What are the top five pieces of advice you'd give to a new Network Creator...the five pieces you wish you'd had when you started out?
I'm a new creator, and I don't know what I should know...a common feeling I'm sure.
I'm especially interested in #5. What kind of things do you ask of your membership? How willingly do they help?
I'm interested in this subject because a) asking means more people do more stuff b) when people invest time etc in fulfilling your ask, they can become more invested in the network as a whole. Actually, do you find that to be true?
what a terrific question. thanks doug for asking it. thanks everyone. i can use almost every response to improve what I'm doing with my network.
Understand your expectations, purpose and motivation for creating the network, in the first place, and trust you can revise over time.
Understand the commitment of time and money (sometimes time is money)
Agree with creating excellent policies, codes of conduct etc.
I like the idea of keeping it simple, great thoughts about limiting features. I sometimes think I'm in a candy store.
The whole deal about letting go vs. control has been a big one for me. I've gotten upset when people use it to market themselves and their businesses (goes to policy) and have found myself resenting and loving my network at the same time.
Consider the target audience and their sensitivities, issues and politics. Staying somewhat neutral, yet firm
Get comfortable with some blow back, if you change policies over time. Sometimes it's necessary or you have gotten clearer over time.
Deal with the "free" sense of entitlement about the web. I don't think people see these networks as a business, not at all, as they naturally do brick and mortar. There is a cost and time commitment, sometimes like a full-time job.
Realize not everyone has the same sense of ownership, responsibility or investment as you do. Some members may not care about you or even think about it. You aren't their focus, simply their host.
Figure out how to treat members, are they like customers (customer service)? What do you expect back from them?
Remain open to continually learn about member expectations.
Stay present with your membership
Collaborate with others when you can (for me it might be a local publication, non-profit groups, etc.) rather than compete for either dollars or members.
Understand that participation is an issue, even when people create groups, so many are inactive.
Some things are worth fretting over, some aren't and are just energy zappers.
Be able to step back and see where it fits in the bigger picture.
I love all the suggestions. What a great dialog and so helpful. I went way over 5 pieces!
My network is called Lost Zombies. We currently have 12.5k members. Prior to Lost Zombies, I managed social networks as part of my day job. I'm not suggesting I'm an expert by any means, but based on my experience the following things have worked very well for me.
1. Choose a subject for your network that you are passionate about and have serious knowledge about. I cannot overstate the importance of this. If you are successful you are going to be living with your network for a long time, if you don't love the subject you will resent your success and it will show. Besides, passion is contagious, if you are truly passionate users will be drawn to you. Knowledge is important because if you don't know wtf you're talking about why should I care. You may get by on passion for awhile, but you will not be wildly successful unless you can blend passion and knowledge.
2. Listen to your community. This is an easy one, but ironically few people do it. Your users will tell you what they want to see in terms of content and features. Give it to them. I don't mean each individual user but the community as a whole. If you run a network on making snowman cookies and you are the most passionate and skilled snowman cookie maker in the world you are going to get users. If those users want to know how to make icing scarfs for snow man cookies, then you better show them. If you do, they will realize you care and they will become fiercely loyal.
3. Have a clear purpose. People need to know why they should join your site. The more focused your purpose the better. A user should be able to look at your network and know what it's all about. At Lost Zombies our purpose is to create a community generated zombie movie. It's an extremely focused purpose. People read our purpose and they know instantly if the site if for them or not. It's okay for the purpose to elicit questions, in fact that has worked wonderfully for us, but it should not be so broad or vague that the user has no clue what the site is about.
4. Less is more when it comes to features. Ning offers a wonderful range of features. The natural tendency is to assume that by adding all these features you make your network better. Generally speaking this is a terrible strategy. Every network is unique, maybe your network requires a large feature set, however less features means less management and provides clear expectations for your users so they better understand what their role is. If you go with the full feature set and you are successful it will be very difficult to eliminate features without disrupting your users (we made this mistake).
5. Update your content consistently. This is really, really crucial. You have the subject you are passionate and knowledgeable about, now spread that to your users. It doesn't matter if you use the blog, videos, pictures, forum posts, chat or whatever. Choose a the method that best fits your theme and purpose and go nuts. This means you better have enough knowledge and passion to keep talking about your subject. If i'm a member of your snowman cookie site and it's July, you better have some content up your sleeve (snowman cookies with icing bikinis maybe?).
Following these five points has made Lost Zombies more successful than I ever expected. Last year we won two Web Awards at SXSW.