I found a great article posted on the Syndicom Web site from CIO magazine on how to develop an online community. Here are four points I pulled out that relate to content publishers:

1. Design for Evolution

Because communities of practice are organic, designing them is more a matter of shepherding their evolution than creating them from scratch. As the community grows, new members bring new interests and may pull the focus of the community in different directions.

2. Open a Dialog Between Inside and Outside

Effective community design is built on the collective experience of community members. Only an insider can appreciate the issues at the heart of the domain, the knowledge that is important to share, the challenges his field faces, and the latent potential in emerging ideas and techniques. Only an insider can know who the real players are and their relationships. Good community design requires an understanding of the community’s potential to develop and steward knowledge, but it often takes an outside perspective to help members see the possibilities

3. Invite Different Levels of Participation

People participate in communities for different reasons. We commonly see three main levels of community participation. The first is a small core group of people who actively participate in discussions. As the community matures, this core group takes on much of the community’s leadership. But this group is usually rather small, only 10 percent to 15 percent of the whole community.

At the next level outside this core is the active group. These members attend meetings regularly and participate occasionally in the community forums, but without the regularity or intensity of the core group. The active group is also quite small, another 15 percent to 20 percent of the community.

A large portion of community members are peripheral and rarely participate. Instead, they keep to the sidelines, watching the interaction of the core and active members

4. Focus on Value

Value is key to community life because participation in most communities is voluntary. But the full value of a community is often not apparent when it is first formed. Moreover, the source of value often changes during the life of the community.

Communities need to create events, activities and relationships that help their potential value emerge and enable them to discover new ways to harvest it rather than attempting to determine their expected value in advance.

For more great articles on creating a social network, see the Syndicom resources page.