Some of us on the Friends of Live Earth team recently had the opportunity to sit down with Charles Porch from ning, who gave some general pointers on network building best practices. Porch has worked with thousands of the 1.1 million communities now using the ning social community platform. So here’s your quick jujitsu:
1) The network should have a purpose. It shouldn’t be just a fan club, instead it should try to achieve something, and if it’s a nonprofit have a clear call-to-action.
2) Give them a welcome wagon. Make it personal and easy for people to come in. Let them feel welcome, give them tips, and allow them to move into the socnet naturally.
3) Give people clear ways to engage. Make it easy for them. Give them the power to engage in subgroups by topic and by region. Let them “spiff up” their own profile page. Provide people feedback mechanisms and loops. Ensure there are icebreakers for people to easily participate with.
4) Understand the push-pull effect. Never just push information, and always assume it’s a two-way conversation.
5) Enable people who want to be active. Provide ways to allow them to rise to the top and lead. Create a leaders group, feature most active and distinguished members, and allow people to become heroes!
6) Make the network a little sexy. People love video, photos and checking out other people’s profile pages. These are the features that people are most interested in. Use the latest activity stream to highlight the latest and hottest topics, content and media that community members discuss.
7) To start, keep it simple. You may not need every single feature on Ning to make the network successful. Add features as your network grows and function demands.
8) Commitment to the community means creating content and opportunities to talk regularly, from once a week to once an hour depending on the level of activity you have.
9) Consider creating some guidelines, too. Suggestions help people self regulate their own community.
What would you add to the list? Also, if you are interested in an even deeper information, check out this Ning Workshop which Charles recommends.
If you are interested in the Friends of Live Earth initiative, stay tuned or join the network. We are revamping the site currently, but there are some exciting things about to happen!
P.S. For the record, my work with Friends of Live Earth is strictly on a volunteer basis. I am not getting paid as Senior Advisor; I just believe in the cause that much, and have decided to spend a few months of my extracurricular time helping the good people organizing Live Earth.