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7 ways to cheat in building your Community of Practice

August 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Maradona Hand of GodSometimes you are given a really hard task that has to be done Now!  And I’ve seen this happen when a new topic area comes out and at the senior level it is determined that we must have a community. 

Normally a target is set to reach a certain number of members. Perhaps even a target to reach a certain number of posts.

It’s not a way of working that I would preach but if that’s the case here’s 7’ way to build your CoP in the quickest time possible.

1. Hire paid bloggers – Some communities have brought in subject matter experts and paid them to provide regular content on the subject area.  . You’ll likely to see lots of stuff on upcoming news and ideas on the topic.  This may help, but may hinder the community who are still struggling with older issues and are not ready for the new ideas.

What’s more, as soon as you stop paying the subject matter expert, you may lose ‘members’ as the content was the only thing bring them to the community

Also, regular members may not be happy that some people are getting paid to contribute when they aren’t.

2. Forum posts exchange – I’ve started to see this happen across a few Knowledge Management and CoP Communities, where the same post will appear on different communities.

Normally facilitators from different communities that have overlapping topics will get together and cross post.  This has the advantage that a wider audience will be able to participate in the discussion.  But will also have its limitation, member’s maybe members of both communities and get a little confused why the same topic is appearing in both communities. 

And the other is there’s no way to bring the two groups together to open the discussion up.

3. Automatically register members and send lots of invites

So you know the names and email addresses of your potential member from network groups that you are part of.  So you add all the email addresses into Add more members.  This will only allow members of Communities of Practice for Public Service to be come members of your community. 

For all the remaining ones you can use the  Invite people to join.

The thing to remember is that very few of those people will be active members so you’re only creating a screen for your community.

Also, some may resent that you signed them up for something without asking them first. Not a great first step.

4. Hold a competitions – Quite a few communities has started competitions, they offer small prizes such as book vouchers or maybe even going to extravagant measures and giving away a Flip Camera.

These are normally time limited around a particular theme or event.  But what you do see on some occasions after the competition has ended is that the community becomes a ghost town.

Be careful as some members are only there for the prizes or for the content at that point in time?

5. Advertise, Advertise, and Advertise – Getting the word out is a good idea, but don’t drop a link everywhere you go. Some places might not attract the audience you are after. Tread carefully, act carefully and think before you link. 

Some of the ideas I have seen are simple but seem to work.

  • Links in your email Signature,
  • Links in Micro blogging sites such as Twitter and Yammer with links to new content
  • Links in professional discussion forums or blogs on the subject.

6. Run an Online Conference –This is another technique that I have seen.

Ok, there wasn’t enough take up for a face to face event, so the compromise is to run it online.  My first question is “If the topic is not good enough for a face to face event.  Are you sure that an online event will be any different?”

Also running it online is much harder than face to face.  Most face to face events you will see people dozing of in the back of the room.  If there is no activity on the online version now one will return. 

But if you get it right.  Right subject, right time, right people, your community can really kick of with a bang, its just keeping the momentum once it has finished.

7. Send out newsletters as you open the community – Most messages that I have seen announcing a new community are poor.

Don’t list the features in your community (Forums, Library, Blogs etc).

Instead, make sure you tell people why they should join and what’s in it for them. But before you do that make sure the community is ready for its new visitors.  Ask yourself is there enough content there to encourage them to join and come back? You’ve only got one shot at this.

Conclusion

Successful communities take time to develop. To build a genuine online community of practice you need to choose quality over quantity both in the members and the content. The key is to build relationships and trust between members and this takes time.

Heavily inspired by the work of http://www.communityspark.com/

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