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How to Name Your Private Online Community

This post is by Ben Martin and originally appeared on the Avectra blog.  We’re working through this very issue with SEVERAL clients right now, so I thought this would be a great post to revisit!

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The name of your association’s private online community may not seem that important in the grand scheme of your community strategy, but it can send a subtle but strong signal about your community and can really affect your community’s engagement. Regardless, it’s definitely something you’ll need to grapple with as you’re preparing to go live. There are basically two schools of thought on naming a private online community. One is more common in the corporate/organizational space, and the other is more common among all other communities.

The most prevalent naming convention for sponsored private communities to use the organization’s name or acronym in the community name. Rationale for putting the organization’s name in the community name are:

  1. It sends a strong, clear signal that the community is sponsored by the organization. There is little to no ambiguity about who owns the community.
  2. It helps the organization reinforce its brand name.
  3. Depending on the name, it can help send a signal that the community belongs to the members (or that the members belong to the community). This personalizes or humanizes the organization.

Some examples of community names using this convention are MyNTENIAIA Connect, and GBTA Hub. In the corporate space, you’ll see names like Virgin Media PioneersMarriott Rewards Insiders and Avectra Community (sorry, couldn’t resist).

The other approach is to leave the organization’s name out of the community name. Instead, these communities use a word or words that are iconic, symbolic or otherwise relevant to the community’s members, or the organization’s brand or products. Sometimes, there is no rhyme or reason to the name. Often, there is no organization behind the community, or else the organization grew up because the community grew so large that it needed an organization behind it. The rationale for omitting the organization name from the community name is:

  1. It makes the community feel like it’s about the members, and not about the organization or whatever it’s selling.
  2. It can help to extend the brand footprint beyond the company name.
  3. Let’s face it: These community names just sound better…

Here are a few examples: SermoStackOverflow4chan.

Think this can’t be done in an organization context? Not so fast! The American Society for Microbiology calls their private community Microbeworld. The University of Pennsylvania Health System’s employees-only private community is called The Square.

Naming your community without the organization’s acronym or name in it can be a tough sell to executives and leadership, but community management effective practices show us that doing so contributes to a strong community.

Additional Considerations:
Here is part of a naming worksheet I developed recently for an association client going through this exercise.

– The name must appropriately reflect the association’s brand and have the capacity to help grow brand awareness over the long term.

– The name must be attractive to industry professionals who are our core audience…

– but the name should not be so limiting as to put off secondary audiences, including very specifically, CFOs, CEOs and other decision makers, as well as event participants.

– The name must work for SEO purposes (findable through search engines).

– The name must appeal to existing members but also prospective members.

– The name should relate to the association’s mission and vision (imagine them as possible taglines next to the name)

Questions to note:

–        What does it mean philosophically to be part of this community?

–        Should the name reflect our geographical location?

–        Should the name be something fun and “inside baseball” that our industry would appreciate?

–        Would someone wear a T-shirt with the community name on it?

What do you think? Have you recently gone through the process of having to name your online community?  It was not easy, right?

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BONUS:  REGISTER HERE for our on-demand course on Essentials of Community Management!

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