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9 steps to building a community


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9 steps to building a community

  1. 1. 29 West 38th Street, 5th Floor New York, NY 10018 212.730.4558 9 Steps To A Successful Online Community A White Paper by the KickApps Team S 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.
  2. 2. 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 your website. 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! 212.730.4558
  3. 3. 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: “Be Friendly.” 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. About KickApps 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 integration with any website using HTML, CSS, JavaScript and APIs. Customers include: 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. 212.730.4558
  4. 4. © Copyright KickApps 2007. All rights reserved. KickApps and the KickApps platform are trademarks in the United States, other countries, or both. Other company, product or service names may be trademarks or service marks of others. The information contained in this documentation is provided for informational purposes only. While efforts were made to verify the completeness and accuracy of the information contained in this documentation, it is provided “as is” without warranty of any kind, express or implied. KickApps shall not be responsible for any damages arising out of the use of, or otherwise related to, this documentation or any other documentation. Nothing contained in this documentation is intended to, nor shall have the effect of, creating any warranties or representations from KickApps, or altering the terms and conditions of the applicable license agreement governing the use of KickApps software. Customers are responsible for ensuring their own compliance with all laws and regulations, including but not limited to the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. It is a customer’s sole responsibility to obtain advice on competent legal counsel as to the identification and interpretation of any relevant laws that may affect customer’s business and any actions customer may need to take to comply with such laws. KickApps does not provide legal, accounting or audit advice or represent or warrant that its service or products will ensure that customer is in compliance with any law. 212.730.4558