Online Community Programs: Hacks For Managing Community Programs

Today, we are going to talk about key result areas for running virtual community programs and some of the hacks for managing them efficiently. Running successful online community programs plays an important role when it comes to building strong online communities. A lot goes into running virtual community programs and we’ll talk about it all in this blog.

Selecting the right type of community program can take the community a long way and can help it in growing by lengths and breadths. And planning online community programs, in general, is a more talked about topic. Whereas, managing virtual community programs efficiently is a less talked about topic. So, we’ll do a deep dive into what all needs to be done for managing online community programs efficiently today.

Also, if managed in the correct way, these virtual community programs can help you develop some really strong relations that will also help you in growing your business in the long term. People know how to launch online community programs successfully. But they struggle a lot when it comes to managing these virtual community programs. And in this blog, you will find hacks that will make it super easy for you to manage your online community programs.

And on that note, CommunityHood is an initiative by LikeMinds where we try to help the community builders’ ecosystem, by exchanging peer-to-peer learning. We also do a lot of events, where we bring the industry experts and share their learnings with our members. Be a part of our CommunityHood today if you want to learn from community building experts from Quora, Leap.Club, Instamojo, and more!

In this blog, we’ll cover the following topics:

  • How do community builders help in improving the product features?
  • What are the key responsibilities of a community builder?
  • How to get experts for new virtual community programs?

… And much more!

So, let’s get reading!

How Do Community Builders Help In Improving The Product Features?

Community builders usually work with multiple teams. And to be able to really build a successful community, community builders actually need to resonate with the mission of their community. Communities are where the sharing and growing of the world’s knowledge take place. And the vast majority of human knowledge is trapped inside our heads in the form of experiences.

And there is no way that one can access it. But, in general, online communities are becoming that platform that is providing the world a place where they can have that access. And community management just accelerates it. So, when you want to make a bigger impact, you have to just step up.

You have to realize your real potential as a community builder. Apart from building and managing communities, community managers can help in making an impact on the features of the product. And to do that, you need to start collaborating a lot with the other global teams in general.

You would also need to be a part of the testing of the features of the product. You’d have to gather data based on customer feedback and start working on features to make the product more useful. And you’d have to explain those features and their potential to the relevant teams.

This also includes other aspects like helping improve a particular feature, launching the feature, testing it, or getting the first pool of people who are going to do that. So, with every new feature, you would be starting from scratch. You would have some people who will be your alpha users for a set of new features.

These people are going to give you some input to improve the application, and the experience. Similar to that, is another role, which is program management. So, this is one of the most interesting and probably the most challenging aspects of community building. You’d have to work on projects where you will be involved in designing and framing these online community programs.

You would collaborate and get to learn a lot with the cross-functional teams. As part of these virtual community programs, you’d also work in a creator role, but very briefly in most cases. That would be a way of stepping into the creator economy, which also involves monetization projects.

But, along with building communities, a community manager’s real value is also in product support. So, community managers also play a key role in taking care of user support and product research. Parts of product research, not entirely the whole unit. They are not required to take the entire responsibility for product research.

So, they need to do a little bit of that. But, the entire user and application support is something that the community building team needs to manage. So, that is how community managers help in improving the product features in a nutshell.

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What Are The Key Responsibilities Of A Community Builder?

So, as mentioned in the blog above, communities are where sharing and growth of the world’s knowledge happens. And not all knowledge can be written down. But, much of that which can be, still isn’t. So, that is where the community builders actually step in. So, below are the 6 responsibilities through which community builders can enable knowledge sharing effectively: 

1. Find to nurture unique and diverse voices: You need to find unique & diverse voices and nurture them. And how will you do it?

So, let’s say, for example, when you start a community program, your first key responsibility area (KRA) will be to figure out who on earth is going to actually be a part of that program?

So, the first challenge will be to figure out how many people can actually be a part of that program. When people sign up for any community, they actually share their interests. So, from there you can pull out the data and find the pool of people that will be interested in your community program. They may or may not be interested.

So, as a community manager, you would actually have to reach out to them, try and test it out, and check with them whether they are comfortable with being a part of your program. Because while building online community programs, people need to be well versed in their community program.

So, it is extremely important for the community managers to ensure that. But at the same time, as a community builder, you have to embrace everyone and anyone. And at the same time, you would have to maintain certain quality standards too. You cannot have say, two different virtual community programs that deliver the same value. The values being delivered need to be different but lead towards the same goal.

So, all the online community programs will have a more or less similar journey. But every single community manager comes with a different capability and insights. And they also have very different community experiences. 

