How to launch a co-creative community

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by Judy Garvey

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There are many resources around the 'why’s of co-creation', but what about the ‘how’s? Co-creation doesn’t happen overnight. Brands must undergo significant preparation before a community can be launched. How can you lay the groundwork for success?

We’ve helped major global brands set up successful co-creative communities where they have collaborated with fans, employees, and external experts, and we’ve learned a thing or two along the way.

Here’s a playbook to launch a co-creative community.

Phase 1: Pre-launch

The pre-launch phase is vital to successful co-creation – and it takes more time and effort than some might think. The first step sets the tone for the community and what it must accomplish, that is: knowing what your community’s goals and objectives are.

Related Read: Why community is the foundation of co-creation

First, you must ask a few key questions. What do you want your community to do? Your brand must determine this so that your community knows what they need to accomplish.

At this stage, you must also plan for the methods and tools that you might need in order to successfully co-create. Innovation isn’t linear, and you want to encourage creativity and free flow of ideas. How does your co-creative online platform enable you and your community to complete tasks necessary for your goals? What methodologies would work best for your organization, and what can your community members do on the platform as part of those methodologies?

The last question seems existential, but it’s the most crucial thing to ask: why does your community exist? This purpose informs the decisions you make when the community is launched, so it is important for your brand to understand this before getting started.

Knowing your goals and objectives means that you should also determine how to measure your community’s success. At this point, organizations must put together the framework for how they can check to see if the community is meeting those goals and objectives, and if not, know what steps to take to help the community better meet them.

Now you’re ready for launch!

Phase 2: Getting the right people in the room

So you’ve built the room, and now you need bodies to fill it. If you know what the goals and objectives of your community are, you should also know the type of people you want in that room innovating with you. Random people simply won’t get you to the successful community you’re envisioning.

The next step is recruiting. Why would your target collaborators want to co-create with you? Entice them with the awesome possibilities of your community.

Explain to them what you want to accomplish and why. If you are innovating with brand superfans, you might want to show them that you value their input in your projects. If you are looking to co-create with external experts, tailor your messaging so they understand why you want to do what you are doing, and why you want them to join you.

Don't Miss: Why co-creation drives customer engagement

Because your community is still new, it’s best to leverage the communication tools you already have. A co-creative platform is not meant to replace tools like social media, newsletters or blogs. You can use them side-by-side, and this is the best (and easiest) place to start! Understanding the type of people you want to recruit in your community means using these existing tools to recruit the best people possible for your community. Don’t forget that in order to build healthy community, recruitment must be an ongoing process.

The next people you want in the room are those from your own organization. The most successful co-creative communities also have the right people representing the brand itself. Co-creation requires just as much buy-in internally. Figure out who from your organization should be involved throughout the process, whether it’s during ideation (to help spark ideas), or expert review, or even marketing.

External members will feel like they are truly valued by the brand, and internal members will have more people to collaborate with. It’s a win-win!

Phase 3: Kicking off

Getting everyone to sign up is one thing – getting them hooked is another. Your co-creative community should have the following things ready for your new members:

  • Call to action - Co-creation can be a fairly new experience for many people. An obvious call to action lets new members know what they need to do next when they sign up. There might be some hand-holding required at the start, but you can help them get settled in!
  • Content - Imagine walking into a room with nothing in it. You’ll think, what now? Have some content ready for new members to view and interact with. This is an opportunity to introduce the community and its purpose, as well as encourage new members to start participating in activities.
  • Initial activities - While brands usually have particular innovation challenges that they want to accomplish with a co-creative community, it might be too much to dive into right away. Set up some activities that allow new members to dip their toes into the water so they do not get overwhelmed. Try setting up a simple welcome survey for example, so you can learn more about them. Your team should also take this time to start some discussions and build relationships and rapport, and earn the trust of your new members.
  • Initial communications - Make new members feel welcome, comfortable, and that they are part of a real community! Welcome emails and blog posts are great ways to do this, and to show them that the community is an extension of your brand. Personalization can go a long way
  • Incentives - Encourage new members to get started by rewarding them when they interact with others in the community.

Phase 4: Launching your first innovation challenge

Once your members are settled in and they have started to explore the community, you can go ahead and launch your first innovation challenge. It’s getting real now!

At Chaordix, we refer to our innovation challenges as Creative Challenges. They differ from traditional idea crowdsourcing contests because they can run anywhere from 6-8 weeks, involve multiple phases and activities beyond ideation. Our Creative Challenges break down a large business challenge/objective, such as product innovation or go-to-market launch strategy, into smaller, engaging and fun segments to collect both quality ideas and valuable insights from participants.

Our gamified activity bundles to achieve different innovation or marketing outcomes, is a perfect place to start, and makes designing co-creative programs on our Participation Platform even easier.

Building community engagement for the long-run is also a priority in our challenge programs. As such, we typically like to include other complementary activities to drive brand engagement, such as photo sharing activities, blogs and topical discussions. Variety, after all, is the spice of life.

If You Like This, Read This: 6 key areas for customer co-creation and brand collaboration

From a marketing standpoint, take the time to build anticipation and excitement for your first innovation challenge. Members who have already signed up will look forward finally getting started. It also wouldn’t hurt to leverage other channels such as your website and social media networks to promote the challenge, enticing even more people to sign up for your community!

Warm-up activities are also a good idea to lead into the innovation challenge. As your members learn what they can do on the co-creation platform and what your community is all about, these activities will help them to prepare for the challenge at hand.

Phase 5: Keeping the engine running

We at Chaordix are big fans of gamification in co-creative communities. It’s a great way to hook people in and entice them to stay involved as the community grows. Prizes, points or other incentives are great motivators for community members to complete tasks, interact with posts or comment on submissions, for example.

Your community incentives must be appealing to your members, and its values must be reflective of the effort that they have put into participation. These incentives can be online-only, or even real-world prizes!

As the community grows, make sure to also check in with your community managers so that they don’t feel overwhelmed. Building and maintaining a community is hard work, on top of encouraging participation and innovation. Provide support to your team members who are involved in the community.

Communication is vital in co-creative communities. As you get into the thick of the co-creation process, encourage participation and make sure that your members have everything they need to jump in. If you keep sign-ups open in your community, don’t forget to invite new members to participate at any phase of the innovation challenge. They can still get involved after the ideation stage!

Finally, keep everyone engaged as you move through each phase of co-creation. Members will feel truly valued once they see ideas through from start to finish, and they will feel like they have helped you fulfill the purpose of the community you created.

Want to learn more about how you can launch a co-creative community for innovation? Check out what collaborative innovation can do for you.

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