The makings of a successful online community
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been part of a community. From the time your parents force you into a tutu and drag you to your first ballet class when all you’re thinking about is rock music – you’re bred to be part of niche groups. And niche groups effectively spell – community. So, it’s no wonder that 30 odd years later, I find myself looking for ways to develop and grow our own BTCare community (yes, it’s my parent’s fault).
The more I explore and learn over the years about leading and managing communities, the more I realise that the success of any community lies in a few core principles that I thought I’d open up for discussion.
Whether it is your local ballet class to handmade toys, niches are core to any part of community success. The thought of finding like-minded souls you can connect with and share your passion and brainstorm with, is far too tempting for us. We need to establish connections and the way we seek to do it to use our interests, hobbies, likes to bridge the gap between us and other people. Communities without a cause or a niche will struggle to build those social connections.
Ever wonder about those people who come to a party, stand/sit in the corner, don’t engage in conversation and leave? Perhaps the thrill for those people is the ‘listening in’ but for me, if you want to truly experience and enjoy a party, you participate. This principle is no different when it comes to peer to peer communities. For any community to work, you need participators and contributors. Whether that’s clicking on a thread and accepting a solution or replying to a post, you need action to get your community going. You’ll always have some people contributing more that others (which is fine if it’s useful to the community) but if you have a lack of participation, conversation will soon die and members will drift away to where it’s happening. So if you’re part of a community, don’t forget, that giving is equally important as getting.
Think social media and you automatically think – sharing. You might think sharing’s pretty closely linked with participation but to me sharing is taking participation one step further. Getting my kids to participate in an activity is not that difficult, but getting them to share something that they believe is theirs alone is tough. I’d argue that sharing is one of the biggest contributing factors to a community’s success. Imagine where the likes of Twitter and Facebook would be without sharing? Sharing is about individuals who have knowledge about a topic, a product, news, etc having the generosity to open that out to the community. Sharers are your core givers and the reason people will come back to any community environment. If you spot a sharer in your community, hang on to them and don’t let go.
Ultimately, every community is made up of people. And people come with strings attached, with personalities! Every good community manager needs to be aware of and understand that managing multiple personalities is a tricky art. At the heart of this tricky art is instilling respect within the community. The start of ensuring people respect the core aspiration of a given network and of the people that participate is to have guidelines. Guidelines give your users the know how on what’s acceptable and what’s not within a given group. They are there, not for dictatorship but for instilling and maintaining basic respect. Use it to flag abuse, keep the respect or set the tone for a pleasant community environment.
Reward and recognition
Let’s face it. We all have a need within us to be recognised/appreciated/wanted – by family, friends, our networks, the wider public. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t be normal right? So, you won’t be surprised when I say, if there is no reward, recognition and/or appreciation, ranking within a peer to peer community – there’s no incentive. No incentive to drive up participation. No incentive for your community leaders to keep growing and keep giving. And here’s the way I see it. No incentive = giving without getting = community mishap. From ranking factors to early insight into product trials, recognition demonstrates that participation is valued. And who wouldn’t want to feel valued? Not me.
So that’s my core list of community success principles, I could go one forever but I thought, I’d save some for my next post and leave you some time to hop over to our BTCare community to see some of above in action. Enjoy.
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