2. Setting examples by creating value and educating: So, the next one is obviously, setting examples by creating value and educating. Even in CommunityHood, Nipun, Akshita, and the rest of the LikeMinds team are also extremely active on the platform. If you yourself as a community builder are not active on the platform, then why would the community be?

So, you need to set the example, you need to create the value. Setting an example by creating value and educating. Education means they may or may not be aware of how certain things work. Now, when you have the first pool of people, they might be familiar with how things work. And they will give a lot of feedback in terms of the localization of the platform itself.

For example, the feedback can be like this looks a little gimmicky, artificial, or very mechanical. So, all of this feedback is very important for a community builder. But, no matter at what stage your community is a lot of education in the community needs to be done. And every single community manager is expected to do that education on and on.

So, that’s one of your major key responsibility areas that are there. That you have to create content and ensure that your community is looking at you. And you are civil and that’s why people will also mimic your behavior.

3. Facilitating a safe environment: The third one is facilitating a safe environment. It’s not just for the community, but for the platform itself. It’s very important to have certain guidelines and policies in place that help the user to understand that they cannot just harass or send spam to anyone. Or in general, do policy violations like plagiarism.

So, in the content world, plagiarism is a huge sin. It’s a massive policy and guideline violation. It’s like ripping somebody’s value away. So, all those guidelines definitely need to be in place. But the community manager needs to be the one who is also educating about the policies and guidelines. At the same time, they also need to be someone who is actively enforcing it.

For instance, you can have as many tools, artificial intelligence, or machine learning in the background, but the fact that the AI/ML is as good as it gets doesn’t change. And you need to feed some data into it to let it perform. The first set of people that set the tone is actually the community managers.

So, there was a wonderful statement that one of Quora’s Director of Community and Operations, Jonathan Brill, once mentioned that, your community will be like the community manager. If the community manager is very goofy and cool, it sets the tone. If the community manager is very process-oriented, you’ll see that the community also has certain attributes around that.

Because whether you want it or not, it naturally flows. The community builder actually sets the tone. And it also depends on what kind of community you are actually building. So, for example, you cannot have a goofy community with say, a community of lawyers. If there is an actual community of lawyers, then you’d have to be a little serious around that.

Let’s say, you have a community of doctors or medical professionals. Then they will behave in a certain way. And you need to have the knowledge for that too. So, in a community, facilitating a safe environment for women and other genders is also very very important. You wouldn’t want to have it the other way.

But again, it is very subjective. Harassment in general is very subjective. How do you know whether something is around harassment if there is not any explicit language there?

And a lot of people do not report, but they leave the platform because they are very scared. So, as a community builder, it’s your job to make sure and keep telling people that you are there for them. So, that’s what the example is about.

4. Onboarding and maintenance of the community: Now, moving on to the next one. This point is extremely important. Onboarding actually sets the foundation. When you are creating a community, how you are actually onboarding sets the tone. Sending them the guidelines, and things like that, will not help.

Nobody is going to check the help center on day 1. They want to have fun on the platform or have fun exploring what your community is all about. So, as a community builder, whether you are on Discord, Slack, or WhatsApp, it’s very important to set practice of what is onboarding?

Even in CommunityHood, there is a community manager who comes to you and talks to you about where you can actually put up your introduction. How you can do certain things. So, that onboarding experience is very important. You lose people if you are not onboarding them in the first 7 days.

And that stands true for the majority of the communities. If you are not onboarding people in the first few weeks, it’s extremely challenging to retain them. And the moment you send them that first message, that “Hey, listen, I’m XYZ, and I work as a Community Builder for this particular platform. Do let me know if you have any questions. Here are 5 things that you can do.”

Just a very simple, 5-line message of onboarding will help. And then you would have to send them a follow-up that “Hey, do you have any questions? Here are a certain set of things that would be of interest to you.” Or you can also always broadcast. When we are talking about maintenance of the community, we mean broadcasting.

So, most of the community builders, actually have a community manager space where they broadcast news about the feature launches, feature depreciation, and program launches. So, that becomes a place for the members to come and learn what is happening in the community?

And this is also a place where you can actually maintain or educate people. And when we say maintenance, it is also the quality maintenance part of it. 

5. Market metrics and overall community pulse check: Now, a lot of times community builders have to really educate people about what community managers do. Because most of the time, everybody thinks they handle a company’s social media. So, a lot of people don’t understand how much of intelligence goes into data analytics, the market metrics, and overall community check.

When we say overall community pulse check, we mean that a community manager will know if the gender diversity is lopsided. So, when you are beginning with a community program, let’s say the whole feed has 10 stories. And 9 stories are by male users, and there is 1 story that is by a female user. Then the female members in that community are close to non-existent.

