Before you launch your online community, you need to make sure you have everything in place. A key part of launch preparation is content planning. In this article, we look at the various types of content you will need to prepare for a typical social networking community.
Content is key
Without content, visitors won’t stick around. If they don’t stick around, they won’t convert into community members.
- Seed user-generated content (UGC). Make sure you have a foundation of UGC. This content should convey the underlying functionality and philosophy of your community. We’ll cover how to get seed user-generated content in detail in a future post. In brief, consider getting staff, people close to your project, early adopters, etc. to sign up as ‘seed members’. Get these members to post, comment, post, comment and post some more! Then get your community manager to encourage them to post and comment one more time.
- Editorial. If you plan on having editorial content in your community, make sure there’s a foundation of posts in place before you launch. The more the better but at least enough to cover the range of topics your community will focus on. Make sure the content is tagged and ordered so it can be discovered. Get your seed members to comment on the posts.
- Active groups. Groups are a core feature of many social networks and online communities. Set up groups you anticipate will be popular, get seed members to join and post to them. Keep the content flowing!
So you’ve got some visitors and they are starting to convert into community members. Great! The next thing is to make sure they have a smooth onboarding experience. User experience is key here. There are technical aspects, like Social Login and that can ease the process. Your development department/partners will help with this. At the same time, you need to make sure members are provided with messaging and signposting to support the experience. This may take the form of a page of benefits or a pop up message. Whatever the device, this is your big chance to convert a visitor. Make it count with a focused message.
Even if you anticipate having community members contribute the majority of the content to your site, there’s still background content you will need to have in place:
- Automated Emails. Your community will fire off emails to members when an action happens. For example, when someone follows them or replies to a post they have made. The core technology we use for client communities has automated email copy built right in. The copy is good, but it tends to be generic. And of course, there’s unique functionality, often with unique automated emails. Some minor edits of the automated emails are often enough to create more impactful communications. In turn, this helps bring existing and new members back to your community.
- About. Don’t forget to give details about your community. This can range from a descriptive strapline to a full page going into the philosophy and purpose of the platform. This content can be a path to getting visitors to convert to members. So make sure it’s concise and engaging.
- CRM. Community members will want to get in touch with you. How you manage this will depend on the nature of your community. Often the best approach is to have a customer relationship management (CRM) solution in place. This will mean preparing content, it could be a list of FAQs or contact options. This can grow over time but make sure the foundations are in place from the start.
Legal and General
You’re launching an online community which means gathering personal information. This has legal implications so you need to ensure you are covered. You’ll likely have some basic rules too. It’s important to get these across to your new community members
- House Rules. This isn’t essential, but it’s advisable to have a page of house rules, written in an easy to read (not legal) way.
- Terms of service. Designed to protect you and make sure your members know what they can and can’t do. Terms of service are unique to each community. Your development partners and/or legal associates will be able to provide you with framework and guidance.
Test before you launch
Once you have everything in place, be sure to go through a few test runs. Find people who aren’t close to the project. Get them to engage with the content you have added and feedback.
Running a social networking community is a journey of evolution. If something isn’t quite right, you can fix and refine it.