two broad categories. Specialize in Functional Value Don’t deliver content. Deliver time savings, cost savings, risk savings, organization, connection, education, and variety. What is the utility benefit to your users? Functional values are the core reasons why members would visit your community. It forms the baseline rationale for your community’s existence, and you want to not just be good – you want to be the best in delivering functional value in your field. Improve your Q&A boards for feedback, inquiry, or ideation. Provide a template in a pinned topic where users fill out a consistent set of questions, so you can answer with the most appropriate and accurate options. Use moderator tools like Recommended Replies to summarize and spotlight key points in a topic. This saves time and focuses attention on expert information. Super-charge the training for your response team. Empower them to be subject experts by giving them private training, templates, and extra resources in a staff wiki so they can investigate the unique needs of user inquiries and provide the best responses. Build a set of content resources in the Pages application, which is the most powerful application in the suite. It can be used to create a set of content resources with unlimited custom fields, filters, and templates enabling you to offer variety, organization, and education that no other competitor can match. Spark Emotional Value Don’t deliver engagement. Deliver admiration, amusement, awe, empathy, joy, nostalgia, satisfaction, and triumph. How does your community make your members feel better? Here’s a little secret. Even though functional value is the foundation of your community’s value proposition, emotional elements are 50% more valuable. Fortunately, Invision Community comes loaded with ways to recognize, reward, and promote members. Take the time to explain the purpose of a new group promotion, rank, or title. Don’t let the reward be the goal in and of itself. You should connect the feature with its underlying emotion by explaining what steps are required to earn the rank, how many others earned it, and what it’ll take to earn the next one. Start with the Leaderboard. Invision Community ships with the Leaderboard, which provides an overview of the most popular users and content. Scan for up-and-coming members to investigate what triggers their emotional satisfaction; scan for popular content to discover what excites your membership. Create multiple member journeys. Most communities follow a pattern of new member to trusted member to moderator. But members can become superusers in many ways. Members who enjoy nostalgia can organize a Year-in-Review topic. Members who enjoy affiliation should serve as Ambassadors to greet and mentor new members. Members who seek reputation will appreciate new outlets for publishing. Define multiple pathways that strategically tap into the diverse desires of your members. As you implement your initiatives to build a Community of Excellence, take the time to relate the initiative to the Elements of Value (Attachment: IPS Elements of Value Attachment.pdf). You’ll find new and creative ways of offering value to strengthen the relationship between your community and your members. Look deep within your community to unearth the rainbow spectrum of value. You’ll discover a wellspring of extraordinary value waiting to help your members shine brightest. View the full article
  13. I'm only one month in to starting a new community and I've already learned a huge amount. I was a little apprehensive at first but I'm taking things one step at a time and I'm happy with how things are going so far. The points I'm going to raise are working for me but I'm a beginner and running a website of any description is new. Nothing here is guaranteed and I hope to receive comments from established community admins so I can continue to improve. The first thing I realised is that I wasn't actually starting a community but instead I'm going to be bringing new tools and ideas to an already existing one. My chosen subject is broad (Dogs) so there is already a well established real life community globally. My aim therefore is not to replicate already available content but to reach this community with unique content and encourage them to contribute their own. More on that later but before I could do that I needed something they could visit. The new community site Get Started You can spend days and weeks planning and writing business plans and these are all good things to do alongside everything else but they shouldn't stop you getting started. The only thing that really mattered to me was starting on the actual idea and to do that all I needed was a platform. You've probably already guessed but Invision Community was chosen for this as it offered multiple apps that would allow me to have both long form articles and forum content. There's also the monetisation options that appealed to me but I am not yet using. It's good to know they are there when I'm ready though. I also considered Wordpress but it lacked the community tools I was already sold on. Rope in friends and family and use their skill sets I'm not scared to admit where I need help and as I have hit problems or things I don't know I have called in favours. I don't have a large budget for stock photography subscriptions so a friend is providing photos in exchange for attribution. My fiance is more technically minded so he has helped with some of the set up and help with Invision Community features is only a support ticket away. There is plenty of general information a quick web search away too but some topics are complex and I thought that if I could free up at least some of my time I can keep focussed on the direction. Help can be as simple as nudging friends into posting new topics or comments to get some initial activity and momentum. It's also a good test to make sure you have everything set up with your registration process and identify some potential problems. These helpers are also now active members of the site of course so it's a two for one. I'm sure they'll be calling in return favours at some point but that's fine, they've earned it. Encourage all contributions even if you don't agree with them Coming from a primary school teaching background I see kids come up with lots of crazy and novel ideas all the time, they might sound silly but you never know, they may grow into something bigger. My aim is to foster a sense of community and belonging and people of all ages who have their ideas valued tend to stick around. If an idea doesn't work that's fine but you never know what will work so I'm trying lots of things and encouraging innovation. The forums are a great tool for this as everything doesn't need to be rigidly structured. Be passionate and confident about your subject matter Perhaps my top tip…If you don't value your own thoughts and actions then how can you expect others