Question 9: Member Retention

Old Nov 6, 11, 11:29 am
  #1  
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Question 9: Member Retention

What are your thoughts about member retention? Is it an issue? If so, what initiatives could the new Talkboard develop to improve retention of existing members?
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Old Nov 6, 11, 1:41 pm
  #2  
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I think that member retention is huge. If we can keep people posting on Flyertalk, we can grow this website bigger and better. To retain members, Talkboard could create some sort of incentives program where you are rewarded for thoughtful and valuable posts. People would try to achieve different levels, kinda like elite status. People would strive to become the highest membership level. Just like going from a 1P in United to a 1K, or a Platinum to a Diamond on Delta. It wouldn't cost Flyertalk anything, it would add a value to a post. If a Platinum Flyertalker posts a reply, I would think that their post is correct. This also legitimizes the posts through experience.

Delta747
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Old Nov 6, 11, 1:54 pm
  #3  
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Originally Posted by Delta747 View Post
I think that member retention is huge. If we can keep people posting on Flyertalk, we can grow this website bigger and better. To retain members, Talkboard could create some sort of incentives program where you are rewarded for thoughtful and valuable posts. People would try to achieve different levels, kinda like elite status. People would strive to become the highest membership level. Just like going from a 1P in United to a 1K, or a Platinum to a Diamond on Delta. It wouldn't cost Flyertalk anything, it would add a value to a post. If a Platinum Flyertalker posts a reply, I would think that their post is correct. This also legitimizes the posts through experience.

Delta747
I think there's a cautionary tale being written right now over at MilePoint with the "Silver" and "Gold" levels that people are getting -- people posting for the sake of posting and people "liking" posts for the sake of earning points.

And, of course, "reputation" I believe once existed here and was quite a disaster as people gamed the system and used the system to rate down posters they didn't like.

While I think there are many ways, big and small, to retain members and attract new members, any way that incentivizes people to post for the sake of posting would be counter-productive. Any subjective measure that makes one poster a "better" poster than another would also be counter-productive, IMO.

I'll post some ideas of my own after I've given this some more thought.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 2:03 pm
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Originally Posted by RichMSN View Post
I think there's a cautionary tale being written right now over at MilePoint with the "Silver" and "Gold" levels that people are getting -- people posting for the sake of posting and people "liking" posts for the sake of earning points.

And, of course, "reputation" I believe once existed here and was quite a disaster as people gamed the system and used the system to rate down posters they didn't like.

While I think there are many ways, big and small, to retain members and attract new members, any way that incentivizes people to post for the sake of posting would be counter-productive. Any subjective measure that makes one poster a "better" poster than another would also be counter-productive, IMO.

I'll post some ideas of my own after I've given this some more thought.
I am just saying that with active moderation, people can achieve this status with real, substantive posts. As opposed to liking a post or just posting for the sake of posting. Although you do make a valid point.

Delta747
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Old Nov 6, 11, 2:17 pm
  #5  
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Originally Posted by Delta747 View Post
I am just saying that with active moderation, people can achieve this status with real, substantive posts. As opposed to liking a post or just posting for the sake of posting. Although you do make a valid point.

Delta747
I would not dream of asking the moderators to be any more "active" then they are now. They, like TB, are volunteers. And I think that putting any group of people in a position to determine which members are more valuable than others, well, I think that's a disaster waiting to happen.

I'm not picking on your idea, certainly. These are the ideas that need to be brought to the surface in order to see if there's aspects that can work well. I'm happy to listen to and work with any idea that's brought forward.

As for my ideas, I'll get back to this later.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 3:40 pm
  #6  
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Originally Posted by Delta747 View Post
I think that member retention is huge. If we can keep people posting on Flyertalk, we can grow this website bigger and better. To retain members, Talkboard could create some sort of incentives program where you are rewarded for thoughtful and valuable posts. People would try to achieve different levels, kinda like elite status. People would strive to become the highest membership level. Just like going from a 1P in United to a 1K, or a Platinum to a Diamond on Delta. It wouldn't cost Flyertalk anything, it would add a value to a post. If a Platinum Flyertalker posts a reply, I would think that their post is correct. This also legitimizes the posts through experience.

