10 Steps to Creating an Online Community – There Aren’t Any

There aren’t any steps. I’ve never really liked
“STEPS” lists, because they are too generic (unless you are putting
together the Space Shuttle, or something like that). It is as if they
will take you to the holy grail.

Steps imply that they must be done in order – in sequence. Yet each community is in its own phase. They have their own unique strengths
& weaknesses & culture. There isn’t a One-Size-Fits-All
method. It is impossible to come up with a list of steps that will
cover them all.

Instead, here are 10 things you must do (or not do) when creating a community.

  1. DO gather (virtually or in person) the community together (or a portion of it) and look at it from a performance improvement
    perspective. You can’t go in thinking that an online community will
    solve all of its problems. How much better to be able to go in,
    recognize an area that can be improved, and then be able to provide a
    solution, whatever that may be! If not provide it, then recognize what a
    potential solution could be and who to contact. It could be training,
    process re-engineering, dealing with cultural issues…
  2. Don’t just target the GenY or Millenials. Those who are older get this just as much as they do.
  3. Don’t ask them to blog, or tweet, or use a wiki. They won’t know what to do with it. Well then, how do we help them use these new tools?
  4. Work the tools into their workflow. If it is an extra chore, they won’t use it (this seems pretty intuitive, but is forgotten in
    practice). Make it a part of how they work. But don’t focus on the
    tools either…
  5. Focus on the people, the culture. Usage of the tools will follow. Help the people “work out loud.”
  6. Don’t create communities hoping they will join. Make sure you have a plan! (Again, that seems obvious, but…) Throwing something out there
    will rarely work. Be strategic, yet flexible enough to allow the
    employees to set the agenda.
  7. Do set the example yourself. Use it. Show others how it can be used in the real world. At NASA we
    are in the middle of development of our enterprise social solution. How
    do we communicate? Using the tool and principles of transparency. I
    can’t tell you how effective that has been in showing others the value
    and how to use it practically. Oh, and I have avoided a ton of meetings
    and emails as well.
  8. Do dare to be different. Don’t go with the flow which will only lead you back to the same results the organization has always achieved.
    You MUST go against the grain – not to be combative, however. But when
    people challenge you, stand up with them (not ‘to’ them) and help
    educate them, allthewhile having a smile on your face. Some will laugh
    at you and that is okay. Just smile, knowing that they will come back
    later and use the very thing they mocked.
  9. DO focus on TRUST. I can’t stress this enough. Talk about it in your meetings, online, on the phone, all the time.
  10. Help others understand the difference between personal and professional uses – internal and external uses. They are very different (although they
    can bleed into each other, but keep it simple with them for right now).
    Beat that drum loud and hard.

(This is a crosspost from Engaged Learning)

Leave a Comment


Leave a Reply

Andrew Krzmarzick

Great post, Kevin (and thanks for sharing your insight with us on GovLoop)!

“Work the tools into their workflow.” – Exactly. How can this stuff allow people to get more done and/or go home earlier…rather than add work to their already full plate?

Avatar photo Bill Brantley

Great point on number six! I call that the “Field of Dreams” fallacy – if we build an online community they will come. I have a multitude of choices to spend my time online so you need to sell me on why I should choose your site over Facebook or WoW. Whats in it for me?

Christina Morrison

Loved the post Kevin, I especially agree with #2 – an online community can’t be built successfully if you don’t account for the needs and interests of everyone within that field of work. You should never have someone turn away from the community because they don’t feel their generation is welcomed.