Best practices for community management: Pre-launch

 

This blog is Part 1 of a three-part series on Community Management Best Practices. In this blog series, we will address some of the key activities that should be a part of your community planning, launch and ongoing growth.

 

Let's face it, community management can be a sticky subject in some companies. Heck, some companies don't even think they need a community manager for their site! Here at Jive, we know there are some basic activities that will keep your community in great shape during the early phases as well as into the future. I'm going to share our top practices around the subject of community management.

 

Let's get this list going, starting with the most obvious:

 

1. Hire a community manager. A community, by its very definition, will contain people. People are living, breathing, questioning, noticing, and needful beings. I often liken a community to throwing a party or a running a hotel. Would you build a hotel and not hire a hotel manager? Would you throw a party then not stick around to make sure that people are fed, everyone has a drink, that folks are having fun? You need a community manager to make sure that you are accomplishing the major goals of your community and at the same time keeping your community members happy and connected. See: How to write a Community Manager job description Having a community manager on board is important to pre-launch planning activities as well as the ongoing health of your community. Don't breeze over this step. Stop right where you are and hire one right now.

 

ThinkstockPhotos-480893984.jpgFinding a community manager can be challenging but is well worth the effort in the long run.

 

2. Train your community manager. Every community has its own quirks, training your community manager in the details of your community is crucial for setting them up for success. What kind of things am I talking about? It could be as simple as educating them on the particulars of the system settings (are status updates turned on or off). If your community manager has experience in some areas of community management but not others, don't leave them to be blind-sided on the things they don't know to watch for. Training a CM can be done by the social and community team at your company (if you have one) or by the technology managers who are responsible for the system. You can also get the basics of CM training available here in the Jive Community (more modules in this training course are coming soon). Since Community Managers communicate to members on a wide variety of topics, they should also have a good handle on the culture of your company and have a strong understanding of your company's priorities and products.

 

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Take time to train your new community manager and it will pay off in the long run.

 

3. Establish the purpose and goals for your community. If you haven't done this already, establishing the mission, purpose and goals is a critical first step in community building. What is your community all about? What objectives is your community trying to achieve? Since priorities change over time, it's good to revisit the purpose and goals to make sure your community is still on track. If not, make adjustments. Anytime you bring a bunch of human beings together things can grow and change in organic ways. Be sure to stay in touch with what your community needs and how that maps to your company's priorities. More about creating a compelling Missions Statement for an internal community in this interview with Rachel Duran Ask The Expert - Launching an Internal Community.

 

4. Gather a community support team. Don't go it alone. Even if you are a community team of one, you can always establish a governance team or working group to help balance out the workload in your community. An official governance team is a great idea whenever challenging decisions or road map plans need to be made. A community working team is also important for fulfilling particular tasks such as site administration, moderation, subject matter expertise, gamification and content curation. Another great way to build up your community is by creating an advocate network. Advocates are active, engaged users that can act as your feet-on-the-street to help train users, answer questions, identify new use cases, and evangelize. For some really great blog posts on the topic by Claire Flanagan (past Jive customer and current Jive director), see Community Advocates: Your Secret Weapon in Going Global and Viral.

 

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A community team can help balance out the workload of your community.

 

5. Prioritize your use cases to design your site. Strong use cases are the foundation of your community. I honestly believe that the success of any community is dependent on the strength and solid planning of the use cases themselves. Some really obvious use cases for external communities are for customer support and product feedback. For internal communities, employee on-boarding or employee support are key use cases. Since use cases are unique for each community, it's a good idea to engage an expert in the development of your community strategy. Jive Professional Services and our Partner Community both offer this kind of strategy service. Or you can talk to other community managers (from both Jive Internal Communities and External Communities) to find out what they are doing. Before your community launches, you should have some key "call-to-actions" related to your use cases built into the home page of your community. For more details on designing the look-and-feel of your community and home page development, see How to Design Your Jive community

 

6. Figure out what success looks like. Determining the metrics of success for your community is critical at any stage of community development. What is considered success during your community's first six months will be different than what you choose to measure after a year or two. You can measure both deep and wide when it comes to analytics so be sure to really spend some time thinking about what your community objectives are and how they can be measured rather than reporting on arbitrary numbers. Success metrics can be simple for the top level of your community (active members, growth in membership) and more complex as they related to specific use cases (active users versus contributing users, number of questions answered, support calls deflected, etc). For more info on Advanced Measurement tactics, watch this video from JiveWorld14: Advanced Measurement: Proving Business Value to Expand or Sustain Your Community

 

While this is just a short list, these are good practices to get your started before your community launches. What would you include in this list that I missed? I'd love to hear from you!

 

Stayed tuned next week for Part 2 of this blog series, Community Management Best Practices: Part 2

 

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