Keeping Communities Alive

As I’ve said in the past Social Media and Social Networks live and die on human interactions and needs. When a new forum or network starts up, it takes engaging people, topics or a differentiator for you to be compelled to join. Many of my Twitter Tweeps have crossed to Google+ for example. But only a handful have adopted it with the velocity or vigour that they display on Twitter. For most of us, to stay active in a network we need to be getting some value out of it.

The same can be said for communities within these networks. Hashtag, LinkedIn Groups or Facebook pages need some compelling reasons for you to keep coming back for updates. That’s where content and context become king.

It could be a new #hashtag supporting your site, a LinkedIn Group or your Facebook Fan Page that you choose to invest time in. These are a few methods, tips and article types I’ve thought of to liven up discussions.

  • Start posting
    Community 101 – a silent bar or empty chat room gets left. It’s very difficult for new joiners to see the value of a network if there’s no history for them to see. Add a good description of the community and seed with some previous articles, posts or videos.
  • Ask a question
    We’ve all got burning issues so pose one to your group.
  • Top ten tips
    Providing an ordered list of points and a ranking seems to be one of the most popular content types in recent years – to be honest – it should have been the format for this post.
  • Rank your pain
    Pose 5 issues you believe will effect business in your area and ask the group for feedback. Ask if that’s relevant to their geography, size or client demographics.
  • Get controversial
    Propose a technique or business initiative that goes against the norm. There’s noting like a bit of controversy to get people talking.
  • Think of a new angle
    A recent favourite of mine are posts by anti-social media experts. Explaining how not to succeed or being sarcastic about the topic.
  • Curate
    Ask your group what they think of someone else’s article or a piece of breaking news. This may be slightly patronising but don’t just drop them a link, add your perspective to give them value!

And as you’re exploring these types of content think of your content schedule.

  • Vary your types of content
    Ensure that your stream of info sizzles (Dilbert). Use a variety of content types like: infographics, videos, micro polls, surveys, articles and questions.
  • Keep things regular
    Keeping a conversation going requires commitment and a planned schedule of content. Get into the habit of posting regularly, you may find that rhythmic updates encourage your group to engage more than a sporadic onslaught of messages or 50 tweets in a row followed by a week or day of silence. You might consider the Friday tweet up, Topical Tuesdays, the monthly status update or The Day in Detail.
  • Be consistent also to your brand
    Social Media offers the capacity to tap client insights, it also promotes tighter connections and transparency. The informality of many of the communities and the separation from the corporate home page, lets clients and the company feel they can open up. With that in mind many are tempted to be the open and sociable chatty teenager on Twitter when their brand is a matron of conformity and boredom back on their website. Inconsistencies in tone, voice and messaging can confuse clients – leaving them with a mixed picture and concerned as to which of the two they’ll ultimately get.
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