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Creating a Private Online Community: Guide to Creating a Content Calendar

Written by Katie Oakes on March 5, 2015 at 8:30 AM

Creating Content Calendar for an Online CommunityWhen your private online community is just getting off the ground, there won't be much there. As more people join and participate in the community, the engagement opportunities for members will grow over time. However, in order to establish a clear value proposition for joining and participating from the very beginning of your launch you need content – original, useful, exclusive content.

Your community manager should plan to have at least two weeks of content present in every area of the community prior to launching and a plan for inputting consistent content going forward.

Just in case you think all online communities are not created equal,  let's talk about why planning out your engaging content is so crucial for encouraging your members to participate.

Why is Creating a Content Calendar for Your Private Online Community Important?

Content Grabs Your Audience's Attention

When a new member arrives in your community, they need to instantly find something that grabs their interest and motivates them to participate. Otherwise, you risk turning them into lurkers for life or not returning to the community.

Using your online community content calendar to continuously publish high-value content in your community will help to remind your busy members to visit the online community. Eventually, they will come for the discussions and the content, but it is the content that initially attracts target community members, especially when there are so many online content channels competing for their attention.

Nobody Wants to Be the First to Participate

You can't expect your audience to visit your brand new community for the first time and begin participating. Often they need an example of how to interact. By filling in some of the empty space within your community before you invite members to join, you can model the behavior that you'd like members to take and mitigate the shy hesitation of newcomers.

In addition to having a few articles and comments ready to greet your initial online community blog visitors. You can also build out a few discussions in your forum spaces by asking some of your founding members or volunteers from your feedback council to get the ball rolling.

A content calendar facilitates the flow of ongoing value in your community and avoids dry spells that new online communities can experience.

Your Online Community Should Feel Like a Destination

If your target audience can receive the same information as a member from other channels they won't appreciate the value of being a regular online community member.

Making your online customer or member community your target audiences' one-stop-shop for important resources, like your file library and events calendar, it becomes a true destination for helpful advice and information about your organization.

A content calendar can help you stick to the routine of providing exclusive information that will keep your community members coming back. Despite how important consistently adding fresh content is to the success of a private online community, creating and maintaining a content calendar is a significant challenge for many community managers. So, what's the source of this hang up? Why is sticking to a content calendar so hard?  

The Two Reasons Organizations Resist Creating Content Calendars for Their Private Online Community

The Fear of Disingenuous Content

Yes, ideally your customers or members would organically create all of the discussions in your online community. However, the fear that user-generated content is disingenuous neglects to consider one of the primary purposes of your community: connecting your members to your organization. Having as many people as possible from your organization participating in your online community shows that your organization is invested in the community, which is an attractive quality to demonstrate to the people who are visiting your community and deciding how they want to engage.

The Belief That Members Will Create Their Own Content

Many organizations make the mistake of thinking once they provide an online community platform, their customers or members will just come and use it and build up the content and conversations on their own. Unfortunately, this isn't how online communities tend to work.

By making your content production process organized and consistent, you'll have a system in place to continuously show members why they should keep coming back to your community. This helps make it clear to your community members that your organization is not only invested in your online community, but that there will always be new value for members to absorb when they return to the community. Now that we've covered why creating a content calendar is important and what makes it such a challenge for organizations creating a private online community, let's get down to the specifics. How do you get started?

4 Tips for Building a Content Calendar for Your Private Online Community

Tip One: Figure Out All Of Your Features That Will Need Regularly Updated Content

Start by mapping out the content needs of your online community. This step helps you determine the amount of content you'll be creating on a weekly basis.

For instance, your calendar might start off with the content needed to supply the questions and answers in your forums. Next, you'll need to consider the blog articles you'll be posting and the comments you'll need to answer. You should also plan to regularly update your events calendar and file library.

Tip Two: Get a Little Perspective

While you'll probably want to break your content calendar down into a weekly to-do list, it's helpful to plan out at least a month or up to 90 days in advance. Don't plan beyond each quarter since you'll likely want to tweak your system, messaging, and tactics throughout the process based on the data and feedback you receive from your community members.

Your weekly perspective should show you the specific actions you need to do and how many times per week they require your attention. For instance, set a goal for how often you plan to respond to blog comments or forum questions. Ideally, that would be something you track every day to ensure that no more than 24 hours goes by without a response.

Tip Three: Delegate Responsibilities

Each task on your content calendar should be designated to a specific person so the delegation of responsibilities is clear. This helps to avoid any miscommunication and sets up a consistent routine for how to manage the different elements of content creation required to keep your online community running smoothly.

Tip Four: Be Open to Tweaks

Depending on how fast your community grows and how long it takes to grow, you might find that your calendar needs adjustments along the way. While sticking to your calendar is important, don't be so resistant to change that you continue following a procedure that your metrics show doesn't work. As long as you're making data-driven decisions, changes to your content calendar are simply part of the process.

Online Community Content Calendar Takeaway

The exclusive and helpful content within your private online community is a large part of the value proposition that motivates your members to join and participate. Stock your community with a week's worth of content prior to launching and consistently stick to a calendar that makes content creation just another part of your online community management routine.

Use this guide to evaluate, select, and plan a successful online community for your association.

Topics: Online Community Management, Online Community

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