Part four in my ‘Getting an online community off the ground’ series. Today I’ll chat about Content.
Over the last week or so, I have blogged about finding great people to join your community, then having a chat with them to encourage them to join the community. In many ways getting them into the community is the easy bit; often people, if encouraged will sign up to an online community, the trick is getting them to come back a few times a week.
The people we have targeted to form the core of the community know their stuff and are eager to participate so we’d best make use of them! The community is all about the members so we can get them to do some of the planning. Ask them to debate the core purpose of the community, ask them to agree on the community’s rules of engagement. This can be confronting, at this point we are releasing some control, we’re no longer producing a product for the market to simply consume, we are letting the consumers shape the direction. While it is scary it will be helpful for a couple of reasons, firstly it will give those core people that you want to hang around something to talk about which is critical to keeping their attention. Secondly it will help them to develop a sense of ownership over the community. Finally it will give us an important insight into the needs of the people we are trying to engage.
It is great to hand the keys over to the community but it is really important to stay involved in the discussion, this is our community and while we are working to help the community members we are not going to be able to meet the needs of everybody. Get involved in the conversation, talk about the motivations for creating the community and listen to the responses of the community members. If a suggestion can not be implemented, explain why and try to work with the community members to come up with an alternative approach. This is important work, it is laying the foundations that the community will be built upon so we need to get it right.
Throughout this process the most important thing we can do is listen, this will help us to understand the needs of the community, which will help us to identify the content that will bring people back. Understanding the content the community members are interested in will influence, the links we post, which discussion topics or members are featured and what events we run.
Next up – Events!