Question 8: Member retention

 
Old Nov 6, 09, 6:31 am
  #1  
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Question 8: Member retention

submitted by Prospero
I would like to ask our TalkBoard candidates for their thoughts on member retention. If you perceive this is an issue, what initiatives could the new TalkBoard develop to form a recommendation to Randy with the aim of improving retention of existing members.
Randy Petersen is offline  
Old Nov 6, 09, 7:23 am
  #2  
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I do see it as an issue--I've seen several new and even formerly active posters that seem to disappear or slip through the cracks and don't come back, either because they don't see value in active participation on FlyerTalk or because someone said something they perceived as snarky or rude that turned them off.

I think that implementing at least some version of the FlyerTalk Ambassador program would be a great launching pad for any efforts to improve member retention. Having designated people whose duties are (and I'd like to perhaps formalize some of those duties) to ensure FlyerTalk is the warmest, most welcoming environment possible will help to keep the conversation positive, helpful, and community-focused.

Building on that, we'd have to check with the FlyerTalk administration and the Internet Brands IT department, but there may be some technical things we can implement that will allow the forum software to provide notification to the group of FlyerTalk Ambassadors (or subset of Ambassadors representing the subforum in question) of members who have been inactive for more than a certain period of time (the exact criteria will have to be hammered out, of course). These Ambassadors may then be tasked to reach out to members via PM (and even via their registered email address, if need be) to make sure they're doing OK, offer themselves as a first point of contact if they have any issues or questions, offer assistance with helping them to maximize their own miles and points earning (with the goal of getting them hooked on it!), and invite them to stay connected to the community and perhaps even attend a nearby DO.

I've seen it said elsewhere on the boards and even repeated by another TalkBoard candidate in one of the recent questions that "miles and points is why we come, but the community is why we stay." Ensuring the community is friendly and helpful is one way to help that, but another is to make sure people are aware of community activities. Having things like index stickies in CommunityBuzz!, the Calendar, and the Itineraries board are helpful and good tools, but they (especially the latter two) are often underutilized because they are both relatively hidden and not user-friendly.

Again, it's going to need to be done in conjunction with the technical behind-the-scenes folks at FT and IB, but reworking these to make them easier to use and to give people the ability to set proactive alerts (such as internal pop-up notifications, email alerts, or calendars that can be subscribed to in Google Calendars or in Outlook) when there is activity in their own neck of the woods or is pertinent to their own travels.

At the very least, being able to set forum email subscriptions that are filterable by [yes, three-letter] keyword would be nice, both for Mileage Run Deals and CommunityBuzz!--and this is something that could even be automatically implemented at the time of registration based on the person's profile location as an opt-in (or even opt-out) notification (i.e. "check this box if you'd like to be notified of events and/or good airfare deals in your area"). This could have the effect of bringing people into the community fold without them even realizing they're being drawn into it, which will have the side effect of keeping them around and able to contribute, participate, and grow the community.
jackal is offline  
Old Nov 6, 09, 10:23 am
  #3  
 
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I also do not see this as an issue. I have not seen any statistics, but my anectdotal experience leads me to believe that this site has some of the best retention qualities I've seen.

If there's one thing that I think the site could add to boost these numbers even more, it's schley's suggestion in the "open forum" thread in this forum. This would keep people around, and would also serve as an excellent B. F. Skinner technique.

I *really* like this idea, and will vote for schley (if he votes for me ;-) )
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Old Nov 6, 09, 11:01 am
  #4  
 
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I don't know that empirically this is something anyone can prove, if FT retains or loses their members over time. I was a long time poster with over 4,000 posts in another forum, not travel related, that I choose to leave last year. I ended up here as a result of that switch. For whatever reason I decided I needed a change.

People will come and go and I don't think that is a bad thing necessarily, as our lives change so does how we spend our time and where. Or some other poster just pissed us off to the point of leaving.