to? Show your enthusiasm and knock away negative thoughts and doubts. Use all of your tools Once you've encouraged your initial core group of members, you need to keep them coming back. So far I've had success using the bulk mail feature for a monthly newsletter to rekindle the interest of early members who may no longer be as active. I was warned about bad email pracices so I have our notification defaults set very loosely as I want to build trust by not spamming. Everything I send is opt-in and using the newsletter signup block I've been able to make this prominent but not obtrusive. I'm worried I might be missing out by not being aggressive enough with email but it's a risk I'm taking to hopefully get better long term members. Get involved with your member activities and conversations Join in with conversations on your community where it makes sense and be as active as possible. You're running a website but to do so you don't always need to be in front of a computer. Speak to your members face to face as well as through the keyboard. I've been going on local dog walks with clubs and other community groups which is a great chance to network and give your members and potential members the chance to see the people behind the website. If there are events or shows in your field get involved and spread the word verbally. I'm talking to dog owners face to face about behavioural issues and always in the back of my mind is the fact this could be discussed on the website to help others and build activity. Over time these "real world" relationships should also be represented on the website too. Don't get distracted I've got into the habit of using a reminders app to keep track of future things I want to do. It is tempting to start lots of things every time you have a new idea but that can take your mind off what is actually important right now. Don't forget about these ideas though, make a note and come back to them later. Approvals and applications for things can also take time. I found myself sometimes sitting around waiting for adsense accounts to be approved or Facebook apps to be verified for sign in. Don't let this downtime be unproductive. Keep writing new content What we have started as new community admins isn't easy, it's going to be a long haul so you need to be consistent and regular with updates. On that note I have a breed profile about Chow Chows to write. Thanks for listening to my ramblings and if you have any more tips please let me know in the comments. Helen is a year 3 international primary school teacher currently living in Slovakia. She loves dogs (of course), books, and reading whenever possible. She has travelled extensively for work, particularly in South East Asia and has experienced many amazing cultures. She is a qualified Zumba dance fitness instructor and is now building what she hopes to be an invaluable resource for dog owners. https://doglymail.com/ View the full article
  14. We want to ensure that converting from your existing community platform to ours is as seamless as possible. While we do have a migration service available where we take care of everything for you, we do also offer a DIY option. We took some time to overhaul the conversion process for those opting to convert using our free tools. Ready to convert? So you've just purchased your first copy of Invision Community, and you're ready to convert your existing site over from another software package. Great! We're glad you've made the decision to take your community to the next level! You've already checked out our Migrations page, confirmed the software you wish to convert from is supported, and you're confident in your ability to work through the process. You install the Converters package and you're ready to go. Lets get started! We have overhauled the converters to simplify the process. Beginning with 4.4, you will take the following steps to convert from another software package: Rather than choose the application you wish to convert first, you will now choose what software you are converting from, which is a much more logical start to a conversion. Next, you will supply the database details for your source database (the database you wish to convert into your new Invision Community). Then, you will see a list of all applications that can be converted for the software package you are converting from. If any applications cannot be converted (perhaps because you were not previously using the corresponding application in your source software), a message will be shown indicating there is nothing to convert. If any steps require additional configuration, you will be able to specify those details here. And finally, when you submit that form - that's it! You're done, and you can sit back and let the conversion process on its own. Each step for each application will be completed automatically, and the conversion will be finalized automatically at the end. A progress bar will be shown, along with a textual indicator that outlines exactly what is being converted. What does it look like? conversion.mp4 Here's a quick video to illustrate the new conversion process. The system even remembers where you were at and automatically picks back up where you left off. Closing your browser, losing internet connectivity, or some other unforeseen issue won't stop you dead in your tracks and force you to start all over again. We hope that these updates make it even easier to switch from another community platform. View the full article
  15. I'm sure that most reading this blog are running an up-to-date Invision Community and enjoying all the benefits of a modern community platform. Little things that get taken for granted now, like being able to view your community on a mobile phone without pinching and zooming just to read a few posts and having multiple automated tools to deal with community toxicity and spam. However, a little wander around the web soon uncovers some really old forum systems still somehow creaking along. Amazingly, most of these communities are still used daily, often with millions of posts in the archives. It might be tempting to ask why keep upgrading and investing in new versions of the software? After all, if the community is still running just fine and getting daily visitors, then it's ok to do nothing, right? But there is a hidden cost in doing nothing. Security This is the main one for me. Old platforms often have several published security vulnerabilities. Often these vulnerabilities are exploited by scripts that are shared around hacker communities. This means exploiting a website running an old version of a forum system is as simple as running a script and pointing it at your site. Older forums are also less sophisticated. They rely on unsafe hashing methods to store passwords and lack vital features like two-factor authentication. Also, consider that the server environment has to be maintained with out of date PHP and MySQL