Tips on building and fostering online communities
It seems that “building community” is back in vogue and once again on every one’s lips…Building community is now at the forefront of every marketing strategy and outreach effort…
At Webgrrls, since 1995, we have been building and maintaining our community of professional women all with the goal to help them to strive for and achieve success, however they define it…it is not just about building community, but, about seeding and fostering a relationship…it is not just the community, it is the conversation… the interaction.
It is not just a one-way or even two-way conversation either. It is an omni-directional conversation. You might seed the conversation but then the conversation takes on a life of it’s own within the community and having your conversation extend to other communities should be the goal.
A lot of companies are concerned about controlling the message but they are trying to control things that they can’t control anyway to a great degree…people talk…that is just the way it goes.
Companies will have to realize the power and speed of “word of mouth” and that the empowerment of your users, encouraging them to have a voice and to share it, is a winning strategy…and talk about cost effective…it is free marketing.
Conversations build awareness…awareness builds trust and trust makes for loyalty and loyalty increases participation…or if you are selling a product, sales.
Below are some tips to help you build and foster your communities:
Seed the Conversation
When you are starting your community, you will have to initiate the conversation…just like in a coffee shop, if you have identified your target, someone has to start talking or you will never have a conversation and you will never build the relationship and you will never achieve your goal. (Kidding). Seeding the conversation is am important start and will allow you to guide the conversation.
When someone posts a comment they are looking for a response from the community. Allow the poster to get an email when someone responds to their comments and they will come back to further the conversation. This will create the interaction that you are after.
Build in a Post and Commenter Rating System
Allow users to rate a post…was it helpful? relevant? informative? etc.
this is a great way to help ensure that the posts are of higher quality.
Have a Top Ten Commenters. The leaders in the community will appreciate the recognition and prominence.
To Moderate or Not to Moderate?
Over moderating your community can foster ill-will but if you have rules and are consistent with the enforcement of them, your community will appreciate it. If you are moderating, then you have to make sure that the posting time to publishing time it short.
Do you post Negative Comments or Flames?
Posting all comments shows that you have nothing to hide…that said, you still need to take a strategic approach to managing the conversation. If the conversation becomes derogatory toward any one specific person or the issue is just a rant for the sake of ranting…meaning that the post doesn’t further the conversation or is not beneficial to the discourse, in any way, then consider not approving the post. You do want to be willing to take on real issues but not at the expense of everyone else in the community or at the expense of your company.
Have a Published Posting Policy
If you are going to moderate your community, moderate it consistently. Have posting rules easily accessible and specify what is acceptable and what is not acceptable within your community.
Reach Out to Other Communities
One of the most effective ways to drive people to your site is by participating in other online communities. Finding the other online places that your users/target audience gathers and taking a leading role in those communities gives you prominence in that community, creating the relationship that will lend you the opportunity to refer them to your site.
“If you build it…they will come”, never did work whether talking about Website or Communities…if you don’t foster the relationships within the community you will not have one for long…they will not stay with you.
Anita Cambell has a great article in INC Magazine where she talks about life cycle of communities and the benefits for small businesses to build communities.