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New Year Tasks to Tune-Up Your Online Community - 1/27/2015 -

New Year Tasks to Tune-Up Your Online Community

Here are five essential online community management tasks to kick off 2015.

By Joshua Paul

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 ó 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 membersí 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 Ė everybody wins.

Task #2 ó Refresh your advisory groups, committees, and leadership. If itís 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 communityís 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 ó 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. Itís a great time to take a hard look at your online community's content calendar and evaluate what works and what doesnít.

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. Donít 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 ó Take advantage of new features. Your online community software platform provider probably added a lot of new features over the last year, but if youíre 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 thatís been updated and added. Take time to try out something new. Understanding whatís available can, at the very least, make sure you arenít missing out on a feature youíve been wishing you had ó when you could have had it all along. You wonít know whatís out there unless you take the time to look.

Task #5 ó 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 youíve 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, theyíll 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 ó whether itís 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 affair.

Online Community Management Takeaway

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, youíll be glad you did.

Joshua Paul is senior director of marketing and strategy at Socious.


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