Online Communities Require Member Commitment
by Rachel Happe
In my last blog post I talked about what is required to build and sustain online communities. One thing that hasn’t been talked about is the commitment needed from community members. And without members who engage with the community regularly, there is no community. Commitment from members can include:
· Paying a membership fee
· Committing to make a certain number of meetings/programs per month/year
· Asking and/or answering a certain number of questions online
· Mentoring a new member and showing them around the community
· Promoting the community publicly to get more members
· Encouraging fellow community members to share relevant content
· Giving feedback on products/services
Whether the contract is implicit or explicit, a community only makes an impact when its members add value. However, asking for commitment from members can be difficult and scary, I understand.
Starting out during a recession and asking TheCR Network members to pay a membership fee was scary for us. While we provided programming topics weekly we would also call members out during these sessions and publicly ask them to participate. We would also follow up with members who were not actively engaging either in online discussions or weekly programs to be sure they were getting value, but also as gentle peer pressure to remind them that participation is not only encouraged…but expected. We weren’t sure how it would be received. But being clear about the expectation you have for your members will help you understand how viable your community is:
· If you cannot find people willing to step up and commit, it’s time to reassess your community and it’s strategy.
· You may start small, but with those who are willing to put time & effort in to your community and stick with it, giving you better results
· You will not be able to fool yourself into thinking some day soon the community will take off. If people aren’t willing to make a commitment – it will not take off until something changes.
Different communities are built to produce different results, requiring various levels of commitment from its members. Being clear on what is expected when new members join may mean fewer members initially but with higher engagement and commitment thus making it a vibrant community others will want to join. And ultimately that is what we hope for our communities – to be a vibrant place where members engage and connect and share information with each other and with us, the organization.
So how did it work for The CR Network? Four years later with 90-plus companies involved and engaged, we are very happy with the results, as are those original members who joined in the beginning.