Goodbye 2009, welcome 2010. It’s a New Year – a time to refocus, and potentially a good time for a fresh start. Allow me to propose some New Year’s resolutions for those that manage online communities:
Resolution #1 – Be more active in your community
Members love (and need) to see their community manager actively involved in the community. Don’t drop in solely to intervene or take punitive action against members. Be a genuine member of the community; get involved in discussions, share information about yourself. You need to be known in your community, and you can’t expect others to be involved if you don’t take the lead.
Resolution #2 – Reach out to community members every day
Aim to personally thank at least one individual member every day. This doesn’t need to be done publicly. Send them a private message thanking them for their recent contribution. Make it personal – you don’t want to send generic ‘thank you’ messages – they’re worthless. Be genuine; if a member has contributed something great, be sure to let them know.
Resolution #3 – Build more relationships
This will come naturally if you’re actively involved in the community. However, you shouldn’t just be looking inside your community to build relationships. Look outside the walled garden – people that you would love to have as members are out there and probably don’t know you exist. Reach out and build new relationships – some of them may join your community and be a huge asset. Even if they don’t, you’re still creating value – for yourself (knowledge) and them (awareness).
Resolution #4 – Be more generous
A good community manager is already more than generous with their time. I am still to meet the (skilled) community manager who thinks the job can be done well when they are only ‘on duty’ from 9am to 5pm. However, what I am referring to in this resolution is something more than just being generous with your time. It’s about giving, sharing and relinquishing control.
If your community has a blog, don’t refuse to link to an outside source because you consider them to be a competitor. Don’t delete links related to a discussion that members post (unless they’re obviously spam) even if they link to your competitors. Give your members more control and influence. The stronger a community is and the more trust you place in your members, the less of a threat your competitors become.
Resolution #5 – Continue to learn
There are no absolute experts when it comes to building online communities. I have 10 years of experience, but I’m still learning every day. I read the blogs of other community managers and I read their twitter streams. I learn from people that comment on this blog. Every week my existing ideas are challenged. Sometimes I agree with the arguments put forward and change my way of thinking. Other times I don’t. However, I am always willing to listen and learn.
Never think that you know all there is to know about online community management. There is always more. There are always other ways of thinking. Every community is different. Every individual is different. That’s what makes this line of work fascinating and exciting.
Bonus resolution #6 – Make it easier
Even if you think you already focus on the previous five resolutions, here is one you can always target. Make your online community easier to use. There’s always room for improvement here.
Work out what features aren’t being used and get rid of them. Find bottlenecks in your website and fix them. Go back to basics – anything that isn’t essential should go. Too many features and too much functionality can be a distraction. If you aren’t able to remove features, make sure you absolutely force yourself to justify any new ones.
Good luck, and here’s to a successful 2010!