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9 Steps To A Successful
A White Paper by the KickApps Team
ocial media is a powerful way to grow and engage your audience, but it’s even more effective
when paired with good planning and best practices. We’ve put together this list of guidelines so
you can help your community reach its fullest potential.
1. Define your community’s purpose and audience.
Matt Haughey, founder of the legendary online community MetaFilter, said: “There are lots of possible
reasons to start a community, but generally it’s good to focus on a specific topic. Having a specific
topic means you’ll have an easier time explaining your site’s purpose, and quickly finding like‐minded
people to contribute their thoughts and content….” If you already have a website and an audience,
you probably have a good head start. But if you don’t, pick a topic and get to know the people for
whom you’ll be building the community. If it’s for chefs, spend some time where chefs hang out—
both online and off. Talk to people and cultivate relationships. The better you understand what drives
your audience, the more likely you’ll build a community they find valuable.
2. Get a Community Manager.
Every party needs a host. Your Community Manager should be your most active, high‐profile
member—accountable to everyone and responsible for setting the tone for the community
experience. He or she needs to be patient, well spoken, and inspiring. The goal isn’t for this person
to control the community, but to curate it, and the work done up front will pay off later in spades. For
many large communities this can be a full time job, but as your community flourishes, other hosts will
emerge from your member base to share the work.
3. Choose the technology that’s right for you.
New technologies have put robust community‐building functionality within everyone’s reach. When
considering a vendor, ask yourself the following questions:
• What social media features map to my specific objectives?
• How will these objectives evolve over time?
• Will this solution scale with me?
• What technical expertise/resources will it require to launch and maintain?
• How long will it take to implement?
• What are the solution’s community management and reporting capabilities?
• How much will it cost?
4. Seed your community with great content.
Prior to launch (and for as long as it takes to gain momentum) seed your community with high‐quality,
relevant content. Consider inviting a good core group of people in to help. When you launch, this
seed content will spark discussions, give visitors a sense of what your community is all about, and
send the message that it’s a happening place to be.
5. Customize your community’s look and feel.
Almost everyone who joins your community will evaluate it before becoming a member, so it’s
important to make a good first impression. In addition to great content, your community’s look and
feel will heavily influence a potential member’s decision to join. Tailor the aesthetic to match your
brand and appeal to your audience. If you’re integrating your community into an existing website,
keep your design and navigation consistent throughout. Not only will this increase the flow of traffic
between your site and community, but it will show visitors that your community is an important part of
6. Promote it!
Unlike the movie Field of Dreams, just because you’ve built your community doesn’t mean people
will come. You’ll need to market your community as you would any other product. This can include
raising awareness among your website’s existing audience, reaching out to bloggers and traditional
media, creating incentives for people to join through contests and promotions, inviting influential
people to become members, and even purchasing advertising.
7. Encourage active participation.
The most active and passionate members are your community’s lifeblood. Recruit and reward them
immediately—it’s as much their community as it is yours. Highlight their contributions wherever
possible, and ask for their help and feedback. Contests and promotions are also great for driving
ongoing participation among current members. Radio stations have been doing this with great
success for decades!
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8. Manage your community with fair‐minded consistency.
Part of community management is keeping the site free of trouble‐makers and offensive content.
The trick is to strike a balance between order and openness. Stay active and lead by example. Most
people will follow your lead. But when you do run into someone who’s acting like a jerk, speak with
them as quickly and as nicely as possible. Tell them what they did wrong and why it’s something you
don’t allow, but make sure to keep your tone courteous and professional. In the words of
Kathy Sierra, the most successful communities are single‐mindedly committed to enforcing one rule:
Also, consider posting a plain‐language set of community guidelines (like these from Café Mom)
and invite your members to make suggestions about how to improve them. Lastly, if you’re building
your community around a company website, don’t get defensive when members make negative
comments about your products or services. They’re going to do it somewhere, so it might as well be
in your community. Allowing them to do it there indicates confidence, which members will respect.
9. Listen and optimize.
Listen to what your community says, both directly and indirectly. Don’t just pay attention to members’
words (i.e. comments and message board posts), also keep an eye on the highest‐rated and
most‐viewed content. Everything reveals something about what your members want. Also, have a
message board in the community where people can talk about the community (another gem from Mr.
Haughey). This will be a great place to see what people are thinking and to test out your ideas. Lastly,
measure your community’s traffic and statistics from the beginning, so you can judge your progress
as you go.
KickApps’ on demand social media applications enable web publishers and marketers to quickly
and easily grow, engage and monetize online audiences. Our platform features a broad spectrum
of applications, including social networking, user-generated content, online video players and
viral Widgets, that are tightly integrated with media and community management tools for
complete control of the community. KickApps is highly customizable and flexible for seamless
ABC Family, CW Television, Scripps Network Interactive, VIBE Magazine, HBO, Cinemax, BET
Networks, Cox Television, Fila, Kraft Foods, P&G, the Phoenix Suns, among many others.