We often find that organizations launching their first online communities on Open Social have a lot of questions about community building. So we put together a quick list of 6 community building dos and don’ts to keep in mind – whether you already have a community or are starting your first one.
1. 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.
2. Don’t: Assume things
When you assume things, you run the risk of making mistakes or alienating your members. You might think you know what is best for your community and members, but can you be sure?
A great thing about online communities is that you can test things. Want to know if your events are driving engagement? You can see how many people sign up, attend, stay to the end and engage with the topic after the event is finished. Want to know if certain blog post topics are successful? Simply use your Open Social Analytics tool to keep track of content performance.
You can also directly ask your members what they would like to see, or what kind of content they are most interested in. You can do this as a poll, discussion thread or survey.
Why guess what your members would like, when you can just ask them or measure the actual engagement?
3. Do: Create original content
Don’t underestimate how important regular content updates are to making your community feel active and inviting. Make sure to post something at least two or three times a week at regular intervals.
But creating original content can be challenging and time-consuming, especially if writing is not your expertise. But the more original content you create, the more interested and engaged your members will be. Of course, you don’t have to write captivating blog posts! Content can come in all forms and formats: online events, ideation challenges, discussion topics, polls, quizzes and more.
Another way to make sure there is always something new and interesting on the platform is to encourage your members to also create content of their own. Ask members to write guest blog posts on topics they are experts on or host online webinars.
Find all sorts of content ideas in our 31 Community Engagement Ideas ebook:
4. 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.
To learn more about this read: The Importance of Feedback
5. Do: Create a good onboarding process
Getting new members is great, but keeping them is better! The last thing you want is to see new members drop off after a month or two. How do you prevent this from happening? You onboard them in a way that makes them feel instantly part of the community.
Here are a few onboarding tactics you can use:
- Create a community guide & FAQ page.
- Create a welcome video that includes a tour of the community platform.
- Create starter activities for new members, such as introducing themselves to the community with a post.
- Create a mentorship program where new members are paired with established members.
- Create a ‘newbies’ group where new members get to connect with one another.
- Create an online onboarding course for new members through which they can get acquainted with the community, the platform or the organization itself (Open Social users can do this with the Courses extension).
To learn more about this read: 5 Best Practices Onboarding Your Community Members
6. 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 members to get to that next level!
We hope these 6 online community building dos and don’ts will serve you well. If you want more in-depth guidance, you can download our free 10 Steps For Your First Year of Community Building guide to learn:
1. Why and how you should adjust the look and feel of your online community
2. Why and how you should run a Beta community
3. Things to consider regarding community moderation
4. Why and how you can set up a content calendar
5. Tips and tricks to increase engagement in the first year of your community
6. How you can use social media to find new users and boost your community
7. How you can use our notifications to increase engagement
8. How to source co-community managers from within your community
9. The benefits of on- and offline meetups to solidify your community
10. How to use the Open Social Analytics suite to improve your strategy