Month: July 2011
It's your community. You can remove whomever you like for any reason you like.
That's not a mandate to go on a power crazed rampage. It's a mandate to act quickly to remove members who are not a good fit for a community.
Some community managers fret and worry about removing a member. They try to be fair and prove the member broke a rule. That takes a lot of time which can be spent on improving the community.
You don't need to go through a lengthy hearing process to remove a member. You're not running a country, you're running a community. If a member isn't a good fit for the community, remove them.
It's your community, you need to protect it. You have more important work to be doing.
Technology start-ups don't usually want or need a community. They either want an online customer service channel or they want advocates to promote their technology. Neither requires members to have relationships with each other.
"Building communities on the Internet is a new kind of profession. There are an awful lot of technology companies, founded by programmers, who think they are building communities on the Internet, but they’re really just building software and wondering why the community doesn’t magically show up."
The problem is communities are for people which already use your products/services, not for reaching those that don't (why would people join a community for a product/service they don't use?).
The opportunity is to build a community around a strong common interest/purpose (e.g. seamless photo sharing) and then develop the dream product for that community. When you launch the product, you will already have a dedicated community of people eager to use it. These people are more likely to promote it to others.
Seth Godin defined this best; find products for your audience, not audiences for your products.
Spend some time each month looking at other highly active communities. These don't have to be in your sector, they just need to be highly active.
Look at the most popular discussions and consider bringing similar discussions into your community.
Below is an example from a gardening community.
Clearly "Your top tips" and "Your gardening pet hates" are the most popular categories. Both are self-disclosure discussions which everyone can participate in.
Once you have identified popular categories introduce them to you community. You might begin with a discussion thread "What are your pet hates about Fishing?" and expand it to an entire group/category if it proves popular.
Bonus: If you're looking for whacky and wonderful off-topic discussions to stimulate visit AskReddit.
You should do everything in your power to help create and foster a strong community identity. This wont be the same identity as your organization. You shouldn't try to force your brand rules upon it.
There are many steps you can take to develop a community identity. These include:
- Create a unique name for the community. You can't have an identity without a name that represents you.
- Give the community a unique home or thoroughly integrate it within the organization platform. Don't hide the community behind a community tab. Either develop a platform for the community or convert the existing platform into a community based site. This means featuring community activity on the main page.
- Create an epic history for the community. Record what happens in your community and create a narrative for members both new and old to read.
- Invite contributions to a community constitution defining the community's purpose, personality, beliefs and governance. This can be a fascinating activity. Be specific about what input you need.
- Introduce a newcomers ritual. Don't do this for members that have just registered, do it when members reach an important milestone. Perhaps their 10th post or 5th like. Establish a barrier people cross to feel an accepted member of the community
- Use the community's tone of voice in content and copy.
- Promote the community through external channels. Refer to the community in literature. Seek out representatives for feedback and advice.
- Name areas of the community after members/activities/symbols specific to community members.
- Include in-jokes on internal content material.
- Make special mention of community milestones and achievements. Send out news releases and issue a congratulations on behalf of the organization.
The stronger the community identity, the more stable the community. Members wont leave for another platform. This identity will be distinct from the organization's, and this is a good thing.
Do you want a genuine community or a customer service channel?
Neither is bad, but each is unique. A genuine community effort involves bringing together a group of people who share a strong common interest and building relationships between them. All efforts are focused on building those relationships between members. An online customer service channel helps customers who have questions about your products/services.
You need to be clear about which you want.
It's confusing. Both communities and customer service channels share many of the same tools (forums, blogs, member profiles). Many of the successful brand communities right now are customer service channels.
The difference is relationships. If you don't want members to build relationships with each other, then you probably want a customer service channel. There is nothing wrong with a genuine community, nor a customer service channel. The problem arises when organizations aren't sure which they and want pick an approach between the two.