New strategy for building online communities

By Lynn Sheehan

Building online communities for stakeholders including employees, staff, customers, and partners to increase communication, collaboration, and learning is a crucial strategic program to attract and retain the next generation of employees. Generally, it takes a catalyst to push stakeholders to interact online—especially the over-30 crowd.

  • How can you make that happen? Consider dove-tailing a conference, continuing professional education seminar, or trade show with an immediate e-mail inviting attendees to an online discussion regarding the event's hot issues.

  • Why will it work? Most attendees are pumped up to discuss the event immediately following the event. Leverage that excitement by inviting attendees to choose their own topics of discussion. (Certainly, e-mailing a list of some of the hot button issues of the day will help spur discussions.) Participants sitting in airports waiting for their flight to take them home are prime targets to jump into an online conversation.

  • The advantages? The ideas, thoughts and feedback are generated by participants on topics of interest to others who also attended the conference. You can learn valuable information about your product or service and build customer/client loyalty. Or a potential employee may present him/herself to you as part of your online collaboration.

  • The benefits? As a number of lively discussions are bound to be created, other company team members should be invited to join in the discussions. Scan the online community group for interesting comments or suggestions to prompt other members to join the discussion. Invite current groups to e-mail others to join their community. A personal invitation carries much more weight than a mass e-mail. Momentum gained by the members of the online community will increase attendance at future conferences with seminars on the same subject. The staff benefits by moderating and learning these important community generated topics. Other company and partner initiatives can be advertised on the community pages to increase member participation in upcoming events, however, don't go overboard on ad placements. Too many ads on the pages are a turn off.

    Companies are always looking for ways to attract new employees. The millennium generation (in their 20s) are used to instant gratification and expect online communities as part of their company benefits and experience. As YouTube and Facebook users grow up and start professional careers, companies need to engage this new and vital generation!

    About the author
    Lynn Sheehan has over 20 years of marketing, training and business development experience in the non profit and profit world. Sheehan is owner of Lynnsco, a personalized business consulting company, committed to provide on demand solutions for business pain points. To contact Lynn Sheehan for speaking engagements or help in consulting online communities, please sent a message to info@lynnsco.com. Reprinted with permission from Lynnsco.

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