Corporate Communities Part 2: Getting Started

The first part of this three part series of posts about corporate communities covered Planning for your corporate community, and now we move on to a few things to think about when you are getting started with your community. While there is a fair amount of overlap between planning and getting started, the planning section covered setting goals / objectives and fitting the community into the company’s overall strategy. This post continues this train of thought to talk about how you achieve those goals, measure success, decide to join or build, and put resources in place to make the community successful.

What are your plans for achieving your goals and how will you measure success?

Now that you have some goals for what you want to accomplish with your community, you need to figure out some specific steps required to achieve your goals along with the metrics you will use to measure whether or not you have been successful. The metrics that you select will depend on your specific goals, but common community metrics include page views or visits, new member sign ups, and participation (new posts or replies). It is easy to go overboard and measure everything; however, I recommend that you pick a couple (no more than 4 or 5) of the most important measurements to use to report to management on your success. You should have an analytics package or reporting tools that allow you to drill down for more details that you can use to help troubleshoot issues and understand the data, but use these as background materials for your team.

Do you need to build new or can you join an existing community?

This is the reality check portion of the process. If you can join an existing community and get the same or similar benefits for your organization without investing all of the resources to create something new, you should seriously consider joining rather than building. You should also look around your organization to see if you have any existing communities or other infrastructure that you can reuse instead of installing yet another piece of community software.

Do you have the resources (people and financing) to maintain it long-term?

Building a new community is a big effort. It is not one of those projects that you complete and move onto the next one. Building the community and installing the software is the first step, and the real work comes in after the launch of the community. You will need to have people on board and ready to manage the day to day responsibilities from a community perspective and to administer and maintain the software. For a small community this could be a single person, but for a large corporate community, it usually takes a team of people.

You should also plan for frequent upgrades and adjustments to the community, especially right after the launch. You will find bugs in the software, areas of the community that the users find difficult to use for whatever reason, and other things that you will need to adjust once you have people actually using the community. Your organization should be ready to handle these ongoing costs and resource commitments over the life of the community. Nothing is worse than wasting time and money on something that won’t be maintained long enough to achieve your goals.

While this certainly isn’t everything that you need to consider when starting a new community, hopefully, it will get you started on the right path. For more information, you might also want to read some of Jeremiah Owyang’s posts about community platforms or some of the online community research that Bill Johnston is doing at ForumOne.

The next and final installment of this 3 part series will cover how to maintain a successful community with some hints about what to do (and what not to do).

If you are interested in reading more of my content, you can find it on the Fast Wonder Blog.