The Vanguard View: Insight for Association Websites

What Online Community Managers Want You To Know

Posted by Chris Bonney on Thu, Dec 08, 2011

    

First, thanks to all that attended my "The Biggest Challenges with Private Online Communities and the Secrets to Overcoming Them" session yesterday at ASAE with Paul Schneider. You can download the PPT here.

In preparation for the session we created a quick one-question survey and sent it out to all online community managers that we know. Paul and I wanted to not just deliver the voice of us as vendors, but also that of our clients who are working with online communities in the trenches everyday.

The question we asked was:

If you could tell an association venturing into creating a new private online community for their members one thing to keep in mind, one thing that would help them succeed. What would it be?

It's our hope their insights will help you as you venture forth with your community.

Thanks to each and every community manager that participated. Their responses below.

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It's not an "if you build it, they will come" proposition. You need to recruit champions who will help begin seeding conversations, begin creating conversations yourself, and explain how this will benefit the members up front. Also, as the conversations begin, utilize your communication vehicles to push people to the community. Perhaps do a "conversation of the month" in your e-newsletter linking back. The tool needs to be promoted just like anything else you do.

- Bruce Hammond, National Sporting Goods Association

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One thing?! Yikes. I guess it would be that if you want your new community to succeed, you need to commit it. I know your members love and are used to your org's existing listserv or discussion boards, but if you do not sunset them and transition all members to the new community platform, it will fail. Nobody likes change, but for the new platform to succeed you need to make it the ONE community platform for your org and help people make and get used to the change.

- Maggie McGary, ASHA

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Just one?? Be patient. There will be a number of naysayers at the beginning who will criticize and want the old way back but be patient and work with them as they'll become your strongest supporters as they obviously have a passion for the community.

- Patrick McGary, American Society for Parenteral & Enteral Nutrition

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Focus. Start with a simple and singularly focused objective that will allow you to build off of for the future.

- Jeff Price, BOC

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It's about how your members feel about it, not about how you feel about it.

- Robert Barnes, Fitness Australia

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It doesn't happen overnight or without strong staff support.

- Teri Carden, FSAE

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Test, test, and test again. Do not assume that your members want what they say they want. Test so that you can uncover what they really want.

- Cathy Stegmaier, Alliance of Cambridge Advisors

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Understanding that this is not a "quick" project but will be an ongoing learning time for both members and staff.

- Linda Chreno, Marketing General

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Make sure to keep the conversation lively and fresh.

- Cecilia Sepp, Association Laboratory

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Be prepared to spend time and effort to get the community self-sustaining.

- Terry Coatta, AssociCom

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Don't underestimate the resources required to facilitate the community. Whether a staff person or a member (ideally the latter, or several of them), that person needs ongoing development and must commit the time to foster the community.

- Bob Farrace, National Association of Secondary School Principals

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Be prepared. You need to monitor conversations all the time and have the full commitment of the entire staff to respond in a timely and effective way. It's takes resources to help them talk to each other. And, don't get distressed if it doesn't take off quickly. Give it time to grow, but be prepared to help nurture that growth. And, have fun!

- Jim Way, Association of Corporate Counsel

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While the association may want the community to succeed and is willing to put unlimited resources towards it, ultimately the members must REALLY want it (to the point of being willing to openly engage and keep the community vibrant) in order for it to be truly successful.

- Matt Ott, National Grocers Association

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Don't reinvent the wheel, use exisiting platforms, consider LinkedIn and FaceBook.

- Virginia, CFA Chicago

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I would recommend two things: 1) Transition your membership and educate its members about what the private community means and can mean to them. 2) Educate the membership in regards to all the features that the community can bring and the advantages over the public communities and social networks.

- Marianella Moreno, Percussive Arts Society

Topics: web strategy, ASAE, marketing, Chris Bonney, tech11, social media, association technology, associations

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