The most successful communities are like a great party. You know why you’re going, there’s great food and drink when you get there and you’re not the first one there.
Your community needs to be seeded with both content and members when the masses join. This means creating a rollout plan where each set of constituents knows their role and can help support the community. Start by getting the entire organization in to join, fill out profiles and seed content. Next, invite a select group of friends and family, those colleagues who are loyal, vocal and will be able to help seed content and be a community advocate. After the friends and family have had time to participate, a sub-group of participants can be invited in. This allows you to continue refining the tone and content in the community. Lastly, open the community to the public and the community can grow in a variety of ways.
The last element in preparing for community implementation is community management. It’s valuable to prepare and train the designated community manager on how to be the voice of the community, deal with negative or imperfect feedback and how to deal with troublemakers. This usually comes in the form of a plan of action. Documenting the scheduling calendar as well as a plan and script for dealing with negative(and positive) feedback helps prepare your company for implementation.
Working with either a hired design team or an internal design team, you need to designate a voice of the customer. The designated VoC helps the designer and the technology team make sure that when the community is developed, the community follows the strategy.
There will be many things to think about in the development phase. Most community platforms have lots of hooks and switches that can be turned on or off. The questions about how the community should be set up should match easily to the community strategy.
Circle back with the team to confirm that the defined strategy has been successfully implemented. This is also the point that you’re putting the final touches on your promotional material. This could be both internal announcements and presentations and member emails and banners.
Strategy does not end on launch day. Communities evolve and grow and must be strategically reviewed on a regular basis. The frequency and depth of a strategic review depends on the type of community and the evolution of the community. Generally, more frequent strategy reviews are necessary in the first 6 months to a year of a community’s existence. Communities are always evolving so make sure to keep a pulse on your community and make sure you’re addressing the changing needs of your community as a whole and the individual members.
There are so many more elements that go into implementing a successful community. Don’t think that because it hasn’t been listed here that it’s not valuable. I also encourage you to read other’s blogs on the subject, such as Tom Humbarger’s blog, Social Media Musings. He covers many valuable topics and I know, first hand, that he has a proven track record in implementing successful communities. Here’s a great presentation on the 10 Commandments of Community Management by Amy Muller at Get Satisfaction.