A List of Things A Community Builder Does

September 22, 2008Comments Off on A List of Things A Community Builder Does

It's a job that didn't exist a decade ago, and we're still a little vague on the specifics. Everyone does it differently. Here are some of the things I think a community builder does.

  • Planning. First the client tells you what they want to achieve. Then you write out a plan for getting there. The plan should go into detail about who you want to reach, what you're going to tell them, what the technical aspects are likely to be and how much it's going to cost. This plan should hopefully include elements of the following.
  • Profiling. Like most jobs you'll need to research and profile the people you want to reach. What social media tools do they use? What language/style/tone they do they use? This leads into the next two points.
  • Finding The First 10 People. With or without your clients existing contacts, you should find the first 10 people, approach them and build a relationship with them before the community is launched. These people become something of a focus group for the community. So you usually need to research the first ten people, put together a decent e-mail and begin conversations with them before the community is live.
  • Copywriting. Once the engineers have done their thing, it's likely you need to add some copy. This might be website copy. Use your profiling to know what tone to strike.
  • Talks To Most Members Individually. Unless your community is huge (100,000+) you should be able to communicate with every member individually at some point. E-mail five a day, welcome new members. Why not have a welcome list of new members? Ask them a few questions, make everyone feel welcomed.
  • Adding the Next 0. Now you need to reach out to more people you want to join. If it's an open group you want people who are likely to spread the word and invite others to join. If it's a closed group you want important people that will make this a valuable and attractive community to join.
  • Editorial Role. Content is important. You probably need to write the first blog posts. The best content is a mixture of (relevant!) news about the client, and throwing the spotlight of the community. Maybe interview existing members, invite guest posts etc.
  • Invites Contributors. A major objective is usually to get the community to run itself. For this you need to contributors. So a lot of time is spent talking to community members individually and finding which would like to contribute.
  • Creates Structure. Linked to contributors is the structure of how this community will run itself. At iGUK we built a management committee, elected by members, every year. So create roles of significance that fuel, not stifle, the community.
  • Tightens the group. A major goal of the community builder is to reduce the gap between members, both mentally and often literally. So arranging events works well here. Maybe it's a 24 hour idea blitz, or a meet up in a coffee house. Maybe it's just Skype chats with a special guest. A community builder is part events-organiser.
  • Promotes the community. Once you've got the community to a good state, it's usually time to have a 'launch'. Only it's not a launch, it's an outreach campaign to reach people who think your community is perfect for themselves and their followers. This provokes the next point.
  • Becomes the community. A little big-headed this one. But the best thing to do is become as big apart of the community as possible. This means all the usual blogging tactics. Commenting on other blogs, e-mailing ideas to popular figures, meeting members in person. This helps many times over when you need to reach out to key people for promotion.
  • Plants seeds and creates momentum. Point out things that can be done and support anyone that steps up to achieve them. Share stories about people that are doing amazing things. Highlight the best examples, ignore the worst. Create a positive environment for people that want to use the benefits of the community to achieve something.
  • Let others take over. At some point people are going to come along and take over the community. Don't fight them, let them. Even ask for people to take over if you need to. Or invite the community to nominate someone to take over.
  • Develops a participation-reward ladder. The people that participate the most are the ones that get extra rewards. They get invited to meet with the CEO, or given tickets to attend games. Maybe their advice is the first sought for new products, or they get first look. The more people participate, the greater their rewards. String this ladder out as far as possible. Look to MMORPGs for inspiration, WoW has over 60 levels – thousands of players are committed to reaching the highest levels.
  • PR. Like outreach, but to more traditional media. Once the community has reached a significant size, it's time to target the big media outlets and add the final 00s. Forget press releases, focus on getting individual journalists to join and enjoy your community, then write up their experiences.
  • Quit. Once the community is at a self-managing stage, quit. Focus on building a new community for the company, or convincing the company to target it's efforts to it's community.

There is more than this, a lot more. For starter's this is missing the client-side work. Establishing expectations. Persuading clients to dedicate resources and attention to the community, and much more. If you had more ideas of what a community builder does, please add them. 

Update: Jess, the brilliant community manager of Triiibes, adds:

  • Resolving Disputes. Not everyone is going to get along. You need to be a great moderator of resolving disputes.
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