The Establishment Phase – Building Structures & Shifting Processes
Once a community has achieved critical mass, you enter the establishment phase.
There are some key things you need to do here:
1) Shift the amount of time gradually from micro to macro level interactions.
2) Begin preparing for a BIG online community.
3) Introducing sense of community elements.
Each of these deserves more attention.
Move to macro-level tasks
The tasks you focus on change. You move from micro interactions (initiating conversations, inviting members to join, and prompting people to participate), into a broader array of more macro-level activities (tasks that affect more members).
These macro tasks will include:
1) Writing content about the community.
2) Building relationships with key members.
3) Organizing regular events/activities.
4) Promoting the community in other channels where your target audience gathers.
Note the subtle shift from one phase to the next. Tasks should gradually change as the community develops. There should not be an abrupt change, but a steady shift as an increasing amount of activity is generated by members.
Build structures for growth
You should be preparing to have a big online community. Don't wait for there to be too much activity.
Begin putting processes in place now to scale the community. This means recruiting volunteers, identifying the and growing the sub-groups. Optimizing the platform. Embed traditions which are useful to the community (such as welcoming newcomers).
If you wait for the community to become so big it's overwhelming, then you'll only ever be reacting to it. You'll have low levels of participation.
Sense of community
You also begin to work on developing a sense of community. Be clear about the boundary of the community, use content and events to increase familiarity between members. Document the community history. Identify and try to take action on the issues your members care strongly about.
In short, you shouldn't be doing the same tasks you did last year. Your average day should be very different. Bridge the gap between small and big. Plan for growth and move to macro-levle tasks.
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