Who knows what your business community will look like?

Name the companies that set the standards for social media use in business. Nothing coming to mind immediately? Me neither.

Telligent, an enterprise collaboration software company, believes that some day the same answer will immediately occur to both of us.

“We think that if you give [leaders in corporate social media use] a little more time, you won’t even have to do research,” says Cecilia Edwards, Telligent’s senior director of strategy. “This stuff is going to start rolling off of your tongue…some of these leaders will start being known as the definitive world-class leaders. They’re going to start setting the norms in industry for how to do this well.”

Edwards and Telligent CTO Rob Howard are releasing a white paper today that delineates what these standard-setting communities of the future will look like. The report is primarily based on their own insights, research by industry analysis and the results of an informal survey they conducted. According to their research, here are nine steps businesses must take in order to make their online communities world-class.

1. Identify Business Objectives

Don’t pour resources into creating an online community without defining what business objectives you want it to accomplish. The purpose could include support, digital marketing or networking, but there should also be some way for community members to meet their objectives.

“When you look at a very successful community, what made those communities successful was that the businesses were accomplishing their objectives — support, for example — but the members of those communities were also accomplishing their objectives — finding the answer to their question and also connecting with other members who shared the interests and passions,” explains Howard.

2. Emphasize Being Personal

Howard and Edwards found that a personal touch was an important factor in an online community’s success. Simple things like completing profiles, putting actual pictures in for avatars and posting comments that don’t sound like they’ve been run through a PR filter can help achieve this effect. The import thing is “letting the community and the customers really self-identify with the company that is running the community,” Howard says.

3. Create a Culture of Belonging

Like guests arriving to a dinner party, successful online communities make sure to welcome their new members adequately. For example, when people join, they are greeted with a welcome message and are immediately connected with someone else in the community (for instance, the site’s manager).

4. Be a Source of Relevant Content

One way to help community members reach their objectives is to become a great source of content about a topic that they’re interested in. Seventy-six percent of respondents to Telligent’s unofficial survey said that finding answers quickly was extremely important to them; 56% ranked identifying relevant information and 55% ranked identifying experts as equally important.

5. Leverage the Wisdom of the Crowd

World-class communities will use the information exchanged on their networks to improve their products and transform the way that they’re doing business. Doing so sometimes involves allowing community members to answer each other’s questions instead of being the first to jump into the conversation.

6. Highlight Influential Members

Influential members in a community have a direct impact on the behavior of other users in the community. Byengaging and highlighting your biggest fans, you’ll empower them to help shape and grow your community.

7. Reward Members in Pixels, Not Pennies

If Foursquare has taught us anything, it’s that people will do a lot for a little digital recognition. Making a leader board, developing badges, or another effort to reward participation with recognition in the community will be an important component of a world-class community.

8. Establish and Enforce Guidelines

Create a policy that clearly identifies what community members can and can’t do, as well as how violations of the policy will be handled. For an example, see Mashable’s commenting guidelines.

9. Give Members Privileges

The privileges for non-members and members should be different, thus providing an incentive for people to join the community. Some examples might be giving members access to special content, access to new information, discounted products, or just access to groups of other members in the community.

You can read the full white paper on Telligent’s website.