New Year Tasks to
Tune-Up Your Online Community
Here are five
essential online community management tasks to kick off 2015.
With the start of a new year, you probably have an extensive
list of goals and to-dos to improve the health and functionality of your
private online community. However, before you get too caught up in some of your
loftier ambitions, there are a few online community management tasks you can
tackle to get the year started off on the right foot.
Make it a goal to tackle one of these tasks a week, and,
before you know it, your online community will be ready to perform optimally
for the next 12 months.
Task #1 —
Survey your members. To know what your community members
truly want, you need to ask them. Conduct a survey
to discover their interests and engagement preferences. Ask your members what
they want to see the community do this year, how they prefer to be engaged, and
what types of content and tools would be most useful.
Figure out your target community members’ communication
preferences so you can determine whether you need to contact them less
or more with news and calls-to-action from the community. Use their responses
to gain an increased understanding about what topics interest them and what you
need to do differently to keep them engaged.
Your online community needs to consistently engage your
members to thrive. Before you decide what needs to be improved, changed, or
added in 2015, go to the source. Asking for their feedback every 9-12 months
will also make your members feel valued and more invested in your community –
Task #2 — Refresh
your advisory groups, committees, and leadership. If
it’s been awhile since you switched up the leadership in your community, a
fresh new year is a great time to reevaluate.
Encouraging new perspectives to step
up and take on a leadership role in your online community could be just the
refresh your community’s small groups need to be reinvigorated. Systematically
cycling new people into your committees and other groups keeps ideas from going
stale and encourages further engagement from members who may have been trying
to decide how to get more involved.
Look at the various small groups in your community and
consider how long the group membership has been in place. Sometimes a change
can be exactly what your small groups need to tackle the goals of a new year
with fresh energy.
Task #3 — Evaluate
your content calendar. Relevant and helpful content is a
big motivator for bringing members back to the community and reminding them
what the community has to offer. It’s a great time to take a hard look at your online
community's content calendar and evaluate what works and what
For instance, what types of formats are more likely to be
read, shared, or discussed? Do certain lengths resonate more with your readers?
Do specific keywords or language perform better than others?
Dig into your data to gain a clear understanding of the type
of content your members prefer. Don’t be afraid to get as specific as possible
and consider breaking down your analysis by certain segments of your audience.
Taking on this community management task early on in the year can help set your
community up with a stronger value proposition for months to come.
Task #4 — Take advantage
of new features. Your online community
software platform provider probably added a lot of new features over the last
year, but if you’re anything like the rest of us, you were too busy running
your community to take advantage of them.
Take the time now to go back and make sure you understand
everything that’s been updated and added. Take time to try out something new.
Understanding what’s available can, at the very least, make sure you aren’t
missing out on a feature you’ve been wishing you had — when you could have had
it all along. You won’t know what’s out there unless you take the time to look.
Task #5 — Enlist
others in your organization. In many organizations, community
managers are hesitant to ask for the help or support of others in your
organization when the community is first getting off the ground. Though not
ideal, that is understandable. Online community strategies and their
benefits are still very new to many executives.
However, now that people throughout your organization have
seen the results and you’ve proven the importance of an online community, they
might be more willing to get involved. Use the start of a fresh year as an
opportunity to report on the success of your community. Once they have a better
understanding of how the online community impacts your association and members,
they’ll be more willing to participate in some way.
Seek out the people you want to see involved and explain to
them how they can help out — whether it’s contributing content, running a part
of the community, contributing an ongoing video series, or determining ways to
integrate the community and the engagement it delivers further into your
business practices and member management. Set goals that involve more people in
your organization to make running your online community as association-wide
Online community managers have a lot on their plates. Before
the year gets too hectic and all of your time is taken up with the complicated
process of simply running your online community, take care of these five
housekeeping tasks. When you see the positive effect they can have on your
community as a whole, you’ll be glad you did.
Joshua Paul is
senior director of marketing and strategy at Socious.