We’ve talked recently to both Laura Petrolino of 365 Days of Startups and Scott Fox of ClickMillionaires about how to create and manage small business communities that create value for your followers.
As community manager here at BizSugar.com, I strive, with our global team of moderators, to create a relaxed environment where members, including small business owners, those working in small business or interested in small business can feel comfortable and at home.
If your planning to create a small business community around your product, service or company, I thought I’d share 10 tips that pretty much make up the BizSugar team’s recipe for creating a relaxing small business community where everyone can feel they belong.
1. Be friendly.Make every member of your community feel at home and encourage others to do the same. This means sharing posts by new members on your Facebook page, Twitter etc. and commenting on their contributions when possible to make them feel at home.
2. Lead by example. Act as you would have others act. Comment on posts, recommend your favorite contributions, and share and tweet regularly through social media.
3. Be polite.The online world can be a bit rough. Though visitors online may say things to you they would never say in person, it’s up to you to take the high road. Disagreements may occur, but make sure they are discussed civilly.
4. Facilitate. Communities don’t just happen. They must be built. Bringing others into the conversation, encouraging discourse, introducing and inviting others to make connections, all are part of successful community building.
5. Keep an open mind. New members bring with them new ideas and the opportunity to grow the community. Don’t be threatened! Building a great community is like building a great business. It’s about creating something bigger than yourself. Go with it!
6. Encourage dissent. Let’s face it. People disagree. Debate can strengthen and season a community. Invite it! Enjoy it! Encourage it! Just remember that debate should be conducted respectfully and that everyone must feel entitled to disagree and never be bullied by those who would use the community irresponsibly.
7. Champion new voices. There will be lots of them. People join communities everyday. They want to have their voices heard. All of them. And guess whose job it is to make sure they do!
8. Demand respect. Show it to others in the community and require that others show it as well. Communities are full of many kinds of people. All have their unique points of view. But there is a difference between having one’s say and trying to rig the game.
9. Keep the peace. As I said before, communities should be a safe and relaxed place where visitors can feel at home. Let others have their say, but not at the expense of the community. After all, a community without members is not a community at all.
10. Share, share, share. I can’t emphasize this enough. Maintaining a community is not about pushing your products or services to everyone who lands on your page. It is also not an excuse to withhold all your best stuff for paying customers. It’s time to give, give, give.
(Shawn Hessinger is community manager and blogger for BizSugar.com, a social media site providing news and information to the online small business community. For more on BizSugar community how to submit your own small business content to the group, check out our “about” page or visit our BizSugar signup page to create your free account today.)