Starting a conversation in an online community can be a challenging task, especially if you are trying to inspire organic conversations that are engaging and interesting for the members of the community. However, with a little bit of effort and some creative thinking, you can foster a vibrant and engaging online community that encourages meaningful discussions and interactions.
Create a positive and welcoming atmosphere. One of the most important things you can do to inspire organic conversations in an online community is to create a positive and welcoming atmosphere. This means being respectful and polite to others, fostering a sense of inclusivity, and providing a safe space for open and honest discussions.
Take steps to make your community inclusive and supportive of people which is what becomes the basis or foundation for providing value and driving organic community engagement at scale over time. Define and abide by strict community guidelines that ensure a safe space for all your members. By creating a positive and welcoming atmosphere, you can encourage others to feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas and help foster a sense of community and connection among members.
Share your own experiences and insights. Oftentimes, what gets people talking is a feeling of familiarity. If your community members can identify with your thoughts and ideas, it acts as a stepping stone for them to start opening up too.
This can help spark new ideas and discussions, as well as provide others with valuable insights and perspectives. When sharing your own experiences and insights, be sure to be open, honest, and authentic to help create a sense of trust and connection with other members of the community.
A great onboarding isn’t just about telling members what’s what, but about bringing people into the habit of talking frequently by making it interactive. A lot can happen just from encouraging members to introduce themselves in the community - they’ll get to connect with new people who respond or welcome them, break that first barrier of interaction which eases them up to engage more, and establish that first bond with the community which in many ways, keeps them coming back.
Having great content that speaks out is one of the core necessitates of building a community. People stay for the experience and that experience becomes indulging when it’s unique. Having thought-provoking or opinionated conversations that demand responses can be a great way to initiate organic discussions.
If need be, start creating a knowledge repository and create extensive content pieces that province invaluable insights into whichever industry your community belongs to.
One of the key skills to fostering meaningful conversations in an online community is to be an active listener. Being heard is arguably one of the top feelings in the world. When you listen to a community member, it gives them the comfort of feeling like they make t a difference in the community.
Pay attention to what others are saying, ask clarifying questions, and provide thoughtful responses that show you have mindfully read or heard what’s been said. By being a good listener, you can help create a positive and welcoming atmosphere that encourages others to share their thoughts and ideas. And this serves as a ripple effect, making them engage more and more in the community and with each interaction, it becomes a safe space for them.
Ask open-ended questions. A great way to encourage organic conversations in an online community is to ask open-ended questions that encourage others to share their thoughts and experiences.
These types of questions are designed to elicit more in-depth responses and encourage discussion and interaction among members of the community. For example, instead of asking questions that can possibly restrict answers, ask them in a way that forces community members to be elaborate and expressive. Instead of asking questions like “Do you like apples?” ask something more explicit like “What do you like or dislike about apples?”. This gives people a clearer incentive to take part in the discussion.
Ask for feedback and suggestions from members. This can help to make the community more responsive to their needs and interests, and can also encourage them to be more active in providing input and ideas.
Also, having 1-on-1 conversations with members can help move the needle a bit. Of course, this is not possible for larger communities, but if it’s feasible, don’t be afraid to hop on individual calls to gather more personal opinions and perspectives. A lot of people feel conscious to open up to everyone and having direct conversations with them will not only make them more connected to you and the community but also give you insights that wouldn’t have surfaced otherwise.
Gathering feedback will help understand the pulse of the community and shape it better. If you give your community what it needs, it might be a tipping point for most inactive users to start interacting and contributing more.
In a remote-first world, you have to go that extra mile to get people talking. Remember, having one-sided Zoom events is a surefire way to see a rapid decline in attendees and also events. Since everyone’s joining in from the comfort of their homes (mostly), you’ll not just grab a lot more of their attention by making the sessions interactive, but also create opportunities for them to engage and interact with others.
Conduct games, fun trivia quizzes, or even icebreakers to ease the atmosphere. When you lighten the mood with fun activities or even great jokes, it makes people feel more comfortable to speak freely.
Another great way to inspire organic conversations is to reward people who’ve been top contributors in the community aka the community champions. Sometimes, seeing active participation be recognized gives people a motivational nudge to participate too.
But you must be careful with a reward system as it might become an incentive for people to engage in the community. You don’t want rewards to be the only reason why any talks in the community so keep rewards restricted to major events or for those who are the absolute top-level advocates or ambassadors for your community.
On Deck is where top talent comes together to connect, learn and explore opportunities. They have a cohort-based community approach to learning and have a bouquet of fellowships going to help professionals achieve their professional goals. Here's my set of learnings (so far) by being a part of On Deck's first cohort for Community Builders.
The man, the myth, the legend himself - presenting the greatest community manager of all time who is now a part of Threado's community.