As an employee, you might be very comfortable setting up a group (or space, if you have access to do so). It's easy, just go to the pencil icon on the top right and select your place type, decide on a name for it, invite a few people and ta-da! You have a collaboration area. However, did you know that by creating a place, you've just added to the (enormous) global directory of all [community name] Places? [community name] is already a busy place when it comes to information architecture. Creating a place just because you can make the community experience much busier, so this guide is here to help you stop and evaluate the best course of action when you feel like you need a new area.
Principles for a Successful Community
When you create a place and invite people to collaborate with you, you've essentially created a community - whether it's with 2 people or 200, it is still a community. Communities have a pulse, and like any living thing they need to be nurtured in order to evolve. Before creating a new place, always take a moment to consider the following principles.
Leverage an existing place if possible.
Every group should have a meaningful purpose.
Groups require management.
|You could actually spare yourself the work of managing a community by leveraging an existing group or space. Search around to see if a similar place to the one you're planning already exists, and contact the owner of that place to see if it's an appropriate spot for the collaboration you're expecting.||Whether the group is for business purposes or just for fun, ask yourself, "Why am I bringing this group of people together?". Make this purpose obvious in your place, either in the Description or in a tile on the landing page (or both), so that if people stumble across your spot, they understand what the place is about.||Being well designed does not make a place self sustaining; you may create a group with the perfect layout of pages, tiles, and flashy visuals, but unless you keep your audience engaged, the group will go stale. When you create a group, be sure to have a plan in mind for who you will invite to join and how you will ensure those people stay engaged in the group.|
Whether you create a new group or become an owner of an existing one, there are some habits and techniques you should adopt to ensure your community continues to thrive and be engaging. Here are some great habits and techniques.
Check Your Place Every Day
Set an example by contributing something yourself at least once a week.
Recruit other place leaders.
Does anything need a response? You don’t have to be the one to answer. If you know someone who is an expert in that area, @ mention that person to respond.
Did someone contribute a particularly interesting piece of content? Like it, Comment on it, and if it’s a type of content you can rate, rate it highly. Tag it to make it more easily found later and increase visibility.
Try to contribute something meaningful each week, such as a blog or a compelling Discussion. If it’s a busy week for you, you can do something as simple as sharing an interesting article via Jive Anywhere and adding a comment with your take on it or why others might find it interesting.
Recruit a few evangelists within the place and get their commitment to contribute at least once a week. A place where you do all of the “talking” isn't much of a community (no matter how brilliant you are ). Check the community manager reports to identify your frequent users – even the types of activities they favor, and tap them for this role.
|Initiate Conversations||Survey your Place members.||Host a Community Jam session.|
Use Discussions to quickly and easily update the community, or to draw them in. For example, ask your community an interesting “Question of the Week” at the same time every week. It could be something like “Which source do you find most useful for getting the latest information on our competition?”
By setting the expectation that the question will be asked at the same time every week your community members will know to look for it in their activity stream. You are engaging them and sharing knowledge with everyone at the same time.
Create a survey within your Place and surface it on the Overview or landing page. Use the Email capability in an Announcement to let them all know that the survey will be open for however long you decide, and that you are looking for feedback on what they would like to see in the place – what will bring more value. Of course this doesn't have to be the topic of your survey but it’s one example to get you started.
A Jam is a virtual brainstorming session. Post an Event and an Announcement in advance, have a theme in mind, and a handful of questions prepared. Begin the session by micro-blogging the first question, give everyone an allotted time to answer, then continue posting until the session time is over.
To make sure the first Jam goes well and sets a good tone for future ones, you can recruit a few members in advance to participate and spread awareness. The Jam will not only get people immersed in the place, but also get them interacting with other members they may not have interacted with before. This shows the value of interaction and of the place; in the end what gets people coming back is value.
As important as knowing when to create a place is knowing when to decommission it. If a place is no longer meaningful or was for a temporary topic, clean it up! Mark content outdated or change permissions as necessary, and repurpose or delete the place.
If a key stakeholder is no longer involved, find someone else who is also committed to nurturing and managing it.
Your role as a Place owner is vital to a thriving community. So stay involved, try out some of the tips above, and above all don’t be afraid to experiment!