One of the questions we get frequently is about setting up a community and what does it take to be successful. There are three things that come to mind that every successful community should do. The first concept relates to context. What is the community about and what kind of organizational actions does this community support. Is the community an internal announcement type environment or is it a community that will interface with your customers about new products and services? Is it a community that you do production or operational support activities? Is it a community in which you can do training and education functions? If you were to look at some of the most successful communities out there, such as money matters and your health matters, these communities focus around education and training. They are trying to get a community of people with similar interests to talk but the primary goal there is still education and training. That’s the context of the environment. So this first step is to make a conscious decision of exactly what your community is going to focus on. Probably the worst thing you can do is try to be all things to all people and therefore create mass confusion for the users as well as the administrators of the community.
The second item that comes to mind is content. There are not too many communities out there that you can create one element of information and all of a sudden the community takes off by itself. That really doesn’t happen except in the vendor demonstrations. The most successful communities have created an environment where they streamline a constant flow of communications. These could be entries announcing training events, communications of new products and services, or support help. We see many examples of successful communities that have this steady stream of information. As an example, the cloud community provides a constant flow of informational bookmarks and education and training opportunities. Additionally, we publish our newsletter, announce new services and communicate our core strategy on a regular basis. This creates a situation where a steady flow of content and information gets folks coming back and tuning in.
The final area that we should think about is how to engage the community. It is one thing to post a lot of content and information and it’s another to create an engaging form of communications. Community engagement can come in the form of badges or some form of Gamification. Engagement can come in the form of how you publish and what you publish. You want the conversation to invite opinion and comments. This blog is a great example of how we invite different opinions and provide a different perspective of what’s happening with management and the newest technology. The basic idea is to get people involved and engaged at a high enough level that they want to keep coming back over and over again. Maybe even contribute a comment or two as well. Communities offer this same type of opportunity. So keep in mind that if you want successful communities then remember context, content, and engagement.