Originally published November 10, 2014

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1. Carefully choose the community topic

  • Make sure a community will have all of the following: SMILE
  1. Subject: A specialty to learn and/or collaborate about
  2. Members: People interested in the subject
  3. Interaction: Meetings, calls, and discussions
  4. Leaders: People passionate about the subject who are dedicated to creating, building, and sustaining a community
  5. Enthusiasm: Motivation to engage and spend time collaborating and/or learning about the subject
  • Avoid redundancy
  1. Narrowing either by geography or function should be discouraged
  2. Local chapters can be created as subsets of larger communities
  3. Suggest that overlapping communities with similar topics be combined, either directly or with one as a subset of the other
  • Avoid having too narrow a scope
  1. Start with the broadest feasible topics, and narrow down as needed
  2. Spin off narrower sub-topics only when a high volume of discussion or communication makes it necessary
  3. Challenge those with a niche topic to prove that it warrants its own community

2. Publicize

  1. Look for all existing distribution lists of people interested in your community’s topic — use these lists to invite people to join your community
  2. Look for related communities, calls, and sites you can use to promote your community — ask permission to do so, and then post, present, or send a brief invitation
  3. Ask well-connected people to forward your announcement memo to their distribution lists, social networks, and communities
  4. Write and submit articles to existing newsletters that reach your target audience
  5. Use social networking tools and social media to inform possible members about your community
  6. Ask the leaders of relevant organizations to send a one-time message to all of their people
  7. Ensure that your community is included in the master community directory
  8. Request that links to your community site be added on all relevant web sites
  9. Offer an incentive to join, e.g., a member will be chosen at random or the 100th member will receive an iPad or equivalent gift
  10. Search personal profiles for people with relevant interests and/or expertise, and invite them to join

3. Increase membership

  • Communities need a critical mass of members
  1. You usually need at least 100 members
  2. 200 is a better target
  3. Only about 10% of the members will be active
  • Invite people to join who are part of existing networks
  1. Existing teams that practice in the community’s specialty
  2. Existing distribution lists of people interested in the topic
  3. Use Social Network Analysis to identify people who may not be part of a formal community
  • Regularly suggest to those with questions or interest in your topic that they
  1. Join your community
  2. Use its tools
  • Attract members by word of mouth
  1. Create communities for which potential members want to be included in discussions, meetings, and other interactions
  2. Make it so they don’t want to miss out on what is going on

4. Post and reply

  • Lay the foundation
  1. Enable posting and replying by email or mobile devices
  2. Seed the discussion board with example posts
  3. Recruit other key community members to also post and reply
  • Set clear expectations for the community threaded discussion board
  1. Members should subscribe by email, RSS feed, or other regularly visible notifications
  2. If a member posts a question, make sure that it gets a response within 48 hours
  3. If your community has a regular call, leverage the discussion board as a means of continuing the conversation, or providing resources covered on the call
  • Set a calendar reminder to post every week
  1. Summary of a community event
  2. Useful link — save these in a list and share one each week
  3. Thought-provoking topic to stimulate discussion
  • Redirect relevant discussions taking place in
  1. Email exchanges
  2. Distribution lists
  3. Other collaboration channels or communities
  • If questions are asked via email or instant messaging that the entire community can benefit from, ask the requester to post in the discussion board and reply there

5. Use newsletters, blogs, and wikis

  1. Stay in communication with members
  2. Remind about calls
  3. Link to key information — reuse content already produced, e.g., recent discussion board threads, blog posts of interest, recently-edited wiki pages
  • Blogs — chronological archive
  1. Announcements
  2. Newsletter archives
  3. Recurring communications which lend themselves to lists and archives
  • Wikis — collaborative editing
  1. Meeting agendas
  2. Position papers
  3. Self-maintained lists of resources

6. Schedule and host events

  • Types
  1. Regular conference calls
  2. Occasional face-to-face meetings
  3. Training sessions
  • Purpose
  1. Stay connected
  2. Share progress
  3. Reuse good ideas
  4. Collaborate on common needs
  • Activities
  1. Share an idea, tip, trick, technique, proven practice, or insight
  2. Request feedback on a presentation, document, web site, idea, program, or problem
  3. Lead a discussion on any topic of interest
  4. Provide an update on a project, program, initiative, or organization
  5. Speaker (community member or invited guest)
  • Ideas
  1. Themed-call, where multiple speakers discuss the same subject
  2. Post agendas ahead of time using events calendar, agenda pages
  3. Upload presentations in advance so no one needs to ask about this
  4. Send reminder messages a week before and the day before
  5. Prime the pump prior to the call by asking others to ask questions or share their thoughts

7. Provide useful content

  • Review and refresh content on a regular basis
  • Communicate changes in the newsletter
  • Solicit content contributions from your membership
  1. You don’t have to produce all of the content yourself
  2. Let members know specifically what is needed
  3. Recognize contributors publicly in the newsletter
  4. Ask for content submissions to newsletter, blog, wiki, site, and discussion board

8. Tell members how they should participate: SPACE

  • Subscribe: Get email, RSS, or other notifications and regularly read the threaded discussion board
  • Post: Start a new thread or reply in the threaded discussion board
  • Attend: Participate in community events
  • Contribute: Submit content to the community newsletter, blog, wiki, or site
  • Engage: Ask a question, make a comment, or give a presentation

And tell them what they should do in a community: SAFARIS

  • Share
  • Ask
  • Find
  • Answer
  • Recognize
  • Inform
  • Suggest

9. Set goals and measure progress

  • At least one discussion board post, reply, and new thread per week
  • At least one newsletter or blog post per month
  • At least one conference call, webinar, or face-to-face meeting per quarter
  • At least 100 members and increasing over time
  • At least 10 members participating in each event

10. Solicit, find, and publicize success stories

  • Solicit from community members
  • Mine discussion threads
  • Publicize in the newsletter, blog, and wiki
  1. Testimonials by community members on the value of participation
  2. Stories about the usefulness of the community
  3. Posts thanking other members for their help


Written by

Knowledge Management Author and Speaker, Founder of SIKM Leaders Community, Community Evangelist, Knowledge Manager https://sites.google.com/site/stangarfield/

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