Here is a fun task. Keep a notepad next to your laptop. Any time you participate in an online community (or even an online discussion) write a quick note to yourself about why you did it.
What was your motivation? Be honest.
If every answer is ‘to help people’, I don’t believe you.
Next ask your colleagues why they don’t participate in your brand’s community. Assume any answers about ‘not enough time’ are about the utility of the community (i.e. the community isn’t relevant or useful enough to their work).
Ask what communities they do participate in and why.
Now ask some members why they don’t participate (try not to do this via survey).
Classify your answers into categories like:
- Utility (usually ‘not enough time’ or ‘too busy’).
- Competence (usually variations of ‘nothing to say’).
- Fear (worried about ‘looking bad’ to someone).
- Fun (no friends there, didn’t like the experience, didn’t enjoy the experience).
This isn’t a definitive list. Now look to see where most people cluster around. This highlights what you need to work on next. For example:
|Utility||Increase the relevancy of the community to daily challenges. Increase the speed of responses. Improve the quality of responses (i.e. recruit experts to answer questions from members or ensure each question does resolve the problem).|
|Competence||Ask people to share if an answer solved their problem. Create an educational guide on the major topics. Set opportunities for people to show their progress. There are no shortage of tactics to increase competence.|
|Fear||If it’s fear then create a more welcoming environment. Have an area to ask beginner questions and get help. Focus on guiding those first contributions. Let people share their biggest challenges. Consider making the community exclusive or allowing members to participate anonymously.|
|Fun||Make the culture more personable. Initiate more lighthearted discussions. Use off-topic areas more frequently. Looking for universal discussions you can promote.|
You might be surprised what your research reveals about why members don’t participate. Most of these problems are easy to tackle with a little effort.