What is an online community?
An online community is a group of people who have developed relationships around a strong common interest.
Why do people join an online community?
People want to be connected, motivated and recognised. Communities offer all three. Most people join an online community because they have friends there, it offers something they want (like expertise/insider status) or it it offers an opportunity to get recognised. Perhaps by recruiters, journalists etc…
What are the different types of online communities?
Most online communities fall into 1 of 5 categories.
(1) Leisure communities – where people spend their leisure time. e.g. communities about celebrities, films and fishing.
(2) Relationship communities – where people are looking for dates, friends, networking etc.
(3) Cause communities – for people trying to fix something wrong in the world.
(4) Self-improvement communities – for people trying to improve something about themselves.
(5) Collaboration communities – where people collaborate through online tools to get their work done.
How do you start an online community?
At it’s simplest level, introduce yourself to 5 people. Then introduce those 5 people to each other. Start conversations and add more people – if you feel you need them. That’s the easiest way. But there are many more ways to start an online community.
What’s the easiest way to get more people to join my community?
Ask them to. If you’re not messaging and e-mailing people to join your community why should they? No mass mailings, no clever adverts, no direct mail. Just find the people you want to join your community and explain why you would like them to join.
Likewise, if you want members to invite their friends, ask them to invite their friends. Simple, but effective.
Why do most communities fail?
Most communities fail because the founders don’t have the community’s best interests at heart. They have an ulterior motive, like short-term profits.
Businesses that need strict ROI measurements rarely create thriving communities. The process of converting every customer to a community member is a long-term one. Short-term profit clashes with this.
They don’t offer a good enough reason to join, fail to put someone in charge or don’t understand the importance of working within a community.
How do I hire a great online community manager?
Find a great online community, hire the manager.
How much does it cost to build an online community?
Nothing. You can start a mailing list, Facebook group or Ning site for free. Once you start growing you can consider investing in a dedicated community website and perhaps a full-time community manager.
Once you start to grow you’ll probably want to spend more on the website, new features and possibly arranging events.
Which software do you use to start a community?
It’s usually best to try the community concept on a small scale. Start a Facebook book, a mailing list or a Ning site. Then if you need more personalisation, data portability or control you can pay between $15,000 to $70,000 for a more tailored community site.
Companies like Teligent, Jive Software offer a premium platform packed with analytics, hosting and excellent features/support for around the $15 to $40k per year mark. Jeremiah Oywang has a good overview of the top vendors in his wave report.
My personal preference is to test a community concept using something free, then quickly scale it using open-source software such as Drupal or Joomla. This lets you scale, adapt and grow quickly.
Which bloggers do you recommend I follow?
In no particular order:
Seth Godin, Peter Kim, Jeff Jarvis, Kevin Kelly, Martin Reed, John Kemble, Angela Connor, Matt Rhodes, Dawn Foster, Jake McKee, Connie Bensen, Jeremiah Owyang, Darren Rowse,Patrick O’Keefe, Bill Johnston, Tara Hunt, Maki and Mack Collier.