Whether you want to set up an employee community to raise company engagement, a customer community to understand how your brand is being perceived, or a b2b community to connect innovators with investors, there are some common elements among successful online communities. Below are three concrete steps you can take to help make sure that you and your community members can get the most from your community.
Having a clear strategy is an important part of running a community of any length. We advise that you start creating your strategy by thinking about your desired end-goal. Once you have outlined what you want the outcomes of your community to be, you can start working backwards from that point to create the steps that you will take and the accomplishments you’ll need to have on your way there. At the end of this planning process, you will know exactly where you need to start.
Consider the following “big picture” questions that can help focus your community development:
- What goal do you have with this community?
- What will need to happen for you to reach this goal?
- Who is your target audience?
- What tone will you use when communicating with this audience?
- How will tasks be divided between your Community Management team?
They say that, “It takes a village to raise a child.” Similarly, it takes a team to manage a community effectively. We know that not everyone will have the luxury of working with a team, so for those of you working alone, it would just be important to remember that, as a lone community manager you will need to wear many hats.
We think that it’s easiest to think about community management in terms of the roles that need to be fulfilled. As a community manager or a community management team, the research goals should always remain a focal point of content creation, member interactions, and group discussions.
Members will likely need a degree of guidance through their assignments. While it’s important that members have some flexibility in navigating through and interacting with your community tasks, in order for your research goals to be met and for members to have the most fulfilling experience in your community, their contributions should have meaningful implications. Make sure they know what to do, and where they can do it to get the best results out of your research.
Don’t forget to give your members feedback throughout the process. Members are always interested to hear about the impact that their input is having. Keeping your community updated not only motivates members to keep participating, but it also forces you to continually reflect on the progress you’re making with your community.
Successful online communities set good examples for community members. To receive great content, you need to create great content. Members want to be challenged, they want to help you solve problems, and they want to be engaged! Don’t lose them by not pulling your fair share of the weight. Setting up a content calendar can help you think ahead and schedule assignments so that community members can continually participate and help you reach your goals.
In particular, for longer-term, ongoing communities, during times when you don’t have questions that need to be answered, make sure to add assignments for your members so that they sustain momentum with their community participation.