Higher Logic Blog

17 Tips for Planning a Private Social Network for Your Business

Written by Joshua Paul | December 5, 2011 at 6:49 PM

Marketers and membership professionals continue to see the value of leveraging their online community to increase revenue and control costs. However, the path of taking a social business strategy from business idea to business impact can be less clear.

Socious and DelCor recently hosted a webinar addressing how to plan a successful private social network for membership organizations. These are the slides from the presentation:

How to Plan a Successful Association Online Community

The following are the big takeaways for membership organizations and associations planning to increase membership, retention, and revenue using an online community platform.

Setting Goals for Your Online Community

  1. Create the Burning Imperative. You need a strong reason why members are going to use your online community.
  2. Bring Value. Solve your customer's, or member's, most important problems.
  3. User Experience Matters. Build in little victories to keep members engaged.
  4. Community Goals are Business Goals. The metrics you choose are important, but need to roll up to tangible business objectives.

Finding Out What is Important to Your Target Audiences

  1. Where to Research. Gather data about problems, online access, communication preferences, and content from both customers and staff.
  2. How to Research. Conduct interviews with a cross-section of your audience before surveying to confirm and prioritize what you heard.

Turning Market Research Into Online Community Features

  1. Eye on the Prize. Start with your organization's goals.
  2. Know Your Options. Understand your online community platform.
  3. Get Creative. List top member and staff problems, then brainstorm solutions using online community features.
  4. Narrow the List. Focus the list based on access and communication preferences, and staffing limitations.

Successfully Launching Your Private Online Community

  1. Simplicity. Keep the launch and communication plan simple. Use short clear emails, blog posts, and videos to explain the online community's value, purpose, and features.
  2. Get Good Testing Data. Test your online community with a full chapter or customer segment rather than a broad cross-section.
  3. Live Events. Use meetings or events to rally the troops, train members or customers, and get more people engaged around the community.

Setting Up Your Online Community for Long Term Success

  1. Communities Need Daily Support. Do not underestimate the amount of time and work that will go into feeding an online community.
  2. Give Community Managers Authority. A key member of the team and predictor of success will be whether you have an empowered community manager or not.
  3. Set Up Engagement Systems. Use the tools in your online community platform to proactivity monitor and engage your customers or members.
  4. Relationships Win. People might start coming for the content or tools, but will come back because their trusted friends are there.

Though this online community planning advice was geared toward association and user group member communities, these tips are helpful for enterprise customer communities as well.