InnocentlyWicked Resident, a 4-week old avatar who describes herself as: “young and I just want to have fun’, surely didn’t imagine she’d be winning Caitlin Tobias’s inventory of poses from her store Pose O’Clock, when she accepted our invitation as Basilique’s 2000th member.
2000 members might not sound like much in comparison to some in world groups out there. Compared to groups solely based on regions however, 2000 is a respectable number and it’s taken years to get to this point. Basilique opened December 26th, 2012 (there’s even a street named after that date, leading up to the Basilique Playhouse – see image below). Back then we had about 30 charter members (friends, mainly) who we personally invited. At first, I experimented with charging a join fee (starting at L$1000). Lowering the join fee to L$350 made no difference to sign ups. Eliminating the join fee also made no difference. The join fee was never the problem.
Despite hosting two of Second Life’s biggest theatre productions, member sign ups did not grow past 500 for 2 years after we first opened Basilique to the public. An attractive looking region, that’s been featured on the Second Life Featured Events, the Destination Guide, The DraxFiles World Makers and in many blogs, hasn’t been the key to make the members pile on either.
One of the main reasons membership didn’t climb before is because we didn’t consistently ask people to join.
Early this year I brought a host on board; Jack Aubrey. Jack sat at Silky’s Café and personally interacted with visitors as they walked by. He managed to get about 200 new members on board over a few months doing that, and helped us get past the 500 member milestone for the first time in 2015. Most importantly though, Jack showed me the power of asking. One of the main reasons membership didn’t climb before Jack came around is because we didn’t consistently ask people to join.
Many people might remember Jack fondly, but like most humans, he needed his breaks, his sleep, and eventually went on to find more interesting things to do than invite visitors to join the Basilique all day long. Jack moved on, and I looked into alternative solutions. This is what happened next:
Membership at Basilique grew dramatically since I hired Paul and Juliet to invite people to join the group. Regular readers of this blog might remember that Paul started as the primary inviter. He managed to get over 700 visitors to signup in 30 days (bringing the total at the end of March to 1271 – doubling net member sign ups). As a test, I put Juliet on the job, who recruited another 700 members the next month. Her conversion rate was marginally better than Paul’s, so I kept her as the primary inviter. 3 months later, she has brought the group to a net of 2000 members.
Some of you might be wondering. Why should I care how many members join Basilique? What difference does 500 or 2000, or even 10,000 members make? I care, because according to the 90-9-1 Rule for Participation Inequality in Social Media and Online Communities put forth by Jakob Neilsen, for every 100 members that sign up, 90/100 people will lurk – and possibly never engage again. 9/100 people might return and interact with other people at Basilique, contributing to the community intermittently. 1/100 of the people, will give to the community in a more meaningful way.
The 9% might not be well-known or easily identifiable, but they will give intermittently, whether they make a small donation, spend time at Basilique, engage in events, or take part in group chat. If that proportion holds up for Basilique’s 2000 members, I’d expect to see about 180 people give intermittently. That’s hard to judge, and it’s also fair to say that some of the 2000 members ceased participating in Second Life, let alone at Basilique. I counted and found about 60 members that haven’t logged in since January 1, 2015 – so that number is not so bad. Still, I’d guess 180 intermittent contributors isn’t far off. Different people come and go, and I’d not be surprised if that intermittent group was around 200 people strong.
It’s important to note here that I don’t mind lurkers. Similarly, I don’t mind people who can or wish to only give intermittently. It takes many roles to make up a community, and if it wasn’t for both groups, we’d not have the heavy contributors we do.
For every 100 members, there will likely be only one member that contributes heavily. Out of 2000 members, that amounts to 20 people. What does heavy contribution look like? A heavy contributor might rent a flat, a store or a boat slip at Basilique (there are 13 rental spaces, all occupied on a long-term basis, and rented within minutes of the rare occasions they become available). Heavy contributors visit us more often and spend longer periods of time in the public areas. They come to most, if not all, our regular events. We have three regular events at Basilique, and each is typically attended by 12-24 people, so that follows the rule. They might help out at events – by hosting, or DJing, or helping with security. We have about 5 DJs at Basilique, that do monthly and fortnightly sets. We also have a few hosts that take care of event duties and security while I’m either busy or away. I can’t forget too, the company of players that perform in our shows; who are a cast of half a dozen to a dozen residents investing months of commitment.
So, this is why I care about numbers: The more members we have, the more intermittent contributors we’ll have, and the more heavy contributors we’ll have. We need all types, but heavy contributors help make things happen. More heavy contributors means we can do more great things (events, exhibits and performances), which attracts more intermittent contributors to play their part, and more members to join up. It’s a virtuous cycle for community building.
The more members we have, the more intermittent contributors we’ll have, and the more heavy contributors we’ll have.
Which brings us full circle to Member 2000 – InnocentlyWicked Resident – 4 weeks old. I wonder which she’ll be? Lurker? Intermittent contributor? Or Heavy contributor? I can never really know, until I know. Maybe getting a bunch of awesome pose animations, donated by one of our heavy contributors, Caitlin Tobias, will encourage her to take another look at Basilique – only time can tell.
Where time has told, is in the case of the other end of this donor equation: Caitlin Tobias, or Caity as her friends call her. Caity is well-known among resident explorers as the blogger behind Cait’s World, one of Second Life’s pre-eminent exploration blogs. Given the fact she must be one of Second Life’s most traveled residents, I’m honoured that Caity makes Basilique her second home. You already know she runs a store there for her pose animations. She’s also been coming to nearly every Moderna Monday Social Night to dance her butt off, and nearly every Wednesday Chat Salon, to air and share her views on what everyone has to say, since I kicked them off over a year ago. She’s always a very reliable visitor to our fortnightly Piano Hours, run by John Nordic. She also brings her friends to Basilique, and they’ve become members too.
An outstanding photographer, Caity volunteered as the our official photographer for Paradise Lost – her pictures from both behind the scenes and as an audience member are among my very favourites. To date, Caity has posted over 300 photos of her adventures at Basilique on her Flickr. She spends a lot of time with us on our little island, and I count her among our top contributors to Basilique (note I didn’t say ‘heaviest’, Caity’s actually stays very fit!).
Here’s the thing though: For every Caity, there are 100 other InnocentlyWicked Residents. And because 20% of our visitors convert into members, we need to have 500 visitors touching ground at least once to get even one Caity Tobias. If for some reason, Caity had never been a visitor, if she’d never become a member of Basilique, I would have likely not formed one of my most valued relationships in Second Life, and this little town would have been the worse for it.
It’s the Caitys that make communities in Second Life come alive. The only trouble is, she might be 1 in 100, or 1 in 500, or even 1 in 1000. And that’s why numbers matter.
Featured image by Caitlin Tobias: Pose O’Clock at Basilique