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Ten Best Practices For Growing A Successful Online Community

Ten Best Practices For Growing A Successful Online Community

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Published by George Dearing
White Paper from Telligent
White Paper from Telligent

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Published by: George Dearing on Nov 21, 2009
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09/20/2010

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telligent.com
(877) 492-9484 +44 203 178 3010© 2009 Telligent. All Rights Reserved.
Ten Best Pracces for Growing a SuccessfulOnline Community
1. Begin with a clear objecve in mind.
 
Building a community for the sake of simply having one is a recipe for disaster. You must irst 
understand why you need a community, and knowing your target audiences and how you will engagethem is just as critical. For instance, are you trying to improve advocacy for your brand, enhancepeer-based education and support, or speed up product feedback? Or is it some combination of allof the above?
 
2. Idenfy measurable goals and metrics for your online community.
 Before you get started, determine what metrics are needed by whom. Senior managers typicallylook for reports focused on growth and vibrancy; community managers and moderators typicallylook for reports focused on problem areas. Measureable goals can include total number of members,average level of member engagement, and site visits. Develop a consistent reporting process for
your community data. It is key in showing trending. Be sure to include a well-deined set of businessmetrics as part of this exercise, and then tie your metrics to speciic outcomes you can see within your
organization. Remember, sales is only one metric; consider others such as lower cost of acquisition,
cost delection, support costs, and innovation cycle. Also, don’t feel like you have to accomplish
everything all at once. Take a “grow-plateau-grow” approach, and you will reap rewards.
3. Determine which – if any – communies exist that currently meet your audience’s needs.
 
What are you doing that is different from your competitor’s community? Explore what is working
for similar companies, and determine if it is a best practice you can utilize. Decide whether you
will partner, integrate, or compete with other communities. And focus on attractors (authoritativecontent, inluential contributor) and triggers, such as breaking news and proprietary topics that will
differentiate your community. In the end, always ask yourself if you are providing your community
a reason to care and to share. Are you relevant? Are you delivering on your promise, inside and
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By Lawrence Liu and Steve Hershberger
 
telligent.com
(877) 492-9484 +44 203 178 3010© 2009 Telligent. All Rights Reserved.
outside the community? Don’t create multiple communities each for a different product. Find out 
how your users engage with you as a brand. Build your communities around your customer groups,not your product groups.
4. Ensure rst-me visitors get an immediate posive response.
 The single most important factor that determines if someone returns after posting to your communityis whether or not that person gets a reply. Track response times for new users to make sure they
are being heard. Provide a clear message of the community’s purpose and the value to the user.
Consider features or programs that will encourage existing users to engage with new community
members. Help new members help themselves. Make it easy for them to get involved. After all,
nobody wants to be the new kid.
5. Determine ways to use your community in enhance your online presence. Use this iniaveto supplement your markeng and adversing eorts.
 Your community should not be isolated to a single forum or blog on your company Web site. Pull thebest community content into other parts of your Web presence. Provide prospects access to valuablethird-party comments about your product or service through awareness of your community in your
marketing and advertising initiatives. Periodically assess SEO impact: Is your community content 
helping to boost positive brand awareness or creating a negative distraction? Research shows that 
users who spend time in communities spend about 60 percent of their time in three to ive core
communities that are important to them, and another 30 percent of their time interacting throughsatellite venues that have some tie to the core communities. The remaining 10 percent of the time,users digitally explore. So keep in mind that if you focus only on what is happening within the fourwalls of your community, you are missing out on a lot.
6. Stay commied to growth. Invest in the necessary resources to make your online communitya success.
 Be ready to hear feedback from the community and be accountable to providing the appropriate
response. Establish a small team that is committed to moderating and participating in the community.
Work with them to set clear, measurable goals such as average time to reply, target answer rate,and posts per week. Remember, a community is not a campaign. Much like a pro football team iscommitted to winning the season – as well as – each game, you have to focus and be prepared to
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telligent.com
(877) 492-9484 +44 203 178 3010© 2009 Telligent. All Rights Reserved.
remain involved and committed for the long haul. As team members change, be sure to have the
processes and procedures in place to make it easy to onboard and integrate new teams and peopleso that the experience remains relevant.
7. Get the ball rolling for your members.
 Whatever the aim of your community, seed your community with examples of appropriate content.Manage a content schedule so that there is a consistent motivation for people to return. Goodcommunity engagement should operate under the “70/30 rule.” 70 percent of the activity and
content should be from the community, while 30 percent should originate from the brand. Don’t 
use your 30 percent to display existing marketing materials. Provide your community with content 
that they can’t ind elsewhere. If you want to increase engagement, then you need to focus on being
raw, candid, and direct.
8. Eyeballs equal answers. Do what you can to get the word out.
 
Ensure your employees, partners, and customers use both online and ofline social networks to
help get the word out about your community. Post things to YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and othersocial media sites. Make sure they all have trailers and links that lead back to your site. The more
people are talking about your content, the more users you’ll attract. Do not overlook traditionalpromotional tactics, such as press releases and invitations (printed and personal) to encouragenew users to your community. Eventually, it should be dificult to tell where the brand stops and the
community starts. Community generated content should be syndicated everywhere. The voice of 
the customer resonates ininitely more than the voice of any employee.
9. Leverage employee parcipaon in your community.
 Have employees generate content and help answer questions. Promote them as experts. Customers
love to communicate with the people who can actually stimulate change. Establish community
participation as a metric for employee performance reviews. This metric may be part of a largerset of metrics focused on “customer engagement” or “market engagement.” Involve subject matterexperts from throughout your organization. Give them a mandate to speak and inform on topics
they are interested and and knowledgeable in. However, don’t monopolize the conversation, be
transparent, and always add value.
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