You finally have your online community all ready to go, your preliminary plan is in place, and you are excited to make available a secure, personalized, online home for your association members and nonmembers. Now, what do you do?
First, it’s a good idea to remind everyone that the community is built for them – and to cultivate a thriving online exchange, it requires participation and collective ownership. Inspiring this type of engagement is always tricky at first, but if you try hard enough and have a good plan and strategy in place, you will be able to find a few motivated individuals to help get things going.
As with most things in life, this community will only be as valuable as what members are willing to contribute through time, energy, content, and ideas. Here, I have put together several suggestions to get started. It’s always a good idea to remind everyone that you are open to ideas and suggestions – so it’s essential to have an ask around this and make sure you are accessible. Not only can you use this as a topic for discussion, but you could hold live brainstorming sessions, short polls, online voting through likes as ways to prioritize and sort through ideas.
Recruiting and Recognizing Community Leaders
With your new community, you should be looking for individuals willing to lead groups and discussions, or even contribute content. The key is to make sure the opportunity and time investment is clear – and provide tangible benefits such as public recognition and increased visibility as a leader. To help move this along, write a position description for community leaders, create a group for them, have regular calls and brainstorming sessions, formalize a community leader program (this would include platform training as well as community best-practices), and help them increase their visibility within the community because of the work they are doing. These are just a few approaches I have been successful with in the past.
Nurturing community leaders is one of the most important things you should do with a new community. When you do this please, for the love of all things community, do not make it about your organization – make it about them. This won’t be the last opportunity to do this – working with existing community leaders and recruiting new ones is an ongoing effort for all community managers. Finally, making yourself available to pick up the phone and have individual conversations and brainstorming sessions will be critical to this effort.
Your doors are open, now what?
Here, I have put together a short list of community prompts for launch. Of course, all of these tasks are things you would weave throughout your plan no matter where your community is in its life cycle, but it’s particularly important to help newbies with a few prompts to get started. Otherwise, you may end up with crickets.
Getting the most out of your community (written for the members)
Fill out your profile
First and foremost – communities are about people. For you to gain credibility – your fellow members want to know who you are. Fill out your profile with a photo and a bio that really represents you, your experience, expertise, interests and beyond. This will go a long way and help you build relationships with your peers over time. Complete your profile now.
Crowdsource answers and ideas
Got a challenge? Need ideas? What better way than to ask your peers. Plus, all of the replies in a thread then become a resource for others to search. This is a great way to build an answer or idea database! Post a question now in the discussion area.
Ask good questions
Rather than what do you do, or what is your role – why not ask more meaningful questions? You never know what aha! Moments could come from this. Plus, asking great questions is an excellent way to really get to know your fellow community members. You can quickly start or participate in a discussion within any group you are a member of.
A few ideas (feel free to use them):
- What are the moments in your work life that you are most proud of?
- What obstacles have you overcome in your organization and how?
- When have you been the greatest service to others at work?
- What are you working on, thinking about, project you are involved in, etc., that you are most excited about right now?
- What is the most exciting thing going on in your organization? In our industry?
- What has the potential for the most significant disruption in our industry in the next two years?
Connect directly with your peers
One of the best things about your community home is that it allows you to connect with your peers easily. Meet someone at a conference or meeting? See an interesting post that you would like to follow up directly about? Recruiting new staff and leaders in your organization? Guess what – you can do all of that here by visiting the profile of the person you are interested and messaging them directly. Get started now.
Share your story, idea, expertise
Your community is also a place you can self-publish articles within any group you are a member of. Similar to the way you would on LinkedIn or Medium.com, you can share a story, case study, thought-provoking article, curate links to other resources and summarize for the community and so much more. This is a great way to share your expertise and increase visibility among your peers. To get started, visit any of your groups and go for it!
That’s enough for now – hopefully, this is a helpful primer on getting your community started. It’s fine with me if you want to use this as part of your launch materials, as long as you cite the source.
One final reminder (and I will continue to hammer on this), no matter what you are doing, your online community is not meant to be about your organization or your business – it’s meant to be for and by its members.
Questions? Please feel free to contact me directly – I love to discuss all things community!