versions. It's a recipe for disaster. Could your community survive a major exploit where data is downloaded into the hands of a hacker? The cost could be fatal to your community. Declining engagement Even the most ardent of fans on your community will eventually tire of struggling to access your site on mobile devices. I think back to 2002 when we created the first version of our software. We only had to focus on how it looked on a computer, so naturally, that influenced the design of the forum. It's not so simple now. More and more of us are using mobile phones to access the internet. A recent statistic showed that mobile internet access outstrips desktop use 2 to 1; and for some countries, mobile internet access is almost the only way people get online. It's just a matter of time before new members stop registering and engagement tails off. Competition At the end of 2018, there were 1.8 billion websites (I Googled it). The competition for attention has never been as fierce. Your community may be the go-to place for your niche, but what if another community popped up running the latest version of a platform with all the features your members have been desperately asking for? It may not take long until there is a massive drain from your community. I'm sure there's a dozen reasons to make sure you're always re-investing in your community by upgrading to a modern platform. This blog merely scratches the surface. For those of you that do invest and upgrade? You reap the benefits daily by ensuring you are doing the very best for your community by keeping it secure and accessible for most. If you are on an older platform, now is the time to put some serious thought into making the move to something better. I put together a little downloadable guide that might help too. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. View the full article
  16. The Internet is a fierce battleground for users, clicks, attention, and audience. Competition surrounds your community from all angles and new threats constantly emerge. The Internet has leveled the playing field for local businesses, solopreneurs, and small organizations which means more people than ever are competing for users. Online communities are no different, and as companies realize the growing power of communities, you too may face more challenges. Online communities are growing faster than ever: IDC predicts worldwide online communities market to grow to $1.2 billion in 2019 According to research by Leader Networks, twenty-three percent of marketers who have online communities indicate that the size of their communities doubled in the past year. How is your community competing against your competitors? Is your community growing or stagnating relative to your competitors? In this blog post, we identify core concepts of competitive strategy that stretch from traditional theory to unique methods of winning for communities. Theory of Competition The broadly-accepted understanding of competition in the business world rests on the seminal work by Professor Michael Porter, when he mapped out the origins of competitive forces in his 1979 book “How Competitive Forces Shape Strategy.” Fundamentally, all strategies for Porter distill into two basic options: Build on what you already do, or do something no one else can do. You can compete by doing what everyone else is doing but be more efficient, such as offering higher quality content, a better user experience, or having a lower price of member acquisition. Or, you can expand the pie by forging a new position in the marketplace, such as staking out an untapped niche or developing a unique service. What’s your current competitive strategy: be better at what you’re already doing and your competitors, or to do something completely new? Emerging Theories A new strategy on competition is emerging that is just as potent as Porter’s competitive forces. It’s especially relevant for online communities in the digital age: reacting opportunistically to emerging possibilities. Discovery-driven planning is the field’s most recent thinking. It was introduced 20 years ago in works like Tim Luehrman’s “Strategy as a Portfolio of Real Options” that talked about flexibility as a strategy. The idea was also introduced in the more recent “Stop Making Plans: Start Making Decisions” by Michael Mankins and Richard Steel, which argued for continuous strategic planning cycles. Online communities are impacted by – and can seize advantage of – fluctuating factors: Technical advances and digital disruptions Disruptions in your industry The faster you react to market or technological change, the greater your advantage will become over time. What disruption recently impacted your industry or niche? How can you capitalize on the opportunity? Application to Online Communities Online communities are at an especially powerful intersection of customers, superusers, industry experts, and brand representatives. By assembling a broad mix of users, you gain a source of competitive knowledge and crowd wisdom unmatched by traditional businesses. Market intelligence – Harness the power of crowds by letting your members feed you real-time market intelligence on the industry, market trends, and competitors. Use technology to your advantage – Become an expert on utilizing your Invision platform as a technological advantage, whether you’re increasing visitor registrations with Post Before Registering, adding in store filters in Commerce, or enabling the application manifest settings for faster access on smartphones. Collaborative ideation – Collaborate with users early in the design process to create services or products that are highly-differentiated. Co-Creation – Channel your user’s expertise, enthusiasm, and product knowledge into co-created content such as tutorials, support answers, industry news, contests, and more. Brand Ambassadors – Turn your membership’s most passionate users into brand ambassadors to provide outreach and personalized connections. Conclusion Communities are challenged and tested every day by a multitude of competitors that compete for users. Competition is fierce, and as the web continues to proliferate and level the playing field, competition will only get stronger. It’s no longer enough to host a general discussion forum. Successful communities envision a clear competitive strategy. Although competition is fierce, there are winners on the Internet who consistently gain market share. The winners are those who understand the fundamental drivers of competition: to create sustainable advantages over their competitors, to offer unique services and experiences, and to react opportunistically. They also leverage all facets of their community for maximum value. Join me in 2019 in defining your competitive strategy and becoming a Community of Excellence. - Joel R Joel R is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma. When he's not running his own successful community, he's peppering Invision Community's private Slack channel with his feedback, community management experience and increasingly outrageous demands (everything is true except the last part). View the full article
