How to build better online communities

Posted on April 27, 2011


build_better_online_communitiesSocial media is all about community. Even though most of us are glued to our iPhones and Blackberries, we are doing this so that we can be connected to other people. I say, “what about looking up from these devices and having a face-to-face conversation instead?” Alas, that’s a topic for another blog post. This post is about how to build better online communities.

Anne Johnson, a seasoned association management and marketing executive, gave a talk at Boston BarCamp 6 on “Engaging and Enchanting Your Community.”

To build and maintain a dynamic online user community, here are some things to keep in mind.

1. What is the community expecting?
Don’t assume you know the answer to this. There may be untapped needs in the community.

2. What can you do to do surprise and delight the community members?
Be creative on what you do.

3. Continually ask the community for ideas and feedback.
Ask in different ways. Ask open ended questions.

4. Speak in the language of the community.
If the online community is informal, make sure your communications are that way.

5. Make sure your messaging is very clear.
Ask for feedback from community members and potential community members. The message may be clear to you, but not to others.

6. Be consistent in your messaging.
This will help build trust.

7. Take time to celebrate community successes.
For example, let the community know when you’ve reached a certain number of members.

8. Remind community members how important they are to you.
A heartfelt thank you can go a long way.

9. Know how your community uses social media.
For example, if they’re not really on Twitter, don’t spend a lot of time putting out Twitter messages.

And, my tip for creating a great online community:

10. Make it more than online.
There’s nothing like face-to-face meetings to solidify bonds and to create community. If that’s not possible, consider doing webinars so that community members can interact in a different way.

What suggestions do you have for builiding strong online communities?

Photo courtesy of Niall Kennedy’s Flickr Photostream under Creative Commons Licensing.