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Supporting to a community

August 6, 2009

What will I need to support my community?
Once you have your community goals worked out, your users in mind, and your tools selected, you have a good foundation for community building. But there’s more:
Administrative Tools:
Any community needs host tools. Common host tools are broken into two basic categories: content management and user management.
Content management:
You’ll need a way to get rid of dormant topics, add new topics, assign host tools to others, log the chats if you use them. You’ll sometimes have the ability to edit or hide or delete the posts of your members, or to move those posts to a more appropriate area. Host tools allow you to do all this, and sometimes more.
User management:
Users sometimes do things you wish they hadn’t. Occasionally it’s necessary for you as a host to step in and revoke the privileges of that user to post. Or to moderate their posts – meaning that you will review what they have to say before it’s made public.
Sometimes in a chat situation someone needs to be removed forcibly from a room and kept out. Sometimes you’ll need to remove someone permanently from your community.
Even if you never need to use your user management tools, you need to have them there.
Trying to run a community without host tools is a little like driving without car insurance.

Facilitation skills
You’ll need some experience and training in how to host or facilitate.
This includes some familiarity with your host tools, but mostly involves an experiential knowledge of how online community works and how best to deal with disruptions. You, by virtue of your host role, will be seen by a cop by some, a mom or dad by others, and a regular user by almost no one. Try to keep things in perspective by remembering that any flak you get is not personal.
Beyond the “big brother/sister” issues,
it’s important to know how to facilitate conversation: when to ask leading questions, when to email people privately, when to post publicly, and when to say nothing and let conversation flow.

One of the things that keeps people coming back to communities is good, fresh content. In one way, your users are generating their own content by continuing their conversations in your community space, but it sometimes helps to be able to provide other content to them.
This can be in the form of links to other appropriate, interesting sites, articles written by you or other community members, or discussion-starter posts from you which help to jump-start a conversation about some hot topic or vital issue.

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