Your budget has been approved. You’ve spent endless hours exploring platforms, meeting vendors and watching demos. You’re ready to sign that contract and finally launch your new online community. But are you really ready to press the button? Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure you have these 10 steps in place.
The check list:
Define the community purpose
Before you begin, you need to start with a purpose, and the purpose needs to begin with the type of community you wish to build. Whether it is around passionate brand followers, peer-to-peer support, enthusiasts, B2B-led or a hybrid of these, start with your community purpose and define this in relation to the followers you would like to attract. Your users and their needs will then play an integral role in your decision-making for your community (see #3). What is the benefit you can deliver to your customers, peers, clients or fellow-enthusiasts? How can you help them engage together? Whatever the community you wish to build, its purpose needs to be crystal clear both within the organisation and to the members themselves.
Members must have clarity of its mission and principles, and know what behaviour is expected from them. The mantra to strive for is Openness, Transparency and Honesty.
Goals and KPIs are set and agreed
Decide on your key goals and objectives early. As per best practice, make your objectives SMART. These could be to increase sales, reduce the cost of customer service, increase brand awareness or maybe improve your NPS. You need to know precisely what technology, processes and resources you need to achieve your goals and measure progress.
You know your audience
It is essential to know your audience inside out. Go deep with the details on who they are, and what they need, want, and are inspired by. Understand when and where they hang out, how they speak and interact, and why. Behaviours are your guiding light for creating meaningful connections with your community. If you have a varied audience, you need to establish a plan to ensure you balance your content, voice and interactions to cater for all segments.
There is a strategy
Craft a 6-12 month plan that ties in with your objectives and within your agreed budget. Have a clear plan on detailing what content and events you’ll be producing and when, how you’ll drive growth, retention and engagement, and how you’ll foster your advocates and ambassadors. You should also set review points to analyse progress and effectiveness. The initial period of growth can be a key test and learn period, so ensure you have some flexibility to optimise performance.
Policies and processes are in place
Preparation is key. Establishing guidelines, processes, and policies to make sure you are legally compliant, and to ensure the smooth running of the community is essential. Check that you have all your paperwork ready; security, safety, guidelines, privacy policies, moderation, and escalation need to all be checked off and agreed by internal stakeholders. Ensure it is all in line with your brand/organisation and your overall mission.
You have support from your stakeholders
Where you are in a position where you have multiple stakeholders, it is critical that the community is a business or organisation-wide commitment, not just a side initiative. Define roles and responsibilities and ensure that all departments involved are aware and actively participating, and that the buy-in is universal.
The technology is tested and signed off
The platform needs to be stable, any integrations with other applications should work. Then test everything meticulously and sign it off. Ensure that once in operation, you have plans in place to adapt and make agile improvements to your community based on data insights and user testing.
You know what and how to measure
You should have a clear understanding of what metrics you need to track – community, web and business-wise – and what reporting is important to you. Tracking should extend beyond the behaviours inside the community and should consider acquisition and retention metrics. If there is a key conversion metric (i.e. a purchase or referral), ensure you have the appropriate tracking in place to continually assess your conversion funnel.
The team knows what they need to do - and how to do it
Have somebody responsible for the implementation of your strategic plan and the day-to-day running of the community and its moderation. They will need to be skilled in the art of community management, very familiar with your brand, and have solid knowledge of moderation best practices. To ensure they are performing at their best you should provide them with access to training and ongoing development.
There is a plan for scaling
Additional funds to increase bandwidth and support a rapidly growing userbase may be accessible if your community’s success exceeds expectations. If not, you’ll need to devise a plan to slow down growth to always ensure a positive user experience.
Are all boxes ticked? It’s time to go live!