Posted By: Simon Titus on September 16, 2017 in Associations&Business Strategy&Non-Profits

An online community is definitely a good idea for your association. It provides great insights, viral effect, PR and increased loyalty to members among other benefits. The possibilities that come with the establishment of an online community are very exciting. However, I have seen some organizations leap in and launch big projects without a clear picture of where they are going. Scary mistakes are bound to crop up in such a situation and sink your online community. Here, I will share with you 10 common mistakes that you should avoid when building your online community.

1. Under-Managing your Community
I always tell organizations about the difference between an online community and a static website. You can’t just put up your online community and forget about it. Unlike in a website, you need to closely manage your users. They will constantly be communicating with one another and publishing content. You should be there most of the time to answer questions or edit content based on its appropriateness for the community.

2. Betraying the Community
Building trust within a community will take some time. However, it can be lost in a split second. Maintain constant communication with the community even as you develop and launch initiatives. This will save you from PR crisis. Keep members in the loop to gain useful insight on any changes or new developments that you may want to make.

3. Using Limited Technology
In her post about Tips for Selecting the Best Online Community Software, Katie Bapple emphasizes on the importance of using software with great tools and features. If members have challenges signing up, it will be hard to launch your community. The same case applies when the platform is in a constant downtime or loads slowly.

4. Over-Managing Your Community
Under-managing your community is not the only mistake you can make. Some of the people I have advised to manage their platforms overdid it. This can be a serious problem. There may be criticism about your association in the community but it is not wise to stop members who do that. Don’t make members feel like you are censoring content out of organizational self-interest. Otherwise, they will revolt leaving you with PR issues.

5. Being Self-Centered
Beware! When your online community is all about asking members to fill in surveys about your organization, you definitely are losing it. No one will want to remain there. I tell organizations to think globally and offer something for their members too. This will give them a reason to join and become loyal. Think about building relationships and you will lead your organization on the right track.

6. Lacking a Recruitment Plan
Set up an online community today. Is that enough to get started? Absolutely not! Members will not sign up by themselves. You need a plan to help them do so. Consider doing search engine optimization (SEO), press releases and other viral marketing strategies to promote your organization. This will give prospects a reason to sign up and before you know it, the news will spread like wildfire and benefit your community in the end.

7. Dead Ends
There are quite a number of sites where I simply get pissed off after signing up. This shouldn’t be the feeling with your online community. Instead, it should be clear to members what your community is all about. Don’t disorient them with lack of clarity of information. Once members reach a dead end, they’ll certainly leave. Here is how to breathe life into your online community.

8. Being All-Over
Focus. Don’t strive to be everywhere. Choose what works for you and stick to that. If you are thinly on various social sites for the sake of just being everywhere, it will dilute your community presence. I see this habit with many organizations – having a twitter handle, a blog, Facebook page and so on. In most cases, you will not be able to manage all these sites. Instead, stick to the sites offering meaningful engagement.

9. No Engagement
I always give my members a reason to keep coming back. When they see that nothing has changed since their last visit, it will be the last time you will be seeing them around. Make all members take part in the community by engaging them. Include everyone in your plan. If some members feel that they are the only ones contributing, they will easily lose interest and quit.

10. Complicating things
Users in online communities don’t like going through a bunch of instructions. Make your community simple to a point where there is no instruction manual. It should be user-friendly with few or no technicalities. Members will shy away if they find it hard to understand how to use your community.

These are common mistakes that people make. Avoid them when launching your online community. Best of luck!

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