  17. One of the first things I do when visiting a site that I know has a community is to try and find it. More often than not, it's hidden away in the footer links or buried in several sub-menus and labelled something relatively obscure like "Fans" or "Support". This is a massive lost opportunity! We all know that social proof is incredibly important when making a purchasing decision. When I buy something on Amazon or book a holiday, the first thing I do is scour the reviews. Are the reviews mostly positive? What did other people think about the product after receiving it? I might see two almost identical products and the reviews, not the price that'll always sway me. It's that urge to herd to keep safe at play. So why bury all that out of the way? Your community should be full of fantastic social proof — hundreds of customers using your product and creating a buzz. Is it a fear of criticism? We all have had bad experiences with clients who are less than rational with feedback, but that's OK. The Harry Potter series of books are beloved by millions, made J.K Rowling a fortune, made a celebrated movie series and opened up several themed attractions which are always busy. Yet, there are a significant number of 1-star reviews on Amazon. Not everyone will get you or your business. You always have the opportunity to reply and explain your side, and you are always in control with moderation tools. Let's face it; if you are to handle negative feedback, it's better to manage it on your community than see it all over social media, Google reviews and review sites like TripAdvisor. Maybe you're a little embarrassed because the community platform is old and doesn't match your branding. If that's the case, then come and talk to us! We specialise in migrating communities from legacy platforms with poor mobile support. We offer brand matching services too. Maybe it's just that you're unsure of what to do with your community. I get that too. It can be hard to know how it fits in with your brand. I'm happy to help there also. Feel free to drop a comment below. Our product has several ways to pull content from the community and feature it on your site. We've helped big brands like LEGO®, Sega, Warner Bros. and more nurture a prosperous community that enhances their business. The bottom line is that a well manage community should be central to your brand and website. Hiding it among the "Privacy Policy" links is a huge missed opportunity. - Matt View the full article
  18. Release parties at Invision Community are a fairly tame affair. You'd think after months of planning, coding and testing we'd want to cut loose and dance the night away. The reality is we send each other a few amusing GIFs in Slack and then wait for support tickets to start appearing while our developers crack their knuckles and prepare for bug reports to be filed. It's a nightmare trying to get a photo of our team, so here's a stock image. Just pretend it's us. That's me looking at a report of how much code Mark Wade has refused during reviews I did manage to find five minutes to ask the team what their favourite feature of 4.4 was. Here's what they said. Marc S Support, Guides and Keen Cyclist @Marc Stridgen I'm going to go with 'Post before registering', because it allows for more effective onboarding of new members on your site. People are much more likely to register after just having written a topic, then they are if they have to register before getting started. It also gives you the opportunity to see how many people are not actually registering, and maybe address that on the site. Ryan Developer, T3 support and reluctant AWS wrangler @Ryan Ashbrook My favorite 4.4 feature is the progressive web app settings. I now have our site pinned to my phones home screen for quick access, and use our site on mobile even more now that I can just hit the icon to pull up our site. Mark H Support, Beta Tester and remembers this when it was fields @Mark H While this isn’t “a” favorite feature, I most like the steady small improvements to Gallery in the 4.x series. Photography-centric sites should especially like the additions to extended EXIF data in 4.4 so that authors can provide the most detail about their submitted photos…. where it was taken, what camera, which lens, shutter speed and aperture, etc. Daniel Developer, T2 support and airport security fan @Daniel F As IPS4 consumer, I'm going to say that Lazy Loading and mobile create menu are my favorite enhancement. As community owner, I'm most excited about post before register and email advertisements.. That's going to bring the $$$ Brandon Developer, Enterprise Support and proud of his thorough code reviews @bfarber My favorite change in 4.4 (besides the overall performance improvements, as I'm a geek for that sort of thing) is the overhauled Conversion experience (which we haven't even blogged about). We took converters and flipped them on their head for 4.4, so you now choose what software you want to convert from, what applications from that software you want to convert, fill in any required details, and the conversion process just launches and runs from beginning to end right then and there. You no longer need to convert each application and each type of data within each application individually, making for an easier and overall smoother experience. Stuart Developer, Conversion Specialist and PC enthusiast @Stuart Silvester This is actually hard to answer than it seems, there are so many great changes and features in 4.4. The combined performance improvements including HTTP/2 Push, More aggressive caching, SVG letter photos, lazy loading are definitely some of my favourites. After all, time is money. (A smaller favourite is the browser notification prompt change, especially with visiting as many customer sites as I do in Tier 2). Jim Support, Beta Tester and suspiciously quiet in staff chat @Jim M The communities I run are about cars and very heavily image based. Whether it's "I have an issue" or simple sharing of car builds, topics get image heavy very quickly and doing anything to improve moving throughout that topic more quickly is going to go far. I feel a lot of communities can relate and why lazy load of images is my favorite 4.4 feature. Jennifer Designer, Enterprise Theme Specialist, owner of several super powers @Jennifer M There are so many changes with 4.4 it's actually really hard to choose just one change that is my absolutely favorite. I would probably say a lot of the more micro features are my favorites. Colored usernames everywhere, lazy load for images, improved notifications experience, text or URLs for announcements, reordering of club tabs, ability to hide widgets/blocks from mobile etc. They are all quality of life improvements that I love and appreciate on so many levels. We're Steve Ballmer levels of excited about 4.4. It looks like Rikki's lazy loading is a clear winner. I'm not surprised, it's a real boost for page speed and reduces hosting costs. Personally I'm a fan of the progressive web app settings which, like Ryan, enables me to have our community on my phone's home page. Let us know what your favourites are below! View the full article
