Friday, November 03, 2006

The Vocal Minority

Howdy all,

I am Alan Crosby, often known as Brenlo and I am delighted to have been asked to post here. The folks here are a smart bunch and it is a pleasure to join them and share our passion for Community.

Now to piss everyone off. . .

Forums are the Vocal Minority. Argue with me all you like, but they are. The number tossed about is 10%. 10% of your players frequent the forums. I find it actually varies from community to community with some hitting only 5% and others being closer to 20%, however that number is not the debate. We all agree that it is somewhere in that ballpark. What is open to debate, and I hope to spur some here, is the representative value of the forum opinion.

Forum posters are often the most passionate of our players. Forum posters always believe they are right and always believe they represent the whole. They can often make compelling arguments and an inexperienced Community person can be swayed by their passion, if they are not prepared (which leads into a future post on how important it is to play our products). This is one of the more dangerous pitfalls we can fall into as Community folk.

They often have extreme opinions and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the entirety of your player base. We must always remember, my friends, that they are not the whole, nor do they represent them. Make a change based on their feedback alone and you wake the slumbering beast on the other side of the argument.

However, this by no means they should be discounted or cast aside as so many developers seem ready to do. Much as the Republican Party cannot afford to ignore the Christian Coalition, neither can Community or Dev teams discount the forum posters as extremist, overly negative crackpots.

First, they are still members of your community, who should be held dear for having that extra passion for your product. These are folks who, while they may not always admit it, are deeply committed to your product.

Second, they can be a powerful force that can be loud and often knows just who is listening. One of the quickest ways to hit Slashdot or Digg is to tick your forum posters off.

Many are also influencers, swaying large groups, outside of the forums and shaping others opinions on your product and service. Others perhaps play your game, and perhaps pay a subscription, merely to discuss the game and its mechanics while donning their Would-Be-Designer hats.

All of these are just as valuable a member of the community as the player who never posts and never asks for help. Perhaps a little more maintenance, but no less important.

Lastly they bring to you a great source of information. It requires a little more work than a developer may want to devote to it, but that's what a good Community Manager is for. There is volumes of valuable data on the forums. But much like diamonds in South Africa, it can take a little work to get to it. Dig past the "Your company sucks" and "First" posts and you can find some real gems.

Forum posters are almost always people who want to be just a little more involved with the product and that my friends, is a wonderful thing. Ignore the negative, accent the positive, value them as the loyal customers they are, but keep in mind that they are not always right.

Yes forum posters are the Vocal Minority but you ignore them at your own risk.

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