Hello Inside919er,

After operating Inside919 for 3 years I've learned a couple things and one is that larger numbers of members does not a great community make.

So, I will be doing some things to greatly reduce membership.

The fact is that we were a more dynamic community with more participation when we were smaller.

To some we've simply become another place to post a Profile, many have turned off all communication from the network (so no one can contact them) and my mission is really more important to me than those outcomes.

In the time of serving you I've found that my current model is simply not working the way I'd like and as I prepare to launch other networks across the US I must tighten up the value proposition offered a bit more so this becomes more important to others, maybe you.
Pat jumps on soapbox...

To me this is more than a business... I wanted to start a movement with the under-served local micro business person helping each other create an unfair competitive advantage over larger entities trying to take over their local marketplace. [Yes, I own a pair of rose colored glasses.]

We really can create this advantage and I submit we already do if we'll work better together. Inside919 will become a catalysis for this change in 2012 or it will simply go away.
Okay, I'm off my soapbox.

Good news... I've been very busy the past couple months working on creating more value for members and will start sharing these tools and opportunities with those interested soon.

Please pay a bit more attention to my upcoming messages to you - these changes will have an affect on how the network operates and I do not wish to surprise you.

I just wanted to give you a heads up as I prepare for these BIG changes.

Kindest regards,

Pat

[NOTE: This was sent to all members as of Jan 20, 2012]

UPDATE AFTER EMAIL AND INPUT:  Just to be clear the upcoming changes
have little to do with Attending Events.

Sorry for the length of this post but it is important that I share as much of my thinking on this before pulling some triggers.

I do not want to ambush anyone with these changes, but a couple big changes are coming and membership will get smaller and in my mind more valuable to those who remain.


First off it's hard and time consuming to attend events and frankly I think many of you are attending too many events and thinking of it as a "Prospecting" activity instead of a "Relationship Building" one - there is a huge difference and once learned it all gets much more productive.

So, I say only attend those events: 1. where you know people [enhance current relationships], 2. see that the person you want to meet will be there [strategically meet those you can help or can help you] 3. agree to introduce others at an event [go to an event with someone you know and have them introduce you to those they know and you do the same for them].

Here is a short video that shares this lesson as good as I ever could - (Thanks Bill Davis :)

Since I think there are too many networking events already, ours are simply a way to give our members an "opportunity" if it works - I know that Inside919 events are located in places that are distant to many of our members, including myself.

I work with whomever will work with me and
wants to help you, I'm fortunate to have found some great folks who own businesses and welcome us. Truth be told I'm really not much of an event planner.

I'd love to have events going on all over the 919 - someplace closer to each of you - however, I'd need a bit of help in this area and in frankness have not been able to enlist much - I have a plan for this as well moving forward (Town Group Leaders - want to help? :).

The upcoming changes really have more to do with "dynamic activity" between fellow members and this can be done with 1 on 1s that you set up, emails of introduction, forum discussions, article commenting, sharing other member contributions (that you find of value) on other social spaces or simply helping and getting help from your fellow Inside919er. 

My need to take action really comes from the complete "disengagement" with the network for many who had the extra 15 minutes needed to complete a profile. It makes no sense for anyone to join any organization they have no intention of participating in.

I created a question when we first launched
 "Will you commit to adding 1 positive item to Inside919 each month? (it can be a Question, an Answer, an Invite or really anything positive)" all but about 5 people have said "Yes" to this and yet many never come back or won't even reply to other members :(

When we had 1000 members we had the same number of members attending events as we do today - the number of online members have increased 3 X's yet the number of offline interactions has not increased at all.

Now this has less to do with ones ability to get to an event and more to do with the increase in membership of those who simply view the network as another place to have a profile and "see what happens" - we are not a very good "Advertising or Prospecting" network.

Like all groups of people there seems to be a sweet spot of how many are too few, how many are too many and how many are just right.

I'm going to try to get us back to this just right sweet spot again knowing that upturning the apple cart is always risky - my intention was never to have huge numbers and I might "cap" membership somehow going forward. 

I'd rather have a line of folks wanting to join a network that's working than have members trying to reach other members who have completely disengaged and are not even reachable and do not provide the professional courtesy of replying to emails or comments.

I also want to cut back on those who (even when educated) continue to decide to send bulk unsolicited emails to other members or try to use the network as a sales lead tool. We are not that and I'd shut us down if we become that. 

Please understand that it's okay if Inside919 is not for you, spend your time in places where you can serve and be served by others and that "fits" you.

In my mind I will be doing many folks a big favor by releasing them to pursue more beneficial opportunities.

