Regardless of whether you’re building an online community from scratch or managing an existing one, be prepared for a lot of hard work! Don’t expect to write a forum post every now and then, delete the odd post and ban the odd member. There’s far more to it than that. In fact, much of your work won’t even be visible – you’ll spend most of your time behind the scenes.
The more valued a member of your community feels, the more likely they are to stick around and get involved.
Here are some ways you can make members of your community feel special.
1. Read, follow and comment…
on their blogs, Facebook page, Twitter stream, and so on.
Keep in touch with them away from the community website. A community doesn’t exist solely within your community website. Your members have lives away from the community too.
If a member has a blog, read it and leave comments if relevant/necessary. Follow and talk to them on Twitter and Facebook.
Ideally, you should spend 2/4th of your time reading, 1/4th commenting and 1/4 writing your own stuff/sharing. This is how I compartmentalize my time and it helps me manage it better.
2. Interview them
A time consuming but well worth the effort. Try interviewing them viz email to save some time, if you have to. Have a hashtag interview setup on twitter, whatever suits you community members. Not only do your members get to know him, the interviewee will feel special about being chosen to be interviewed. It’s a big spotlight being turned their way, and none will ever miss it
3. Send them stuff
A small out of turn gesture goes a long way. If for instance a valuable member mentions they like chocolates, send them a pack. It’ll cost you a little, but they’ll remember the gesture forever.
4. Talk to them
A very obvious action, but a community manager should make it a point to be talking to the members that make up the community and not the community. Individual conversations are a big thumbs up – both within public discussions and privately.
5. Talk about them
Just like a member feels special and valued when interviewed, talking about him would have the same effect. Though, I must add not to go overboard and show favoritism towards specific members. You could acknowledge the members that contribute great content or otherwise add value to the community, and that would do the trick.
6. Remember them
As your community grows, remember the ones who had helped it become a success. Never forget those early members, but at the same time, don’t forget the newer ones, either.
7. Ask about them
If you don’t see a member for a while, ask after them. Drop them a line – make them know that you’ve noticed their absence. Get other members to ask after them, too.
8. Give them prestigious titles
Choose people that have the right blend of respect and maturity – this shouldn’t be a popularity contest. Give these superstars of your community unique titles, ranks or badges. Mark them out as special, and make sure the community knows why they’ve been marked out. This would lead to more members wanting the same treatment, in turn leading to more of suck behavior and contributions you want to see in your community.
9. Give them responsibility
This will always work Set them targets of increasing the number of discussions about a specific topic, or of extending and rejuvinating existing discussions.
If possible, consider naming a community after them if they’re particularly active in a specific section of the community.
10. Give them an ‘in’
This could be a telephone number or email address that isn’t normally given out. Obviously, be careful to only give this ‘insider access’ to a select number of members that you trust, and that you feel your community really needs to keep hold of.
There isn’t much that’s more special than insider access!
11. Last but not the least – Patience
Remember that everything grows from scratch and so will your community. Remember to start a community with the right ingredients and nurture it then on.
Best of Luck!
I would love to have your comments and suggestions, so please keep them coming.