• 07:00:25 am on September 23, 2008 | 0
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    I went to my very first “Back to School” event for my daughter who just started kindergarten. Her teacher explained to the parents of the class what the kids would learn this year, her teaching philosophy, then she opened it up for questions, and requested our help with organizing activities.

    What quickly happened is that the leaders quickly asserted themselves – these were the parents that would be the most active in the classroom, organize field trips and special events. What also happened was that topics of interest and concern were brought up and talked through. Small groups broke off from the larger parental body to discuss in detail a special activity.

    When I got home, there was already an email from the classroom monitor summarizing the topics of conversation and calling parents to action. Since then, this Yahoo group has been very active. I receive multiple emails from them every day. And it has almost a 100% participation.

    As a software vendor, I often think how can I make our user community as engaged as this one? Four very simple tips that emerge from my kindergarten classroom example are:

    • Don’t get bogged down by tools or technology to create the perfect medium for your community to interact. Sometimes a simple monthly conference call with a theme or a Yahoo discussion group is all that it takes.
    • Choose the tools that are common among your team members and that they use every day. Our group is successful because it relies on email that everyone uses.
    • Seed the group with a company representative – the role that our kindergarten teacher had in our group – then back away and let members interact with one another. It is the interaction between members that is important. Your role, as the user group creator is to listen, learn and perhaps gently guide.
    • Choose initial topics of conversation that have a broad appeal, then let group self-direct.

    What other basic tips do you have for launching a community?

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