Thanks, if you read all of this looks like I might owe you a cup of coffee or adult beverage next time we meet :)

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Replies

  • I didn't get this...but am very interested in remaining a member and getting more involved.
  • Continuous improvement is always a good thing. :) It really is all about "building community" - which is getting to be more difficult for many people to think about in this "hyper-speed world" we live in.
    And yet, I believe it is more important now than ever. You and I both know that small business (and especially micro business) is the backbone of this country. We have always mattered, and depending on where the economy goes this year - we could matter even more.
    You've got some great people in your network, Pat. We know the 80-20 rule applies to many things. I would venture to guess your percentage of "active members" is better than that - which means you're doing something right.
    I look forward to seeing where you take this. I still have a vision of helping you take it across the country (if and when you ever desire to). Cheers!
    Sheyenne
    (Sorry, didn't realize I was logged in to my husband's account!)
  • I think it would be extremely helpful if we all focused on HOW we small-to-medium-sized businesses can BE an advantage over the "big box" stores for the consumer. For example:
    - customer service: When was the last time you actually felt like a large store LISTENED to you? Did the employee even have a clue what you were there for? Could you even FIND an employee??? (Yes, I've had to actually seek out someone to take my money more than once - I quit going to that store.) - quality products/ service: It seems to me that the quality in big stores has declined greatly in the last few years (How many things are "made in China" anyway?). And their guarantees, if any, are almost worthless.
    - reliability: How many times have you been "held hostage" waiting on a large company's employee to arrive for a service call (8am-noon is a little ridiculous)? Did he/she do the job correctly the first time? Did he/she leave proper receipts or documentation?
    I've had MUCH better service and products from local, small-to-medium-sized businesses. Most of our business lately has been with inside919ers. Let's focus on how we can support each other, refer each other, tell our neighbors, etc.
    Yes, I agree that our network had more participation and greater connectivity when we had about 1,000 members. I don't really want Pat to kick anyone out, but if you're not participating, why are you here? I trust you, Pat. I will support whatever you decide.
  • Hey Dyck, really appreciate the feedback and it gives me pause to dig a bit deeper into what you're sharing and see what I can do. Thanks!!!
  • Right you are - but as I shared in my first reply, many have not taken part of any training offered and we've done them both online and off. I've even gone through the pain of posting individual training comments on all profiles when we had 3000 members - it was easy to see who was interested and took action and who was not.
    It's the old "you can lead a horse to water...." just the digital version
    That said, when we get back to a more focused number of members "Training" will become one of the main things we provide to members - we'll become more known for what we do in the Education arena than the Social space.
    Thanks again!!!!
  • Hey Sharon, I really appreciate your comment and perspective - I'm sure Mark Zuckerberg is fine when his numbers grow as that is the nature of his business (some people have 10 accounts at FB) - he wants to hit the 1 billion mark - it's just not the nature or intent of my business and to me these changes are actually the big stuff.
    Remember with FB and Linkedin you must create an Account/Profile just to see what's going on - we're completely open for folks to look around, read our guidelines and make a decision if it's for them. There is no requirement to join to know - so I don't want to create or encourage the planting of flags or the fake impression that we're bigger than we are.
    I've created Trainings that are shared with every member when they join and the main one has still only been viewed 458 times (and I'm sure I'm good for 50 of them as I check :) - some folks don't want to "understand it all" and have joined to "see" if anything will happen.
    The fact is we were never supposed to grow this big, I just ended up not wanting to shut the door and turn anyone away - this is not my first time creating an online community and I knew better with what I wanted to accomplish. The fault is mine.
    Bottom line for me is that I'd rather have a fewer number of members because I know it will become a better network. Outsider's will still be able to see everything we do and even benefit from what is shared and after checking us out will be able to make the decision if it's for them.
    I've always been archiving profiles - close to 300 so far, yet fewer than 5 have reactivated. I really do know what's going on and this decision has been very well thought out.
    So my 1st goal going forward will be to reduce member numbers. My 2nd Goal will be to create so much value that it's a no brainer to not only join, but to become engaged.
    Again, really appreciate you taking the time to share.
  • Paula please take some time to read the post, I have shared that this is NOT about attending Events - I also can't attend all our events and sometimes don't want to - people belong to Chambers of Commerce and can't make all those events - I personally think sometimes there are too many events - it's about being engaged and we had a ton of folks create profiles who have no interest in being engaged at all - online or offline.
    To your question - the only people who are ever "booted" are those who do not follow the member guidelines (ie. won't post a personal photo, send spam after warning, do not allow others to make contact) I will be removing close to 150 members today that fall in this last situation.
