Tips for Community Building

The latest WOMMA newsletter had an interesting article that I wanted to pass along. Scott Wilder, Group Manager of QuickBooks offers up some great pointers on creating successful community. (Complete with my own commentary)

Tip #1. Create infrastructure for questions
When dealing with small businesses, questions are par for the course, and every business’ questions are unique. While no single person can possibly answer them all, an environment that invites questions and answers from businesses of all types always has someone with answers.

On top of that, community leaders help shape the culture of question asking not only from encouraging questions, but getting answers in a timely, regular fashion.

Tip #2. Understand how comfortable users are with technology
While blogs are everywhere in the press, not every individual is comfortable with them. Scott learned early on that QuickBooks Community users were more comfortable with discussion boards than with blogs

It’s even more than that, I think. For a community liaison, giving multiple methods of contact is crucial. If your email address isn’t public, it should be. Also share your IM address (or at least an account that you’re on regularly throughout the day).

Tip #3. Foster relationships
First, make sure that the environment has a variety of individuals from a variety of backgrounds. For example, the QuickBooks Community has people with expertise in different areas — lawyers, accountants, nonprofits, etc.

Then, build relationships with some of them in the same way that those individuals are building relationships with each other. And because most word of mouth happens offline, be sure to encourage offline relationships as well.

Completely agree here – relationships are the cornerstone of communities and community work.

Tip #4. Utilize user-created content

User-created content is an excellent trigger for discussion. By making the content accessible and easy to find, those discussions happen much more easily.

This isn’t so much a tip as a theory – communities are made up of user-created content.

Tip #5. Have a moderator
A moderator is useful in connecting people in similar industries and with similar interests, challenges, and problems. That’s important when a site has a lot of information where it may be difficult for people with like interests to find each other. In the QuickBooks Community, the moderator sometimes even arranges for people to get together offline, as well.

Man, I’d say have several. That way there’s never a lapse in coverage. The number depends on the numbers of your community, but in Scott’s case there are 15,000 members. You need a full blown moderator structure. Some communities actually have multiple levels of moderatorship, with some moderators leading other moderators.