Responding to Maggie McGary's online community post on SocialFishing got me thinking about the foundation that associations and other membership organizations need in order to launch and maintain a successful online member community.
Photo credit: Will Scullin
Here are 3 decisions, associations and user groups should make upfront, that can mean the difference between a ghost town of a site and a thriving member community:
Who is going to be responsible for the online community?
Empowering one, or a couple of people, with the authority and responsibility to drive adoption and make the community a success is often more effective than putting a committee in charge of decisions with ultimate responsibility rolling up to a busy vice president or COO.
Is your online community going to be the center of your universe?
Organizations need to decide how their online community if going to fit into their overall member engagement strategy. Is Facebook or LinkedIn going to be the center of their world, or is their online community going to be central to their member communication plan?
How are you going to ensure the site remains easy to use and understand as it evolves?
One of the key ingredients in the success of any online initiative or product is user success. As the site grows, content is added, and new features are introduced, both new users and advanced members need to be able to understand what they can do in your online community, how it benefits them to keep coming back, and how to accomplish collaboration and communication tasks on the site.