Monday, December 22, 2008

Growing your online community

Online communities can be an inexpensive yet powerful tool for businesses.

However, you can't just build a community and set it on auto-pilot. Communities need nurturing.

If you plan on building your own community, here are the nurturing roles that you should be planning for.

Technical - Online communities are comprised of people, however, they are powered by software. You need someone who has the know-how to build and maintain your community infrastructure.

Moderation - Someone needs to have a watchful eye on your community. It is inevitable that either a spammer or nuisance user will join your community. These folks will muddy the relevance of your content and help to drive your legitimate users away. Moderation is key to minimizing this. Additionally, a good moderator can provide a holding hand to your users.

Discussion - Communities, at their core, are about discussions. As a community creator, it is important that you monitor and facilitate relevant discussions. The more people are talking, the more your community grows.

Strategic - Communities evolve. In some instances, your community members are the drivers of that evolution. However, you must be prepared to take that role. Introducing new features are one form of community evolution. More importantly though, is recognizing problems in a community, and course correcting by revising your strategy.

Your community won't be perfect from day one. But if you talk to your members and listen to their valuable feedback, over time, it just might be.

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