Building online communities 101


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The basics and best practices of how to build, grow and nurture online communities

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Building online communities 101

  1. 1. Building Online Communities 101 Javed Mohammed Community Manager & Architect
  2. 2. Overview • What’s an online community? • How to start them, engage them? • How to maintain them? • Other best practices
  3. 3. What’s an online community? • There are a lot of definitions out there • Simply put “It’s a bunch of people with something in common (an interest or place) who share, organize or interact online, based on common protocols” that’s my definition. • Now let’s break it down
  4. 4. “It’s a bunch of people” • Know your target audience and encourage them to over time to share their profiles. • Who are they • What are they interested in • What makes them tick • How are you going to reach them • Why should they care or get involved • Who are the natural subject matter experts • Who are the organic leaders
  5. 5. “with something in common” • What are you/they trying to accomplish? i.e. What’s the goal? • How will building an online community satisfy this goal? • What is success?
  6. 6. “an interest or place” • Interest: personal or professional with a clear purpose • Place: Home, work, or community related • Online does not exclude offline, it is a way to gather
  7. 7. “who share, organize or interact online,” • What kind of sharing? • Discussions, Blogs, Documents, Ideas, Videos, Polls • What kind of organizing? • Peer-to peer, You-your customers, You-your prospects, You-your employees, partners, You-rest of the world. • What kind of interaction? • Real time or Asynchronous • Persistent or Transient • What kind of Access/security? • Public or Private • Registered or unregistered • Read/Write • Granularity of permissions • What kind of timeframe? • Simple & fast to setup or More ways to engage (eg Blog, discussion, polls,…) • How many groups/forums/categories? • How much integration, customization?
  8. 8. “based on common protocols” • What are the rules that community plays by? • Respect, Confidentiality, Privacy, Transparency, Time, Share, Forgiving and No solicitation, Flaming, etc. • Make them simple, clear, flexible, enforceable • How are they communicated? • Terms of Use, Training, email • How will rules be enforced? • Peer tracking, warning, removal from community
  9. 9. Types of community • At elemental level Communities allow you to Share, Teach, Discuss, Entertain • Fundamentally there are 2 types of online community 1. Community of Interest (common interest or passion) 2. Community of Purpose (same objective or process to reach shared goal) • There are many ways to categorize communities. Some of the most popular ones are listed in the Appendix
  10. 10. Online communities Relationships Common Interests Social networks start with relationships and then build on common interests Relationships Common Interests A Online community starts with people who have common interests and with time build relationships.
  11. 11. Connecting the dots • To understand community you have to understand relationships • And how they tie together • As well as their diversity
  12. 12. Relationships • There are many scientific details about what makes relationships. • At a basic level relationships are formed over: • Frequency (F) • Time (T) • Emotions (E) • Trust (T) • X Factor • Relationship = F*T*E*T*X • Note: X Factor are the things are difficult to quantify like chemistry between people, nuance, and other subtleties, that help enable relationships like value, being earned, empowering, having fun.
  13. 13. Weak ties Strong ties Weak vs Strong ties • Weak ties are more effective in certain social situations eg job-hunting, match-making as they benefit from numbers and diversity • Strong ties are more effective in the depth and long term sustainability of the relationship. the value is in the relationship. • As relationships build, some weak ties can become strong
  14. 14. 90-9-1 rule • In online communities there is a diverse population • 90 % Lurkers • 9% Contributors (eg comment, vote, some content) • 1% Creators (generating most of content and conversations)
  15. 15. Complexity of markets • For High complexity markets (eg Enterprise Software), decision making • is complex, takes time and is costly. High value in customers and prospects • Having peer to peer conversation • Built on relevance (core) have to work on trust.