  19. We're thrilled to announce that Invision Community 4.4 is available to download now. After months of development, over 1650 separate code commits and quite a few mugs of questionable coffee you can now get your hands on the beta release from the client centre. Not our office Invision Community 4.4 brings numerous new features, over 450 bug fixes and a lot of refinement. We've been talking about the highlights since September on our blog. Here's a recap of all that we've added. We'd love to know which is your favourite feature so far! Drop a line below and let us know! View the full article
  20. We attach a significant amount of personally identifiable data to our social media profiles daily. I regularly use social media to share photos of my kids and holidays. I post my personal thoughts on products I've used and TV shows I've watched. I'm even tagged in location-based check-ins. It's all there in my news feed for anyone to see. I'm not alone. More and more of us live our lives through the prism of social media. We share things we love, things we loathe and things that make us laugh. With just a few clicks, you can discover a lot of information about a person. More often than not, you can see where they work, where they live and what school they went to. Scrolling through their timeline often reveals their stance on hot topics such as gun control, the current President and other recent headline news items. This information follows you when you join a Facebook Group. Your past Tweets are always available to trawl through. Indeed, there may be some groups that you decide you cannot post in as people would be able to identify you. This is particularly true for stigmatised conditions, such as financial help, illness and mental health. After all, if you were seeking help with a large amount of debt or managing an embarrassing medical condition, you wouldn't feel comfortable knowing that work colleagues, friends and family could read your posts. The benefit of anonymity for stigmatised topics "Forums can all offer some initial anonymity, a community, and information that geographically proximate others may not have. What stigma-related forums uniquely offer is that the anonymity protects those who are not ready to be publicly associated with sensitive topics; the community helps to neutralise the “spoilage” of identity that accompanies stigma." (1) Unlike social media where reams of personal data is willingly added, and which can identify you to other online users, forums allow you to add as much information as you are comfortable with. Support communities for mental health and illness flourish using forums for this reason. An individual may feel devalued in society and unwilling to share their condition over social media. "Nowadays people can both avoid and proactively cope with this devaluation by turning to online forums populated by others who share the same devalued group membership." (1) Forums offer a safe space for these individuals to seek and receive support from others without disclosing large amounts of identifiable data. Allowing a level of anonymity encourages more people to register and over time, they will develop ties with other users. For an individual with a stigmatized condition, a forum may be a real life-line in coping with the condition as face-to-face support is often limited. Adrial Dale, who owns Herpes Opportunity agrees. "In order for us to truly be able to work through the shame that stigma can trigger, it's absolutely vital for us to feel safe to open up and tell all. Through opening up, we not only get to share with an understanding and compassionate community (which normalizes our shared experiences), but we're also able to begin to release what has felt like our own solitary burden to bear. Then a magical thing can happen ... an alchemical process that transforms shame into an opportunity for connection. An opportunity for us to be accepted for who we are *behind* the thick wall of shame. And ultimately, an opportunity to accept ourselves. Especially in these days of the internet not feeling so private (even in places where it absolutely should be), having true privacy and anonymity is paramount for communities like Herpes Opportunity. Anything other than that is grounds for paranoia and holding back from sharing ourselves. (In fact, just the other day someone messaged me asking "Are private messages really private?") Fear can lead to closing ourselves off, which can lead to isolation and paranoia, which can lead to a downward spiral of self-loathing and depression. On the other hand, safety, connection and compassion creates an an okayness with the nitty-grittiness of what it means to be human." The benefit of expressing a new identity "People may strategically express identities when they think they will not be punished, and/or connect them to an audience that is valued." (1) It is arguably true that not so many years ago, tech-related communities were very much male-dominated, with female contributions valued less. Forums allow a way to create a new identity that is either gender-neutral thus allowing the male users to assume a gender, or overtly male to ensure their contributions are evaluated on merit, and not with any gender bias. Christopher Marks who owns Nano-Reef has seen this first hand. "During a discussion with a women’s group in our generally male dominant hobby, a number of women had expressed the benefit of having an anonymous username and profile when asking for help and advice on forums, they receive equal help without the unfortunate gender bias or belittling that can sometimes happen in real life when seeking the same help in person." Invision Community's Jennifer has also experience of this on her own community; RPG Initiative. "RPG Initiative is a community for all roleplayers. We focus on all text-based roleplaying forms that are hosted on the internet. We encourage roleplayers to find each other, discuss roleplay and grow as collaborative writers here at the Initiative in a safe environment." Jennifer relies on, and encourages anonymity. She knows that because her site is predominately female, some female users identify as male to increase the chances of getting others to collaborate with them. "Male players are rare, in fact, I recently ran a poll on my site and of those that responded to it less than 15% of them are male (or identify as such). So this gets them more attention and in turn, more