Delta747
I strongly disagree.
  • We already have post counts
  • There's nothing really in place (barring MAJOR EXTRA WORKS by the mod) to prevent people from post padding (Or doing a PR - Post Run )
  • Many people with few posts are just as if not more reliable than many FlyerTalk evangelists.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 4:16 pm
  #7  
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Member retention is no different than customer retention with any other business and is key however I pose a question based on my banking career.....

A bank knows it is losing customers by seeing a drop in deposits but how does an internet board see a drop in members?

A person can join say in 2004, post actively for 2 years and then not post for 2 years after that. Are they still a member? Are they dropped from the rolls? What if they start posting after their hiatus? The way I look at it is that without seeing how it is handled by Flyertalk/IB, in all honesty, I cannot give an answer.

But in addition to member retention, there is also the bringing in of new members and again, I'll use my banking career as an example....

Banks will run promotions for new customers and while I'm not saying every new member of F/t gets a free toaster , perhaps they get 30/60/90 days ad free.

Also, when it comes to new members, how do you get them? Banks run ad campaigns to bring in new business and while to the best of my knowledge, F/t does not advertise externally, we (the members of F/t) are the best ad campaign out there! How many of you have been asked what Flyertalk is based on your yellow tag (or in my case, my F/t pin)? I charge everyone to "talk the Fylertalk talk" at every opportunity they have.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 4:45 pm
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I've come to greatly appreciate the balance FlyerTalk Moderators and TalkBoard have adopted in the area of Member Retention. There is substantive benefit in terms of L/Earning to a better experience on FlyerTalk.. The content on FlyerTalk is simply unequalled to any other Mile and Points website on the Internet.. The content is the draw, and the community is what keeps FlyerTalk members plugged in. These two factors comprises the major reasons why FlyerTalk members want to stay involved..

E-mails of notifications, new threads, and TalkMail.. already has FlyerTalk Members involved on a very regular basis.. Social Networking is evolving at a fast pace. Perhaps, integration of the Social Networking sites and FlyerTalk is the next step to increased retention.. For Miles and Points, FlyerTalk is already a resource that member's cannot go without. Its' all about how a FlyerTalk Member benefits..

A suggestion to consider, is e-mailing deals customized to the preferences of the FlyerTalk Members.. Nobody wants to miss out on the once and a lifetime deal, or the new deal that's coming up..
Its all about personal attention for members, and delivering Miles and Points deals to the attention of FlyerTalk Members.. automatically increasing retention.. by attention.

The existing rules are here for a reason.. FlyerTalk has received accolades and attention internationally for its content and member involvement.. Come economies of scale are problems and challenges that need to be addressed.. Moderators work hard to ensure, that the member experience is enhanced through regular involvement and attention to the content.. and ensuring that members' have an excellent FlyerTalk experience without having to spend countless hours on the computer..

We are all seeking a balance to our lives.. For many members, FlyerTalk has become an intertwined lifestyle, where knowledge is sought continually.. to enhance travel and everyday experiences.

There is always room for improvement.. My belief is that FlyerTalk should focus on longterm retention vs. shortterm retention.. That this incredible resource, remains relevant for FlyerTalk Members for years to come.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 5:35 pm
  #9  
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Originally Posted by joshwex90 View Post
I strongly disagree.
  • We already have post counts
  • There's nothing really in place (barring MAJOR EXTRA WORKS by the mod) to prevent people from post padding (Or doing a PR - Post Run )
  • Many people with few posts are just as if not more reliable than many FlyerTalk evangelists.
I do not think that post count has much to do with member retention. Except for the fact that if you have a high post count then you have probably been here for a while. The thing that has kept me posting on Flyertalk is the vast amount of information that people have posted. I think that has kept a lot of people on Flyertalk. I will admit that my elite idea is pretty rough, but we need to submit ideas so we can keep this website full of knowledgeable information and retain those that submit said information

Delta747

Last edited by United747; Nov 6, 11 at 6:18 pm
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Old Nov 6, 11, 5:43 pm
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The only way to continue to keep and grow new members is to treat the new ones with respect...not slam them down or make them feel like idiots should they be posting something everyone has heard a thousand times.

The reason I stayed here on FT was a particular forum that made me feel welcome and then I enjoyed looking and posting on other forums after that.

