David Coleman has identified 10 rules for establishing on-line communities, which I quite liked.
1. Identify community founders/initiators, and explain the reason for starting the community, ongoing roles, and participation.
2. Provide a good reason for people to be in the community. What are the benefits?
Provide a community member directory (with profiles) and an easy way
for members to contact each other and learn about each other. The goal
is to develop trust among members.
a way to handle conflict at the initiation of the community. Present
these rules clearly. Conflicts must be handled quickly and fairly or
they will tear the community apart.
a hosted or focused chat. Appoint a facilitator with editorial
capabilities (with editorial policies stated), and appoint discussion
owners to drive the discussion to a decision, conclusion or action.
6. Create informal spaces for people to socialize and interact. This also helps to build trust.
7. Create a critical reason for members to be active in the community.
a. It should be the only place they can get critical information;
b. People should receive intrinsic rewards from the community that make it important for them to be there personally, and;
c. People enjoy interacting with experts in the community and should be
able to learn much that is helpful to them in their everyday work.
Bring newbies up to speed fast (guides, buddies, docents, tours,
FAQs). It is also a good idea to post or e-mail new members the "rules
of engagement" for acceptable behavior in the community.
Keep the content fresh and new with critical information and regular
events that keep people coming back to participate in the community.
10. Monitor participation frequency and quality, and reward those who deserve it.