We as a human race have been predisposed to thrive in harmony, and harmony demands structure. Something that doesn’t have to be reinstated constantly but is, nevertheless, understood by everyone. Simply put: being in a culture is like having all people from different aspects of their lives be on the same page about a few things. In an online community, you must define a social blueprint, something that binds everyone together. But, to be able to do that, you need to ask the right questions and define how the answers to those questions impact your goals in the long term.
Is your community more inclined towards an independent work culture, or a collaborative workspace where communication is paramount? Is it more important to have one-on-one conversations with each community member, or have group events more often?
Culture is tricky because it isn’t something that you can design per se. Instead, it’s something you can only try to cultivate.
Perspective is especially important when it comes to communities. Taking feedback is not only recommended but in fact essential for nurturing a community where people’s opinions make a difference. In a way, you’re not essentially giving control to the people but are creating the persona of doing so, which can also be the glue that holds them in.
The age of online communities is upon us and it’s evident from how people are drifting towards it. According to a survey by GlobalWebIndex, 19% more people reported that their voice is heard in a community as compared to social sites, and 18% more people reported that they have a sense of belonging when they’re a part of a community.
The aim of a community should be to grow in accordance with what the people want. It’s like democracy, but without the politics 🙂
This might seem redundant after the previous point, but to the discerning eye, the two significantly differ in connotations. Acting on feedback is offering people what they want while building in public isn’t restricted to the concept of inculcating feedback but takes on the idea of publicizing everything a community does for growth. Involving your audience in the process of growth gives a preview/trailer of what’s coming. This can also mean getting real-time responses from people about an idea or even initiating brainstorming sessions to garner fresher perspectives.
Building in public can:
Austen Allred, the CEO, and founder of Bloomtech.com (formerly Lambda School), is a great example of how you can build in public.
Be it a welcome note, an engagement email, or something as simple as an update - adding a touch of personalization ties a member directly to you, which makes it more likely for them to be an active member within the community. According to this article - 74% of marketers say that personalization increases customer engagement. Also, emails or messages with personalized subject lines are 26% more likely to be opened.
Communicating with a community isn’t easy, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to engage with people in a way that seems disconnected or unsympathetic.
Here’s an example of what a good personalized email should look like 👇
Getting lost in the responsibilities of leadership is probably one of the most common reasons for losing sight of what’s really important. And we know it can get difficult trying to manage a community with each individual having their own priorities or necessities. But at the same time, what everyone can collectively appreciate is someone who’s not only approachable but also someone who they turn to without a second thought.
And it’s usually the little things that can make all the difference. Like bringing something personal to conversations, something simple like how you took your kid to the park the other day, or how your pet chihuahua chewed through your socks. Something that breaks the ice and encourages the community members to go ahead and share their stories.
A good sense of humor can go a long way.
People are attracted to and influenced by experts who’ve led the charge on whatever subject it may be. As a community manager, it becomes necessary for you to collaborate with and bring forward individuals to who your community would look up to. It can be someone you know, or it can be someone you’ve reached out to - the impact of an outside influencer attracts attention and in turn offers value.
Not just that, having experienced folks come in and have intricate face-to-face conversations with your community will give invaluable information that they probably won’t find anywhere else. This becomes an incentive in itself.
A community is like any other relationship you have in your life. It needs to be nurtured, looked after, kept alive, and eventful. Especially now when most communities have become virtual, the importance of communication is so much so that the entire weight of a community depends on it. Breaking the silence of texts, messages, and monotony - an event can ignite a sense of comradery and inspiration within the community.
Social gatherings (even if they’re virtual) can be a hub for networking, learning something new, and giving something back to the community. Having that human connection cannot be substituted with anything else; it’s a dopamine-induced feeling to be involved and valued by people who share a common passion or belief with you. This makes bonding all the more robust and gives members another reason to stay with you.
Rewarding is perhaps the most renowned method used for community engagement. And it’s precisely so because it works. Acknowledging member contributions through gifts or giveaways can be a segue to keep members constantly involved and motivated in the community.
Doesn’t have to be flashy gifts that scream ‘expensive’, in fact, if you’re a community that’s only laying down its initial foundations, something as small as a heartfelt thank you note will suffice. It’s also important to note that rewards should have an extrinsic value and shouldn’t transform into an incentive program where member contribution is only motivated expecting something in return. You don’t want that.
Another notable thing here is that rewards should be something that further solidifies your community or serves an informational purpose that in some way catalyzes engagement on your platform.
What Bill Gates said over 25 years ago still holds true to this day. Matter of fact, this becomes more relevant as the internet becomes more convoluted. Although this term has been cliched over the years - especially by marketers - the reason is evident: it’s true. Content is and always will be King.
Everything in this list becomes secondary once content comes into the picture. Especially online communities - content is what speaks, what draws attention, what pokes curiosity, what creates identity, what structures culture, what represents your community, and eventually, what sells. It’s the relevance one feels towards how you communicate value is what gravitates him/her towards your community.
From a marketing point of view alone, nearly 80% of B2B marketers have shifted to having a content strategy, and 99% of B2B businesses have seen at least some success from content with 30% of them being highly successful.
As simple as that.
You can't fill up anyone's cup with an empty pitcher. If you want to take the best possible care of your community, you have to start by taking the best possible care of yourself. - David Spinks
The first 30-days in any role are equal parts exciting, overwhelming, and confusing. It’s also really important as it’ll set the tone and direction of your role for years to come.
Acknowledging the top contributors and public shoutouts/appreciation for great work done within the community is a step further towards building trust and fostering a culture of supporting each other.