I actually think when you see members posts that some people may get scared of this and feel like they're not welcome or don't belong.

A system or buddy mentor program for new members would be welcomed.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 6:18 pm
  #11  
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This is really a question of moderation, not policy set by TalkBoard. However I won't let that stop me from giving my opinion.

I oppose value-destroying behavior of all types. That includes posts which annoy or incite without providing sufficient compensating utility or entertainment.

I hope that the software will one day be able to harness the power of user-driven ratings to allow readers to highlight the most valuable posts and hide value-destroying posts. Until that time this is the endless and mostly thankless task of moderators. They do a pretty good job, IMHO, up to the point when they burn out. If you have the energy and dedication for it, you are welcome to offer your services to SanDiego1k. If you have a particular forum in mind, you should probably correspond privately with the moderators of that forum and let them know you would like to help in some way. Needs tend to appear unpredictably, so if your name is already in the hat that gives you a head start.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 6:25 pm
  #12  
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Originally Posted by Jinxy View Post
A system or buddy mentor program for new members would be welcomed.
Which is why I'm a BIG FAN of the "newbie, flame-free lounges/threads," and I also believe that the Ambassador program, kickstarted by TB, was quite successful, and should be expanded.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 6:37 pm
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I assume that member attrition is tracked. If not, it should be. I think a "membership committee" or "membership chairperson" or "membership ambassador" should try to reach out to folks who disappear or overtly say they are leaving FT and see what their issues are. They may have constructive criticism to offer, or perhaps something was misunderstood along the way and things need to be "ironed out". At the very least, I think folks who have been around FT for a long time and suddenly "drop out" would appreciate contact from an "ambassador" and might be willing to rejoin. The goodwill can't hurt.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 7:12 pm
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Originally Posted by nsx View Post
This is really a question of moderation, not policy set by TalkBoard. However I won't let that stop me from giving my opinion.

I oppose value-destroying behavior of all types. That includes posts which annoy or incite without providing sufficient compensating utility or entertainment.

I hope that the software will one day be able to harness the power of user-driven ratings to allow readers to highlight the most valuable posts and hide value-destroying posts. Until that time this is the endless and mostly thankless task of moderators. They do a pretty good job, IMHO, up to the point when they burn out. If you have the energy and dedication for it, you are welcome to offer your services to SanDiego1k. If you have a particular forum in mind, you should probably correspond privately with the moderators of that forum and let them know you would like to help in some way. Needs tend to appear unpredictably, so if your name is already in the hat that gives you a head start.
I spend a fair amount of time on forums where +1s and -1s are accumulated and posts are hidden if they are below a certain threshold. I find that kind of promoting and hiding, well, obnoxious because it can be gamed and some people end up getting -1ed simply because of who they are.

There are two sides to retention, IMO, and I deal with these on a regular basis. I'm the president of one HS officiating association, a VP of another (and I'm also on the membership committee of that one, which deals with issues like membership recruitment and retention as one of its core tasks).

(1) We need to bring in new members. I'm certain a lot of new members came in over the years because Randy was a well-quoted industry expert and was quoted in many mainstream publications.

These days, I'm not sure that's all that important, as Google indexing probably brings in most of of our new members. Getting new members is likely not a real challenge we need to address right now, though, so I'd focus on...

(2) We need to keep members once they're here. Out of the 367,483 members here, I'm guessing a very small minority are regulars (the average member has posted less than 47 times, so with so many members with a lot of posts, I think it's a safe bet many people register, post a few times, and go away).

How do we keep people around?

(1) The Ambassador program is a great idea, but I think it's even more important that all members are welcoming to new people. Anytime someone blasts a new member or makes them feel like they're the troublesome newbie, we may have lost a valuable contributor forever.

(2) I think there is a way to get people to stick around without gimmicks that get people to post for the sake of posting, like some of Randy's contests the last few years. I would try to work with Carol and IB to have more events at FT -- live chats with program representatives, more chats with experts that we already have here at FlyerTalk, etc.

I think one thing we probably fail to do is leverage the expertise of people that are regulars on forums. I'll use the SPG forum as an example cause that's one of my favored programs -- on the forum, there are some very knowledgable people as well as the SPG employees (The Lurkers).

