Members need to feel they can influence the community.
If you don't feel you can influence the group, your participation in the group declines.
This means you need to do two things:
1) Provide members with opportunities to have influence
2) Amplify and showcase the influence members have had.
The former is easier than the latter. The latter, however, is more important.
Not every member will have influence, but every member must feel they can have influence.
The first step is to ensure that every member does have the opportunity to have influence. This means creating the right sort of platform. Next it means creating these opportunities.
It helps to have a be more involved area in the community. This can ask members to be more involved in running areas of the community. You can specifically list things taking place in the community for which you need more support. This might be someone to do regular interviews, create columns, contribute news, or be responsible for newcomers etc...
Second, this means frequently calling for opinions, ideas, and advice. It means asking members for their opinions on topical debates and ensuring these contributions make an impact in the community.
You can also give members influence in other ways. You can turn one of smartest members into an ask the expert series. Autodesk and Element14 do this well. Element14 gives top members their own area in the community to run.
It makes a lot of sense to give members whom have showcased an area of expertise their own group/forum category for people that want to showcase that expertise. This also gives members a single destination to ask questions about this topic.
Autodesk lets top members create blog posts. Autocad gives participants their own blog in the community where those that have showcased a high level of expertise can regularly update what they do.
Mashable highlights the best comments of the week. Note, not the people that post the most comments, but people that post the best comments. This lets the rest of the community know that a single, quality, contribution can have a big impact upon the community.
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