Online communities: you get out what you put in

arrowMany online communities go through an initial pain barrier.They are launched in a wave of enthusiasm yet without sustained commitment participation can fall away. Why?

Too often, managing a community is thought of – though it never should be – as an extra item on someone’s overflowing “To Do” list. We all know that “To Dos” only get done regularly if they become integrated into the daily routine. So it’s time to think differently – managing an online community is not an extra chore. It is a brand new operating system for information and insights directly from and about your community members, whether they are business prospects or simply enthusiasts bound together in a common cause.


Success in building an online community is based on reassuringly old and trusted principles – you get out what you put in. So let’s apply some good old common sense. First, just banish for a moment all the tactical talk of the bewildering array of many social media channels available for your community (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and hundreds of others.). Secondly, step back from the never ending stream of information pulsing through the veins of each. Finally, just keep asking the same 3 basic questions of any community: “Is online where our community wants to be?”; “What does our community want?” and “Why would they want to participate?”

  1. Where are your community members? If they really don’t use online communities, then don’t use them. It’s simple. Don’t though make it an excuse for inaction – there are few business or leisure interests for which this is still true. Concentrate on one main channel through which your community prefers to operate.
  2. What do they want? Your community could be the quickest and most comprehensive resource you will ever have ever have for understanding all sorts of trends affecting the way your community thinks and acts. So ask them for their views to find out more.
  3. Why should they want to take part? When a community member isn’t sure of a view or perspective, you want him or her to share. To do this thought, they need to know that the content you are sharing is about the issues that directly affect them.

When it comes to online communities you only get out what you put in. So make the leap – take the online community off the bottom of your “To Do” list and instead make it part of your daily routine. The rewards will flow.

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Merriborn Media is a business dedicated to developing clever content, engaged online communities and effective collaborative working and learning for clients. Both Merriborn Media and its founder Trevor Merriden were ranked in the Top 3 of social learning evangelists for 2016 in a recent major study.

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