A few tips if you’re Starting a Community from Scratch.
A while back I came across MY CMGR’s Google Hangout about Building a community from scratch. It’s a great watch and has some amazing insights.
And during a discussion the other week during one of the internal workshops that I was running, we had a few people that where in the same situations
As MY Cmgr said “So many times new community facilitators are put in a position where they must build the community from scratch. It can be a daunting challenge, but also an amazing experience that provides a feeling of reward.”
So what did we do?
Well we hosted an Online Peer Assist in the Online Facilitators Community to help those new to starting an online community.
Below is a summary of some of the great responses and pieces of advice that would be worth while using when you starting a community from scratch.
- Start with a small enthusiastic user base and then growing it slowly…don’t aim to get hundreds of people involved straight away as its more difficult to form a real sense of community that way.
- Start with a need – have people approached you for help? Do you need help with something yourself? Are there others in your professional networks that also have an interest in the area of work? Once you’ve got your small group who understand the benefit of working together and supporting each other around a common purpose and theme, their enthusiasm will help you grow and develop things.
- Form a clear purpose of where you’d like the group to head and have a clear set of objectives to achieve. If all the group members feel like they are working towards something tangible then it’s far easier to communicate with your members (and build your membership.)
- Piggy back on any face to face events and mention the idea of the community, the purpose and if you can the WWIFM for them joining.
- In the early days you may need to think of incentives to encourage content contribution and participation – these don’t need to necessarily cost anything. Perhaps it’s plenty of encouragement, thanks and showcasing of the contribution (sometimes it might be chocolate though!). 😉
- You can use online ways to build the relationships, for example, sending out group messages, getting the group in a bit of an ice-breaker in the forum and online events
- Set up a welcome area in the forum for people to virtually introduce themselves. This is a great way to get people to make their first contribution…
- Use the announcement function a lot! I change it about once every three days. It points members to relevant material; it keeps the front page of your group dynamic and gives a reason for your members to return to the group
- Send out a weekly group message from the admin area of the group that rounds up all the activity. I ask proactive questions to try and catch my members attention
- Use the IDEAS tab to gain insight about what the members would like to see in the future for the group.
- Try a Knowledge Market Place where you ask people what one or two things they want from the community and one or two things they can offer. You get to find out who the go to people are and what everyone is struggling with and allows you to start building that relationship, especially when can match a want with an offer
- Look for focussed succinct question on a particular hot issue of the day that can draw people in.
- You can’t do big announcements and launches everyday but if you select a few things that are your big ticket things to really shout about it definitely helps increase member numbers and engagement.
- Interject some “fun” into people’s working life then the results dramatically positive and so a great way of building engagement online.
- Plan some concrete examples of what will be shared in the community – new legislation, an early release of a publication, a senior figure answering questions through a hot seat. I’ve found that with the best will in the world, it’s hard to get people motivated with a reasonably generic intention to ‘share knowledge and best practice’.
- Keep feeding content into the group as much as you can so that people can see its being used often.
- Build it around a project, so you already have a defined focus, and roughly knowing who the audience is.
- People, who have found a benefit to joining, will frequently come back, such as when they find a document to copy rather than writing their own. And communicate the benefits to them for example: Want to find out whets going on, visit the community. Want a copy of the documents from the conference, go to the community. Need to ask a question, go to the community. This has meant the community has developed quite quickly and there is now a lot of sharing of ideas and Q & A’s which has saved days of time, thereby making the time investment worth it. It has had the added benefit of reducing telephone and email project support queries.
- Have content written for a few weeks ahead, so I know I always have something to put online. This means when day to day work suddenly gets busy, I know I still have something new to put on my group, which takes the pressure off a bit.
- Interviews with members have proved useful as they focus on one area so we can refer to them when answering people’s questions.
- Even with a completely new community you’re likely to be aware of some potential members? Speak to them directly and get them on board early.
- Ask people stuff. Most folk like to talk about themselves 🙂
A big thank you to: Lesley, Alex, John, Rebecca, Jamie, Michelle and Liz.