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Can You Put Your Online Community On Auto Pilot?

Managing a thriving online community is one of the most satisfying tasks in the stewardship of your business's website. It's great to see a network develop and colleagues helping each other, sharing information and asking and answering questions. Having a thriving online community is like having a thriving garden in that it takes work.

Tending your online community sometimes requires hard work, but the results are worth it.
Tending your online community sometimes requires hard work, but the results are worth it.

Some online communities are meticulously managed and manicured while others are a bit more wild and lush, depending on the company and their online philosophy. Fortunately, there are online tools that, like your garden tools, can make life simpler. However, you can't just go and put your online community on autopilot without risking big problems. Here are some points to consider when setting up your online community automation.

Automation is Great for Updating

Signing into a central dashboard and pushing out new content to your blog and social media sites simultaneously is a huge convenience. Tools like HootSuite let you schedule Twitter, Google+, and Facebook updates in advance. Automation tools can make life much simpler for the person or people in charge of managing your online community across the various social networks.

Automation Can Make New Members Feel Welcome

When someone new creates an account or joins your group, you can send out an automatic welcome email. Use this email to encourage new people to comment and interact with others. Sometimes new users are reluctant to participate and need to know that it's OK. An automatic welcome email is a simple way to let new members know they've properly set up their account and that you're happy they're around.

Automation Gives You Numbers You Can Work With

Collecting statistics about traffic over the course of a day, week, month, or year can be extremely valuable. You can learn what days are most active and what posts or topics were most discussed. Statistics and analytic tools can help you learn what your community responds to, and when they are most likely to respond to it.

Online Communities Are Not Like Slow Cookers

Things can get out of hand if you neglect your online community.
Things can get out of hand if you neglect your online community.

You can't simply put a bunch of users together like so many ingredients, turn the heat on to ''low'' and come back later to find something wonderful waiting for you. While nobody expects you to spend all day taking the pulse of your various online engagement points, it is important that you check on each of your online communities regularly. It may take some trial and error to learn which can be left to look after themselves for longer and which need more frequent attention. If you're going to be out of pocket for more than a day, have a trusted backup person watching things for you.

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Reasons Your Communities Need Regular Attention

Regularly tending to your online communities can really pay off in the long term. Not only are people more likely to stick with communities with interesting discussions and regular updates, they're more likely to stick around if they know an actual person is paying attention and trying to make it a great community. Other reasons you need to regularly tend to online communities include:

  • Damage Control - Your light-hearted Tweet about how much fun your booth will be at an upcoming trade show could be automatically scheduled so that it comes on the heels of a disaster affecting lots of people (like an earthquake). You want to prevent these ill-timed updates if at all possible.
  • Unruly Users - Unfortunately, even the most respectful online community is capable of drawing the occasional troll, or someone with a personal grudge against another member. Sometimes you have to ban a member who cannot participate in a respectful manner. You definitely don't want to go away for a week only to come back and find that a troll has effectively shut down participation.
  • Technical Problems - You need to be sure that community members aren't having technical problems, and when people report technical issues, you'll need to determine if they're isolated at the user's end, or if it's something on your end that needs to be addressed.

Automating some aspects of your online community can save a lot of time and be good for the health of your brand and your company. Just ensure that you don't embrace automation at the expense of that personal attention that helped make your online community successful in the first place.

RealMatch understands the importance of your network. Why not learn what we can do for your online presence?

Photo Credits: Simon Howden / freedigitalphotos.net, David Castillo Dominici / freedigitalphotos.net

 

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