Hi! My name is Evelien, Eef for short, and I’m Community Consultant at Open Social. In this role I help our customers on their journey to build and run successful communities using the Open Social platform. I will be providing you with information on community building and community management on the Open Social blog, just as I do for our Enterprise clients. To kick us off, this week we’ll explore some basic do’s and dont’s for community building.

DO: Be a thought leader in your community

The best way to build a vibrant community is to become the thought leader of your community. Not just on your platform itself, but outside of it as well. You want people to get to know you as the go-to person on the topic you’re trying to build your community around. 

Don’t worry, you don’t have to know everything, being able to connect the right people to one another will go a long in becoming the thought leader in your field. 

From 'Using Thought Leadership to Grow' by Forbes Insights.
Forbes Insights explains how to think about thought leadership on a strategic level within your organization. (full PDF download).

DON’T: Assume things

When you assume things, you make an ass out of you and me. The wonderful thing about the internet is: why assume things, when you can test them instead?

When you start your community, write down all your ideas about the kind of content that will drive engagement for your community. See if you can group them together based on types of content or engagement. For example, if you think controversy will really drive the type of engagement you are looking for, cluster the content ideas for ‘controversial content’ in a group. Now, move your items into your content calendar (Hubspot offers excellent free templates) so you can test the different groups in one block of time and see which group works best for your purposes. Alternatively, Feverbee recommends you try out content ideas on pages or groups that are visited by only a small subsection of the community to see how they land. You can use the Open Social Analytics tool to keep track of performance. 

DO: Create original content

Not only is it bad for SEO to copy content from others, if you get caught copying content as your own or without proper accreditation you can get a very bad reputation within the wider community where you are trying to carve out your own corner. 

Creating original content is hard, but practice makes perfect and the more original content you create the better you will get at it. Of course, you can always quote others and refer to them with a link, giving proper accreditation while improving your standing in the wider community at the same time!

Another way is to use original competitions or quizzes to increase engagement. Below is a example how we engage the followers of Open Social on Twitter, similar things can be done within your own community.

DON’T: Ignore negative feedback

We know you’re working hard on your community, so negative feedback can be annoying. Keep in mind: people critique the things they care about, so generally most negative feedback will come from people who want your community to succeed as much as you do. Simultaneously some complaints are also hard to respond to. Remember that first and foremost people who complain want to be heard. Acknowledge their critique, thank them for their feedback and say you’ll look into it. 

Be sure to give the person or people who complained feedback if you decide to make some changes based on their negative feedback and credit them publicly for helping you make improvements to your community! Of course, for more controversial complaints, you can always choose to engage with the person or people in question more privately, via direct message or email. Just make sure you let the rest of the community know you are taking this ‘off-site’ when you do. 

DO: Set up a FAQ

It’s a great idea to set up an FAQ which includes some of the house rules for your community. You can refer new members to this documentation when they sign up or refer existing users to it when they cross boundaries you may have set for your community. 

A community FAQ should generally include: what the community is about, who the community is for, contact information, house rules. To make it more personable, if you are managing the community with a number of people, you could also list the team behind the community here. 

For example let's look at TechSoup. TechSoup helps civil society organizations to acquire the right technology solutions. Their global network reaches 851,000 organizations. They have a short and to the point FAQ explaining a few ground rules for their forums, blogs and webinars.

DON’T: Give up 

Community building is hard. It can take over a year for a community to move from the first stage of community building, where the community managers create most of the content and have to really push to get people to engage, to the second, where the community almost runs itself. 

So keep calm and carry on learning, testing, creating and  listening to your users to get to that next level! 

Community building is hard and can take years. Don't give up!
Community building is hard and can take years. Don't give up!

Are you a community manager? Did we miss anything? Share tips and tricks that got your community off to a great start in the comments!

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