  16. 16. How to start and engage an online community • Technology Platforms for building online Communities • User Groups/Forums/listservs (Fast to setup, simple, free?) • Enterprise Software Online communities (eg Jive, Lithium, Socious), may include the following or can be standalong • Blogs (eg Wordpress), Microblogs (Twitter, Tumblr) • Webcasts • Webinars • Podcasts • Email & Newsletters • Wikis (eg Wikipedia, WikiHow) • Groups: eg Facebook Page/group, Yahoo Groups, Google Groups • Social bookmarking sites
  17. 17. Why do people join communities? • It gives them a sense of belonging • It allows them to share expertise or experiences • It allows them to meet people beyond geographical bounds • It allows them to learn new skills • It is just fun or makes them feel good • They want to promote something or someone • They know things others don’t and they can demonstrate their knowledge or leadership,…
  18. 18. How to start and engage an online community • Allow users to post content easily. This includes questions, answers, comments, voting • When a community becomes too large or diverse or looses focus break them down by category, or into smaller communities. • “Good” discussions involve threads where a post gets a comment and the conversation gets interested parties involved. • Engagement results from questions, responses, polls • Use Gamification; Points, Badges, Leaderboard • Hire a Community Manager
  19. 19. Role of Community Manager • Welcome newcomers • Provide topics for discussion • Moderate • Administrate site and Report • Promote the community • Engage the community by posing questions, polls, challenges • Recognize advocates • Depending on size of organization there may be specific roles of Administrator, Moderator, Subject Matter Expert etc.
  20. 20. Skills of a Community Manager • Great listener • Authentic • Fair but when need to be firm • Follows up • Doesn’t have all the answers but knows where to get them. • Positive, upbeat personality • Good customer service skills • Good writing skills • Knows how to create buzz • Represents the brand but not self-promotional • Praises the good • Let’s the community respond and only comes in when it’s healthy to do so.
  21. 21. How to start and engage an online community • How to engage them: • Post great content • Feedback, Comments, reviews, opinion • eNewsletters • Online surveys • Gamification • SMS (text messaging) • Sharing Online docs • RSS: Syndicate relevant content for users from you website, blogs and more through aggregator eg Weebly
  22. 22. Engaging community through content Build Awareness (eBook, Blogs, Whitepapers, Webinars How to articles) Get them Interested Service/Product/Solution Overview (eNewsletter, FAQ, ROI) Desire, help them validate through Peers (trial, demo, Videos, references, success stories, competitive positioning, comparison) Close on Solution (proposal)
  23. 23. How to start and engage an online community • How to maintain them • Keep them healthy • Growing • Valuable useful discussions, and content • Periodically offer Challenges or Contests, “Caption this” send a photo, or video • Pose questions, they may be directly related to your product or service or on a tangent “What are 5 ways to use product xyz” or If you were stuck on an island and could only,….
  24. 24. Monitoring Performance • There are many ways to measure the health and well being of an online community. Amongst them some of the key KPIs are: • Registered Users/Visitors/Page Views/Return Visitor Rate/Bounce Rate • Content: # Discussions, Threads, documents, blog entries, videos etc. • Responsiveness: The time to first response of a question • Others
  25. 25. Concluding remarks • Communities is not about you, it is for serving your users, prospects, buyers. • The benefit are all the side effects • Look to constantly add value • Value is something that user sees worth in. • The primary goal of building a community is to drive engagement, 2-way, multi-way conversations that propel the wider community forward. • Happy Community Building
  26. 26. Appendix
  27. 27. Types of community • Community of Place (where people live, work, play) • Community of Action (about social change or a cause) • Community of Interest (common interest or passion) • Community of Practice (group of people who share a craft and/or a profession) • Community of Circumstance (shared life experiences) • Community of Transaction (buying/selling eg • Community of Innovation • Community of Learning • Community of Inquiry (knowledge formation & scientific enquiry) • Community of Position (built around life stages) • Community of Purpose (same objective or process to reach shared goal) • Community of Fantasy • Community of Relationship
  28. 28. Knowledge Center Peer-to-peer Employee, SME (Subject Matter Expert) Prospect/ Customer Question Support Communities
  29. 29. References • Lithium Community Health Index for Online Communities • • Wikpiedia • Online Community management for Dummies by Deborah Ng