Community Management Tips: How To Set Up Public and Private Communities
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Community Management Tips: How To Set Up Public and Private Communities



Discover how to build a successful community by creating a space where passionate, like-minded individuals can gather to connect and discuss relevant topics.

Discover how to build a successful community by creating a space where passionate, like-minded individuals can gather to connect and discuss relevant topics.



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Community Management Tips: How To Set Up Public and Private Communities Community Management Tips: How To Set Up Public and Private Communities Document Transcript

  • Discover how to build a successful community by creating a space where passionate, like-minded individuals can gather to connect and discuss relevant topics. Community Management Tips Setting up your Community: Should it be Public or Private?
  • Community Management Tips Setting up your Community: Should it be Public or Private? HootSuite Media Inc. Public and Private Communities | 2 Creating a space where passionate, like-minded individuals can gather to connect and discuss relevant topics is essential to building a successful community. An important decision any community manager has to make when launching a new community is whether that space should be public or private. There are benefits to both types of communities. You’ll find that each type will appeal to a unique audience, and when choosing which community is right for your purposes it’s important to determine who you want to reach. This guide will provide tips on setting up a space that fits both you and your community’s needs. Use these tips as a starting point from which you can adapt and iterate to fit the needs of your business, or create a community that is based around a shared interest. 1. Form a Plan 2. Make a Choice 3. Execute your Plan
  • HootSuite Media Inc. Public and Private Communities | 3 Before you dive into setting up your community, it is important to first develop a strategy that fits your business goals. Having a solid foundation in place before you begin will serve you well in the long run. Approaching community building with a plan means you can tailor your techniques for success. When developing your strategy, there are a number of questions you’ll need to answer. Size: What is the size of your business? The general rule is that the growth of your community will be proportional to your business size. For instance, if you’re a small business, chances are your community will take some time to grow. Be patient and set realistic goals about the breadth and depth of your community. Make sure whoever is building the community has a firm grasp on the size of the business before setting it up. Consider the bandwidth of the team as well. The larger the team is, the quicker the growth can be. We recommend starting small and scaling over time. Set benchmarks for growth so that you know you’re making progress but can see that there’s still work to be done. Audience: Who are you trying to reach? As nice as it would be to invite every individual that interacts with your brand to the community, it’s not always feasible. Brainstorm the persona of your community members: who are you targeting? Who does your brand appeal to? Are there language barriers? What are your audience care-abouts? What’s in it for the audience? Answering questions like these will give you a good profile of who you want to reach with your community, and help you better articulate the why behind your choice. Branding: What is the tone of your brand? This question is crucial in setting up a community, be it private or public. Every brand has a unique tone, and you want that tone to be consistent in your all your communications. Do you want your messages to be serious and measured, or is your business more inclined to the tongue-in-cheek style of communications? Evaluate the benefits of having a more approachable tone in the communities to encourage participation and create authenticity. Find the voice that works for you and get a good grasp on how you’ll use it to communicate with your community. #HootTip: Brainstorm what you want the tone of the community to be by ‘mind mapping’ relevant keywords with stakeholders before you set it up. “Having a plan is the most important thing you can do as a community manager. Take your time and do your research when thinking about what you want your community to look like.” - Marina Tostes Community Coordinator Latin America @maritostes87 1. Form a Plan
  • HootSuite Media Inc. Public and Private Communities | 4 Engaging with fans of your business or product over a shared interest on social media is a surefire way to increase awareness. However, a community is only as effective as its leaders. Community managers can take engaging with fans one step further by curating relevant content, facilitating discussion of ideas and topics, and helping to build relationships within shared community spaces. Since communities are founded on interactions, they’re a great opportunity for brands to empower audience members to take the lead and have a direct voice with brand subject matter experts (SMEs), share innovative ideas and provide valuable feedback for the organization. Public Communities: A public community is where you can connect with your customers who have interacted with your brand at any point in time, increase brand awareness and find out what the careabouts of your customers are. Transparency is at the heart of public communities. They are a fantastic way to engage with anyone who is talking about your brand or product. You are more likely to discover fans for your community when you set it up publicly, and by setting up a public community you are giving them an easy way to find you. Public communities also give your customers an opportunity to get in touch with the brand - something that is becoming more and more valuable in the “Human to Human” era of marketing and customer support. Although, you’ll have to be prepared for some negativity. While it would be nice to think every discussion topic in your community will be positive, it’s unlikely to be the case. With that said, public communities are a great place for turning detractors into advocates. Frustrated individuals can turn into the biggest advocates for your community with the right type and amount of interaction. Keep in mind that public communities are more exposed due to the fact that they are outward facing. Everyone from your competitors, to your boss, to your peers can see what your community is talking about. The members of your community should be aware that their communications are public: this is part of the appeal of speaking in an open online space. “Public communities are about breadth. Private communities are about depth. We could talk for hours on the differences but when it comes down to it, that’s the main one.” - Lotta Ygartua Community Manager, APAC @kinalotta Make a Choice
