Hi! My name is Evelien, Eef for short, and I’m the Community Consultant at Open Social. I help our customers on their journey to build and run successful communities using the Open Social platform. I will provide you with information about community building and community management on the Open Social blog, just as I do for our Enterprise clients. To kick us off, we’ll explore some basic Dos 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. And 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 for the topic that you’re building your community around.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to know everything; being able to connect the right people to one another will already go a long way in becoming the thought leader in your field.
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 the 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, but if you get caught copying content as your own or without proper accreditation you can get a very bad reputation within the wider online community.
Creating original content is hard, but practice makes perfect. 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 an example of 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 in 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 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 feedback to the person or people who complained 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 private 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 an FAQ
It’s a great idea to set up an FAQ that 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 the boundaries you have set for your community.
A community FAQ should generally include: what the community is about, who the community is for, contact information, and 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.
As an 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!
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!