Establishing Early Group Norms

February 7, 2014Comments Off on Establishing Early Group Norms

Group norms are established early by the founder.

If you always expected newcomers to tell a short story about their biggest success/failure, it will soon become a norm. Other members will begin to anticipate, perhaps demand it. 

If regulars are always expected to warmly welcome the newcomers, ask questions, and, respond positively to their first post, it soon becomes a norm. People are pestered if they haven't greeted a newcomer. 

If members are expected to share (or not share) information about their personal lives, career, this again becomes a norm.

Even the tone of voice can become a norm. If you encourage sarcasm, friendliness, politeness, soon this will be the norm throughout the community.

Too often, we wait for norms to form by default instead of pursuing the ones most useful to the long-term success of the community. 

You have a big opportunity at the beginning of a new community to establish the right norms. You can ask members why they haven't participate in a few weeks, why they haven't greeted the newcomer, tease them about the quality or limited quantity of contributions, and use the tone of voice you want to be adopted by all members. 

When people enter new social settings, they look for behavioral cues. You provide those cues. They early actions you take will have a long-term impact for the community.

Be decisive about what the norms of the group should be. Make it different from other groups which exist in your topic. Your norms can have an incredibly powerful long-term impact upon the success of the community. They can encourage activity and set you apart from any existing groups. 

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