[ Home | Online Community Toolkit |Online Community Resources ]
Using Content to Support Your Community
By Heather Duggan
Your community members needs more then conversation to keep them bound together—they need the shared context, refocusing, and connection to the greater web that static content provides.
Using content in your community
Interaction creates the core of community. Content can supplement that core by:
- Attracting new members with searchable pages that can be promoted on the web. If you host a community on cult films, for example, you might draw new members in by publishing a compendium of cult films, their actors, and directors.
- Orienting newcomers to the backstory and purpose of the community. Every community has stories to tell—creation myths, shared experiences, goals and beliefs. The more quickly and passionately you can impart that story, the better the chance that you'll draw in, and retain, the kinds of participants you're looking for.
- Answering frequently-asked questions. These include tips on using the software as well as rules of conduct, and other tactit information.
- Broadening the base of discussions by bringing outside information and knowledge into the community, and providing a shared context for further discussions. It's easy to start repeating the same discussions, and particularly easy for members to become polarized around certain issues. You can help to span the divide by bringing in outside perspectives and opinions.
- Increasing member loyalty through member-generated content. Once you've gotten your community off the ground, increasing member content allows members to find their voice within the community, and to attract like-minded correspondents. It also creates a unique pool of information that is your communities' contribution to the greater net. According to Denham Grey, President of Grey Matter, a knowledge consultancy "I think it's all around member-to-member participation and engagement. And, I think the secret there is that you have to allow members sufficient freedom to design and build their own attractors."
Kinds of content
There are two general classes of content—content brought into the discussion, and content generated from the discussion. The former is important for bringing in and orienting new members, while the latter is important for binding existing members to the community.
Outside resources brought into the discussion
One of the best things about having a conversation online is that it's so easy to bring new elements into the discussion--a whole world of images, text, sound, and ideas is just a click away.
- Links to external content: Every community exists within a greater context of outside influences, shared beliefs, significant events, and useful resources. Just as the surrounding geography defines a physical community, a well-maintained library of links can define a space, reinforce shared beliefs, and help to get participants on the same page.
- Internal resources: Internal resources are those developed and maintained within the community which provide the backstory and ongoing context of the discussions. These can be posted on web pages or brought into the discussion , and include:
- Text: Articles, white papers, mission statements.
- Pictures: Diagrams, photos
- Multimedia: Audio interviews and greetings, video clips
- Database: Searchable lists
- Shared documents: Any material that community members are working on together.
With all the resources out there, it’s easy to go overboard. Denham Grey cautions "I think content and community misses the boat. . . . People have massive content, and it just isn’t working because they're not focussing on the heart of community, which is member-to-member relationships. So, for me, it's not around content. It's around engagement."
Content created out of conversation
Content created from conversation is especially important for increasing the sense of community and loyalty among community members. This content includes:
- Summaries: Summaries of ongoing discussions provide a chance to refocus and look at the discussions in a fresh way. They also allow an accessible history to newcomers.
- Transcripts: Transcripts from chats and discussions allow those not present to catch up on events.
- Polls and surveys: Polls and surveys help to codify opinions and provide a basis for consensus and understanding.
Tips for generating and maintaining content
- Content, like conversation, is best when owned by the community. Encourage community members to add their own links to the link library, and organize these links into a static web page at least once a month.
- Verify all your links at least once a month.
- Change your static content frequently.
- Encourage members to build, and link to, their own web pages.
- When linking to external content, make certain that you don't leave your web page banners around someone else's material.
Full Circle Associates
Seattle, Washington, USA
© 1999-2006 Full Circle Associates - content
© 1999-2006 WWCoCo New Media - design and graphics