people that want to write with them." Jennifer explains how anonymity is critical to her site's growth. "Anonymity is a difficult thing to accomplish in a small niche like mine, but it's sort of like a small town where everyone knows everyone, and they likely know all of your secrets. So enforcing rules to preserve anonymity is really important to my community and me. This includes prohibiting the "naming of names" or the "site" that the drama is coming from when seeking for advice or help. This doesn't negate that people may know the existing situation or people involved because they are also involved or know some of the people involved, but it helps cut down on the drama and the spread of negativity and false information about people." With a forum community, you can truly be who you want to be. This is not so with social media where others can create bias based on your gender, looks or topical preferences. Together, together "In her early work, Turkle argued that the internet provided myriad positive opportunities for self-transformation, but more recently, she argues that the explosion in social media options has led us to develop superficial, emotionally lazy but instantly available virtual relationships." (1) It's hard to argue against this statement when you consider the content that predominates social media. And often an endless stream of self-focused content. "Indeed, we provide clear evidence that online forums afford users a way of being genuinely “together, together”, as opposed to what Turkle calls “alone together.”(1) The bottom line is that it has been proven that allowing a degree on anonymity increases engagement across all niches, but especially those that are built to support those with stigmatised conditions. These forums have a greater sense of community and depth than those built on social media. When you allow your members to take back control of their privacy, you are empowering them to make decisions about what to share. Given how eroded our privacy is in our modern always-connected world, this is a precious gift. If you are looking to create a new community then consider this before choosing your community platform. References: 1: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S074756321500268X 2: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10410236.2017.1339370 View the full article
  21. It's a new year, and a new beginning. And the possibilities are endless for you and your community. It’s an exciting time to be leading an online community with Invision Community - whether you’re starting out or switching over - and the new year is the perfect opportunity to start anew. How are you celebrating the new year with your community? What are your community goals for 2019? To kick off the new year, I’ve outlined guidance for several types of communities, whether you’re just starting out or you’re looking to take your community to the next level. New Community Are you a new community or looking to start one? You’re in the best position because you have a blank slate and everything is possible. Invest in a formative experience during your first year of defining your community’s purpose. What are your community’s mission, goals, and objectives? What is your competitive advantage against other similar communities or are you developing a new niche? How are you going to develop content programming, site features, or digital services in support of that advantage? What is your marketing plan to attract new users? Who is your core base of users, and what’s your plan to cultivate your first set of superusers? What is your budget to create a sustainable plan for hosting? Interest Community Are you a hobbyist with an established community of passion? Your community is a labor of love for you, and while it can feel like you’re pouring your heart and soul into it on a daily basis, it can be refreshing to take a step back and take stock of your community’s purpose, engagement goals, and how you want to lead in 2019 through fresh eyes. What’s your plan to create more emotionally-driven storytelling in your community? How are you going to deepen your tribal connection to users and between users? How can you incorporate member feedback into your New Year’s resolutions through polls, surveys, and member insights? How are you building a scalable community that leverages automation, staff, and user generated content to achieve your objectives? What are your engagement metrics year over year for 2018, and what is your projection for 2019 metrics like active members, online activity, best answers, and other user targets? How are you going to achieve those engagement metrics through initiatives like new pathways for engagement or enhanced training for staff? Enterprise Are you a brand community that’s part of a parent organization? Your organization probably already understands the value of investing in an online community, but rest assured that you’re in good company. In the 50th Anniversary report by the research firm IDC, it’s estimated that 80% of all Fortune 5000 companies will host an online community by 2020. As a community manager, you’ve probably covered all the basics such as approving your community’s budget for the new year, provided performance reviews of your staff, and mapped out your community strategy to align with organizational goals. Nevertheless, there are always more opportunities to increase your community’s prominence: What new early-stage relationships do you want to cultivate with employees, suppliers, vendors or partners? How can you create more networking touch points between your community and key constituencies to deliver community-driven solutions? How can you present your community’s data to stakeholders in new ways for better insight? How can you vest key stakeholders into community decisions and let them be a rewarding part of the conversation? What growth areas are happening within the organization, and how can you make the community be an integral part of its delivery? My personal New Year’s resolution is to develop my website into a Community of Excellence. This involves incorporating thought leadership from professional community management resources, making data-driven decisions, and formalizing a growth plan based on best practices. I hope you’ll join me in a year-long journey of community management as we conceptualize, learn, and discuss how to co-build Communities of Excellence. It’s a new year of endless opportunities to drive new growth and excellence for our members and communities. What are your community goals for 2019? Share in the comments below or in the exclusive Client Lounge in the Invision Community forums, so we can cheer each other on, check-in periodically, and provide peer mentorship for each other. Join me in a Year of Community. - Joel R Joel R is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma. When he's not running his own successful community, he's peppering Invision Community's private Slack channel with his feedback, community management experience and increasingly outrageous demands (everything is true except the last part). View the full article
