Design Effective Social Media Community Processes

In our previous post, Create Your Social Media Engagement Plan, we gave you some tips on creating your engagement plan. In this post, we take a look at designing the processes you’ll use to manage your social media community.

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Design Your Community Processes

Think about how your community is going to interact with the social computing platform, whether it’s a public platform like Facebook, a do-it-yourself platform like Ning, or your own customized platform. If the user experience is frustrating, people won’t stay. It’s worthwhile to hire professionals to help you design the look and feel of your site and to test its usability. And by the way, this advice goes for your main site as well.

Good examples of user experience principles you should consider are contained in the following table, abridged and adapted from the excellent Australian Government 2.0 Taskforce handbook, Online Engagement Guidelines.[1]

Experience Principle


Examples (What Not To Do)

Show me what’s in it for me? Reduce uncertainty about participation.Enable community members to understand the purpose of the online engagement, and to have visibility into the process itself.Members need certainty about the activities and engagement process before they commit to participation. Forcing users to register before they can view activities.Hiding aspects of the engagement process because it is not time yet for that step.Deploying a particular technology used for online engagement in isolation.
Make it easy to contribute People who want to contribute may be busy, may be inexperienced or cautious computer users, or they may simply be nervous about contributing. Help them participate by:

  • Streamlining the process for contribution by, for example, minimizing the number of steps for registration by allowing people to log in using their Facebook or other sites’ credentials,[2] or eliminating it altogether.
  • Providing different methods for participation such as multimedia, video, active mechanisms (such voting against comments) or passive mechanisms (based on activity, such number of views).
  • Allowing collaborative methods of contribution, for example using a forum or a wiki. Moderation processes such as requiring approval for all posts may also make it harder to participate. See Where are we up to?
Forcing users to register separately before they can contribute.Not providing a rich text editor.Separating the submission of content step from the viewing of contributions.Not allowing participants to contribute directly.
Let me tell my friends Allow users to share information and activity through their own social networks. Make it easy for participants to share content and their activities, for example, by adding a Facebook “Like” button or an AddThis button to your site.[3]For closed or offline engagement activities, it may still be beneficial to provide mechanisms to share information about the engagement process itself or participation in an activity.(Also see Help me keep up with activities) Not providing functionality to share on social media or social networking sites.Not providing activity stream feeds.Not allowing the online engagement solution to be indexed by search engines.Not providing static URLs to pages and anchors to individual participant’s contributions.
Where are we up to? If the online engagement process involves any kind of asynchronous step — such as registration, submission of content (including comment moderation processes), tally of results, competition results, etc. Participants must be kept informed about progress.This will not only help to manage the expectations of participants about the particular step but will also encourage them to stay engaged with the process.Also see Show me what happened? Moderating comments to a blog without providing any indication about how long it will take for comments to be approved.Asking people to sign up for an event with limited places, but not indicating how many places are left.
Help me to keep up with activities Keeping people up to date with activities is critical to ensuring ongoing participation throughout the engagement process.Multiple methods and channels should be supported, including, email, Real Simple Syndication (RSS),[4] mobile phone messaging (SMS),[5] microblogging[6] (Twitter and others), activity stream sharing[7] and instant messaging.[8]Mobile and other access channels should also be supported.Whenever possible (and appropriate) content and information should be delivered to participants, rather than forcing them to visit the site where it originated. Only providing a single mechanism for receiving updates — for example, email only.Not providing participants with the option to select which activity, how much, how frequently or what information streams they want to follow — for example, all or nothing approach.
Show me what happened? Report and provide access to outcomes of all online and offline activities.Providing easy access to the outcomes or steps of an engagement process, regardless of whether it was ultimately completed on- or offline, will help to support both the legitimacy and value of that engagement. Doing so will also help to encourage participation in the future. Archiving or restricting access to content and activities generated during the engagement process as soon as it has been completed.Waiting until long after the process has completed before sharing information with participants.

Next up: Social Media Engagement on Your Site


Design Effective Social Media Community Processes is the 28th in a series of excerpts from our book, Be a Person: the Social Media Operating Manual for Enterprises (itself part of a series for different audiences). At this rate it’ll be a long time before we get through all 430 pages, but luckily, if you’re impatient, the book is available in paper form at and you can save $5 using Coupon Code 62YTRFCV

See the previous posts What is Social Media?Social Sites DefinedWhy Social Media? How is Social Media Relevant to Business? First Steps Toward a Social Media Strategy, and Decide What Your Business Will Do About Social Computing, pt. 1

[1] Available under a Creative Commons license:

[2] You can ask your techies about using Open Authentication or Facebook’s Social Graph API.

[3] Point your techies to:

[4] RSS definition: a family of formats that provide a way to publish frequently-updated works—such as blog entries, news headlines, audio, and video—in a standardized format. Users can subscribe to RSS feeds and read them in an RSS feed reader, such as Google Reader, without having to check each site they subscribe to for updates:

[5] SMS definition: The text communication service component of mobile phones. SMS text messaging is the most widely used data application in the world (, with 2.4 billion active users, or 74 percent of all mobile phone subscribers. SMS text messages are generally limited to 160 characters:

[6] Microblogging definition: Generally, posting very short messages or comments as opposed to longer blog posts. Twitter is the most famous; others include Tumblr, Plurk,, Beeing, Jaiku and

[7] Techies should see:

[8] Instant Messaging definition: Also known as online chat, IM is real-time text-based networked messaging, typically relying on computer-installed clients that facilitate connections between specified known users. Examples include AOL Instant Messager (AIM), Windows Live Messenger, and Yahoo! Messenger. Some social networking sites, such as Facebook, have integrated their own instant messenging: