Yesterday, we started Module 5: Community Engagement Strategy and Skills of NTEN's WeAreMedia project which focuses on community engagement strategy and skills. Here's the description:
An online community is an interactive group of people who are joined together by a common interest. Whether your organization creates its own branded social networking site, connects with people on blogs or sets up a presence on a larger online social networking site like Facebook, Digg, or YouTube, a critical factor for success is having an online community engagement strategy. An engaged online community can help your organization attract more traffic, loyal supporters, more content, more links, and other values. But it requires investing the time to build relationships with members (yes, even one-on-one interaction) or what we call "network weaving skills." This module covers the key touch points for developing an online community strategy and a look at network weaving skills.
The discussion questions are: (and we're giving away free books to participants- details here)
- What questions do you need to ask to guide your online community building strategy?
- How do you encourage community participation?
- What are the best practices for network weaving (one-on-one interaction with your community members)?
Nancy White dropped a thought-provoking comment (in purple!) in the description -- simultaneously opening up some insights and modeling the "add don't take wiki" approach used by colleague, Dave Cormier.
(I feel compelled to put in a comment here -- feel free to delete after you consider it. I think it is important to distinguish between a community - where there is relationship and interaction over time, and a site where people can interact around a common interest. If relationship and a sense of group is desired, that will impact your strategies. There is a difference between an online community and a larger social network strategy. Sometimes you don't actually need or want a community - you want something else. )
Nancy also created another important discussion question:
Do you really need a community? Or something else?
There are tons of communities and networks out there. People only have so much time in their day to participate. So before you go about building an online community, consider if this is really what you need and what your constituents want.
- Are you constituents online? If not, why build an online community.
- Are your constituents members of many other social networks and communities? Will they join YET one more? If not, can you leverage connections into the communities and networks they already belong to?
- Are your constituents using mobile devices more than computer based devices? How will this impact participation in more "traditional" online communities?
- Do you really want a community, or are you simply looking for ways for people to access and create content, but they really don't need/want to interact with each other and form relationships while interacting over time around a topic of shared interest.
Nancy is making a distinction between "traditional" online communities where there are relationships between people in the community and people connecting together around specific interest area or a Tribe. This module has originally put these together under one definition of "community" with the latter being "loosely-coupled" communities. But thinking we need to re-think this a bit. Off to ponder "Are You in the Tribe?"
Maybe the focus on this module should be more "engagement" strategies - and the ways you can do this. If you have a group of people that you don't want to necessarily interact with one another, but want them to create content -- you'd still need an engagement strategy to encourage participation. It would, definitely, as Nancy suggests, impact where and how you might do this.
What do you think?