Don’t go off-topic too early.
Off-topic discussions can be useful to build strong levels of self-disclosure between members. This facilitates relationships which keep people participating and establishes a strong group identity.
But don’t do this too early.
A reader recently emailed to ask why his off-topic discussions within his Nextdoor group were falling flat. The discussions were standard, but the group was a few weeks old. The few previous discussions related to civic issues (local litter, town planning etc…).
Jumping from a discussion about an upcoming development to ‘what are you going to do this weekend?’ will always sound forced. Don’t do it.
Begin with topic-related questions first – ideally the most important topics. Give members time to become familiar with each other via discussing the topic. Wait for members to go off-topic first before you initiate and encourage similar discussions. Then gradually increase the number.