Five essential components for building and maintaining an online community

Five essential components for building and maintaining an online community

By Jane Ryan

June 12th 2014 at 11:14AM

RuneScape's community head Jane Ryan on how to keep players coming back to your game

Working in community management can be a really rewarding career choice. Being a gamer myself, I’m extremely passionate about RuneScape and its community. It’s extremely important to be more than just an online moderator or someone that posts on social media platforms from time to time. It’s bigger than that, it’s about being part of the community – how can you expect others to be part of your community if you’re not willing to live it yourself.

Here at Jagex, we have a team of amazing community managers who like me are passionate about both RuneScape and the community that play it too  Every day we come to work loving what we do, how many people can say that about their job?

That’s enough from me - here’s what my team (Juliet, James, Nathan, Tom and Matt) had to say about the five things we believe every community team should be doing.

Get Social

Social media is fast-becoming an integral part of everyday life, and any company worth its salt should be considering the impact it could have on their business, particularly when it comes to building and nurturing a community.

The clue is in the phrase, frankly – it is where your customers are ‘social’, interacting with both you and fellow customers, and your job as a business is to nurture these two types of interaction and build a community that not only offers you benefits, but them too. Social media gives your business a ‘face’, and it’s important that you are as ‘human’ as possible, offering transparency, making every person within the community feel unique, and (probably most importantly) a bit of fun.

At RuneScape, we strive to engage with our various social media communities to gauge their thoughts on particular updates, ask for feedback, and to share their own creations, as well as create a safe, fun, friendly, enjoyable environment where players can interact with each other.

For example, we have over 100 Jagex Moderators (Jmods), and over 200 Player Moderators (Pmods) on Twitter, sharing the latest updates, answering player queries for their specialist areas, and offering advice and help where needed. We want our players to feel valued, and that what they say can have a demonstrative impact on the way we go about business as a company – social media, with its immediacy, virality and growing influence upon the world, is a key component of this aim, both at the present and moving forward, too.

A two-way street

When it comes to community, communication is king. If you don’t communicate, someone else will do it for you, and then you can’t control it. When liaising with players, it needs to be done in a way which is understandable, open and transparent. Whether it’s passing on valuable feedback to the developers, relaying important information onto the community or simply sharing community successes with your player base, it’s all about making sure players know they’re making a real difference.

By engaging, listening and communicating effectively with your players, they’ll feel part of the conversation, invested in the game and valued by the business. Here at Jagex we’re always talking to our players, whether it’s on our official forums, through our social media channels, in-game or even in person through our player visits and real life events; we take communicating effectively with our community seriously, and as an important two-way flow of information.

Love what you do

Having a passionate team leading the community is vital in helping to make a great community. It’s not just about being able to relate and understand your audience, it’s about being a part of the community and the bigger picture. Engaging with players on forums and all other forms of social media our community are using. Attending events not only organised by the team but also getting involved with player driven events and competitions. For us as community managers it’s about being seen as the friendly face of the community, having fun with other gamers rather than being moderators.

Powered by players

The community are your customers, therefore, it’s incredibly important that players’ opinions can be voiced and are listened to, on the forums, social media and through the game itself.

On RuneScape we take things a step further. Our players can vote in weekly in-game polls about upcoming content and changes to existing content. We call this ‘Power to the Players’, and as a result of these polls we’re working on a Legacy Combat mode, an entirely new city, and have enough player-approved content in the pipeline to keep us going for months!

Play together, stay together

Human beings naturally form communities; social units formed around common interests, tasks or values that provide them with regular support. With the birth of the internet came about a massive explosion in the proliferation of such communities and within online games they thrive. Connecting to these communities, communicating with, joining them together and providing for their needs is essential to the well-being of your larger community as a whole.

In RuneScape we have developed a number of community focused efforts. From the formal in-game Clan structures we have built-in that allow players to build massive citadels by their combined efforts as well as dedicated communication channels to foster strong bonds between them, to fan-site support schemes that allow offsite communities to grow with our aid, right up to provisions for emergent communities that grow within our player base, such as the Roleplaying community or those who particularly enjoy a specific mini-game.

With channels for communication in game, dedicated forums and a member of staff to watch out for their needs we help these communities get the most they can out of the game and watch them grow.

In summary

All communities will challenge you every day, however, it’s really important to keep that two-way flow of information going. Love what you do and your community will see that in everything you do. And remember it’s easy to leave a game, it’s harder to leave a community.