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Make Your Community a Habit

Written by Rob Hefferon on September 12, 2016 at 8:30 AM

Make your online community a habit for members, customers and users

What was the first thing you did when you woke up this morning? If you’re like me, you may have instinctively rolled over and grabbed your phone to check your Facebook news feed. Once I login, I post comments, respond to friends, and share content. Wouldn’t your community benefit from this level of engagement from your members?A recent study shows that 70 percent of Facebook users log onto the platform on a daily basis. This type of engagement doesn’t come naturally and is not accidental. Other major social media platforms can’t hold a candle to Facebook’s engagement, with sites like LinkedIn registering daily visit rates as low as thirteen-percent.

This difference extends beyond engagement rates. Facebook continues to dominate in terms of number of users and revenue numbers. People are naturally drawn to a platform like Facebook which compiles the thoughts of nearly two billion users, and that level of user generated content makes it easy to make a daily habit out of visiting the site.

What can you learn from Facebook’s success? You may not have the mass of billions, but you have something even better: a kickass community manager. Communities, especially new ones, require nurturing, but through hard work and smart choices your community can become the network your members first log onto when they wake up in the morning.

How to form a new habit

In his 1960 book Psycho-Cybernetics, Maxwell Maltz popularized the idea that it takes “twenty-one days for an old mental image to dissolve and a new one to jell.” Scientific studies since then have proven this to be a simplification, but the general principle holds true -- it takes time to form a habit. A recent study showed that it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days to form a new habit. It depends on an individual and what habit they’re trying to form, but the common denominators are time and effort.

Therefore, in order for your community to become the first thing your members engage with in the morning, you need to be willing to nurture your community from the start. And acknowledge that it will not be automatic. By using your skills in the following ways, you will see your community become an engaging habit for your members.

1. Make your community valuable

By focusing on the quality of your community from the beginning, you are helping create the fear of missing out (FOMO) for members of your organization. Make your community the go-to place for information and resources. Individually engage thought leaders in your organization’s field to join the community and encourage their peers to do the same. Engage your executive team and make sure they participate in the community. However, this engagement needs to be focused. You should get your experts to provide content that your community will find useful, and you can help nurture that from the start.

First, make sure you prepare yourself before the start of your community with seed questions in case activity on the site slows. Then, try using live chats to increase excitement about your community and encourage members to login to check out the real-time content. Finally, reach out to members through automation rules or individual messages to encourage them to answer a question or write a blog post that your community will find useful. By making your community a valuable resource, you ensure that your organization’s members can’t afford to miss out. High quality posts will encourage a high quantity of posts, but a large number of sub-par posts may devalue your community actually discourage members from engaging with it. If high quality posts are the real value of the community then why should you worry about quantity of posts at all?

Successful communities are constantly on the go. A bustling community is much more attractive to people than a quiet one. When members have a question, they want answers to be both quick and correct. If your community takes too long to respond to questions, or is not providing good answers, then your members may turn to a search engine instead.

2. Make your community a home

If you want members to keep coming back, you need to make sure your community is a friendly, familiar space for them. One of the easiest ways to do that is by reaching out to members through automation rules to encourage them to create a stellar profile if they haven’t already. Even just getting everyone to upload a profile picture can make a big difference for engagement. If a stranger showed up at your house with a paper bag over their head you wouldn’t want to talk to them. So why should you expect members to openly seek help from those without bios or profile pictures?

3. Make your community accessible

When I mention my daily Facebook-checking ritual, it should be noted that I’m not opening up a laptop to log-in -- I’m picking up my phone. In an increasingly mobile world you should be focused on ensuring your community can be accessed from anywhere, with as little friction as possible. It makes accessing your site easier, more convenient, and less stressful. By lowering the barrier to entry, you’ll increase engagement.

Check out some more stats and tips about mobile engagement -- download the 2016 State of Community Management Report to learn more and see how your community compares.

Of course, accessibility goes beyond mobile usage. You should construct a community that allows every member of your organization to participate regardless of their personal limitations. By increasing accessibility you create a larger knowledge base to benefit your community.

4. Make your community fun

People don’t log onto Facebook or Twitter to be reminded of work. So if you want to make your community a habit, keep pieces of it light and fun. Gamification adds a little bit of a competitive drive to your community. Too much competition can be dangerous, but gamification done right allows you to measure your community’s engagement and give others a little boost to stop lurking and start contributing.

Also, don’t be afraid to go off script every once in awhile and let people talk about whatever they want. The HUG community Coffee Talk tells community managers to “let your virtual hair down.” This intentionally casual environment mixes the fun parts of the HUG community with some more serious discussion of the community manager-specific struggles. Threads like, “Totally off-topic: Post your pet!” and “GIF Party” give people a social outlet beyond their professional interests. These kinds of threads make the community more comfortable when it comes time to answer Coffee Talk’s more serious posts about managing a community while sick or dealing with personal attacks from community members.

Focus on high quality, not high quantity to create the strongest possible community of experts who care about each other personally and professionally. This will help your members make your community a habit, but it will only happen with your help.


Topics: Online Community Management, Engagement, Social Media, Online Community

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