15 Ways To Kill An Online Community

About a year ago I blogged about the top 10 ways to kill engagement. Time has passed, tools have changed and the industry has evolved, so I figured it was time to update this list with fresh, updated tactics. Over the course of a year, nearly every organization has taken the community leap in one form or another -- from Facebook fan pages and LinkedIN groups to, for the bravest, a dedicated online community for their customers, clients or enthusiasts. While the tools have evolved, many of the best practice tenets remain the same. Building an online community is like getting a puppy - exciting at first, but hard work thereafter! So the question at hand is how to keep your community alive and thriving. Or, on the flip side, here are the top 15 ways to (inadvertently) to kill an online community:

1) Don't solicit executive sponsorship or budget before starting your social media engagement. Heck, the executives don't care about this social stuff! Just do it without any formal sponsorship or even a social media policy. The line of business won't mind and legal is just grouchy anyway.

2) Don't bother to create a business strategy or align operational goals to the plan. Assume social media is just a fad -- this too shall pass. Don't bother paying attention to all those pesky facts about social media penetration and the organizational changes businesses are experiencing due to social business. Just stick your head in the sand and wait for it all to go away.

3) Hire the tool vendor to lead the social charter. They are software vendors so they must know something about business strategy, right? Maybe one of the developers even interviewed for a consultancy. They will be able to refine revenue models and business goals as well as the next guy in a suit. Besides, why would we need something specifically suited for our business objectives?

4) Don't bother integrating social data into your organization's information assets. The information gathered through the social channel is just a nuisance and creates more work for the IT group. Just engage online and ignore the outcomes. It's all about marketing anyway -- right?

5) Throw feature-spaghetti at the wall and hope something sticks. Add as many whizzy new features to your community as possible to make sure it's filled with bells and whistles. Business people love to struggle with learning how to use new tools.

6) Just let PR people do all the work or, better yet, outsource the whole darn social thing. Who cares about customer relations and the idea that successful social is about building relationships? Let's just have that millennial over at the agency tweet the heck out of this content, webinar, idea, etc ... people will love it!

7) Everyone loves a surprise, so don't bother launching with a beta group. Involving users in the design of the community takes too much time. Just design the features and functions without them and assume they will like it because you know better than your customers about what they want.

8) Don't "feed" your community once it is open. Fill it with people by marketing the heck out of it and just see where things go. Assume the members will do all the work from the start and they don't need content or assistance after they have joined.

9) Bigger is always better, size is THE critical differentiator. Meet your engagement goals with anyone and everyone regardless of their role or function. If they have a pulse they are welcome, even if they have nothing in common or interest in collaborating with other members. More community members is the key, just like having more twitter followers us better, even if they aren't wearing any clothes or doing anything relevant. The numbers prove we are popular.

10) Be sure to monetize the community at every opportunity. People like to be badgered with micro-payments and teasers when they are in a community setting. Ignore the business strategy or never develop one. Just give people lots of opportunity to pay for access and content at every turn.

11) Staff the community with any under utilized employee, regardless of their ability to moderate or facilitate knowledge-sharing. Heck, this will give them something to do. You won't need to train them on best practice -- there are no new skills involved in doing social business.

12) Don't bother with a newsletter or steady, predictable communication to members. Of course they will want to visit your community or social space during their busy work day and they're sure to remember where to go.

13) Don't evolve the business based on member feedback and suggestions. A community is done at launch. Go tell your investors and executive team the community mission is accomplished as soon as the site is up and running and don't look back.

14) Measure everything, even meaningless metrics -- you want to look good! Counting posts (include all those "me too" messages to bump up your numbers), members (never mind their engagement, relevance or visit frequency), one-time visits all make you look really good. Just don't try to show how those stats serve your business and customers.

15) Finally, be sure to locate the exit slide. When all else fails, you can toss that blog, community or Twitter account over the side. No one will notice if you don't take it down. Just leave it up for cyber-eternity so the Google searchers can find it and judge your brand accordingly.

Vanessa DiMauro,  CEO Leader Networks http://www.leadernetworks.com @vdimauro

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