Building connections takes patience, persistence, and hard work. As Commsor points out, it’s the human connections that make your community sticky (and values-driven).

Making meaningful connections and embracing your role in building relationships will benefit your community in:

  • Helping members learn something new 
  • Tapping into new topics, interest areas, resources, and opportunities
  • Fostering a sense of genuine belonging with one another.

Setting ExpectationsTactics to Spark Connections in Your Online Community

There's one characteristic that all large, multiuser online communities and social platforms have in common: most community members don't participate very much (or as much as we’d like them to). Often, members lurk and live within the threads.


In contrast, a tiny minority of users usually accounts for a disproportionately large amount of the content and other system activity. This phenomenon is known as participation inequality, which is broken down in the following way

  • 90% of users are lurkers who never contribute
  • 9% of users contribute a little
  • and 1% of users account for almost all the action

(aka 1-9-90 theory).

Overcoming Participation Inequality

Your first step in tackling participation inequality is to recognize that it is an issue that will always exist in online communities. But, how you embrace and strategize will significantly shape your community’s participation inequality. This article will help you create a comprehensive strategy that incorporates your people, processes, and programs to develop a community of value for your members.

Best Practices

What are the best practices for curating connections? Although there is no one size fits all for connecting members, these best practices can serve as your compass. 

1. One size does not fit all

Unfortunately, the "one size fits all" approach is flawed because it assumes all members will value your community in the same ways. The first question any potential member will ask before joining your community is, “What’s in it for me?” 

For that reason, it's more important to focus on what value each type of member will gain by joining your community rather than what value you will gain from their participation. By examining what value each of your types is looking for, you will be able to build better connections between yourself and your members, plus connections between members. 

2. Keep it personal, not transactional

Maintaining a personal connection with your members should be your top priority when it comes to member engagement and connection. Your connections should be personal, and you should always give more than you receive. 

Transactional relationships tend to breed resentment over time - no one wants to feel used. As a result, resentful members will not be eager to respond to your requests (especially if it involves a lot of work). Keep in mind that in the absence of a mutual relationship, members are more likely to believe and act on negative opinions they form in their experience. 

What's the alternative? 

Mutual relationships. 

Examples of ways your community can forge mutual relationships include:

  • Get to know your members (example: collect information on their hobbies or t-shirt size when they sign up. Think of what information you need to help you connect with them).
  • Understand  their priorities and challenges (example: send quarterly surveys to gauge feedback and steer your innovation).
  • Own  your community's values and trust your member’s good intentions (example: having clear community guidelines and consequences for breaking the guidelines).
  • A regular cadence of communication, even if there is no “urgent” topic to discuss. (example: posting on a regular basis to help spark engagement — communities are supposed to be fun and something members can consistently look forward to).
  • Commit to the success of each other (example: demonstrate how you help your members just as much as they help you).

3. Show your appreciation

When you show members that you appreciate them, they will positively talk about your community. 

  • Be Personal
When it comes to member appreciation, being personal is key to success. You want your members to feel that they belong and are adding value to your platform.
  • Send Unexpected Gifts
Providing unexpected gifts to your customers is the most meaningful way to show your appreciation.  These gifts are incredibly effective for the receiver because they feel cared for and like you were thinking about them as community members and individuals.

How to do this: collect information during registration and in member surveys to make gift giving even easier (e.g., ask your members: what’s your favorite snack? What's your hobby? T-shirt size?) 
  • Member Appreciation Programming Ideas
  1. Write thank you cards
  2. Send out coupons or gift cards
  3. Launch a member loyalty program
  4. Provide an upgrade
  5. Distribute your company's swag
  6. Donate to charity
  7. Send personalized gifts
  8. Member Appreciation Events
  9. Do spotlights on some of your members

Looking for more resources on customer appreciation? Check out this HubSpot article

4. Respond to concerns

Listening to members is the best way to solve problems and address concerns.

Pay attention to what they are saying, even if it’s not immediately directed at you. Beyond listening, ensure that you respond to them as needed—there’s nothing more frustrating than yelling into an empty void. 

See examples of how large brands respond to concerns (and complaints) from their customers and community members. 

Connection PlaysTactics to Spark Connections in Your Online Community

To wrap up, let’s take a look at some of our favorite connection plays that you can use to build connections between your members as well as with them.

Play How-to Who is this for?
Community Corner  First, start with creating a post where members can see it (we recommend posting to your livefeed and pinning it for the day) Then, pose a question* to your members (eg., identify one object within reach of your computer that you care about). In the post be sure to explain the directions then role model the response you would like (this means you go first!

After posting, start orchestrating your initial engagement. Send the link to your community team and/or your super users, to help populate the replies with responses. 


Once you’ve received a handful of replies, tag a member to share more about it. Encourage members to continue the tags and ‘show and tell’ until everyone has shared.

This play promotes self-expression and powerful engagement. 

If you decide to make this a part of your weekly content, make sure you highlight it in your community to give members an opportunity to participate.

Example Questions*

Share an object/memory that…


is very special to you.


was given to you.


is connected to a holiday or overseas trip.


reminds you of someone.


reminds you of an important lesson you learned.

Curiosity Ping Pong First, start with creating a post where members can see it (we recommend posting to your forum) Then, pose an entertaining question to your group (e.g., What is something strange you believed as a child?) In the post be sure to explain the directions then role model the response you would like (this means you go first!

After posting, start orchestrating your initial engagement. Send the link to your community team and/or your super users, to help populate the replies with responses. 


Then, invite a new member to choose one response they are curious to learn more about and ask its author to describe the story behind it by tagging them.


When this person has shared, ask them to choose another response that they are curious about and invite its author to share their story, and so on.


If a nominated person chooses not to share, simply ask the current volunteer to tag another response they are curious about.

This play promotes random interaction and direct member engagement.

If you decide to make this a part of your weekly content make sure you highlight it in your member onboarding to give members something to look forward to.



QOTD (Question Of The Day)  First, start with creating a post where members can see it (we recommend posting to your livefeed and pinning it for the day) Then, pose a question* to your members (e.g., What new tool or app do you think needs to be invented?). In the post be sure to explain the directions then role model the response you would like (this means you go first!

After posting, start orchestrating your initial engagement. Send the link to your community team and/or your super users, to help populate the replies with responses. 


Once you’ve received a handful of replies, tag a newly joined member to ask them to share too.


Repeat on a frequent schedule (e.g., Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). 

As a community manager, this play is simple and ideal as a ritual to carry out, it serves as a powerful framing device, and it's easy to engage members in.

We recommend that you make this a part of your daily content but be sure to switch up the questions. Remember, the questions you ask your group will promote their interaction, sharing, and frame their group’s experience — make it fun and purpose-driven. For the easiest execution, plan your questions in advance. If your questions are being ‘googled' 10 minutes before you post, your members will be able to tell. 


Example Questions*


Here are a bunch of questions to inspire your thinking:


What is something kind that someone has done for you recently?


What is an idea you strongly believe in?


What is an issue that you think too few people are talking about?


What is one thing life is teaching you right now?


What is something that amazes you (in a good way?)


What has been the highlight of your week so far?


What is holding you back from doing what you really want to do?

 

Hivebrite is an all-in-one community management platform. We empower organizations of all sizes and sectors to launch, manage and grow fully branded private communities. Schedule a demo today!

Written by Morgan Wood
How to Create a Content Strategy for Your Community

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