Aviators thanks for the compliment, I don't feel a need to have to be elected as many of these candidates would do just as good of a job as I could for TB. This site has run well before I got here and will continue to run well after I leave. I don't see things so broken that the board absolutely needs me and only me. As I pointed out in the open forum, I think the idea of recognizing other members could only enhance the community feel. As a result possibly more people might think FT is an OK place to spend some time.
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Old Nov 6, 09, 12:39 pm
  #5  
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I have left other boards in the past and these were the things that drove me away:

(1) Moderation that was heavy-handed. Anything peripherally OT would be deleted. We do not have that problem.

(2) Moderation that is too light-handed. Anything goes, including rude behavior, name calling, etc. We really don't have that problem, although those who bluntly tell newbies to "do a search" come closest, which to me stresses how polite a community we have in general.

(3) Poor technical implementation. Board down too often, slow too often, posts not appearing, etc. While IB has had some bumps technically and while I think they could have someone post more often to show we are more than just an asset they acquired, this won't drive many away permanently.

(4) Lack of good information. Not here.

(5) Lack of community feel. We're pretty good here too, although sometimes I feel that people forget that community is number one and points and miles are simply what brought us here.

I do not feel FlyerTalk is particularly challenged in any of these areas. However, we must be vigilant in making sure that we aren't driving newer people away. I think that the ambassador program proposed earlier would be a great way to have a formal process in place to make sure that people are welcomed and that snarky comments that have no place are followed up with helpful ones. Does it need to be a formal position? Don't know, but having some type of emphasis on welcoming new people certainly couldn't hurt.
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Old Nov 6, 09, 1:08 pm
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Originally Posted by RichMSN View Post

(1) Moderation that was heavy-handed. Anything peripherally OT would be deleted. We do not have that problem.

.
Good points. IMO I feel the moderating could be loosened up a bit. I have had several of my comments removed or modified and I have to think, "what was so wrong with that?" Mod's volunteer their time, let's use it for better purposes than removing a friendly joke to another member. By saying that I don't think it demeans their efforts either, it is constructive criticism. They certainly are working hard, perhaps it can be channeled for better use. I agree that heavy handed mod's are a huge issue that would turn me off. FT mod's aren't heavy handed in that sense.
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Old Nov 6, 09, 1:57 pm
  #7  
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I haven't seen this as an issue. Also, I don't think it's something we need to focus on. There is an overwhelming sense of commnuity on Flyertalk, something no person running for this position has not touched on. Therefore, if someone wants to leave, it is their God given right to do so and they should not be bothered for making their choice.

The only thing I will suggest is that everyone should feel welcome here. No one should feel attacked and afraid to post out of fear of relaliation, nor should name calling be tolerated. With a greater moderator focus on that (particularly in some of the rowdy forms (Read: Delta)) rentention should increase.
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Old Nov 6, 09, 10:38 pm
  #8  
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FlyerTalk is a bit of a slave to what happens in the travel industry. I believe FT gets a spike in traffic when something happens with an airline (merger, fare sales).

How do we keep those "tire kickers?" How do we retain current users? It's really a matter of consistently being the best we can be, being an attractive resource to the flying community, whether once-in-a-while travelers or the 300,000 mile a year travelers. It sounds simple enough, but there are a lot of elements that go into that.

FlyerTalk's greatest strength is its spirit. Something that cannot be attained without its contributors. The diversity is strong on FT, and what comes with it is a huge variety of backgrounds and interpretations. Meaning that many FlyerTalkers' opinions and ways they communicate can be helpful/amusing/informative to some, yet can be bothersome to others. More on that in a moment.

But I also want to address another issue. It seems moderators take a beating when it comes to FlyerTalk. I guess they're the low-hanging fruit when it comes to soliciting for opinions on FT.

It is my opinion that there are a few forums that are overly aggressive in their respective moderating. Some might speak in a tone that they have been affected personally because of their posts. I have noticed by observation of the moderating and overall mood of forums (essential skills to have to be a TalkBoard member). That said, I have noticed a positive difference lately in forums.

And there are some forums that allow great latitude. I like it better that way.