  • HootSuite Media Inc. Public and Private Communities | 5 Private Communities: A private community is an exclusive space, typically invite-only or log in based where peers discuss ideas, content, and resources related to the community topic. Private communities offer another avenue of value because they are accessible only to a select group of avid fans or loyal customers. Strong connections are built between those who are passionate about the community. You can bring in experts for the audience to engage with which will enhance their personal profile and reputation as well. There are many ways to inspire action among private community members. Community managers are often charged with funneling feedback to the business. A private community is a great place to connect with those who really know your brand, since members are likely already an active brand supporter. Members contribute because they have a strong interest in your brand, product and the community you are providing. You can leverage their contributions to tailor your business strategies accordingly. The Powerful Combination: Don’t overextend yourself in the early days - start with the type of community that fits your business needs. If that’s public, when you start to notice your community is growing at a consistent rate and there are members that are far more active than others, it’s a good time to start thinking about offering them an area for private, targeted discussions. If you start with a private community and you’re finding that it’s starting to run itself, perhaps you want to expand your reach to the public. You’ll then be able to reach the public to build broader awareness to larger audiences while fostering deeper customer relationships in the private community. Make a Choice
  • HootSuite Media Inc. Public and Private Communities | 6 When you’ve devised a strategy of what the goal is for your community and how you’ll set it up, it’s time for the fun to start. There are three main steps to setting up a community and you can tailor them to both public and private spaces. Choose a Platform: The most important factor in deciding what platform to use is determining where your audience likes to hang out. People are comfortable in a familiar space. You don’t want to source potential community members and then tell them to move away from what they know. Here are some of the major platforms and the benefits they offer: Twitter Setting up a public community on Twitter is a great place to start because you can tap into ongoing conversations easily. Set up search streams in HootSuite and hop into the conversation. Private communities on Twitter are a little more difficult. If this is your platform of choice, start a private account where you approve who follows you. That way, you can choose who sees the content in your community. You might want to proceed with caution if setting up a private community on Twitter. This could lead to a negative perception towards the brand as you’re leaving audience members excluded in a mostly public channel. Remember that once you tweet something, it can never truly be deleted (see the recent US Airways example). Also, any of your approved followers can retweet to their followers, negating the security measure of protecting your tweets. Facebook Facebook is familiar and used widely used. There’s a personal touch to Facebook that might serve you and your community well. It’s easy to share photos, comment on posts, and show other people that you’re engaging with their content by liking it. It offers the ability to make a public or private community through Facebook groups, Pages, or various privacy settings. When using Facebook for a community effort, it’s important to consider audiences and the ways the brand will engage with them. To avoid this channel becoming a wall of broadcasting or advertising, look for ways to engage with the audience using a mixture of business focussed and fun, interactive communication methods. “I think it’s better to start with one or two platforms and scale as necessary. Too often community managers start off super keen and set up communities on every platform - it’s really hard to manage that effectively at the beginning.” - Connor Meakin Community Manager, North America @connormeaks 3. Execute your Plan
  • HootSuite Media Inc. Public and Private Communities | 7 LinkedIn LinkedIn is where professionals gather to talk about common interests. It’s an easy platform to moderate and already has a wealth of content on it. Make sure you define the focus of the group upfront to attract the right audiences and to show the value in participating. You can easily target certain industries on LinkedIn, so it’s a good choice when setting up a private community. LinkedIn is arguably the most professional social networking platform. While it is the best channel to engage with business professionals already using the platform, often they are distracted with other ‘noise’ and need as much recruitment and engagement efforts as other channels. Make your community stand out from the crowd by offering unique, engaging content and insights. #HootTip: Influencers from all industries write extremely valuable thought leadership pieces on LinkedIn that can be shared with your community. Our CEO, Ryan Holmes, is a big fan of the platform. Follow along with Ryan’s insights here. Google+ Google+ is on the rise. At HootSuite we use it for our Ambassador communities, which are private spaces for our Ambassadors to connect with their global peers, share tips and tricks, and get special content and training. With it comes the strength of the Google name and the fact that most people are already set up on it, since a Google+ Profile is created for you when you sign up for a Gmail account. Even though Google+ has a lot of users, a good portion may not know how to use it. Whenever someone makes a new Google account, a Google+ Profile is automatically created. This means there is a lot of accounts out there but not as many are using it to its full potential. Ask yourself if your target audience hangs out on Google+. If they do, it’s a great place to host a community. #HootTip: We’ve been noticing that Google+ is particularly strong in Europe. 3. Execute your Plan
  • HootSuite Media Inc. Public and Private Communities | 8 Gain a Following There are a few methods you can use to build your community. A good place to start is by leveraging resources at your disposal such as those that subscribe to your email marketing, or use existing customer lists to contact potential community members. If you’re setting up a private community, reach out to those who mention your brand frequently and see if they’re interested in joining. We recommend setting up search streams in HootSuite to do this, but there are a variety of social listening tools available. To take that one step further, you can set up lists of people you’d like to target to bring into your community. Keep up with what they’re interested in on social media and jump in when appropriate to build a relationship. Be Genuine Keep your community engaged by responding with a human voice. Whether your community is public or private, make sure you are listening to feedback and respond accordingly. Your community will appreciate a brand that acknowledges all communication, good or bad. A simple response, even if it’s saying thanks for the comment, will serve you well in the long run and contribute to the growth of your community. Interested in hearing more? Follow @HootClub for more updates on community management. 3. Execute your Plan
  • HootSuite Media Inc. Public and Private Communities | 9 Want more Community Tips? Find them every month on or follow @HootClub on Twitter for updates. @hootclub /hootsuite /company/hootsuite /+hootsuite