1. Set the tone of the community
It is important that your users have a positive experience when participating in your community. Make sure that there is a process to manage highly negative and harmful contributions. One community that has done a great job of this is Stack Overflow. They use a “Karma” system to allow active members in the community to police both positive and negative content. This is a great example of how to monitor the community without having to specifically appoint people the job.
2. Participate in your own community
This might seem like common sense, but it’s incredibly important that your users feel that you are paying attention to them. Your own participation is a great way to achieve this and to contribute to tip 1. Having a consistent, prominent presence in the community will set the tone for everyone.
3. Recognize your top contributors
It is important the you give back to the people that help you most. In an on-line community that’s most likely the top contributors. Make sure that you give them a shout-out every once in a while. There are many easy ways to do this: one of the ideas I like best is mentioning high contributors in a public place like on twitter, or having a top users section on your site. Whatever you do though, make sure it fits in with the tone of the community that you are creating.
4. Give out feedback for achievements
There are a lot of things that can get your users to contribute, but one of the most effective is to set up a status system. Users should have a way to be recognized by their peers for what they have done. An excellent example of this is the badge system by Stack Overflow. In their system they have many types of badges with several levels of difficulty to achieve. This system encourages users to continue to contribute, while giving them lots of achievements along the way.
Another effective method to get users to complete tasks is a status bar like that seen on your LinkeIn profile. It shows the percentage of the profile that has been filled with simple steps to get another 5%. Every time I open my linked in profile I feel the need to complete a new step to get to that magical 100%.
5. Get high profile contributors
Something that many people overlook is how important it is to have respected, high profile contributors. The reason this is so important is that it brings a good deal of credibility to your community. When you are trying to build a community, it is often difficult to get users to read your content in enough detail to build a sense of credibility. Having recognizable names contributing gives you the instantaneous credibility that you need to get people to join in and participate.