Best practices for community management: Launch to six-months old
This blog is Part 2 in the 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. See Part 1: Best practices for community management: Pre-launch.
In the first six months of your community, there are several critical activities that need to occur to help ensure success. Hopefully at this point you are well prepared for your community launch. The items below can be done the month before launch or around the same time as the launch itself, depending on how much of a planner you are.
1. Create a content plan and editorial calendar. It's not enough to rely on user conversations for your community's content stream. How-to documents, product road map updates, thought-leadership blogs, or any blog that informs and entertains (see blog tips) can go a long way towards engaging users and communicating key information to your community members. Curating content in your top places is a must-have activity lest the featured content becomes stale. Organizing content in meaningful ways within a place and pointing users to important content that already exists is part of this activity. Also, be sure to name content for easy searching and tag content with the applicable key words and phrases. At the end of the day, your editorial calendar should ensure that you are providing your audience with regular doses of content without leaving too much empty space for the crickets to chime in. I promise to write a blog on this topic soon.
Thoughtful content provides value for the audience.
2. Create a communication plan. Different from the content mentioned in #6 above, community communications consist of community maintenance alerts, upgrade notifications, advertising new places, contest promotions and the like. Specifically for your community launch, you will have targeted communications about joining your community, how to login, and first steps to take once members have joined. Many of these communications will point to content that you've developed in your content plan and calendar. One of my favorite things to do is to write a blog on a subject, then create a short communication that points to the blog. Communications come in the form of System Announcements, Welcome emails, or other short formats. Make sure you are considering the different audiences in your community with the messages that pertain to them. Scheduling communications can happen on a scheduled or an as-needed basis. Be sure to consider the communication needs of both internal and external audiences if you are managing an external community. Examples of communication templates can be found in the Jive-n 8 Upgrade Planning Guide in the Jive Customers group.
3. Completed profiles equals connected users. It seems like such a small thing: a completed profile. Yet when community member profiles are incomplete or lack information, connecting users to one another becomes more challenging. How can users find an expert in a certain field if profiles are empty? For more details about why profiles are important in online communities, check out Jive's internal community manager blog on the subject <link>. Consider running a profile completion campaign where everyone with a completed profile by a certain date gets entered into a drawing to win a prize. The prize could be monetary like an Amazon card, an iPad, or could be something as simple as lunch with an exec or a covered parking space in the winter. Here's why community profiles are important: Community Profiles Make Us Human
A completed profile can tell you a lot about a person.
4. Create a community help center. I have yet to manage a community that didn't need a help center. Let's face it, the wonderful world of an online community can be confusing and daunting to first-time users and anyone not comfortable jumping on the latest technological wave. Some basic how-to documents as well as short demo videos are a good idea in a The specified item was not found. space. Most importantly, create a simple document explaining the first 3-5 things you would like every community member to do. Keep it simple and include pictures. Once people get their feet wet doing small tasks in your community, they are more likely to try something on their own. Some communities require even more robust help centers. Here in the Jive Community we have Jive Support paired with the Jive Knowledge Base and Documentation. Get your knowledge on! For more information about using Jive's Support Center in your community, check out: Deep Dive: Support Center.
Provide your community members with a place to get help and guidance for getting started.
5. Monitor the community. Actively listen to your community. Keep an eagle eye out for unanswered questions, critiques of your company, anyone possibly stirring up trouble like dissatisfied employees and spammers love to do. Also keep watch for really great discussions that could be propagated among other places, used to show community engagement or re-purposed as a company testimonial. Be sure to share any discussions that need additional input with the experts inside your company. Getting people the answers they need is critical to successful community engagement. Here's how social listening is critical for crisis communications: Crisis Communications in the Social Age
Listen in on community discussions in order to fill the gaps with answers or experts.
6. Review what success looks like. In part 1 of this blog, you came up with some ideas of what success looks like for your community. During the first six-months you should revisit these goals and decide if they are working with what you are actually seeing happen with your use cases. Often what we think is a strong use case can end up transitioning into something else entirely based upon the real needs of people in your community. By being flexible with what you consider "success" to be your community can adapt and evolve based upon the needs of your members. This blog contains some great basics for measuring your community success: Beat the Monster: Measure the Success of Your Community
Stayed tuned next week for Part 3 of this blog series, Best practices for community management: Six months and beyond