PhoCusWright Blogger Summit 2009: Tips from Experts About Building Community

Elliott Ng will represent UpTake during the PhocusWright 2009 Conference, Blogger Summit Town Hall on Wednesday, November 18th at 9:00 a.m. Ten topics were suggested by the panelists for discussion during a planning meeting a few weeks ago. We decided to collect the best posts and examples about each subject and showcase them here. We hope this series lends itself to more insightful discussion during the Town Hall presentation. One of the topics suggested was “how to build community.”

The reooccuring directive I found across all the advice for building an online community sounds like something Lenin would say:

Community First. Always.

Here are ten tips from ten experts to build a great online community:

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A good community needs time.

1. Be clear about your strategy, the time needed and how the community will benefit.  Jordan Viator of Convio slideshare delivers the basics needed to create an online community.  She encourages an almost idealistic approach suggesting success depends on the community being open, trusting, and engaging. Oh yes, and you must promote it using all forms of social media. I am still amazed at the amount of time needed to administrate much less grow a community.

2. You need a little wind, not a gale. In her interview,  A Primer for Building Online Community, Nancy White from Full Circle, an online community consultancy firm, gives clear, basic advice to review before you draw your first wire frame.  She suggests a community organizer, “create just enough structure to create just enough comfort and navigability – don’t over build, over legislate or over formalize, especially at the start. It’s like making a wind break to get the fire going. You need a little wind, not a gale.”  I would like to make quite a few changes to Travel Insights based on this idea alone.

3.  Give up and give control to the participants. Jeremiah Owyang in a Forester report suggests no one is in charge of an online community. He suggests the community organizers allow the participants to run the show and expect the results to be unpredictable.  I find the concept of giving up control strangely comforting and it makes me re-think the current design and features.

4.  Go offline to build the online group.  Pam Mandel of NerdsEyeView and travel editor at Blogher encourages bloggers to meet their online friends in the real world.  I suggest you attend a Blogher conference to see the power of this advice. But it was also suggested by Tony Adams, instigator of San Francisco Geek Dinners. He said it well, there are commonalities between the two that can be important in building your online community like creating conversation, participation, etc.”  I too believe offline and online can work in tandem to create a cohesive community.

5.  Think community before technology suggests Cindy Waxer of IT Management.  She states that bells and whistles are more likely to frustate users rather than encourage them to come back.  Match technology to the community needs and desires.

6. Give people something they can be proud of. This is Matthew Haughey’s suggestion on Fortuito.us for generating good community content to encourage better communication and weed out the “cranky screeds,” as he calls them.

7. Conversations build communities. In the Wall Street Journal article, The Fan Knows Best, the authors suggest the best communities foster multiple means of interacting. including the opportunity to chat in real time, on forums, ability to promote events, blog, etc.

8. Think small. A community of 100 active members delivers a better experience than thousands of members with nothing to say suggests Jeb Banner, CEO and co-founder of SmallBox..

9. Become a cheerleader. This tip is from the always helpful, Problogger.  Simply put, cheer your community along by sharing in milestones hit, traffic, editorial mentions, etc.  Share the success.

10. Get them engaged. Angela Connor states on her Online Community Strategist blog. Her ideas were straightforward:  interview them, find out what they want, help them, communicate with them. Sounds easy, but refer back to number one–how much time do you have to devote to the engagement?

Remember:  Community First. Always.

Photos courtesy of:

Clock image courtesy of: Mararie on Flickr

Cheerleader image courtesy of: DeusXFlorida