12 Tips to Ensure the Success of Your Online Community
By Colleen Young
When building anything, start with a good plan and build on a solid foundation. The same holds true for building an online community. Here are 12 tips to help you get started.
- Appoint a dedicated community manager. Ensure your online community plan is supported by organizational commitment and sustained financial resources.
- Define the community domain. Don’t create a domain. Find a strong common interest that a lot of people care about and build a community around it.
- Develop a community management strategy and make adjustments as the community evolves through its life cycle.
- Recruit and connect members before you launch the online community platform.
- Start small. Slow, steady growth is best. Integrate a few members at a time and work at converting visitors into active, committed members.
- Build strong relationships with committed (core) members. Assign specific responsibilities to members of this core group according to their strengths. Foster ownership and a sense of community.
- Concentrate on activity and sustaining momentum. A small, but active community will attract more activity and make it easier to grow the community.
- Model behavior. Your posts and those of the core group set the tone and guide members to establish and adopt the community’s etiquette.
- Create content for and about the community. Write about the people in your community. Recognize individual contributions and collective achievements.
- Encourage member referrals. Develop a referral plan. Let members recruit new members and promote the community.
- Allow and enable debate. They make great conversations. Allow members to disagree and the community to self-correct. Promote the value of collective knowledge.
- Measure for success. Collect data regularly, consistently, and accurately to improve the community, discover problems, and validate what works. Set up clear feedback channels.
Read more about How to Build and Sustain a Thriving Online Health Community  in the Journal of Internet Research. Young C., Community Management That Works: How to Build and Sustain a Thriving Online Health Community, J Med Internet Res 2013;15(6):e119