Five Tips for Building Online Community

BlogHer Original Post

Emily Williams from Topix was one of our Experts during the Ask the Experts session at BlogHer Business this past March.

Emily compiled the top tips she felt came up over and over during her discussions with the folks that came by her table, and emailed them to me. Check them out:

5 Tips for Building Online Community by Emily Williams, Topix

At BlogHer Business, I was lucky enough to be asked to participate in an "Ask the Experts" session. I feel incredibly honored to have been able to participate in such a hands-on sense with the attendees. Diverse opinion and perspective from all corners of the corporate blog space, these people have good ideas and they mean business.

My particular "Ask the Experts" session focused on building and nurturing online community. If you have been following along, you know Topix is all about community. Some attendees were just delving into community with their site and some had established forums with specific concerns. With so many people to talk to and with limited time to do so, I promised I would post the gist of the conversation at my session for those that missed it. Be forewarned. What follows is the rantings of a Community Manager for a site that routinely hits 36 thousand posts in a day.

  • Fences Make Better Neighbors - Have standards and state them for all to see. A solid Terms of Service policy is your friend.

  • Where's the Milk? - There is a reason that grocery stores put the milk in the very back of the store. Community sites are everywhere and new sites are sprouting up literally every day. When organizing your site and building your community, figure out what the milk is at the back of your store. People need a good reason to come to your site instead of one of the myriad of others. Your community makes up the rest of your store, where you hope to entice users to stick around and spend the bulk of their time and energy online.

  • Humanity Breeds Humility - Offer your users the tools they need to feel invested in your community. That may come in the form of avatars, profiles, post counts or power user privileges and status. When users are able to put more of themselves into their presence of your site and see those human touches in their fellow users, the entire tone of their interactions change.

  • Commit to the Conversation - Divorce yourself emotionally from the content you will see. If your community deals with issues that people are passionate about, whether political or social, you will deal with content that pushes your every conceivable button. Commit to the conversation. Understand and make it clear to your users that an opposing view isn't offensive just because it doesn't mesh with your own beliefs.

  • It's Nothing Personal - Don't take anything personally. This was the incredibly useful advice given to me by a former Community Manager and Terms of Use Specialist of a popular social networking site. He was right on the money. You absolutely will not make everyone happy all of the time. You must do what you feel is best for your community as a whole. Every. Single. Time.
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