If you want to be a good online community manager and develop successful online communities, you need to be knowledgeable. You need to know about your members and you need to know the entire community inside out. Here are some questions you should be able to answer. If you don’t, then pursue the answers with urgency.
1. Can you sum up the purpose of your community in one sentence?
If you can’t do this, then you have no focus. You’ll struggle to develop a successful online community if you don’t know what you want out of it.
2. Who are your competitors?
Always keep an eye on the competition. That way you can keep more than one step ahead. What areas of your competitors’ sites are popular? What are their members requesting? What needs are your competitors not satisfying?
3. How is your online community unique?
If you can’t offer anything unique, you might as well give up now. You can have a community based around the same niche as existing sites, but make it unique. Make it your own. Make registering irresistible to visitors.
4. What are the aims and goals for your community in the next week/month/year?
Without plans you have no direction. How can you determine what needs to be done on a daily basis if you have no clue where you want to be in the future?
5. How do you deal with abusive posts/members?
You need to cope with the fine line of encouraging activity and interaction without stifling debate through excessive moderation. You need to be fair, neutral and professional. Have a plan.
6. How do you recruit valuable moderators and how will you retain them?
Don’t choose a staff member just because they have made the most posts. Choose your staff carefully. They represent you and the community as a whole.
7. Is your online community fun?
If your community isn’t fun, people won’t stick around. If people want work, they’ll go out and get paid for it.
8. What proportion of your members are active and why?
Why do you have so many inactive members? Are your inactive members coming primarily from one or two sources? Have you asked inactive members if they need help?
9. What are the most popular topics in your online community?
Learn what subjects get your community buzzing and get posting.
10. What subjects raise the most passion in your online community?
Are there subjects that perhaps should be avoided? A little controversy is fine as long as it doesn’t result in bickering, abuse and a bad atmosphere. Keep a close eye on topics that you know stir passion within your members.
11. Who are your most important members?
Yes, you should treat all members equally but some should be seen as extra valuable. These members are the ones that create engaging, thought-provoking posts, welcome new members and act with maturity and professionalism. They are the ones that could be doing your job!
12. Who are your most influential members?
Who are the opinion formers in your online community? You’ll need to listen a little closer to their opinions because if they get upset, they’ll stir up bad feeling. Keep them happy, and you’ll make everyone within their sphere of influence happy, too.
13. Do your members feel welcome when they join?
Do you welcome new members? Do existing members make new members feel welcome? Members that truly feel welcome will tell you.
14. Do your members feel valued?
Are you listening to your members? You don’t have to act on every suggestion, however you should always listen. Weigh up the options, then act. Ask your members for their opinions. Thank them for being a member. Tell them that you value them.
15. Do your members know your name?
If they don’t then tell them. It is far easier to build a relationship with ‘Martin Reed’ than ‘Admin’.
16. Do your members know how to contact you?
You are there to support your community. You should be encouraging questions, comments and suggestions. Visitors and members need to be able to contact you and they need to know how to contact you.
17. Do your members trust you?
Your members need to trust you. You have access to a lot of information and you hold a position of authority. Earn the trust of your members and don’t abuse it.
18. Are you turning your members into cheerleaders?
As your community becomes established, you shouldn’t need to do much advertising. Your members should be your best promotional tool.
19. Are you developing relationships away from your site to benefit your community?
People will mention your community on other websites. Track these comments and respond to them. Not all relationships will be formed on your online community. Communicate with potential new members before they even visit your site and see your conversion rate rocket.
20. What external links to your community bring you the most active members?
Not all links are created equal. Find out which links are the most valuable and develop a positive relationship with whoever put the link there.
What did I miss?
What questions did I miss from this list? Are there any there that you disagree with? How many of these questions can you answer? Share your thoughts by leaving a comment below.