But I it's important to understand that moderators do many positive things that many of us don't end up seeing. And that benefits FlyerTalk greatly. Some of that includes communicating with those aforementioned people before their comments and/or actions reach a tipping point.

I don't know if member retention is a problem. Meaning....how many FlyerTalk "tire kickers" do we convert into regular users, whether seldom, occasionally or a lot in their frequency.

It's hard to gauge by the numbers. As of this typing, there are 222,350 members who are registered to FT (welcome to afee, our newest member). There are just under 44,000 people with five or fewer posts (keeping in mind that some of those folks might be spammers that our moderators regularly keep at ba)y.

Nearly 30,000 of those folks are at zero posts. Now, again, some could be spammers, but I do believe there are plenty of folks who are waiting to make their first contribution to FT.

FlyerTalk runs pretty well right now. Thus, it's paying attention to the little things. Plus, being the best we can be. While that's a little ambiguous and easy to say, it's the best way to answer to address retention,whether it's merely an issue or it's a problem.

Thanks for reading, I hope to earn your vote.
LessO2 is offline  
Old Nov 7, 09, 12:02 am
  #9  
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222,000

That's the number of members that FT says it has registered. That is a huge number.

In this number clearly are people who have left for various reasons. How many of them leave for reasons we can control I am not sure. If you think there are huge changes we can make to FT to keep departing members then I do not agree with you I am afraid.

Making the welcome more friendly seems possible - Ambassadors, or tools to help the Mods do it. Either way identifying a new member and making that member feel that they can get in to the world of points and miles seems essential - come on IB IT department - give us a hand here!

If we make a persons first impression good, they'll stay longer I think.

I think if we had a campaign to make the board less jargon based that might keep people reading - some time the airport codes, fare basis etc can get pretty technical. If I found FT - and by the way how are we promoting this great board - I wonder if I'd be able to wade through the codes.

Then, we need to address the 'Do a Search' posts - pretty easy to understand but pretty unwelcoming if you ask me.

Having said that people leave for lots of valid reasons; some of whom return when the situation is remedied. I think we might want to have a way of finding people who posted say 200 times, but have not posted for three months. Perhaps we could ask them what happened in a general way - I like making decisions based on data! Come on IB IT give us some data!

In summary:

    Markie is offline  
    Old Nov 7, 09, 1:18 am
      #10  
    Moderator, Alaska Airlines & FlyerTalk Evangelist
     
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    Good points, Markie.

    Originally Posted by Markie View Post
    I think if we had a campaign to make the board less jargon based that might keep people reading - some time the airport codes, fare basis etc can get pretty technical. If I found FT - and by the way how are we promoting this great board - I wonder if I'd be able to wade through the codes.
    I don't know that I'd like to try to reduce FTers' reliance on jargon. Jargon actually has a place in helping to bind a community together. It's also certainly much less labor intensive to type BWN instead of "Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei" every time you want to refer to your upcoming trip there. Pushing people to change that vocabulary would not be a popular move and would, in effect, be changing the FlyerTalk culture--and I'm not sure it could even be done.

    I think we can push for some tools, though, to make it easier for newcomers to assimilate into the existing FT culture. Some would involve IB's IT department. One idea might be to institute some JavaScript coding that recognizes airport and airline codes and pops up a "translation" when you hover your cursor over it. Of course, there are some issues with doing something like that, so I would definitely push for some caveats before implementing it:

    • default it on for all new registrations but leave it off for existing members, and allow people to opt-out in their forum options
    • make it only recognize valid two- and three-letter airline and airport codes typed only in all-caps (so every instance of "and" doesn't pull up Anderson, CA)
    • strictly prohibit IB from ever using it to turn on those annoying in-text ads

    Otherwise, I fully agree with Markie's perspective and ideas.

    Last edited by jackal; Nov 7, 09 at 3:00 am Reason: spacing
    jackal is offline  
    Old Nov 7, 09, 2:31 am
      #11  
     
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    I don't think membership retention or attrition is an issue here right now. In any on line community there is a degree of churn-people who join stay for a while, and determine they are not having their needs met here, and move on. Many of us have been here for a long time, more so than most other boards I visit, so I think that is to the credit of FT management and the current talk board.

