Thanks to Drew Meyers for pointing me in the direction of Small Box‘s ten tips for building an online community. A good collection of criteria which sum up some of the basics of building a community online:
- Have a purpose to the community
- Start with people you can have a meaningful conversation with
- Be authentic and honest
- Think small. Get a conversation going with 50 people rather than trying to appeal to 1,000
- Be personal and greet every new member
- Be an enabler and provide as many ways as possible for people to share and comment on content
- Drip content to members, don’t give them all your great stuff on day one because they won’t read it
- Be proactive and ban members who break house rules
- Nudge, don’t push. You’re role is to help others start a conversation not to force a conversation on them
- Give up control, the community will grow beyond you so let them take charge
Of these maxims, I think that the most important are to be authentic and honest and the tips which focus on being a facilitator of the community rather than somebody driving it.
It’s critical to be authentic online. Examples such as Wal-Marting across America only go to show the damage that being less than authentic online can have. If you want to truly engage people in online communities you need to be as honest with them as you expect them to be with you. Very, in other words!
From our perspective we also think that it’s critical that you aren’t driving the community just managing it. This is more about the kind of community you create than anything you actually do. A successful and rich online community would be one that creates a managed environment where members want to add content and drive the direction of the site. This is where the real difference in quality of community can be seen – bad sites will seem forced, with a moderator leading and forcing every discussion. A well managed community, on the other hand, will see the community manager encouraging participation, organising discussions and helping people feel comfortable and confident enough to contribute to and help to grow the site.
Overall these are a good set of rules that would be a great starting point for anybody looking to understand how to set up an online community. Good work!