    I am still in the process of visiting with some key people in my personal network and after I have listened and shared I'll start posting more details. I did not just wake up and decide this and have been at it for over 3 years so the use of time is important.
    You might find that you don't wish to continue and if that is the case it will be the best decision for you - I'm most interested in coming up with a way for folks to make a conscious committed decision to be here.
    What I want to do more of this week is add some value to the network I just shared a Identity Management Solution I use - I also want to do a couple training videos that might help folks a bit.
    At this time I have shared what I can. 
    • I get your point now a bit more - having numbers to back up what you're doing makes it a bit clearer. This isn't a wholesale chopping block, but a somewhat natural culling. Meetup.com does this automatically for people who've joined a group but never participated (logged in, used the system, or indicated that they attended a meeting). We get 1-2 culled per month out of a group of close to 300. With >3000 in inside919, and no culling having been done so far (from what you've said), 150 doesn't seem unreasonable at all.
      For me, yeah, I'd rather have a smaller number of people in the group who reply to my contacts when I reach out. About 95% of the people I've reached out to on inside919 have been great - I've either provided services for them or (in more cases) purchased services from them, and in others I've invited them to be speakers at my conference. In a couple cases, I never got replies from people at all. While I understand not everyone can reply to everything all the time, in some cases, it was probably a case of an empty account created just as a (well-intentioned?) placeholder. Good intentions aside, it provided *no* value to me, and actually wasted some of my time while I waited for a reply.
      Cull away, and don't feel too bad. I suspect that the accounts you delete won't even be noticed by most of those 150 anyway.
      • Thanks Michael, This will not only make sense as I move forward it will be for the good.
        To to be clear though... My goal is to get the network to under 1000 members and possibly cap membership at that number for a while.
        I removed close to 300 last time and here's what's interesting... only 5 people contacted me, it took the 1st over 3 months to notice and the last 5 months (and they were told by friends who visited their profiles) and only 1 decided to comply with the guideline to open communications - this speaks volumes.
        Now, I do hope that folks hang with me on this as I move forward - I intend to come up with something that will benefit those who want more local visibility without having to be engaged. I'm still committed to helping a larger group of folk - just not interested in it being on Inside919.
        I would never have met you without this network and we've done some cool things together - I know this works when one will do the work.
  • Hey Christine - I understand and I really appreciate the question/comments. I do understand busy.
    I have some control over the framework we use but there are limitations (there are limitations with all software) - the limitation on finding contacts via the list can be painful. But it's what we have and in my opinion much better than what you'll find with most group/community websites - I don't care much for FBs or Linkedin's either :) - but I agree 100% with you on this issue. I can address this with a little training and will be doing just that as we move forward.
    However, tweaks in technology is not the answer... we have an increasing number of folks who join us and then don't respond or reply or communicate with anyone and this number grows faster as we grow larger.
    After doing this for 3 years and having run online communities in some form for over 25 years I've learned a couple things - and for me smaller will be better.
    I don't want to require anyone to post a phone number unless they wish to (many will have reason to not do this) - and I'll never have time to assist members in keeping anything up to date - again I understand busy and have to set priorities myself.
    Also, I understand that "Activity" is different for everyone - it's not about attending meetings and posting things - We have a ton of members who might not appear "active" because they don't post articles, photos, videos and such - however, they are very active and easy to see when you have my periscope. That's what I want more of.
    I am at this time contemplating how we'll get smaller and leveraging the minds and opinions of some members I've gotten to know over the years and getting their input. I'm also "listening" to the comments made on this thread and via the emails I'm receiving and will continue doing that.
    I'm also trying to be as public about my "thought process" while I do this in an attempt to not "surprise" anyone when I make changes. In my other businesses when I wanted to make a change I just did it - this is a community and so it's not just "mine" so I'm trying to be sensitive about that.
    There are a smaller set of members who really get what my mision is, the "Why I do this" - I want to better serve this smaller set going forward. Bottomline is I'm not personally or professionally happy with how the network is at this time.
    As to how many members? - we were a much better network when we were less than 1000 members (certainly 1500) - I'd like to get back to this number and if we get smaller than that but end up more effective in really helping make a difference in the lives for those I'd like to serve - I'd be fine with that.
    Please understand that this is not a public service of mine.
    Think about it... most businesses provide better service when they can provide that service to fewer people AND get to know those they serve.
    I promise that my intentions are to increase "Value" along with the real understanding that I have 260 more of these networks to launch in communities across the United States and with my current model I'll not have any chance for success and will end up quitting.
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