In a past post, I talked about what might be discouraging your community members from participating. Now let’s talk about some possible solutions for building a positive community. My goal is to help you create a welcoming environment and grow your group!
How to Create a Positive Community Culture
Are your community members missing in action? Do they lurk but never participate? Well, you can jab people with a stick all you want, but you won’t get them to move if they don’t want to. Community members need guidance, leadership, and a culture that encourages engagement instead of discouraging it.
Here are four ways you can establish a positive community culture for your members.
1. Ask Your Group “Why”
First, if your community is dull and boring, it might help to ask them why! And ask what you can do to fix it. Communication is the key to almost any problem. If your community doesn’t answer, you’ve not lost anything. If they do, you gained valuable information to fix the problem!
I suggest using an online survey like SurveyMonkey for your fact-finding mission into whatever is blocking your community. People can answer anonymously which encourages more honest responses.
You need to find out answers to questions like:
- Are they afraid to speak up because your community’s culture is toxic?
- Are they new and clueless about the purpose of the group?
- Is it hard to post or comment?
- Do they forget sometimes they even belong to a community?
Once you know where your community needs help, try some of these big-picture changes.
2. Create a Welcoming Environment
If the problem is a toxic environment, establish a set of community principles and objectives and encourage your community members to follow them.
In 2008, Structure3C ran a survey on creating a good community culture that I think still applies today. Good community practice doesn’t really change. When asked “What are the three most important factors in establishing and maintaining a community’s culture?“, one of three top answers was:
Have a clear objective and/or value statement.
Make sure your group knows the goals and values of your community. Are you a helpful community? A community for collecting knowledge? What are your values?
Establish a set of guidelines or principles that foster your community values. Some good principles would be kindness, caring, and to be welcoming to newcomers. Basically, all the stuff you learned in preschool and kindergarten. This may be one of those times to gently prod your members in the right direction.
Don’t just call out people who are causing problems; praise those who participate productively. In Structure3C‘s survey, recognizing positive participation was one of the top three ways community leaders establish a positive community culture. Positive reinforcement is an effective way to reinforce the desired behavior in your community.
This can be as simple as a “Great response!” comment. Go one step further and highlight ALL good responses. Or feature a particular member who’s an especially helpful part of the community. Make members feel as if their efforts aren’t going unnoticed.
Make sure new people feel welcomed and informed. Your FAQs and searchable archive need to be easy to find and easy to use. Test the search bar to confirm YOU can find an answer to simple questions. Make sure all common questions are answered in the FAQ.
Other members should refer the new person to the FAQ, but encourage them to do so kindly. If a newbie asks a question or starts a discussion that was addressed long ago, don’t let your members rudely tell them to search FAQs. Let the question or discussion stand, and answer it in a kind, helpful way. Another newbie might be interested, too. Then, you helped and welcomed two new participants with one hook.
Spam and Trolls
Don’t hyper-moderate every comment. You may feel the need to do this if the community is built off a blog comment system. Spam and trolls can make any site owner paranoid! You may be tempted to check every single comment or kill comments you don’t like.
To control spam, make sure to install good filters and/or Captcha apps. Be sure to only boot out Trolls and not people who disagree with you. Weeding out dissenters can kill constructive discussion. It can also scare away people who might otherwise participate.
3. Keep Barriers to Minimum
Make sure your User Interface (UI) and layout allow for quick and easy posting. This is especially important on a custom-built community site or forum. You don’t want community members giving up because they can’t find the Post button.
If possible, push your community posts or comments to members’ Inboxes. People don’t participate in a community they’ve forgotten about.
4. Lead by Example
This one’s simple. If YOU don’t participate, why should your community members?
Your moderators should also be doing more than just enforcing guidelines. They should be contributing to and starting discussions.
These are just a few examples of how you can create an environment that encourages community members to be positive and active. I haven’t even touched on gamification or other entertaining methods. So put down that jab stick, take some time, and figure out what you can do to make your community shine!
How do you get your community members to participate? Managing a particularly challenging community? Tell us in the comments below!