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How To Write A Practical Online Community Plan

Richard Millington
Richard Millington

Founder of FeverBee

Most of the community plans I come across usually fall somewhere between impractical and irrelevant.

Your community plan (not strategy) should be specific and detailed. It should be a step by step set of actions you can use to develop your online community.

Nearly all community plans would be much better if they included the following elements:

  1. Who is responsible for managing the community. One person who has ultimate authority for managing your online community. Pick this person before you launch. What are the limits of their authority. What can/can’t they do without you? What are their responsibilities and deliverables?
  2. The first people that you’re going to approach. This means you have already built up a clear target audience profile. You know their demographics, habits and attitudes. You should have a list of people, you’re just picking the best 20 to 50 to join right now. Everyone else can wait until the community is going.
  3. How you are going to reach them. If you don’t know how to reach them, the people themselves is rather a moot point. You should know how to contact them. What medium are they most receptive to?
  4. What you’re going to tell them. Based upon your research, you should know what you’re going to tell a member that will get them to join. This usually includes appeals to get more fame, money or power under the guise of doing good. You should also think about something just as important, why will the people you approach listen to you?
  5. How you will convert newcomers into regulars. What will members do in your community for the first few weeks? You need a clear process that will take a newcomer to the community past the usual 3-week mark into a regular. This means a combination of constant prods asking for opinions/recommendations etc.
  6. What will happen in your community. You need both a short and long-term version of this. How will you bond them into a group? What is their purpose for being there? What are the set of activities you’re planning in the community for the first 6 months.
  7. How you will grow the community. Will you continue to use direct invites? Will you use referrals? If so what will you do to gain those referrals? Will you go for promotion/mentions in top media outlets. If so, what will you tell them to get those mentions?
  8. What platform you will use. Hot topic, but what platform will you use for your community (should be very clear about why). The default should be forums/mailing list/newsgroups until you outgrow it.
  9. What content you will produce. You should have a clear content calendar planned out, with responsibilities, for the first 6 weeks and refresh it at the beginning of every month. Keep it relevant and frequent.
  10. What you are measuring. What metrics matter to you? This should also include how you will react to these metrics. How will these metrics change your actions?

Your plan must be specific. It should be clear who is responsible for what and by which date. It should show much time these activities are expected to take and how much each should cost.

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