Over the past decade, many college administrators (and other related campus groups) have relied on LinkedIn groups to build community among their peers, professors, student groups and more. LinkedIn groups have been an important way for members to stay in touch and share data with peers around the country. They have also been helpful in gathering data important for improving processes, communication and more. Today there are hundreds of these groups among LinkedIn’s 400 million users, but with Microsoft’s acquisition of LinkedIn this past spring, the signs are here: LinkedIn’s focus will no longer be on helping their communities to thrive.
College administrators can, and should, look to build their own online communities now that the technology makes it easy and the benefits of owning a community are many. But they should learn from the mistakes of LinkedIn and do it right the first time to create a thriving, active and engaged community. Here are the seven most important things colleges and other academic institutions should keep in mind when launching their online communities:
1. A dedicated community platform and community manager means secure sharing for students and faculty. It doesn’t matter if you want a tricked-out system with great features or a simple forum for daily discussions, here’s the bottom line: a private online community offers security and a host of features that help students, alumni and staff connect and collaborate.
2. Part of running a successful community also means dedicating a person to managing it. Together you can think through the environment you want to create and the “personality” with which the manager will want to run it. Make sure the face of your community is a human face and not a robotic presence. The most successful communities have a clear personality and culture.
(Next page: Steps 3-6 for building online communities)