Building Social Networks and Growing Communities

14 August, 2008

I attended a great 1 day workshop last month run by Laural Papworth (with a special guest appearance from Peter Styles from Red Bubble), which was all about building and managing online communities. Given this is exactly what my colleagues and I are in the process of doing, I was really looking forward to it.

Today I finally got around to giving the team here at work an overview of the session, so I trawled through my notes from the day and chopped them down to a few key points. I figured they’d make a nice blog post.

If you are starting out in the community building process, I would strongly recommend you attend this session if it runs again. It really was a very good day.

Notes by Community Phase

Planning

If creating a community always ask, why are you being social? And what are our objectives?
What are we going to provide to a community?  – Why will they join?
What will encourage members to click on a link on your page? What will they get?

Promoting

Word of Mouth will be the key marketing tool. – Our product needs to be good enough to make users tell other users
Competitions can help to generate interest. They will bring people in the door, content will bring them back
Make network visible, but read only to non-members. People will come back up to 10 – 15 times before they decide to join.

Management

Clear rules of engagement, keep them simple and explain why they are there.

Fires will happen – let them burn out if possible.
Offer to help resolve an issue
Provide a deadline for fire to be resolved – “You have 36 hours to resolve this issue”

Moderators need to be connected to the community and lead by example, this will allow them to understand the context of discussions and block stuff that is truly inappropriate.

Don’t let members dictate how a community is run, that can lead them to think they can manipulate the system to suit their needs

Provide a pathway to make new members feel welcome – show them that it is ok to ask basic questions.

Make it very clear what profile information is visible to the public and what is private

If the community only talks about the purpose you have defined it is not really a community

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