    As it has been stated elsewhere, first and foremost this is a community, and there is great diversity among the members. No one should ever be criticized or ridiculed for his or her views, and we should be tolerant of new members (who by the way are not the only ones who ask questions which have been answered elsewhere).

    I agree with the concept of Flyer Talk Ambassadors, to the degree that perhaps we should have a group of Ambassadors whose task it is to field questions from new members. The bottom line is we need to make new members (and everyone else for that matter) welcome, and part of that is to be give them a place to turn for help and guidance without the fear of being ridiculed.

    While it is not a common occurrence here, I am also opposed to harrassment or criticism of posters when one does not agree with someone's post or opinion...

    Another idea would be to have a group assigned (Ambassadors perhaps) to reach out to those who either state they are leaving or who ask to terminate their memberships-to try to find out why they are leaving and to see if there would be any way they'd consider staying.

    Thank you.
    Art234 is offline  
    Old Nov 7, 09, 2:42 am
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    Duct tape.














    On a more serious note, FlyerTalk does not (yet) have a major problem with member retention. We are the acknowledged industry leader in our chosen field and despite the occasional disaffected and highly public meltdown, most users tend to migrate away from posting on the forums for personal reasons rather than due to any specific disaffection with the forums themselves. The growth of new users far outstrips any natural attrition and this may lead to complacency as the absolute numbers of users continues to grow.

    The key difference between FlyerTalk and other internet forums though is that we pride ourselves on being a COMMUNITY rather than just another internet bulletin board. To that end, there needs to be more engagement with the silent majority of users who have plenty to give to the community but are often stifled, discouraged, attacked or simply made to feel unwelcome. These potential contributions are then lost to the community. We need to re-engage with this part of the userbase and encourage them to participate in the community at a level that better reflects their willingness to contribute.

    This is where TalkBoard can really make their presence felt as representatives of the userbase at large. For every member that has publicly and permanently left the community, there are dozens who have (either intentionally or subconsciously) lowered their level of participation for reasons that probably could have been addressed if only their voices were heard. One of the fundamental tents of my platform is to give voice to what may otherwise have gone unspoken. To this end, I will actively seek out the minority opinion and ensure that its input is haerd and considered, even though the majority views may eventually prevail. A user who believes that the community values their input is far less likely to become disaffected and reduce their level of participation.
    B747-437B is offline  
    Old Nov 7, 09, 2:47 am
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    Originally Posted by jackal View Post
    Good points, Markie.




    I think we can push for some tools, though, to make it easier for newcomers to assimilate into the existing FT culture. Some would involve IB's IT department. One idea might be to institute some JavaScript coding that recognizes airport and airline codes and pops up a" translation" when you hover your cursor over it. Of course, there are some issues with doing something like that, so I would definitely push for some caveats before implementing it:



    Otherwise, I fully agree with Markie's perspective and ideas.
    I love the idea of having some Java imbedded to translate the airport codes. I run into them all the time that I'm not familiar with, and left to decide, "is it important enough for me to take the time to look up the airport code?"

    Good suggestion if it can be pulled off. Same thing for airline codes perhaps.
    schley is offline  
    Old Nov 7, 09, 12:30 pm
      #14  
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    The airport code idea is a good one, however when the rare occasion happens that I do not know it, I just type it in my Google search bar and have the answer in a second, so its not such a big deal.

    Otherwise I do not think this is a huge issue, at least not one that can be remedied by the TB. In addition to swings in the industry and peoples personal circumstances, there are also sikes whenever FT is mentioned in an article or on TV, as we have seen many times when issues come up. You are going to always have a certain number sign up to voice an opinion or 2 on the "big subject" and then fade away, that'slife.
    hfly is offline  
    Old Nov 7, 09, 9:51 pm
      #15  
     
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    Javascript around every TLA takes its toll. If you go to a.net (where they do that), the site uses up tons of memory, and can slow your computer to a crawl. An on-site toolbar might be more reasonable.
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