best practices (51)

The first step is surprisingly simple. If you're managing an unruly community, the very first thing you need to do is throw people clear communication channels. This can be scary and unpredictable, but it is necessary.
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I'm here to answer the question: Where do you begin when you're tasked with something so overwhelming? You have so many questions and yet you have very little time to ask them. Your users may be angry, they may be frustrated, or they may be breaking rules that don't even exist yet. It's tempting to jump in and start responding right off the bat. Instead, you should arrive with an action plan.
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Don't guess what is or isn't working in a community--gather and analyze the data. Richard Millington outlines a few of the data points you should be measuring and how you can use this data to form actionable insights and improve the health of your community.
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The biggest influence upon whether a newcomer becomes a regular (after their first contribution), is the speed and quality of the response to their first message. If they don't get a response within 24 hours, they're gone. Give priority to ensuring newcomers (the people with a 1 post count) get a quick response.
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The goal at this stage isn't to persuade members to create an online identity for the community. Don't ask any questions that don't relate to the name, e-mail, and password. The goal is simply to get them through this stage and back to participating.
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In the first visit, members need to see something they want to participate in. Too frequently we focus upon getting members to read. That's easy. Getting them to participate is more difficult.
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How do people hear about your community? Do you wait for people to join or approach them? The biggest influence upon someone’s likelihood of becoming a regular participant is their level of interest in the topic.
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We're excited to announce a free course for Ning Network Creators developed in collaboration with FeverBee, a top community management consultancy. In the course, you'll learn the skills, knowledge, and resources to build a thriving community. This self-paced course, which contains 10 lessons, covers the objectives of a community, understanding your audience, recruiting your first members, creating thriving discussions, developing content and facilitating exciting events. At the end of each lesson, you'll find a list of specific action points. These are elements that you can directly apply to your community efforts.
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Your goal, and the goal of every community manager, is to progress their community through the lifecycle. If you achieve this, you maximise what your community can be, the benefit it brings to your organization, and the benefits that members gain from the community.
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If there is one single thing every community manager should know about communities, the lifecycle is it. 

Using the lifecycle you can identify exactly where you are now and where you need to go next. 
In this series of posts, we're going to explain the full online community lifecycle.

 The maturity phase of the online community lifecycle begins when members of the community are generating 90% or more of activity/growth, and there is a limited sense of community.
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If there is one single thing every community manager should know about communities, the lifecycle is it. 

Using the lifecycle you can identify exactly where you are now and where you need to go next. 
In this series of posts, we're going to explain the full online community lifecycle.

 The establishment phase of the online community lifecycle begins when the community has reached critical mass.
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If there is one single thing every community manager should know about communities, the lifecycle is it. 

Using the lifecycle you can identify exactly where you are now and where you need to go next. 
In this series of posts, we're going to explain the full online community lifecycle.

 The inception stage begins when you begin interacting with the target audience and ends with the community achieving a critical mass of growth and activity.
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The Online Community's Ecosystem

Your community lives within an ecosystem. This ecosystem is the broader topic, industry, area, field, group which encompasses the community. The ecosystem has a significant impact upon the community. It provides both inspiration for material in the community and opportunities to foster a closer sense of community.
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Everything between the moment you establish the objectives and the moment you begin doing outreach to your members is the conceptualization phase. This is when you decide who you're targeting, what the community will be about, what type of community it will be, and how you get it going.
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Sometimes new members do find their way to your community. Sometimes they do invite their friends. Sometimes you don't need to do much work to make this happen. It's probably not a good idea to bet your client's fee on 'sometimes'. A better approach is to think of tactics and a process to stimulate growth.
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Dealing with Trolls: 4 Snippits

Trying to determine what to say to disruptive community members can sometimes cause the worst cases of writer's block. You want to be an enforcer, but you also want to be a friendly face they can come to with help. Here are three sample snippits that can help start you on the road to a well-written response to a troll.
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Types of Community Growth

How you persuade new members to join a community isn't as interesting as why you are persuading new members to join a community. Making a community bigger won't necessarily make it better. In fact, evidence suggests that making a community bigger will decrease the level of participation. It gets noisier, harder to follow and less personable than it used to be.
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Every few weeks, Ning invites a leading expert to discuss trending topics and best practices for community management. Watch the recordings here.

More than two million people have built a branded social network on Ning. Many of these customers now enjoy thriving online communities. You can find a few of those success stories here.

Learn what it takes to thrive and see what it is possible to achieve with Ning.


Growing a thriving online community is one of the most rewarding things you can do.

Our goal at Ning is to make building a community dead simple. We provide an incredibly reliable, popular, and easy-to-use platform so you can focus on cultivating your community.

Learn how to launch your community in minutes.

Have you considered monetizing your community? Download your free copy of Monetizing Online Forums by Patrick O'Keefe to learn what methods are available, how to implement them, and how you can benefit today.