At the moment I’m involved in a project that seeks to build a community of interest. As part of the research for the project, I’ve been pointed in the direction of a couple of reports out of ForumOne.

The first is the Online Community Metrics paper and the second is the Marketing and Online Communities paper. They’re reasonably robust reports, worth reading if you’re intimately involved in online communities but for those with only a passing interest, here are some key takeaways from the reports.

  • there’s a need to think about the functionality available to registered users vs that available to visitors – you don’t want to turn prospects off but also want to secure visitor buy-in
  • users won’t pay to join (no surprises there)
  • think about metrics to track (quality vs quantity – often people just look at unique visitors or new sign ups – with online communities the metrics are much softer and harder to pin down)
  • best way to succeed is to engage users
  • measure externals (link love, digg, technorati et al)
  • nurture your best contributors (it’s their forum, not ours)
  • seed eyeballs with third party marketing (but make it smart) – spend time in other communities, think viral marketing strategies
  • think carefully before accepting marketing/advertising on the site – it may monetize but it also may cause a backlash by the users
  • consider it “test and learn” marketing rather than anything overly quantifiable – build it fast, build it flexible and let it develop organically
  • the biggest barriers are often internal! – find a champion and give them space
  • build relationships in the community first – people don’t need to be there so you need to make them want to be there – relationships do this
  • When engaging with the community, you need to participate vs. “talk at” – it’s not a one way communication channel, rather a forum for true two way dialogue
  • Personal knowledge or passion of the subject matter on the part of the marketer – you’re tapping into an informed audience – you need to be up to speed whichever direction the dialogue goes
  • be authentic and sincere in communications
  • be willing to engage for the “long haul”. Quick hit campaigns are ineffective
  • build for needs not technological possibilities – know your memberships needs and provide that, don’t get strung out on the possibilities
Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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