In my experience, most companies come out as very poor shepherds when it comes to communities.
Case in point: I was reviewing Adobe’s live docs for Flash Media Server 2. There wasn’t a SINGLE comment on any of the docs I viewed. I’m not talking about a discussion, I’m talking about someone saying something.
- Create something worth building a community around
- Identify and recruit your thunderlizards — immediately!
- Assign one person the task of building a community.
- Give people something concrete to chew on.
- Create an open system.
- Welcome criticism.
- Foster discourse.
- Publicize the existence of the community.
Being the marketing guy that I am, I immediately want to start from the back – there’s no such thing as bad publicity, right? It does make sense to start at 1. Building a community around something great will help you beat the one-percent rule of contribution.
A company that’s doing great in the community business (though it isn’t exactly a smooth ride) is Blizzard. Their community system has come a long way since the Diablo 2 days. Back then, if you wanted a community, you were better off at some of the Diablo fan sites. With World of Warcraft, however, it’s a lesson learned. There are professional community managers, webmasters, etc. and their forums are much, much livelier. (Rumor: Blizz will be unveiling Diablo 3 soon. Could even show up on Playstation 3!)