Relevant content is required 365 days a year for your community in order to stimulate interaction and dialogue. How can this be achieved? In this blog, I share some experiences from our own communities.
In my previous blog I wrote about the success factors involved in creating a community. Content that invites people to read, respond and share may be the most important. But how is this generated?
A community is initially intended for end users. Our Greentech community, for instance, involves growers while METSTRADE revolves around people in the maritime sector. Their questions, problems and challenges should always be the focal point, which is why creating an online community starts with analysing their needs. What do they like to read? What might they wish to contribute?
It is also important to ensure your community members know what is expected of them. If a community is based on an exhibition, members will initially be inclined to write about the event. The essence of a community, however, is sharing up-to-date information related to the sector throughout the year. This means the intended contributions are much broader, and it is important to invite members to share. Especially at the start you will need to approach specific people who have interesting knowledge or questions.
Stimulating good contributions
Give members tips for creating effective content so that you receive good-quality contributions. Although this is unique for every community, there are some basic rules
- No advertisements
It is all about the questions, problems and challenges of your target group: the end user. They don’t want to be confronted with advertisements. Promotional texts from suppliers are therefore pointless, rarely read and detrimental to the credibility of the platform. This doesn’t mean that products or services should never be named, but only when the text is focused on the end user perspective.
Everyone likes news on developments and innovations in the sector so you can invite suppliers to contribute in this respect. But again, make sure that end users are the focal point. What are the problems they face and how can a specific innovation contribute? Other great sources of innovation news are the academic world and trade media.
Whether it involves a director, engineer or farmer, first and foremost a community is made up of people and a personal element always achieves results. On the METSTRADE platform, for example, we saw that an article about preventing floating islands of plastic in the oceans received an above-average response. People seem to feel personally connected to this subject.
Contributions always receive more attention if they are accompanied by attractive images that support the text. In some cases, a video may be the best option.
Like magazines or TV shows, communities have a profile with certain categories or content formats relevant to the members. For the communities I’m involved in these include:
- Challenge: we invite end users to share their questions and problems so other members can help find a solution.
- Innovation: articles with backgrounds on innovations.
- Award: we present an annual innovation award. Members can vote for their favourite via the community, which generates extra traffic and highlights the community.
- Industry news: in this category we work with professional media partners.
- Knowledge & inspiration: here we work with knowledge partners such as universities.
These formats help create varied and interesting content.
Not every community member has experience in writing or filming so it will always be necessary to provide some form of support, such as editing texts or even employing a journalist. Depending on your options, you can also offer to create video productions, for instance.
Stimulating the dialogue
Ideally, a community is a place for interaction. Instead of just sharing information, aim to stimulate a dialogue. This is something people have to get used to. You can stimulate dialogue by inviting certain people to respond to a contribution which has their interest. This is especially recommended in the early stages in order to encourage interaction.
The best way to boost contributions and reactions is to get results. These results can be made visible at various levels.
- Showing how often an article was read, shared and how many reactions it generated. motivates members.
- Community members notice they are establishing relevant contacts via the platform which may lead to interesting commercial deals.
- Finally – and this is what it’s all about – you help community members stay up-to-date throughout the year, share their passion, get answers to their questions, find solutions to their problems and establish contacts that help them. This is the main strength of every community and, once achieved, your platform will have considerable value and the community will strengthen itself.
Are you already managing a community or looking to establish one? I would love to hear your experiences.