11 Processes For Scaling Online Communities

May 9, 2011Comments Off

Some community managers are overwhelmed. They don't have enough time to do all the work. They respond to every e-mail, check every forum post, repurpose news from web sources, maintain the platform, initiate discussions and resolve disputes. 

This is fine, necessary, work. However, it doesn't scale. As your community grows you will become overwhelmed. One approach to handling this is to prioritise your work. Focus on the important stuff. A better approach is to put processes in place which scale.

These processes are both technical, administrative and personnel-orientated. These include:

  1. Recruit, train, manage and motivate volunteers. Volunteers who enjoying supporting their community are the best way to scale a community.
  2. Rewriting guidelines if they are violated too frequently. Make the guidelines more readable and welcoming. Let members make suggestions. Adapt them to the needs and desires of the community. 
  3. Encourage members to submit their own news. Let some volunteers edit and approve news posts. Here's a tip, make sure members receive a prominent by-line in the news article. 
  4. Setup a community e-mail address which several volunteers can access and reply to. Let it be clear who replied to which e-mail and how it was resolved. A simple folder system can resolve this. 
  5. Teach volunteers to recruit and train other volunteers. The hardest part, also the most scalable. Have a training programme that will teach volunteers to recruit others (then find a volunteer to teach the programme)
  6. Ensure members can identify and remove bad posts. Make technological changes that allow posts with a certain number of 'flags' to be temporarily postponed pending a review by an admin.
  7. Automate members inviting their friends. When members reach a milestone level of contributions, send them a congratulations. Advice them of an easy way to invite others to join. Make this a simple 2-click process.
  8. Let members apply to run various forum categories and take responsibility for certain areas of discussion within their expertise on the community.
  9. Allow members to create their own groups, initiate events, start live-discussions with scheduled VIPs they have persuaded to participate.
  10. Start a tradition of regulars welcoming newcomers. When newcomers join, make it a tradition for regular members to find and welcome them. 
  11. Write detailed guidelines for doing your job. For example, write guidelines on handling disputes. 

The role of a community manager should be evolving from solely handling the immediate day to day work towards developing and managing processes which allow the community to scale and develop. 

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