Then the community managers would have to run virtual community programs or very selective subjects or questions feeding around the whole thing. So, that they can actually at least, get that to a stable place. And there are a lot of communities that face the exact same issue with gender diversity. The same goes with topic diversity.

So, all of this is very important, these are all very data-driven structures. The online community programs that community builders run in an online community are by large and far data-driven. 

6. Create rewarding community experiences: Moving on to the next one. Now, we have a lot of chat around monetization in CommunityHood. And a lot of community managers are managing communities regarding monetization. But, a lot of communities don’t have monetization at least till the time they run a partner program in the community.

And, subscription virtual community programs are usually the start of the monetization journey for most communities. But what exactly is a rewarding community experience?

Rewarding community experience could be from getting the dollar value to the validation that a member gets as a contributor to the community. So, for example, if there is an astronaut and he actually writes about his experience. Now that experience you will probably get to read in some blogs.

But you might not be aware of it. And here you are asking, “Okay, what kind of food do they eat at a space station?” Now, there is an actual astronaut talking about it. And then you go back, and you say that, “Hey, listen, I am really thankful that you have written that answer.” And that’s rewarding for that writer.

They are not getting a dollar value, but what they are getting is praise and appreciation. One of the things that is extremely important is to identify what is a reward for your community?

And that will only come if you talk to your community. And these rewards are very subjective. In a lot of academic communities, writers are not in for the tip, they are not in for the money. They write because they feel they are unlocking access to education for a lot of students who cannot afford it.

So, that’s what a rewarding community experience is.

7. Help to build and educate about new features & tools: This is very different from let’s say the maintenance of the community. Now, as mentioned above, a lot of community builders actually work on tools. So, let’s say, there is an official space in a community where you talk about a specific topic.

And let’s say that the space is about food. Now, you only write about food in that particular space or only share content about food. And there are a lot of people who actually love to know different kinds of cuisines that are there across the world. Now, there will be a lot of user contributors too who would contribute to the space.

Now, all the features that are there in that space, actually a lot of community builders along with product managers have to help test it out. As a community builder, you would have to identify the users and the challenges that they might face while using that space. And when a person is going to use this space, you’ll actually get the feedback.

Now, being a community manager, you need to gather all that feedback and communicate it to the product manager. And once all the feedback has been communicated, you need to ensure that the team is working on that feedback and giving people what they want.

How To Get Experts For New Online Community Programs?

Now, let’s talk about how to get writers, influencers, and people with extremely good credentials for a new community program?

The first alpha group, as mentioned in the blog above, they don’t really need to have the kind of credentials that we just spoke about. Because what happens over time, is that there is a lot of word of mouth that keeps happening when you do a lot of good work in the community, in general. Your community becomes your voice outside of the platform.

So, most of the things that happen, in general, happen because of the community spreading the good words. Now, talking about that, community members can do what marketing can’t. You need not market your community program to get good speakers or influencers. Once you launch your community program, you can get influencers without putting up even one cost.

The only thing that you need to do is be very receptive to the feedback you get about the program as a community builder. Talk to the community, treat everybody with the same respect, and you will get it back. However, there will also be instances where you would have to put in little effort to get a lot of really notable speakers.

And to do so, you would have to do a lot of research on who are the creators who will be a perfect fit for your community program. And it could take you a lot of time researching on YouTube and, in general, on the blog sites. So, tap down the journalist pieces and you’ll find the perfect experts for your new community program from there.

This way, you can find one of the very top most influential people for your new community program. And because of these initial experts, you’ll get the rest of your experts for future sessions. This is how you can get more and more speakers coming into your community program. And that also builds up the value.

But, other than that, the rest of the things will happen organically. Before that, what you need to do is build up a place that is very high-quality. You need to tell them, “Hey, this is a place for you. You should come here and should contribute.” This is how you should pitch to your initial speakers. And everything else will happen organically. 

So, once you’ve got your speakers, all you need to do is just launch a poster & the topics and asked people to join the session. And, in terms of actions, you need to just primarily build relationships with experts and influencers who are a perfect fit for your community program. Then get some of these experts to speak on the platform. 

One of the things is that, by doing so, you are also giving them an opportunity to build their credentials even more. Because not everybody is a good speaker, and a lot of people feel intimidated. So, as a community manager, one of the things that you will remove as a roadblock was helping them gain that confidence and build their credential. 

But, in general, that will be just for the early days and only for initial speakers. You need not do it for the experts and influencers that you get for your community program in the later days.

Virtual Community Programs: Hacks For Managing Online Community Programs

What Type Of Content Works Best For Virtual Community Programs?

In general, when it comes to online community programs, there is no bias towards long-form or short-form content. Because the massive power of community is just peer-to-peer learning, appreciation, and growth. Beyond a point, a community manager cannot be all the more enthusiastic to let the community have that spirit.

