If you have an online community for your association, or are thinking about starting one, there are several things you’ll need. First, dedicate someone as the community manager. Next, you need content, and finally, something for your members to do (this could include polls and/or networking, etc.) These are the basics. Your online community can’t function without them. But basics aren’t going to get you to awesome. What takes a community from good to great?
The Difference between Good and Great Communities
The difference between a good online community and a great one, that’s buzzing with activity, falls on the association hosting it (first) and the members (second). Success depends on creating a unique experience. While the community itself (features and activities) may not be unique, something about it must be. Here are a few essential tips to make your association’s online community something to be remembered.
It’s not enough to have a community manager. Your community manager is the personification of your community. Her voice should be recognizable and she should be willing to share of herself, as members will want to get to know her. Ideally, it’s someone vested in your association (as in not going anywhere). Community managers can be from any department. This CEO plays a major role in her online community.
If you’re concerned about one person heading up your community efforts, share the responsibility among several, congenial staff members. Community managers should be welcoming but not vanilla. While vanilla may have its fair share of fans, it rarely evokes a passionate dedication.
Link your online community and your events. While some members may never attend an event, participating solely online, others have no interest in an online community. Linking online activity to events (and vice versa) will pique both sets of participants’ interests. For example, give your online community access to information about your annual conference before anyone else. Inform your members that conference information will be available there first and you’ll drive additional sign-ups in your online community.
When events occur, post pictures to your community so that those who didn’t attend can see them as well. Make references to things that happened at the event without providing the whole story. This creates a velvet rope situation where members can see a bit of the action but only enough to pique their curiosity and drive them to join in the fun next time.
Very early on in your community, you’ll want to bait your crowd. You can do this by presenting a controversial topic facing your association or create a poll on something like “How often do you check your smart phone over the course of an hour?”. You need to create content that will drive an exchange either by way of a difference of opinion or something everyone can identify with.
The success of your association’s online community lies in your ability to create a unique and valuable experience for your members. Your content and your community manager must offer something that other communities do not.
What are you offering that no one else is?