With the start of a new year, you probably have an extensive list of goals and to-dos to improve the health and functionality of your private online community. However, before you get too caught up in some of your loftier ambitions, there are a few online community management tasks you can tackle to get the year started off on the right foot.
It's all too easy to let important community management activity fall by the wayside in favor of more strategic tasks, but taking the time to refresh some of the basic everyday functions of your customer, partner, or member community can get everything working more smoothly behind the scenes.
While these community management tasks can be initiated at any point throughout the year, the start of a new year is a great time to bring them into focus. Make it a goal to tackle one of these tasks a week and, before you know it, your online community will be ready to perform optimally for the next 12 months.
Five Tasks That Will Tune-Up Your Online Community
Task #1) Survey Your Members
In order to know what your community members truly want, you need to ask them. Conduct a survey to discover their interests and engagement preferences. Ask your members what they want to see the community do this year, how they prefer to be engaged, and what types of content and tools would be most useful.
Figure out your target community members' communication preferences so you can determine whether you need to contact them less or more with news and calls-to-action from the community. Use their responses to gain an increased understanding about what topics interest them and what you need to do differently to keep them engaged.
Your online community needs to consistently engage your members to thrive. Before you decide what needs to be improved, changed, or added in 2015, go to the source. Asking for their feedback every 9-12 months will also make your members feel valued and more invested in your community - everybody wins.
Task #2) Refresh Your Advisory Groups, Committees, and Leadership
If it's been awhile since you switched up the leadership in your community, a fresh new year is a great time to reevaluate. Encouraging new perspectives to step up and take on a leadership role in your online community could be just the refresh your community's small groups need to be reinvigorated. Systematically cycling new people into your committees and other groups keeps ideas from going stale and encourages further engagement from members who may have been trying to decide how to get more involved.
Look at the various small groups in your community "general membership, chapters and segment groups, product advisory groups, or committees“ and consider how long the group membership has been in place. Sometimes a change can be exactly what your small groups need to tackle the goals of the new year with fresh energy.
Task #3) Evaluate Your Content Calendar
Relevant and helpful content is a big motivator for bringing members back to the community and reminding them what the community has to offer. The new year is a great time to take a hard look at your online community's content calendar and evaluate what works and what doesn't.
For instance, what types of formats are more likely to be read, shared, or discussed? Do certain lengths resonate more with your readers? Is there specific keywords or language that performs better than others with your audiences?
Dig into your data to gain a clear understanding of the type of content your members prefer. Don't be afraid to get as specific as possible and consider breaking down your analysis by certain segments of your audience. Taking on this community management task early on in the year can help set your community up with a stronger value proposition for months to come.
Task #4) Take Advantage of New Features
Your online community software platform provider probably added a lot of new features over the last year but, if you're anything like the rest of us, you were too busy running your community to take advantage of them.
Take the time now to go back and make sure you understand everything that's been updated added. Use the downtime of January to try out something new. Understanding what's available can, at the very least, make sure you aren't missing out on a feature you've been wishing you had when you could have had it all along!
In many cases, the new online community software tools you're interested in might not even be member-facing features. Perhaps you'll stumble across an internal community management feature that saves your team 10 hours of work time per week. You won't know what's out there unless you take the time to look.
Task #5) Enlist Others in Your Organization
In many organizations, community managers are hesitant to ask for the help or support of others in your organization when the community is first getting off the ground. Though not ideal, that is understandable. Online community strategies and their business benefits are still very new to many executives.
However, now that people throughout your company have seen the results and you've proven the importance of an online community, they might be more willing to get involved. Use the start of a fresh year as an opportunity to report on the success of your community. Once they have a better understanding of how the online community impacts your company and customers, they'll be more willing to participate in some way.
Since this is a great time to expand the number of people who are participating, pose various options for involvement. Seek out the people you want to see involved and explain to them how they can help out whether it's contributing content, running a part of the community, contributing an ongoing video series, or determining ways to integrate the community and the engagement it delivers further into your business practices and customer management. Set goals that involve more people in your organization to make running your online community a company-wide affair.
Online Community Management Takeaway
Online community managers have a lot on their plate. Before the year gets too hectic and all of your time is taken up with the complicated process of simply running your online community, take care of these five housekeeping tasks. When you see the positive effect they can have on your community as a whole, you'll be glad you did.