  22. Do you want to take our latest release for a test drive? You already are! We've upgraded our own community for wider testing. A big focus has been on page speed, so you will notice that our community is significantly faster that it was on 4.3 If you need a recap of what was added, take a look at our product updates blog which takes you through the highlights. As this is a pre-beta release, expect some funkiness as we scurry around and tidy up our custom theme wrapper and other areas as we spot them. If you you find a bug, we'd love for you to report it with as much detail as you can muster in the bug report area. We'd love to know what you think, let us know below. View the full article
  23. Braintree is a payment gateway provided by PayPal which provides some great additional features for PayPal transactions including a significantly improved recurring payments model. We are delighted to be bringing full support for Braintree for Commerce in Invision Community 4.4. What is Braintree? Braintree is a payment gateway provided by PayPal which supports taking payments by credit cards (including Apple Pay and Google Pay) and Venmo as well as PayPal, providing a good option for communities wanting to use a single payment gateway, and also brings improved functionality for recurring PayPal transactions. For PayPal transactions, there are no additional fees and the checkout experience uses the normal PayPal experience your customers are used to. Recurring PayPal Improvements Recurring payments / Billing Agreements in PayPal have up until now been initiated by PayPal. Invision Community tells PayPal what the renewal terms of a purchase are, but then it's up to PayPal to take that payment and notify your community when it succeeds (or fails). This comes with a number of limitations and problems. It makes it difficult for you as an admin to modify an existing purchase or for the customer to upgrade/downgrade. It also means the customer has to create separate Billing Agreements for each purchase. Most significantly though, it means if there is a delay in receiving the payment (such as an expired card) it is sometimes unclear what should happen on your community's end, and how it can be resolved if/when the payment is received. Other payment gateways work the other way around. When a customer pays by card, for example, they have the option of storing their card details. Later, if they make another purchase or a renewal invoice is generated, Invision Community can tell the gateway to recharge the same card - and if it fails, allow the customer to provide an alternative payment method. This allow both you and your customers to have much greater control, and is much more reliable. Braintree resolves this by allowing customers when paying with PayPal to save their PayPal account in the same way they would save a credit card on file. When paying with PayPal, users will see a simple checkbox which, if checked, will allow future payments to be taken with PayPal automatically. Storing PayPal Accounts for Recurring Payments Other Features In addition to an improved checkout experience, our integration with Braintree supports: Taking payments by Credit Card, including 3DSecure checking and the ability for customer to store card details on file. Braintree uses a fully PCI-compliant method of taking card details in a way that ensures the card information never reaches your server. Apple Pay and Google Pay Venmo, which also allows storing accounts in the same way as PayPal accounts. Offering PayPal Credit Handling chargebacks/disputes Support for Braintree's Advanced Fraud Tools A Disputed PayPal Transaction Existing Setups and Upgrading The existing PayPal gateway will continue to be available for basic PayPal integration, and your existing set up will continue to work exactly as it does now after upgrading. If you are using PayPal, especially if you are using Billing Agreements, we strongly recommend switching to Braintree after upgrading. While it isn't possible to convert existing Billing Agreements, you can allow existing ones to continue to work and use Braintree for new purchases. Please note that while existing setups will work fine, from 4.4 it will no longer be possible to set up a new PayPal method with either Billing Agreements, or to take payments by card, as PayPal has deprecated the API this was using in favour of Braintree and it can no longer be enabled on new accounts. As mentioned though, this does not affect any existing setups, which, if you do not switch to Braintree, will continue to work as they do now. This blog is about our upcoming release Invision Community 4.4. View the full article
  24. A successful community manager is a combination of so many things. Being a successful community manager demands that you be a multi-faceted person and to apply a dynamic personality to a position that’s always in flux. You’re the authorized ambassador of your organization; you’re the chief moderator who sets and enforces community guidelines; and you’re the counselor and friend to all of your peers in the community. You may also be the one who updates your community suite, approves members, and manages the moderator team. Oh, and you find time to be the social media coordinator, digital designer-in-training, and all-around fantastic human being. You wear many hats and it can be challenging to juggle all of those hats. So what do you do? Take a breather. The good news is that you don’t have to wear all the hats, all the time. My head used to spin at the sheer amount of work that I faced as a solo community manager - especially when my community first started out – and I didn’t have a disciplined approach to community management. I didn’t even know what hats to wear! Over time, I’ve learned that there are specific ‘hats’ to community management. The best way to figure out which hats to juggle? Determine which hats are most important to you, which hats to wear for a specific goal, and which ones to swap out as your needs change. Create the change you believe in by wearing the right hat. Evangelist No matter the niche or industry, you should be a self-professed evangelist who is passionate and always learning about the topic. This personal interest will shine over time with your expertise in helping other users, bringing in new members with your helpful knowledge, and focusing discussion to evolving trends. You’re trusted as a leading voice of the community and your organization, and you can use your expertise to spread the positive impact of your organization’s mission. User Advocate You’re passionate about your users because you understand that the beating heart of your community is the valuable feedback, peer support, and