Community, in general, does a lot of stuff and that’s where the virtual community programs come in. All that you need to ensure in your community program content is that it’s of high quality. Whether long-form or short-form, make sure that your community program content is providing value to the community members and is capable of engaging them.

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What Are The Hacks For Creating And Managing Online Community Programs?

So, this is the part that you all have been waiting for – hacks for creating successful virtual community programs and managing them effectively. So, below are 5 hacks that will help you in creating and managing your online community programs! 

Create Virtual Community Programs That Are Inclusive

So, as a community builder, you need to identify really diverse voices. One of the things mentioned in the blog above is to find unique and diverse voices which are of high quality and credibility. To find such voices and people, you need to create online community programs that are inclusive.

It shouldn’t matter whether the person is a doctor, fashion designer, or a writer by profession. Create virtual community programs that give them all a fair chance to participate. So, all of this is basically to let people have that social currency that they can have. Try to give a value through these online community programs that people acknowledge it even after the program is over.

Create a program that gives a huge boost and motivates people to actively take part in it.

Conduct Offline Or Online Meetups

The next one is community meetups. One of the things that we want every single community builder to take away as learning from this blog, is to do meetups. It is extremely important to do meetups. It could look like a fun activity, but this is where your community actually engages. This is where your community bonds and your committed circle of people who love the platform meet.

And even if you cannot conduct an offline meeting, you can do it virtually. In 2020, when the world went into lockdown, a lot of community meetups became virtual. To host these virtual meetups you can block the entire week to talk to the community, get feedback, talk about the new virtual community programs, etc.

And it’s always an amazing experience. These are also the places where you can give a spotlight to some of your active members. This is again like a direct reward. Even if a member is not the winner of a program, you can still give them a spotlight during the meetup. And that will just make their day.

And then, a lot of members also have that kind of credibility, and the right consistency to be in that spotlight. So, it is very very important to have these meetups. And these are an excellent way of just humanizing yourself as a community builder as well. So, not just from the community retention perspective, this also gives them a sense of belonging.

User-generated Content For New Online Community Programs 

User-generated content can be used in various ways and the same implies to virtual community programs too. You can use the engagement and success of one program to launch another community program that will give you the same, or even increased member engagement.

What you need to do is to select really good people who participated in your previous community program, reach out to them and ask if they can create content for your new community program. And then all you need to do is to put that content up on your platform and use that content to run your community program.

And putting that content on your platform will also give them the spotlight that we talked about previously in the blog. You can do so by putting up their picture along with their content and with the logo of your community that says that they are the voice of your community. And this is another hack to creating and managing online community programs successfully.

So, one of the things is that having a mystery around the program, like what is the category and just bringing a little bit of creativity into the program, in general, really helps. So, a single program can have more than 30 or 40 posts, videos, events, etc. this way. And this content can be published on a bimonthly or weekly basis.

So, when you create such virtual community programs, you basically use and highlight the talent that the members have. And we assure you, that you’ll be amused by the talent that members show when they are involved in running a community program. From recording poetry to singing, and putting up pictures they sketch or draw, you can get anything from your community members.

And all you have to do is to highlight that this week’s or this month’s talent is this person. You can also create a conclusion post to create eagerness for your future online community programs. You can make a post about how the program was run, and who were the people who participated.

And that will be a very feel-good moment for the community too. So, there are a lot of things that you don’t do for direct revenue traction. But you also do for community spirit. So, involving members in running a community program will help you in making it community-centric. 

Running Monetization Programs

Now, let’s talk about monetization efforts. How good will it be that not only you, but you give your members a chance too to monetize their content via a community program?

You can launch a community program where people will pay you to monetize their content too! Basically, it can be a post, an answer, or a space that they can monetize as part of your program. This can be a new addition to the whole monetization efforts that are going on in the community building space, in general.

But, make sure to gather a lot of feedback around it to improve your program and listen to the feedback with your open ears. And your job will also be to ensure that your program is worth the investment that the organization is making. So, maybe, in the beginning, the biggest challenge that you will face is people telling you they don’t want to monetize.

But, there is a certain group of people who are silent and they really want to monetize. And they are not going to be vocal. So, as a community builder, you have to be very practical about that. There will be always people who are vocal about hating something, and they’ll not be voicing whether they like something.

So, always take it with a pinch of salt and think rationally about what works for your platform. Because there is a huge investment in terms of money, value, and time, that gets into launching any program. 

And if you’re in search of a platform for running a community, then check out LikeMinds now! Our platform offers great inbuilt features that will make it super easy for you to monetize your online learning community and increase engagement.

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