People join a community for one reason, but they participate for another

  • feb 2013
  • Charlotte
  • ·
  • Aangepast okt 2013
  • 1933

Out of all the presentations at the social conference at Pakhuis de Zwijger yesterday, the presentation of Richard Millington (founder of FeverBee), triggered me the most (no offense Rene, I liked yours too! :-)). In general I think Millington's perspective of applying social science to increase the activity in online communities aligns nicely with how we (Winkwaves) approach and observe communities within organizations as well.

In his presentation Millington noted that with all the different types of social media such as Facebook, Jive, and Twitter, it has become easier to build communities. However, the ease of creating communities hasn’t (yet) resulted in the creation of better communities. With that he mentioned that we shouldn’t focus on the technology too much but instead shift our attention more towards the social aspects of communities as online communities share similar social elements. By identifying and isoloating the different social elements it is possible to reconstruct or build a successful community. The sense of community is split up in four 'parts':

1. Membership With membership it is important to focus on identifying who is part of the community:

  • Figure out the terms and words communities use and learn their history and 'war' stories. By focusing on these aspects you are able to get a better understanding of what the community is about.
  • Raise the boundary to being an accepted a member of the community. When you make it more difficult for people to become part of the community (by creating a community which focusses on a specific group, for example 'UK medical school graduates'), the people in the community will feel like they have more in common with each other, and as a result they will feel more 'connected' or bonded with each other.
  • Encourage more personal investments. Focus on tiny investments such as asking (and motivating) people to participate in particular discussions.
  • Rituals/traditions. Traditionally members of a sorority or fraternity build a strong connection and feeling of 'shared history' with each other as a result of the hazing process they all go through. Millington notes that he doesn't encourage hazing, as this is banned and prohibited in most countries around the world, but he suggests that other forms such as asking people within a community to share their biggest fears or biggest mistakes, could contribute to a stronger emotional bonded community.
  • Use common symbols throughout the community. Interview your members to find out the symbols and expressions they use, this will help them to recognize the environment they are in.

2. InfluenceWith influence it is implied that people within the community need to feel that they have an impact in the community otherwise it is not likely for them to continue to contribute to the community. For organizations it is very important to acknowledge, amplify and 'reward' the behavior and input of the members within their community. A few examples of how to do this are to highlight the best comments of the week or to encourage and reward good quality posts.

3. Fulfillment of needsEach member of a community is ultimately looking for a 'deep psychological reward'. Within the community it is important that these needs are met and with that these personal needs need to align with the overall 'needs' of the community.

4. Emotional Connection"Strong online communities share the same type of emotions at the same time". A community should:

  • Encourage emotional connection and the right type of discussions, and also initiate and highlight the most hardcore discussions.
  • Encourage self-disclosure discussions. Millington notes that most organizations focus on conveying information instead of focussing on leaving room for members or employees to share their passion, doubts, anger or other kind of feelings with the community.
  • Allow non-essential/off topic discussions. Leave room for these types of discussions, as allowing these types of discussions will enhance the overall level of activity within the community, and as a result people will become more active in other discussions as well.

Taking a social perspective on communities allows us to focus on the social needs of the individuals in the community such as ego, validation, efficacy, self-esteem and 'making friends'. All these assets are important in committing people to a community.

Also, people tend to participate more in groups that appear successful. As a community manager you should try to identify the parts of your community that are not going well and close them down (or try to fix them), next to that you should also highlight the good parts of your community and share milestones with your members.