The Small, Simple, Processes Which Make The Biggest Difference To An Online Community

August 15, 2011 Comments Off

Singular actions have very little long-term impact upon a community.

A singular action rarely leads to huge growth or a surge in activity (and if it did, it's a temporary, fleeting, success at a big cost). The success of a community depends upon establishing good processes and sticking to those processes. 

There are many small processes which can make a huge difference within a community. These include:

  • Build relationships with members. This is often agreed as vital, but rarely embraced as a process. Spend time every day interacting 5 – 10 members. Ask them questions, find ways to help them, solicit their opinions, share your own aspirations for the community with them. Gradually convert them into active volunteers for the community – or at least people with whom you can depend upon to make things happen within the community.
  • Initiate and stimulate active discussions. Every day or two initiate a discussion which people can participate in. Prompt individuals within the community by direct message to participate in the discussion. Send a note of admiration to individuals who make a notable contribution. This means every day there will be an interesting discussion taking place in the community. 
  • Ensure every discussion receives a reply within 24 hours. If members see unanswered discussion in the community, it increases the perceived social risk that their own discussion thread will receive little to no response. Members can avoid that by not initiating a discussion. It's therefore essential that every discussion receives a response in 24 hours (12 hours is better). You can respond yourself or contact other members to post their thoughts/opinions. 
  • Analyze and use data. Data is your biggest weapon. Spend time every week mastering your data. Ensure you're constantly identifying where members are dropping out of the community and making social and technical changes to optimize this process. Identify the most and least popular types of content. Kill the weak content and repeat the popular stuff.
  • Invite individuals to join the community. This process guarantees a regular source of new members, increases your ability to define the reason for people to join the community and encourages you to initiate activities which are worth inviting people to join the community to participate in.
  • Create regular content series. Create a content calendar with regular series of articles (interviews with members, opinion columns, exclusive news etc…). Make the content about the community (not it's topic). Create most of the content a week in advance. Over time you will have an unmissable local news channel which sets the agenda and social structure for the community.
  • Plan for future events/activities. Spend time every week planning upcoming events and activities. Reach out to VIPs for guest interviews. Talk to brands about hosting a competition to win their products. Arrange for an exclusive sneak-preview to the community. Work on your offline meetups. 
  • Integrating. Introduce more employees to the community. Highlight the contributions of your staff to the community. Get other staff to answer questions. Grow the base of support for the community within the company. 

These are all small, simple processes, which over the long time will have a huge impact upon the community. However, they must become routine for them to work.

The problem isn't knowing the processes, but applying them. You need to set aside time for them. You need to arrange your meetings and other activities around them. You need to hold yourself (and others) responsible for undertaking them every week.

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