There's a stack of disciplines that comms people can learn from. Not least the art of online community building. It takes time. And effort. And simply building it doesn't mean they will come. But as the web increasingly becomes a channel for everything - not just comms - these are skills to look at.
1. You must have a community manager. You absolutely must have someone who wakes up worrying about your community every morning.
2. Your community must have a purpose. Your community must have a purpose that matters to the people you’re trying to reach. You shouldn’t be creating the purpose, you should find a purpose a lot of people care about and build a community around it.
3. You must use whichever tool/platform your members are most familiar with. Don’t use MySpace if your audience isn’t on it. Don’t use the shiniest or most obscure tools available. Use whichever tool your audience is most familiar with.
4. You must create content about your community. Communities are about people, make sure you write about community members as much as you write about your organization.
5. You must build personal relationships with your top members.If you want to have real authority, you must be liked by the people who your community respects. You need to have good, two-way, relationships with your top members.
6. You must let heated debates happen. Good debates are vital for successful communities. You should let them happen, if not encourage debates on topics of controversy.
7. You must begin building the community before you launch the website. Don’t have a dead launch today. Work slower. Connect people before you launch the website. There should be a huge need for the website before you launch it.
8. You must recognise individual contributions from members.People should love to be recognised as much as you should love to recognise them. Recognition is free to give and the most important way to encourage further contributions.
9. You must encourage members to recruit friends. The best way to grow an online community is by referrals. You must create a referral strategy which includes tactics for members to invite their friends.
10. You must share control and power with members. You need to hand over control and power to members to help run parts of your website. This increases their involvement and ownership. In turn they will continue recruiting their friends and increasing their level of activity.
11. You must not use your admin powers unless absolutely necessary. …the best community managers are those that use their admin powers as little as possible. Every post you remove is an admission of failure. You let the wrong members in, didn’t create the right environment, can’t command authority without a big stick…
Richard Millington is the founder of FeverBee Limited, an online community consultancy, and The Pillar Summit, an exclusive course in Professional Community Management. This post first appeared on the excellent Feverbee website.