Thursday, September 12, 2013

8 ways to build a community

Starting a new community can be daunting and it does not result in instant or guaranteed success. It requires, time, effort, patience and a lot of nurturing of community members to create engagement and build trust. How do you start your own online community? What should community managers be doing? How do you facilitate the sharing of knowledge?

We’ve taken our top picks of tips from experts who write about community management to highlight some of the ways in which you can start and build your community either on or elsewhere.

1. Learn what a online community manager does before getting started!

Community managers don't grow on trees
Photo credit: Liz Azyan

“The primary role of an online community manager is to encourage, facilitate and develop relationships. They need to ensure people with similar interests and objectives find each other, talk to each other and develop meaningful relationships. They need to build relationships with members and potential members themselves, and they need to continue looking for ways to bring people closer together.

Martin Reed | Community Spark

2. Keep the dialogue going.

Photo credit: palomaironique

“As virtual as you may want to make it, it is still reality governed by the same operating principles as the rest of life. Cyberspace doesn’t live outside the rest of the universe… As manager of an online service, everything you do boils down to one thing: keep the dialogue going.

John Coate |

3. What matters is how well you bond with other members.

circle of friends
Photo credit: Eric Chan

“If you’ve ever been part of a purposeful group you know it’s not the mission/common interest that matters. The most important missions on the planet often have the lowest level of engagement. What matters most is how well you bond with others members of the group… The better you get to know and like your fellow members, and the more you care about their opinion of you, the more you participate and thus work towards a successful goal… Your role is to create an environment, through both your mass and micro (one to one) communications, that facilitates this.”

Richard Millington | FeverBee

4. You need to host the behavior that you would like others to emulate.

Copy Cat Broadcasting
Photo credit: BEV Norton

“Good hosts model the behavior they want others to emulate: read carefully and post entertainingly, informatively, and economically, acknowledge other people by name, assume good will, assert trust until convinced otherwise, add knowledge, offer help, be slow to anger, apologize when wrong, politely ask for clarification, exercise patience when your temper flares.”

Howard Rheingold |

5. Provide stimulating material and pass on rituals and community rules.

Photo credit: Wesley Fryer

“Facilitators foster member interaction, provide stimulating material for conversations, keep the space cleaned up and help hold the members accountable to the stated community guidelines, rules or norms. They pass on community history and rituals. They “hold the space” for the members. Perhaps more importantly, hosts often help community members do these things for themselves… Integrity, patience, a good sense of humor and a love of other people will be valued in any host. And as virtual communitarian Howard Rheingold so aptly wrote, ‘One point of heart is worth ten points of intellect.’”

Nancy White |

6. Facilitate your community to help make amazing things happen.

Celebration of Light 2011
Photo credit: Michelle Lee

“Being a community manager can be the most rewarding job imaginable… When people come together, amazing things can happen. Being the manager of a community that does amazing things is an amazing feeling.”

Martin Reed | Community Spark

7. Be open to criticism and show compassion.

Heart Spark
Photo credit: Rain Rabbit

“… razor-sharp interpersonal communication skills, the ability to exhibit an enormous amount of tact, an extremely thick skin and a boatload of compassion for people you would rather not give an ounce. Did I mention grace under pressure, courage under fire, openness to criticism and tolerance beyond belief?”

Angela Connor |

8. Take a look at what other online communities are doing.

You may not be aware, but is more than just a community of people who are changing the world—we are also a community of groups. Some 3,000+ groups are collaborating, sharing knowledge, co-creating wikis and posting discussions on the platform. Take a look at some of the amazing communities:

The Story of Stuff community: If you haven’t seen Story of Stuff founder Annie Leonard’s brilliant videos yet, we recommend that you take a look and join their group!

Transitioners: There are many members of the Transition Towns movement on Follow this link, then narrow down your search to find transition groups in your area.

Caux Hub: Attendees to the Swiss-based Caux Conferences have been using groups for to capture some of the learning from the Initiatives of Change conferences which took place over the Summer.