Goodwill Hunting

When MyFC started recruiting members before taking over Ebbsfleet United, one of the rules was that the first year of membership would commence when the club was formally taken over. Which means that on February 19th 2009, over 20,000 memberships will expire. Some have renewed their subscriptions already, but there is great uncertainty as to how many will actually commit on or before the deadline. This is a problem because the clubs budget depends on the funds that these renewals will bring in – the CEO hinted as much on a recent BBC TV Inside Out report.

So whilst there are various issues that the Society is dealing with (not least how to deal with dissenting views, and others that I’ve commented on previously) the Operator has a new campaign to get people to commit. They have asked all members to signal their renewal intentions, and whether they will be purchasing gift memberships for christmas, perhaps donating a little more to the club kind sir?

I’m not sure at how this information can be considered representative, as it doesn’t seem to take into account the thousands who really don’t care any more. I said on the forums after the first couple of days: “by the end of next week the figures you have will be pretty much all your going to get”, and sure enough, for the last few days, there has been little increase in the number of respondents, which is now at about the same level as recent Society vote turnouts. I.e. everyone who was ever going to respond has done so, so their response should in no way be extrapolated to the rest of the 28,000 people who haven’t replied.

New Research

This report from Forrester Research could be far more useful, not just at estimating likely renewals but as a guide to work out how better to engage the different “kinds” of community participants.

It suggests that users of social websites like MyFC can be categorised by the extent to which they participate online and can be described by the following activity profiles:

  • Creators – write articles, create social content, upload images etc
  • Critics – respond to articles and forum posts, add to Wikis etc
  • Collectors – organise content for themselves and others
  • Joiners – join social networks and maintain their online identity / profile
  • Spectators – read articles, watch videos etc but otherwise do not contribute.
  • Inactives – neither create nor consume social content.

Clearly these categories are not all discrete as some participants may be both creators and critics, for example.

They also report significant differences in patterns of activity between different age groups, gender groups and nationalities. This is demonstrated with the profiling tool.

Forrester Social Technographics Profile tool

Data from Forrester Research Technographics® surveys, 2008. For further details on the Social Technographics profile, see groundswell.forrester.com.

A quick glance to me suggests that things may not be as bad as some of the more skeptical members make out, and reinforces my belief that the “Target” survey does not truly reflect likely member participation. This data seems to suggest that a website where 40-65% of the membership are either inactive or only spectators is not unusual.

My hope is that the Society Board and the Operator will at least consider this research along with their own demographic data, and use it to make better estimates about the renewals strategy and website development.

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About loidon

Technical support in an IT-centric academic department. Jack of all trades, master of none. Able to bluff on most subjects!

One response to “Goodwill Hunting”

  1. Dave_W says :

    Good post – lots to think about.

    The interesting thing to me is trying to puzzle through the impact of an expiring membership, and specifically one which requires payment of a fee to renew, on each category of participant. It may not be unusual to have 40-65% or the membership be inactive or spectators, but what does it mean when you ask them to put their hands in their pockets?

    I’d actually add Joiners into your mix, by the way, as I think what you’re looking at here is “invisible” members and on a social networking site I think they’d fall into that category.

    On the unlimited-membership type of site (FBook, YTube etc.) it seems to me that your “inactives” are people who sign up for an account to see one specific thing, or who sign up and then lose interest after an initial flurry. With those sites, their account then sits inactive for all time or until the site decides to have a clear-out. What then happens if you ask them for money to remain a member?

    My guess would be that a proportion of inactives will suddenly remember this thing they signed up for and be galvanised into action – either temporarily or permanently making the jump into another category where they actively engage with the site. Those people will pay their renewal fee during that period – some may then fall back to inactivity. I have to assume, though, that a proportion of the inactives will not renew – if they’re not engaging with the site, why would they pay to do so for another year?

    Likewise for each other category – how does having to re-commit to the website on a yearly basis change the role of a Spectator? Are Spectators usually people who choose to be so or are they people who would rather create or criticise but don’t have the time or can’t see a place to do so? That makes a big difference to the likelihood that they will renew. And so on.

    It’s fascinating stuff, as far as it goes, but the next level of the discussion seems to me to be where the real crux of it lies.

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