testimonials that your users provide. You’re a champion of nurturing a positive and supportive community that’s aligned with your organizations’ goals. Customer service is a vital component to your team’s community outreach. Digital Marketer An effective community manager will engage people, even outside of the community. This means being a leading voice on external sites like blogs, partner communities, social media, industry events, and professional organizations. It extends the reach of your organization through non-traditional marketing and gives you and your community an online impact in relevant areas. Relationship Builder Part of your job is to be a networker for all the people around you and to be a bridge for authentic relationships. You want to listen to the ensuing conversations happening around your product, company, or industry, then add value and build relationships with key stakeholders both online and in-person. It’s especially important to build meaningful relationships within your organization to advocate for your organization’s mission through your community. Suite Administrator Finally, you should be an expert in Invision Community to leverage the built-in tools. Invision Community makes it easy for community managers of all technical backgrounds to get started and run successful communities. The more you learn of the Administrator and Moderator functionality, the more effective you become in supervising your community staff and driving your organization’s success. Community Management is one of the most exciting and rewarding roles in the modern web. It’s a position that’s filled with dynamism and people, and you grow yourself in ways that you never imagined. An effective community manager needs to extend herself by trying on new hats. And while some of these hats may be new to you at first, I encourage you to try all the hats and slowly develop your expertise in these new roles over time. Putting on more hats is the first step to becoming a more valuable and effective community manager. What hat do you wear today, and what hat do you want to wear tomorrow? No matter which new role you decide to embark upon, hats off to you for stepping up and growing yourself as a community manager. Joel R is a mystery wrapped inside an enigma. When he's not running his own successful community, he's peppering Invision Community's private Slack channel with his feedback, community management experience and increasingly outrageous demands (everything is true except the last part). View the full article
  25. Famously, all Maria Carey wants for Christmas, is you. This is great news if you're a Maria Carey fan. As the holiday season draws closer and our staff chat channel turns to egg nog, twinkly lights and why is wrapping so hard, we asked the question: What would you like for Christmas? Brandon With so many children, Christmas is more focused on them and the family than myself. My eldest son who started college this year just returned home for the holiday season yesterday which has been awesome. You don't realize how it's like a piece of you is missing until they're back. I guess you could call that a Christmas present for me. Also, my wife and I took a quick 2 day cruise to the Bahamas as a gift to ourselves. My children have not requested very much for Christmas this year either, so my wife and I have decided we're going to plan a trip to Disney/Orlando for some time later in 2019 as a family gift instead of focusing on a bunch of little toys the kids will quickly get bored with. The family time together is the best Christmas gift to me. Awww Mark H In truth, what I’d like for Christmas isn’t something Sanata could provide. At my age I already have most of the “things” I simply want, and the things I really *need* I already have; family and friends. But… I wouldn’t object to Santa dropping off a new gaming computer with a motherboard for an Intel core i9, an RTX 2080 Ti video card, 16 GB of RAM, and one or two NVME SSD’s. Me too Andy I’ve been trying to de-clutter my life for most of the year so hopefully I won’t get much in the way of stocking fillers and things that are fun for a few days and then pushed in a drawer. I’m not a total Scrooge though, honest. I’m really looking forward to spending time with family and friends, Christmas Day walks in the snow and coming home to a toasty warm fire and a few beers… just the simple things really. Marc S I think you get to the point with Christmas where presents become largely unimportant, and its more a time for family to get together and have fun etc. But I guess if I'm going to choose anything particular that I know I would use, I would probably go for a new iMac pro with all the extras. LOL. Seriously though, I'm happy with the break, a few drinks and games. This is what Christmas is all about. Lost a couple of family members over the past 12 month, and unfortunately none of us live forever. Brings home the realisation that there is more to life than material items, as much as we all enjoy them. Where's My Computer? Jennifer I don't really celebrate Christmas traditionally in my house. Like almost everyone in my house has already gotten all of their Christmas gifts. I would probably want just a quiet night with a long hot bath, my favorite bath bomb and a glass of wine. She really does How I became a cliche mom that wants bath stuff for presents. I have no idea. I'd likely love to get Metro Exodus pre-order. I know my BF doesn't pre-order games anymore because of some of the new pre-order issues with games with un-dedicated developers but it's a game I am excited for and hope to have come February when it comes out. Rhett A week in Hawaii, no phone, no computer, feet in the sand and a beer in my hand! Is that too much to ask for Santa? I've been good. Jim I'd say world peace but I think a 2019 Chevy Corvette ZR1 would be easier! Mark Wade A couple good bottles of wine, or I'd also quite like a new iPad Pro. Not relevant but made me laugh Matt Like others here at Invision Community, I've reached the grand old age where material possessions aren't what I long for. I'm happy watching my two children open their gifts on Christmas morning and then share a meal with family. Or maybe a new iPad Pro because if Mark is getting one, I want one too. Yet again Charles and Lindy declined to comment, so in the spirit of Christmas generosity, I've written their answers for them. Charles I would like a butler because it is what I deserve. Lindy I would like a panic room like in that Jodie Foster movie. I don't think for a second I'm going to be attacked in my own home. I just need a place to hide from the kids now and again. I'll kit it out with fresh kombucha, artisanal popcorn and poetry books. I'll be happy for hours. So, that is what we want for Christmas. What about you? Have you been naughty or nice? View the full article
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