Why not ask for volunteers to hold chats, give presentations/webinars, etc. so that those that are new to the program or FT can come in and learn from some real experts? I know that if I decided to move my business to AA, for example, I would be really interested in a webinar being presented by someone who is an AA expert (even if self-proclaimed) to try to ask my questions and learn about the program.

It would be even nicer if there were a handful of door prizes (not necessarily expensive prizes) to draw people in.

This is just a start, but my feeling is that having more organized events and new content would get people in and keep them coming back.

I have more thoughts, but this is enough for now. This is already far from concise.
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Old Nov 6, 11, 9:22 pm
  #15  
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I see this issue as having two prongs: technological integration and a personal engagement.

The technological side would encompass things like social network integration. We're hampered in that respect by two things: one, we're at the mercy of Internet Brands' and vBulletin's development cycle, and two, no one has really yet figured out what "social network integration" means and has implemented it in a way that actually works for members. Maybe someone someday can come up with some way to do this, but I wouldn't hold my breath. The world has fundamentally changed with the advent of the information revolution, but we're still navigating the waters of that revolution and figuring out what that means for the future.

The other aspect is the personal side. For me, I see two major reasons that members fall away: either they feel turned away by an unwelcoming atmosphere, or they don't "catch the vision" and thus lose interest.

We've started a program that is being rolled out wider across FlyerTalk called the "Ambassador program." Ambassadors, who are members passionate about helping new members, assist on both of the above counts. They are able to welcome new members and answer their questions in a positive, helpful way without making them feel like they are asking a stupid question. On top of that, they are able to help these new members understand the value of miles and points and help them understand that loyalty programs offer them a way to get far more for their money than they otherwise would.

I call this "catching the vision"; for me, it was reading a trip report by Seat 2A about traveling from LAX to SYD in BA F via LHR and SIN/BKK for the "paltry" sum of 150,000 AS miles. 150,000 miles sounded like a ton to me back then, but I knew that I wanted to do that trip someday, and as I read FlyerTalk and began to understand elite bonuses, maximizing routings, finding mileage-run-worthy fares, and other similar things, I realized that it was actually something within my reach, and I was able to book that same trip that Seat 2A (someone I am now proud to call a friend) did--a trip worth nearly $30,000--for my out-of-pocket spend of less than 10% of that trip's retail price.

If every new FlyerTalker was able to understand the kind of value they can get from just a few tricks and tips, get excited, and "catch the vision," I believe they'd be much more likely to stay, learn, and eventually be able to contribute back. While we're still working on better-organizing the Ambassador program, it has the potential to cast that net that keeps members involved in the community.

I'd also like to see some of the snarkiness from some members reduced, but unfortunately, that requires an oversight of moderation policy that the TalkBoard does not currently have (and even then, the best moderation can't completely cure the problem of some less-than-helpful members). In light of that limitation, the best way forward is to have a core of engaged members (Ambassadors) demonstrate a positive, welcoming attitude that can overcome any negativity and make newbies want to stay.

I'll also speak to what some people might call a threat: MilePoint. (No reason to pretend it doesn't exist.) I respect Randy greatly, and I think that MilePoint has done some very good things in terms of site and forum organization, functionality, and appearance (much of that due to the choice of XenForo as their forum software), but if there's one thing I've learned over the past year of MilePoint's existence, it's that FlyerTalk has an incredible depth of content and an intensely strong community bond. Despite MilePoint's best efforts and Randy's industry connections, FlyerTalk remains by far the predominant destination on the Internet for discussion involving miles, points, and travel. Do we always need to be aware of the competition and keep improving ourselves to maintain our lead? Of course. But do we need to worry that an overwhelming number of members are going to start dropping like flies and defecting elsewhere? It hasn't happened yet, and I believe our draw is strong enough to keep it from happening.

Also, I'll share some numbers I heard several years ago. They're out of date now, but the ratio is likely still representative. At the time, FlyerTalk had identified approximately 2.5 million unique visitors to the site. Of that, there were approximately 250,000 registered users; 25,000 of those were active users. I don't know what the criteria for "active user" was (x number of posts in the last x days, etc.), but from what I've read, the 10:10:10 ratio seems pretty standard across the Internet when it comes to discussion forums. Just some food for thought.

Last edited by jackal; Nov 6, 11 at 9:28 pm
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